The history of the Charente island
It was in 1067 that Lord Isembert de Châtelaillon, vassal of the Duke of Aquitaine, donated the island to the monks of the Order of Cluny. They founded a community around it with the Prieuré Saint-Martin and its church.
The island, a strategic site, was, throughout the 13th century, disputed between France and England and, after the creation of the Arsenal of Rochefort in 1666, became an important bastion in the defence of the mouth of the Charente River, which protected La Rochelle, Rochefort and Brouage. But despite Vauban's fortifications, built to defend the mouth, the English succeeded in seizing the island and destroyed part of the ramparts. It is the "Guerre de 7 ans" (the 7-Years War).
It is necessary to wait for the separation between the French and English territories for the conflicts to stop (the division of the Saintonge is made on both sides of the estuary).
The remains of this glorious past can still be seen: its fortified village, its forts, its coastal batteries among others.
During the French Revolution, many refractory priests were buried there after the terrible suffering they endured during their internment on the Rochefort pontoons (dismasted ships used as prisons).
In 1809, under the Empire era, Napoleon will live his last battle against the English. Defeated, he boarded an English ship thinking of leaving for England. In fact, he left for his exile to Sainte-Hélène... A museum dedicated to the great man and a place called "Austerlitz" remain from this passage.
Fort Liedot, will become a prison, in particular to lock up the communards of 1871 or the Russian soldiers who were rebellious during the Great War.
In 1927, the Arsenal of Rochefort was closed and the island was depopulated except for certain prisoners... Indeed the main leaders of the Algerian FLN were kept prisoners for two years (1951), including Ahmed Ben Bella who became the first president of the Algerian republic.
This period is a very bad memory for the inhabitants of the island who were under great pressure during the whole period of imprisonment. Indeed, the entire coast of the island was guarded by guard posts scattered all along the coastline. The island was cut in two by a high impassable fence.
Beautiful monuments are to be discovered during your walk such as the abbey church of Saint Martin, the Fort de la Rade or the Fort Liédot. The island of Aix is today an ideal place for a discovery stroll, under the Charente sun, during your stay in your campsite.