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COUCY-LE-CHATEAU, a village of northern France, in the department of Aisne, 18 m. W.S.W. of Laon on a branch of the Northern railway. Pop. (1906) 663. It has extensive remains of fortifications of the 13th century, the most remarkable feature of which is the Porte de Laon, a gateway flanked by massive towers and surmounted by a fine apartment. Coucy also has a church of the 15th century, preserving a façade in the Romanesque style. The importance of the place is due, however, to the magnificent ruins of a feudal fortress (see Castle) crowning the eminence on the slope of which the village is built. The remains, which embrace an area of more than 10,000 sq. yds., form an irregular quadrilateral built round a court-yard and flanked by four huge towers. The nucleus of the stronghold is a donjon over 200 ft. high and over 100 ft. in diameter, standing on the south side of the court. Three large vaulted apartments, one above the other, occupy its interior. The court-yard was surrounded on the ground-floor by storehouses, kitchens, etc., above which on the west and north sides were the great halls known as the Salle des preux and the Salle des preuses. A chapel projected from the west wing. The bailey or base-court containing other buildings and covering three times the area of the château extended between it and the village. The architectural unity of the fortress is due to the rapidity of its construction, which took place between 1230 and 1242, under Enguerrand III., lord of Coucy. A large part of the buildings was restored or enlarged at the end of the 14th century by Louis d'Orléans, brother of Charles VI., by whom it had been purchased. The place was dismantled in 1652 by order of Cardinal Mazarin. It is now state property. In 1856 researches were carried on upon the spot by Viollet-le-Duc, and measures for the preservation of the ruins were subsequently undertaken.

Sires de Coucy. - Coucy gave its name to the sires de Coucy, a feudal house famous in the history of France. The founder of the family was Enguerrand de Boves, a warlike lord, who, at the end of the 11th century seized the castle of Coucy by force. Towards the close of his life, he had to fight against his own son, Thomas de Marle, who in 1115 succeeded him, subsequently becoming notorious for his deeds of violence in the struggles between the communes of Laon and Amiens. He was subdued by King Louis VI. in 1117, but his son Enguerrand II. continued the struggle against the king. Enguerrand III., the Great, fought at Bouvines under Philip Augustus (1214), but later he was accused of aiming at the crown of France, and he took part in the disturbances which arose during the regency of Blanche of Castile. These early lords of Coucy remained till the 14th century in possession of the land from which they took their name. Enguerrand IV., sire de Coucy, died in 1320 without issue and was succeeded by his nephew Enguerrand, son of Arnold, count of Guines, and Alix de Coucy, from whom is descended the second line of the house of Coucy. Enguerrand VI. had his lands ravaged by the English in 1339 and died at Crécy in 1346. Enguerrand VII., sire de Coucy, count of Soissons and Marle, and chief butler of France, was sent as a hostage to England, where he married Isabel, the eldest daughter of King Edward III. Wishing to remain neutral in the struggle between England and France, he went to fight in Italy. Having made claims upon the domains of the house of Austria, from which he was descended through his mother, he was defeated in battle (1375-1376). He was entrusted with various diplomatic negotiations, and took part in the crusade of Hungary against the Sultan Bayezid, during which he was taken prisoner, and died shortly after the battle of Nicopolis (1397). His daughter Marie sold the fief of Coucy to Louis, duke of Orleans, in 1400. The Châtelain de Coucy (see above) did not belong to the house of the lords of Coucy, but was castellan of the castle of that name.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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