July 5, 2014

Divorced, beheaded, survived

I am still working on another post about castles of Britain, as you can imagine, it takes some time. It's summer and if the weather is nice I try to enjoy it; I also try to have a life outside the internet, but I just joined the tumblr world (http://annareginaworld.tumblr.com/) and I'm sorting out the thousands of photos I have saved here and there in various folders on my laptop. So that takes up some of my time as well.













Shortly after Jane Seymour's death Thomas Cromwell, possibly, began making inquiries about a possible foreign bride for Henry. However, he remained single for over two years. England had been left isolated and vulnerable after the split from Rome; they needed an alliance and preferably with a country supportive of the reformation. But for Henry appearance and other qualities were also important, so he had agents reporting to him of their beauty and sending painters to bring back portraits of the potential future brides. His most famous court painter, Hans Holbein, was sent to Germany to the court of the Duke of Cleves to paint his sisters, Amalia and Anne. Henry thought the portrait of Anne pleasing and negotiations began. Although it seemed like France and the Holy Roman Empire had gone back to their usual state of animosity, Henry proceeded with the match.

Anne of Cleves was born in 1515 in Düsseldorf to John III, Duke of Cleves and Maria of Jülich-Berg. She had received no formal education, was not trained in music and literature which was popular in the Tudor court, but was skilled in needlework and card games. She could read and write in German only, but she was considered gentle and virtuous, qualities that appealed to Henry. Anne was described by Charles de Marillac, the French ambassador, as tall and slim, of middling beauty and of very assured countenance. She was blonde, but looked rather solemn and old for her age, by English standards.


Anne of Cleves, played by Joss Stone on The Tudors
The 24-year-old German girl was brought to England, and Henry met her privately on New Year's Day 1540 at Rochester on her journey from Dover. Henry had been disguised and had gone up to her and boldly kissed her. Anne was not used to English court customs and did not know much about her future husband, and the startled look on her face must have offended the proud king. He was disappointed and later used her "bad appearance" and incapability in bed as excuses, claiming he had been misled about her. Rumour has it that he called her a horse. The marriage took place at Greenwich palace on January 6th, 1540, but Henry was already looking for ways to get out of the marriage without endangering the vital alliance with the Germans. Apparently they never consummated the marriage, and Henry had set his eyes upon the young Katherine Howard.

In June Anne was commanded to leave the court, and on July 6th she was informed of her husband's decision to reconsider the marriage. She was smart enough not to make trouble for herself, or to raise any obstacles to Henry's attempts to proceed with the annulment, and consented to it. Three days later their six-month marriage had been dissolved, on the grounds of non consummation and her pre-contract to Francis of Lorraine (which had been considered unofficial and was cancelled in 1535).


Anne accepted the honorary title as the "King's Beloved Sister", and was given a generous settlement, including Richmond Palace and Hever Castle. She lived a quiet life in the country side and was invited to court often. She was given precedence over all women in England, apart from Henry's new wife and Mary and Elizabeth. Anne was present at the coronation of Mary I and died at Chelsea Old Manor in 1557. She is the only wife of Henry VIII to be buried in Westminster Abbey. Anne outlived Katherine Parr by 9 years.

Anne and Katherine dancing on The Tudors
Katherine Howard (Catherine or Kathryn, I'm going by her own signature which looks like she spelled it with a "K") was born in about 1523 in Lambeth London. She was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard, a younger brother of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk (Anne Boleyn's uncle, which makes Anne her first cousin) and Joyce Culpeper. This makes her the third of Henry's consorts to have been a member of the English gentry and not nobility. Catherine had about ten brothers and sisters, and her father was one of 21 children! Fertile stock, no doubt, although she was never pregnant herself, oddly enough. Her father died when she was about sixteen years old in 1539; by then she had already been living in the household of her step grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, since about 1531 after the death of her mother.
Tamzin Merchant as Katherine Howard
The Dowager Duchess presided over households at Chesworth House at Lambeth, comprising several male and female attendants along with many wards, mostly children of aristocratic but poor relatives. The Duchess was often at court and seems to have had little direct involvement in the upbringing of her young wards and attendants. Supervision was obviously lax and the children ran "a little wild". Katherine was thus not as well educated as other women at court. Her character was described as giggly, brisk and vivacious, but not scholarly or devout. She was the type of girl who enjoyed the dance lessons but would go off track to make jokes. Historians have described her as an "empty headed wanton", yet shown sympathy to her eventual fate.

Around 1536 she apparently had a relationship with her music teacher Henry Mannox. She was thirteen at the time. They confessed during her trial that they had engaged in sexual contact, but never consummated their affair. Katherine claimed it was "at the flattering and fair persuasions of Mannox". In 1538 she was pursued by Francis Dereham, a secretery of the household of the Dowager Duchess. The two became lovers, playing a game of "husband and wife". Apparently many of Katherine's roommates knew of the relationship, which might have ended when the Dowager Duchess found out. Nevertheless, Dereham may have left for Ireland with the intention of returning to marry Katherine. According to the laws of the time, they would have been considered married in the eyes of the Church, if they had indeed exchanged vows of their intention to marry before consummating their relationship.

The young girl arrived at court to wait on Anne of Cleves (presumably sent there by her uncle the Duke, in order to recreate the influence they thought they'd gain during the rise of Anne Boleyn) and Henry's interest in her grew quickly. Within months of her arrival, he presented Katherine with gifts of land and expensive cloth for dresses.


On July 28th, 1540, nearly seven months after his latest wedding day, the couple married and Henry enjoyed showing off his "rose without a thorn" to his courtiers. Henry was 49 years old, at least 30 years older than his bride. However, within about half a year Katherine began a romantic affair with one of the handsome Gentlemen of the King's Privy chamber, Thomas Culpeper (who happened to be a distant cousin of Katherine's mother). Dereham reported that another man had "succeeded him in the Queen's affections". Lady Jane Rochford, the widow of George Boleyn, was a lady-in-waiting of the Queen and helped to arranged their secret meetings. By this time the King showed signs of age; he had grown obese, developed gout and suffered immensely because of the aching, stinking wound on his leg. No wonder the teenage girl sought comfort from someone else!

In the summer of 1541 Katherine and Henry toured England together. There was no coronation plans in progress yet, for the Queen was not yet pregnant. She found herself in an uncomfortable and risky position, when people from her past who knew of her indiscretions began contacting her for favours in treturn for their silence. Many of them were appointed to her household, including Francis Dereham, which would later prove disastrous.

Mary Hall, a girl who had been a member of the Dowager Duchess's household, had told her brother about a love letter sent to Culpeper from the Queen. On November 7th, 1541, Thomas Cranmer and a delegation of councillors were sent to question Queen Katherine. She was in a frantic, incoherent state and Cranmer ordered the guards to remove any objects that she might have used to commit suicide. If Katherine had not denied that there was a precontract between her and Dereham, her marriage would have been annulled and she would have simply been banished from court. Disgraced and impoverished, surely, but with her head intact. Instead she claimed Dereham had raped her (possible "date rape" in modern terms). At first Henry refused to believe the accusations, however, he must have been furious when presented with enough compelling evidence. She was stripped of her title as queen on November 23rd, and remained imprisoned in Syon Abbey during the winter. Her letter to Thomas Culpeper was used against him, and he and Francis Dereham were executed at Tyburn on December 10th. Culpeper's sentence was commuted to behading, but Dereham suffered the full, brutal execution method of being hanged, drawn and quartered. Their heads were placed on top of London Bridge.


The Duke of Norfolk sent a letter to the King, distancing himself from another scandal, by excusing himself and laying all the blame on his niece and stepmother. Katherine's relatives who had been detained in the Tower were tried and found guilty of concealing treason, sentenced to life imprisonment and forfeiture of goods, but they were eventually released with their goods restored.

A new bill of attainder made it treason and punishable by death for a Queen consort to fail to disclose her sexual history to the king, or to incite someone to commit adultery with her. Katherine was taken to the Tower of London on a Friday, February 10th, 1542.

On the evening of the 12th, the night before her execution, Katherine is believed to have spent many hours practising how to lay her head upon the block, which was brought to her at her request. Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, her accomplice in the infidelities, had also been condemned to death for high treason. She had been pronounced insane, after possibly suffering a nervous breakdown, early in 1542, but the King implemented a law which allowed insane persons to be executed for treason. So, in a twisted turn of fate, Jane Boleyn suffered the same faith as her husband and sister-in-law nearly six years earlier.


Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, portrayed by actresses. 

Katherine Howard required assistance to climb the scaffold, obviously terrified, but died with relative composure. She asked for mercy for her family and prayers for her soul, and supposedly stated she would rather have died the wife of Culpeper, not a Queen. The bodies of the two women were buried along with the heads in an unmarked grave in the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, near Anne and George. If her date of birth is correct, she was only about 18 years old. Other sources state her year of birth as 1521, which would have made her nearly 22.

Her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, had taken advantage of the fiasco of the Anne of Cleves marriage, as a chance to discredit Thomas Cromwell, his enemy. Cromwell, who had made sure many a head ended up on the block, was himself brought to the scaffold on Tower Hill on July 28th, in 1540.

Thomas Cromwell's execution, the actor is James Frain

Thomas Cromwell and the Duke of Norfolk
The sixth and last wife of Henry VIII, Katherine Parr, had already been married twice. Her mother had been a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon and Katherine, born in 1512, was named after her. Katherine and her brother and sister were well taken care of and educated by their mother after the father, Sir Thomas, died in 1517. Katherine was fluent in French, Latin, Italian and later began learning Spanish.
When she was 17 she married a Baron's son, Edward Borough. He died only a few years later and in 1534 she became the wife of John Neville, later Baron Latimer. She was 22 and he was 41 and already had two children from his previous marriage. In March 1543 the ailing Latimer died, leaving Katherine a widow for the second time. Around this time, while in Mary's household, she expressed her desire to marry Thomas Seymour, the brother of late Queen Jane Seymour, but the King had also noticed the 31-year-old woman who would be the perfect companionship for him. She felt it was her duty to accept the King's request for her hand, although she must have been hesitant, as by this time people were skeptical to the King's habit of getting rid of his wives in one way or another. Nevertheless, Henry and Katherine married on July 12th in the Queen's chapel at Hampton Court Palace. It was a small ceremony. Seymour was given a posting in Brussels to remove him from court. 
Queen Katherine Parr
Katherine quickly made enemies at court, when it was clear among the conservatives that she was a reformer. She and her ladies owned banned books and showed sympathy towards the Protestant Anne Askwe, who was questioned, tortured and burned at the stake. A warrant for the Queen's arrest was drawn up in 1546, but she found out about it and after showing herself distraught with regret, she beseeched the King, asking for forgiveness and she and the King reconciled. She managed to convince him that she had only argued about religion with him, to take his mind off the pain caused by his ulcerous leg.

The Queen was personally involved in the educational program of Elizabeth and Edward, and was influential in the passing of the Act of Succession that restored Henry's daughters to the throne. She was thus close with all three of her stepchildren. She published two books, "Prayers or Meditations (the first work published by an English Queen under her own name) and "The Lamentation of a Sinner" (this book promoted the Protestant concept of justification by faith alone, which the Catholic Church deemed to be heresy).
She was appointed Regent for 2 months in 1544 while Henry was in France on a military campaign.
Joely Richardson as Katherine Parr
King Henry VIII died on January 28th, 1547. After Henry's death she assumed the role of Elizabeth's guardian. She was to be given the respect of a Queen of England. After the coronation of her stepson Edward VI, she retired to her home at Old Manor in Chelsea. Sir Thomas Seymour returned to court and renewed his suit of marriage, which Catherine was quick to accept. They married in secret in May, and their union became public knowledge after several months. It caused a small scandal and the King and his sister Mary were very displeased by the union. 

Sir Thomas Seymour
Edward and Thomas Seymour, played by Max Brown and Andrew McNair
While the dowager Queen's house came to be known as a respected place of learning for young women, including Lady Jane Grey (granddaughter of the Duke of Suffolk, later executed on the orders of Mary I), Katherine began having quarrels with her brother-in-law, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector. His wife, Katherine's former lady-in-waiting, the Duchess of Somerset, argued that Katherine was no longer entitled to wear the jewels belonging to the wife of a King, and that she should be the one to wear them. Eventually the Duchess won the argument, leaving her relationship with Katherine permanently damaged. The relationship between the two Seymour brothers also worsened as a result.

Katherine became pregnant for the first time ever in March 1548, at age 35. During this time, Thomas Seymour began showing interest in the young Elizabeth. He came to visit her in a state of undress early in the mornings and behaved in an inappropriate manner. Katherine sometimes took part in the playfulness, which was not always as innocent as Thomas wanted her to believe. It was later reported that Katherine had discovered the two in an embrace, and Lady Elizabeth was sent away. Her governess, Kat Ashley, had been arrested and questioned at the Tower. According to her, Thomas had confided in her that he wished to marry Elizabeth. 

On August 30th, 1548, Katherine gave birth to a girl, Mary. Six days later the dowager Queen died of childbed fever, at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. Thomas Seymour was beheaded for treason in March the following year, and little Mary was taken to live with the Dowager Duchess of Suffolk, Katherine's close friend. What happened to Mary is not known, she may have died at an early age. The last mention of her on record is on her second birthday. 


The site of the scaffold, Tower Hill. 
Thomas Cromwell and Katherine Parr's brother-in-law Edward both got the honour of having their names on the plaque commemorating those who died on Tower Hill. Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, was the Duke of Norfolk's son. 
The chapel at Sudeley Castle was rebuilt in the 19th century and Katherine's tomb was decorated with a marble figure.

July 3, 2014

Two unfortunate Queens



Since I briefly told the story of Catherine of Aragon, Henry's first wife, I might as well tell you the story of his other Queens, to provide some background information. Historical biographies have extensively outlined the lives of Henry VIII and his six wives, and there is plenty of information on the internet, although one shouldn't trust everything one reads...

 

Remarkably little is known about the early years of Anne Boleyn. We know she was probably born in 1500 or 1501 in Norfolk and she spent part of her childhood at the courts of the Archduchess Margaret of Austria and of France, as a maid to Henry's sister Mary who was married to Louis XII, and later to Queen Claude. Her father was the respected Thomas Boleyn, later made Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, and her mother Elizabeth was a Howard. Her sister Mary was a couple of years older and their brother George a few years younger. She would have known the medieval town of Mechelen of today's Belgium well, as this is where she completed her education. 


The Palace of Mechelen
During her stay in France she learned to speak French, and developed a taste for French fashion, art, literature, poetry and music and dance. She excelled at domestic skills but also seen as a very intelligent, flirty and elegant, but outspoken girl. Her thick, dark brown hair, long neck, slender stature, olive skin complexion and dark eyes eventually captured the king, but he had not expected her to have such a sharp tongue and short temper. 

Anne's first recorded appearance at court was in 1522 at a masque, having returned the previous year for a marraige that fell through. She supposedly began a love affair with the young Henry Percy, which was stopped by his father and Cardinal Wolsey; hence the resentment Anne felt towards the Cardinal throughout the rest of her life. 


Mary Boleyn
Unlike her sister Mary, it is not known whether Anne remained chaste at the court of France. The French court was known for extramarital diallances and lewd, promiscuous behaviour. It was rumoured that "few maids left court with their virginity intact". Mary had been a mistress of Francis I, and upon her return to England and marriage she also became Henry's mistress. Her family and husband profited greatly from her "elevated status". At some point after Mary had born two children, Henry's attentions stopped, and he started to notice her sister, who had captured the eyes of the male courtiers for a few years. But Anne refused to become his mistress, adamant to give her maidenhead only to her husband. In 1526 or 1527 Henry began to seek an annulment of his marriage to Catherine, insisting it was not because of Anne, but because his conscience would not permit him to remain the husband of his late brother's widow, for it was apparent that the marriage would not grant him sons. 

Her life in the European continent had peaked her interest in religious reform and she introduced some of these new ideas to Henry, while gaining the hatred of certain members at court. The legal debates on the marriage of Henry and Catherine continued, while Anne was staying in luxurious apartments, no doubt getting more frustrated by the lack of progress. Henry continued to shower her with expensive gifts, excited and desperate at the thought of Anne bearing him sons, and his court was soon divided into two; those who favoured Catherine and the Catholic church, and those who sought to seek advancement with the Boleyns. 

After years of romantic pursuits and waiting, Catherine was banished from court in 1531 and in September 1532 Anne was created Marquess of Pembroke. At some point after gaining her new title, the couple travelled to Calais to meet with Francis and consummated their relationship. In January 1533 they married in secret (probably at Whitehall) and Anne's elaborate coronation took place on June 1. In September Anne gave birth to their long expected child, who to everyone's disappointment was not the Prince they had been hoping for. Little did they know then that Elizabeth would become one of England's greatest monarchs. 


Public opinion of Anne sank even lower after the executions of her enemies Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher, who had refused to accept Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and still showed favour to Catherine of Aragon. After failing to carry any more children (she was pregnant in 1534 and 1535 but the children were sadly either miscarried or stillborn), Anne and her family realised that the failure was a threat to their status and to the Queen's life, especially since Henry's fancy for her lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour began to grow, and he had shown himself tired of her "French ways", voracious temper and empty promises by taking mistresses and arguing with her in public. Moreover, their enemies had begun to whisper lies in the ears of the King and plotted against the Boleyn faction. 

It is believed that her fall and execution were mainly engineered by Thomas Cromwell, as Anne had berated him for allowing the monasteries to fall into the hands of rich courtiers, instead of being turned into something useful, like schools. Anne's musician and friend, Mark Smeaton, was interrogated and tortured at the hands of Cromwell on April 30th, 1536, and after his "revelations", Anne's doom was imminent. Within the next few days several gentlemen of the court had been taken to the Tower; her brother George (Lord Rochford), Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, the King's Groom, William Brereton, Mark Smeaton, Sir Richard Page and Sir Thomas Wyatt. Sir Richard was later acquitted of all charges, and Sir Thomas was also later released, most likely due to his family's friendship with Cromwell. 

The rest were all charged with adultery and therefore treason, and George Boleyn was also charged with incest. This was only added for effect, in order to secure their downfall and impugn their moral character, and not as a result of any evidence. A few of Anne's ladies-in-waiting had been interrogated, and her own sister-in-law Jane Rochford, is said to have provided the most substantial evidence, claiming her husband was intimate with his sister, the Queen. Jane had been unhappy with her marriage for a long time, craving the attention of her husband who may have resented her and preferred the company of other women (or men, as is suggested on The Tudors, although this has no historical basis) instead. The couple never had any children, and a few years later Jane herself was executed for assisting Queen Catherine Howard in her adulterous affairs. 

Anne was arrested after a May Day joust, at which the King had received a letter and furiously departed without a word. She left Greenwich and was taken to the Tower of London on May 2nd, charged with adultery, incest and plotting to murder the King. She was lodged in the same rooms she had stayed in before her coronation; in the now demolished apartments that stood south east of the White Tower. 

Norris, Weston, Brereton and Smeaton were found guilty at Westminster Hall on May 12th, and were not allowed to defend themselves as was the case in charges of treason. The Queen and her brother were put on trial at the Great Hall, also demolished, south of the White Tower, on May 15th. Some 2000 people attended and Anne conducted herself in a dignified, calm manner, denying all the charges against her. The evidence against them was highly scant, but both were found guilty, with the sentence being read by their very own uncle, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk (who had not exactly gained the power and wealth he had expected with the rise of his niece). 

In modern day Europe this trial is considered a sham. A list of locations along with dates referring to where and when the Queen was supposed to have committed adultery with these men was presented, but on most occasions Anne was either pregnant, recovering after pregnancy, or not even physically present. Her marriage to the King was interestingly declared null and void before the said trial; another lapse of logic in the charges against her. 

On the morning of May 17th, George Boleyn and the other four men condemned were taken out of the Tower and led towards Tower Hill, where they were beheaded according to status. After Lord Rochford, Norris and Weston followed, then Brereton and finally Smeaton, who must have been met by a grisly sight upon the scaffold. Fortunately they had had their sentences commuted from the usual Tyburn execution method which meant being hanged, drawn and quartered. As mentioned in an earlier post, their execution may have been witnessed by Sir Thomas, who was still imprisoned. 

Anne had reportedly been hysterical at times during her imprisonment, her behaviour swinging from heart wrenching sobs to hearty laughter. Henry commuted Anne's sentence from burning to beheading, and rather than have a queen beheaded with the common axe, he brought an expert swordsman from France, to perform the execution. Eventually, she seemed to accept her fate and was ready to end her suffering. The time of her execution was postponed twice due to the delay of the swordsman, but on the morning of May 19th she was brought across the little courtyard, out of the gate and up towards the open space north of the White Tower (not Tower Green, which is a Victorian myth). She was still dressed like a Queen, gave a short speech and kneeled while she was praying. The execution was witnessed by Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, Thomas Cromwell and other other Members of the King's Council. The swordsman cut off her head with a swift stroke, and later her body and head were put into a chest and buried in an unmarked grave in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower of London. The destruction of the Boleyns and their peers was a fact, and those who remained quickly brushed off any links to the disgraced monarch. Her parents seem to have retired from court and died a few years later, while her sister Mary lived happily with her new husband and children in the countryside, banished because she had chosen to marry a "nobody". 
Anne Boleyn's final resting place is now marked on the marble floor, and for over 150 years, on the anniversary of her death, descendants of her family have been sending roses for her grave.





One day after Anne's execution, May 20th 1536, Henry was betrothed to Jane Seymour, the eldest daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall, and Margaret Wentworth. The Seymours, a Norman family, had come to England with William the Conqueror, and increased their wealth and influence by alliances with rich heiresses of noble blood. Jane shared a great grandmother with Anne Boleyn. She was not educated as highly as Catherine or Anne had been; she could read and write a little but her needlework was reported to be beautiful and elaborate. She had a modest, virtuous personality and was apparently "a woman of the utmost charm in both character and appearance". She certainly was more humble and obedient than Anne had been! 

It is not known if she entered the service of Catherine, but she was placed as a maid of honour to Anne. The first report of Henry's interest in Jane Seymour was sometime before Catherine's death, in early 1536. She may have been introduced to court by her family and the enemies of the Boleyn faction for the sole purpose of stealing the King's affections away from Anne. Her sister Elizabeth was married to Cromwell's son, and her two brothers, Edward and Thomas were highly ambitious men, eager in the pursuit of fortune. She also had aid from the Duke of Norfolk and other courtiers who detested the Queen and opposed the reformation. 


Jane Seymour, played by Anita Briem in he 2nd season of The Tudors
Queen Anne became aware of her husband's wandering eye when she noticed Jane proudly wearing a splendid jewel around her neck, a gift from the King. Anne violently snatched it from her neck, and found it was a locket, containing a miniature picture of Henry. It is said that she suffered her last miscarriage after a mad fit of expressed rage, following the discovery of Jane seated on the King's knee, receiving his caresses. Anne ordered her to depart from court instantly, which Jane seems to have done when it became clear that Henry was displeased with his Queen, only to prepare her sumptuous attire for her future wedding banquet. 


Annabelle Wallis as Jane in the 3rd season of The Tudors 
It seems like Jane followed the tactics of her mistress, by not succumbing to the King until after their marriage, thus remaining chaste until her wedding night. She was officially introduced as Queen of England on the 30th, and secured the steady rise of her family members. Henry declared the issue of both his former marriages illegitimate. Jane had been sympathetic to Catherine of Aragon and personally acquainted with his daughter Mary, and was thus responsible for their reconciliation. 


What remains of the Palace of Whitehall
Because Jane Seymour was such an obedient, quiet and may I say passive wife, there is little else of importance to say about her life as Queen. She had banned the French fashions that Anne Boleyn introduced to court, and her only reported involvement in national affairs was when she asked for pardons for participants in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Henry is said to have rejected this, reminding her of the fate her predecessor met with when she "meddled in his affairs".
She was never officially crowned, thanks to another plague scare and her advanced state of pregnancy. The ceremony was postponed, and in September 1537 she took to her chamber for her confinement at Hampton Court Palace. On October 12th, after a long and painful labour, lasting three days and two nights, she gave birth to the long desired Prince Edward. 

Although Henry wished to be buried next to his third wife, and seems to have valued her over his other wives, when asked whether he would wish the mother or the child to be saved during her painful labour, he has characteristically replied "If you cannot save both, at least let the child live, for other wives are easily found." 


In their excitement over the newborn Prince, the delicate state of the Queen was overlooked, and she was, as was custom, forced to take part in the long, tedious ceremony of the christening and the magnificent celebrations the following week. Mary and Elizabeth were present to carry the infant's train. Jane took to her bed once again, indisposed, and grew considerably worse. She died on October 24th, still at Hampton Court, the cause of her demise probably being childbed fever, as a result of an infection. She was buried at Windsor Castle a few weeks later. Jane was the only one of Henry's wives to receive a Queen's funeral. The King's wore black for the next three months, and did not marry again until 1540. He put on a lot of weight during his widowerhood, becoming obese, developing diabetes and gout and suffered much on account of his leg wound. 



Henry's favourite portrait; showing him, Jane and their son Edward. 
Jane's brother Thomas and Edward subsequently improved their own fortunes. Thomas eventually married Catherine Parr after King Henry's death, and is perhaps infamously known for his intimiate, unseemly behaviour around the Princess Elizabeth when she was a teenager. He was convicted of treason for various reasons, including being caught with a pistol outside King Edward's bedroom chamber at night. He was executed in March 1549. Edward Seymour set himself up as Lord Protector during the reign of Edward, and held considerable more power than Thomas. His ambitious scheming became too much for the young King and his Council, and he was executed for felony on Tower Hill in January, 1552. King Edward VI's reign was marked by social unrest and economic problems. He fell ill in 1553 with a fever and cough and died at the age of 15 at Greenwich Palace on July 6th. 

June 1, 2014

Castles of Britain - Southern England part III


Waltham Abbey in Essex was founded in 1030 to house a miraculous cross brought to Waltham by Tovi the Proud, a member of the royal court. In 1540 the abbey became the last in the country to be dissolved by Henry VIII. The monastic buildings and those parts of the church east of the crossing were demolished at the dissolution, and the Norman crossing tower and transepts collapsed in 1553. The present building, The Abbey Church of Waltham Holy Cross and St Lawrence, dates mainly from the early 12th century though. The town of Waltham Abbey has been a place of worship since the 7th century. 

Henry VIII was a regular visitor, as the abbey was a popular place for kings to stay during progress and hunting trips. Anne Boleyn would have accompanied Henry on more than one occasion; in 1532 they stayed here for five days.
A 14th century gatehouse and bridge survive and are now in the care of English Heritage.
In a house nearby the abbey, Stephen Gardiner and Edward Foxe met Thomas Cranmer who greatly impressed them with his interesting views on the King’s Great Matter.

One of Waltham's organists include Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), who fans of The Tudors will recognise, although his character on the TV series is highly fictionalised and he was in fact not sent to Court until 1543. He served as Gentleman of the Chapel Royal and composed and performed for Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I.


In the 12th century Henry I built a hunting lodge and created an enclosed park near the village of Woodstock, Oxfordshire. The park featured seven miles of wall and lions, leopards, camels and porcupines were kept there; effectively England's first zoo. Henry II turned the lodge into a palace, Woodstock Palace, and spent time with his mistress, the fair Rosamund Clifford, there. Henry III was devoted to Woodstock. He added a chapel and made the buildings more secure after surviving an assassination attempt there in 1238. Henry VII ordered major rebuilding work at Woodstock and his son, Henry VIII, came for occasional hunting during the first two decades of his reign, and the palace became a place of sport and festivity. It was one of the few palaces that could house the entire court and so featured regularly on his summer and winter itineraries. Henry would have spent time here fishing, hunting, hawking and shooting. Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys reported that the Lady Anne 'always accompanies the King at his hunting parties'. 

On 22 May 1554, Elizabeth was moved from the Tower of London to Woodstock, where she was to spend nearly a year under house arrest in the charge of Sir Henry Bedingfield. By this time the building was barely habitable. During the English Civil War Woodstock Palace was destroyed  and materials sold off. Sadly, nothing remains today. Blenheim Palace was later built nearby, across the valley and opposite the old palace.

The palace would have had double courtyards, a large and strong gatehouse decorated with the heraldic devices of Henry VII, a fountain adorned with beasts, and of course a Great hall and chapel. The principal rooms were plastered and heated by fireplaces. In 1961, a stone plinth was put up to mark the site of the old palace.
A view of Blenheim Palace, from the old site of Woodstock Palace. Many of the thousands of visitors are unaware that they are walking on the same grounds as kings and queens and their courtiers did for nearly 1000 years. 
Notley Abbey was an Augustinian abbey founded in the 12th century near Oxford. A team excavated Notley Abbey in 1937, establishing a layout and timeline of the building's construction. The building has been visited by notable figures such as Henry V, Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey, and was owned by the celebrities Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. Today, the remnants of the abbey are owned by the company Bijou Wedding Venues and are used to host wedding venues.


Notley Abbey was founded in between 1154 and 1164 by the second Earl of Buckingham. Despite its lack of historical fame, the Abbey was one of the largest and richest Augustinian monasteries in the Oxford region. 


It was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538 but reconstructed in 1890. The abbot's house and part of the cloister were kept as a private house that remains today. When Notley Abbey was dissolved, it was given as an enfeoffment to John London. In 1944, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh purchased the remains of the Abbey, after they found their home destroyed by a bomb raid that took place during the war. During their residence, the couple was known for holding parties at the house. It was also used for the filming of several movies. They lived in the house until 1960, when financial trouble motivated the couple to sell the building to a Canadian couple that had made Olivier a favourable offer.


The old palace of Woking, Surrey, was a sumptuous manor, built with an orchard and garden, stables and other buildings. The property was a favourite of Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII; from 1466 she resided here with her husband Henry Stafford and after his death it remained in her possession. The site is surrounded by a moat and the River Wey. Unfortunately, all that remains today is what we see in the photo above. 

In 1508, Henry VII decided to transform the manor house into a palace and he reclaimed the Manor from his mother. He built a Great Hall, and other accommodation. Henry VIII acquired Woking Palace from his father when he died, and redesigned and completed the transformation of the building. He was a frequent visitor during his lifetime, bringing his queens with him. He would have brought Anne in 1530 on summer progress and he stayed there as part of his honeymoon with Katherine Parr in 1543. Elizabeth I redesigned the palace and filled in the central moat.

Sir Edward Zouch was granted the manor by James I, but it fell into a ruinous condition and in the 1620s he demolished most of the buildings and used some of the material to build his new house.
A model constructed to show what Woking Palace may have looked like. 
All that remains of the once magnificent complex of buildings are a barrel vault and some adjoining Tudor brick walls. The buildings standing above ground are possibly a storage area above which would have been living quarters. 

Grafton Manor Hotel, Worcestershire, was established before the Norman Conquest. This should not be confused with Grafton Regis Manor in Northamptonshire. The Lords of Grafton Manor were influential figures in medieval and early modern Worcestershire. The current L shaped building dates to the early 1500s and was extensively altered around 1567. A fire in 1710 destroyed parts, and restoration work took place in 1860 and the later 20th century. The house now contains a hotel and restaurant.

Sir Humphrey Stafford inherited Grafton and Upton Warren from the de Graftons in 1449–50. After fighting at the Battle of Bosworth with Richard III, Sir Humphrey Stafford broke sanctuary and supported Viscount Lovell in a further rebellion. He was executed for treason in 1486 at Tyburn by Henry VII.

John Talbot held the estate until 1555. The estates and titles to the Manors of Grafton and Upton Warren stayed with the Earls of Shrewsbury until the early 20th century. The building was sold the Morris family in the mid-1940s. It was used as a nursing home until becoming a restaurant in the 1980s.


Grafton Regis
, Northamptonshire, was 
the birthplace of Elizabeth Woodville, wife and Queen of Edward IV and mother of the Princes in the Tower, and grandmother of Henry VIII. Richard III lodged at Grafton in 1483. During our most beloved King Henry VIII's time, he raised Grafton to the pinnacle of its glory, but the house was consumed by flames during the Civil War in the 17th century. 

The old manor would have stood west of the Church in the Middle Ages. From 1100 to 1348 it was in the hands of a Norman monastery. From 1440 Grafton Regis belonged to the Woodville family. Henry purchased the fair manor place from Thomas Grey, second Marquess of Dorset, Elizabeth's son by her first marriage to Sir John Grey. He spent lavishly on its refurbishment. Sadly no images have survived, but there is mention of King's and Queen's chambers, a chapel and a chamber for the Lord Privy Seal (which would have been Anne's father Thomas from 1530 to 1536). The court often lodged at Grafton as part of the summer progress. It was here that Henry saw Cardinal Wolsey for the very last time. 
Elizabeth I visited on a few occasions, but the manor fell into disrepair eventually, and was set on fire on purpose by parliamentary forces. 
The Parish Church is dedicated to St Mary and of early 13th-century origin.


The original site of the Manor of the More, Hertfordshire, was chosen by Anglo Saxon settlers because of its proximity to water. The Manor was in the hands of the abbey of St Albans for about 500 years. Excavations showed a typical l4th century manor house of good construction had been demolished to make way for a 15th century brick built castle surrounded on all sides by a moat. The site, Moor Park, is today occupied by a school. 

William Flete, a London mercer, built the castle in the 15th century. Subsequent owners and visitors included Henry VI's Lord Chamberlain, Edward IV, Richard III, Ushers, John de Vere the Earl of Oxford, the Bishop of Durham, and of course Henry VIII himself stayed there many times. Cardinal Wolsey resided at the Manor in the 1520s and carried out considerable building works; apparently it resembled Herstmonceux Castle. It was one of the five properties that Henry appropriated after the fall of Wolsey. 
Not much is known of the interior, but on the north side of the house, a 253 foot long gallery extended out into the garden. 

Anne Boleyn was also one of its visitors, and Catherine of Aragon was sent to live there, hidden away from court, in the winter of 1531/32. Thomas Cromwell reported the gardens were showing signs of neglect as early as 1532, but a large amount of money was spent on repairing the principal building in 1534 and the gardens were tended to in anticipation of a visit by the king. Mary stayed at the More later, and Henry visited with his fifth wife Catherine on their wedding tour in 1540. In the 1550s the house was decayed. The additions by Wolsey and Henry, coupled with the marshy ground had resulted in walls with substantial cracks as the buildings subsided. The foundations were defective, and no one seemed willing to authorise or commence repairs. It was eventually destroyed in 1661, and nothing remains of the manor which was once called "more splendid than Hampton Court" by the French Ambassador. 

 

Catherine of Aragon was the youngest daughter of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile & Leon. Her parents' marriage had united their kingdoms to form the country of Spain that we know today. In 1501, Catherine and her wedding party travelled to England, in order for the 16-year-old princess to marry Henry VII's son, Prince Arthur. Catherine was escorted to the wedding by her future brother-in-law, and eventual husband, Prince Henry, who was then only ten years old.

The newly weds took up residence at Ludlow Castle near the Welsh border, which was a bad idea considering Arthur's bad health. The damp winter and the chilly castle made him grow weaker, and he died at the age of fifteen, in April 1502, only five months after their wedding. Although he had bragged extensively of having "spent the night in Spain," Catherine always maintained that they had never consummated the marriage. Until she was able to marry Arthur's brother Henry, she resided in poverty at Durham House. 

Catherine and the newly acceeded Henry VIII were married in 1509; Henry had reportedly been eager for his marriage to the tall, blonde Spanish girl to finally take place.
Catherine was pregnant six times altogether, but only Mary, born in 1516, lived to be an adult. She reigned as effective Regent during King Henry's absence. She was present at the meeting of the Field of the Cloth of Gold and remained a faithful, pious, Catholic wife, even when he took mistresses. Bessie Blount was his mistress for about 8 years, and gave birth to an illegitimate son, Henry. Soon after the birth of his son, Henry took another mistress; Mary Boleyn, and when he tired of her, the Boleyns convinced her sister Anne to succeed in her affections, as they had got used to being shown favour. Henry was sure Catherine would not be able to provide him with the son he needed, but Catherine refused to leave the king and the court, although they ceased living together in 1526.

A complicated divorce process followed. Because she had the support of her nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor, King Henry eventually broke with the Roman Catholic Church in order to become Head of the Church of England, something many blamed Anne for. Catherine withdrew to Berkshire and there she received the news that their marriage had been declared null and dissolved. Her daughter Mary was taken away from her in 1531. Nevertheless, Henry referred to his first wife as "so good a lady and loving companion". She stayed at the More, the Bishop Palace at Hatfield and Kimbolton Castle, and was still seen as the rightful Queen by many of England's people. She died at Kimbolton in January 1536 of what we today know as a form of cancer, when in a twisted turn of faith, only four months remained of Anne Boleyn's own life. 

Maria Doyle Kennedy portrayed Catherine of Aragon on the Tudors. 
Although often portrayed by actresses with dark hair, the real Catherine was in fact blonde. 
Queen Mary I 
The best portrayal of Mary I, actress Sarah Bolger. Mary accepted no Queen but her mother. She and Henry did not speak for three years, but was eventually forced to sign a document agreeing that her parents' marriage was unlawful, and that she was a bastard. Reconciled with her father, she resumed her place at court. In 1544 she and Elizabeth were restored to the succession, after their brother Edward. 

Boughton Monchelsea Place, previously Boughton Court, is a 16th century country house in Kent. The house is the remainder of a former courtyard house built for Robert Rudston circa 1567–75 as an extension to an earlier, pre-16th-century manor house, already in use in 1214. It is built of Kentish ragstone. It has been modified a number of times during its history achieving its present form in 1819. It has been a home to a number of members of parliament for Maidstone or for Kent, including a few Sir Barnhams. The estate was sold to Sir Thomas Wyatt in 1521, a well known courtier and poet at the court of Henry VIII. 
Boughton Monchelsea Place is private property, but can be rented for venues. 

If I was the owner, I'd decorate the walls in oak panels from floor to ceiling, or at least I would have a better sense of interior design than the current owners! More photos can be seen on the manor's official website.  
The house sits on a slope giving views across the extensive deer park and the Weald beyond. Kitchen gardens to the north of the house remain as remnants of 16th century formal garden planting. The west range is surmounted by a 17th-century clock turret relocated from the south range when that was rebuilt. The bell is dated 1647. Internally, the south range includes three original stone fireplaces that have probably been reused from the earlier house. The north room of the attic floor and principal room on the first floor include 16th- or early-17th-century timber panelling. Two 16th and 17th century staircases feature, and the stained glass windows are dated 1567, 1567 and 1575. The timber-framed western barn was constructed in the 15th or early 16th century. St Peter's Church is in the background of the image above. 


Chesworth House is a Tudor manor house, located in West Sussex, England, dating from the 15th century with later 17th century additions. The manor of Chesworth originally belonged to the de Braose family. Edward II is said to have stayed at Chesworth in 1324.


After this it was held by the Mowbray and the Howard families, including the Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Arundel. Katherine Howard spent her childhood at Chesworth together with her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, and it may have been where she succumbed to the 'flattering and fair persuasions' of her music teacher Henry Mannox, and later Francis Dereham. Both encounters formed a substantial part of the charges against her at the trial which led to her execution in 1542. 


Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, was arrested at Chesworth; he was executed for high treason in 1572 after which the Crown took ownership of the estate.

The house was recently for sale for £7 million. The accommodation comprises 5 bedroom suites, a range of elegant reception rooms and a banqueting hall. There is also a four bedroom cottage. The house stands in beautifully landscaped gardens and grounds that include lawned areas, water gardens, terraces, rose gardens. It is approached along a tree line driveway through parkland. 


Hedingham Castle in Essex is a Norman motte and bailey castle with a stone keep. For four centuries it was the primary seat of the de Vere family, Earls of Oxford. The fifteenth Earl, John, fought under Henry VIII at the Battle of the Spurs and was with the King at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. He bore the crown at the coronation of Anne Boleyn.

The manor of Hedingham was awarded to Aubrey de Vere I by King William the Conqueror by 1086. The castle was constructed by the de Veres in the late 11th to early 12th century and the keep in the 1130s and 1140s. The stone keep survives in a very good state of preservation and is open to the public. The Banqueting Hall on the second floor of the keep, which features an arch said to be one of the largest in Europe surviving from this period. 


The keep stands more than 70 ft (21m) tall, and the walls are about 11 ft (3.4m) thick at the base and average 10 ft at the top. The keep has four floors. The top floor may have been added around the 15th century, replacing an impressive pyramid shaped roof. The keep is the only medieval element of the castle to have survived; the hall, drawbridge, and outbuildings all having been replaced during the Tudor period by structures which, with the exception of a brick bridge, have now also been lost. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I visited in the 16th century. 

The Majendie family owned Hedingham Castle for 250 years until they left it to a cousin, Thomas Lindsay, descended from the de Veres through both maternal and paternal lines. His son Jason Lindsay and wife Demetra now live at Hedingham Castle, the Georgian manor house next to the keep, with their children.


While Hedingham Castle remains a family home, the Norman Keep and grounds are open to the public from Easter to October.Today the castle is a venue for a range of events, including jousting, archery, falconry, re-enactment battles, fairs, classic & vintage car shows, music concerts and theatre productions. Hedingham is currently used for wedding ceremonies and corporate or private parties. Weddings are held by candlelight in the Keep with space for 100 seated guests and standing room in the Minstrels’ gallery. 


Hunsdon House is located in Hertfordshire. It was originally built by Sir William Oldhall in 1447. After the owner's death at the Battle of Bosworth it passed to Henry VII who gave it to his mother Margaret Beaufort, and when she passed away Henry gave it to Thomas Howard, second Duke of Norfolk. After Norfolk's death in 1525 Henry VIII took possession of the house. He remodeled extensively, turning it into a palace, adding royal apartments and even a moat. He spent time hunting in the deerpark and liked to eat in private in Oldhall's tower, but the house was mainly a residence for his children. Mary I inherited Hunsdon after her father's death.

Henry VIII's son Prince Edward in 1546, with Hunsdon House in the background. 
The height of the tower was reduced by a son of the Duke of Norfolk in 1524, because he considered it unsafe. 
In 1559 Elizabeth I made Henry Carey, son of Mary Boleyn, the first barron of Hunsdon and the property became part of the Carey estate for the next 100 years.
The barrel vaulted cellar still exists as do buttresses and some masonry. The moat was filled in towards the end of the 18th century. A gate house and summerhouse still exist. An almost new house was built incorporating what remained of Henry VIII's mansion in the 19th century. In the 1980s the building was repaired, and revealed much 15th century brickwork. 

Odd fact: In 1623, the house suffered a structural failure during a sermon given by a local friar to an audience of about 300 people in an upper chamber. The floor collapsed, resulting in 94 deaths. The incident was known as "The Fatal Vespers".

Learn to spot Tudor architecture: 




Tyttenhanger House is a 17th-century country mansion, now converted into commercial offices, near St Albans, Hertfordshire. Cardinal Wolsey owned it in the 1520s and during an epidemic of the Sweating sickness in London 1528, Henry and Catherine of Aragon sought refuge there for a fortnight. 

The Tyttenhanger estate was owned by the Abbey of St Albans until the Dissolution of the Monasteries and was then granted by the Crown in 1547 to Sir Thomas Pope, founder of Trinity College, Oxford. A relative of his wife demolished the manor house and built the present impressive mansion in 1654/5. 
The house was converted for use as commercial offices in 1973. The house and the park can be rented for weddings. 


Oatlands Palace is one of the lesser known palaces. It was situated on the southern bank of the River Thames on the south western outskirts of London. Today the site is occupied by a modern estate and a hotel. Henry VIII acquired the house in 1538, and rebuilt it for the German Anne of Cleves, his fourth wife. He married Catherine Howard there in July 1540. It was to Oatlands that Mary Tudor retreated after her supposed pregnancy. 

The foundations of the original 15th century house were utilised as the innermost court. Much of the foundation stone for the palace came from Chertsey Abbey which fell into ruins after the dissolution of the monasteries. The palace was built around three main adjoining quadrangular courtyards.

The current Oatlands Park Hotel which stands on the site of the former palace. 
The original gateway
Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I also used the palace as a residence, after the execution of Charles I it was demolished and a new house or hunting lodge was used nearby (which unfortunately burnt down in the late 18th century). 

Little remains of the original building, but a restored 16th century brick carriage gateway with a tall four-centred archway remains. Excavations of the palace discovered the north east triangular end of the palace, surrounded by a moat, stables and what may have been a Henrician banqueting house.


Guarding an important crossing of the River Medway, near the coast in Kent, this imposing fortress, Rochester Castle, has a complex history of destruction and rebuilding. Today it stands as a proud reminder of the history of Rochester along with the cathedral and cobbled steets. Its Norman tower keep of Kentish ragstone was built about 1127 by William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury, with the encouragement of Henry I. Consisting of three floors above a basement, it still stands 113 feet high. Attached is a tall protruding forebuilding, with its own set of defences to pass through before the keep itself could be entered at first floor level. 

In 1215, garrisoned by rebel barons, the castle endured an epic siege by King John. John used the fat of 40 pigs to fire a mine under the keep, bringing its southern corner crashing down. Even then the defenders held on, until they were eventually starved out after resisting for two months. Rebuilt under Henry III and Edward I, the castle remained as a viable fortress until the sixteenth century. As early as the 17th century the castle may have acted as a tourist attraction. By this time Rochester was in desperate need of repair. 

At some unknown point in the post medieval period, a fire gutted the keep, leaving it in its present state without floors or a roof.
The first floor probably contained a hall and great chamber, divided by the cross wall. This level may have been the accommodation of the castle's constable who looked after it during the owner's absence. There is a room called "Gundulf's Chamber" after Bishop Gundulf of Rochester (I sense some Tolkien inspiration there), built into the thickness of the wall in the north west corner; it may well have been the constable's private chamber. 


The second floor contained the keep's best accommodation and some of its most elaborate decoration. It is 27 feet (8.2 m) high. The floor also had a chapel. 

Odd fact: Charles Dickens lived in Rochester and included the castle ruins in some of his novels. He is said to haunt the moat on Christmas Eve. 



Very little remains of the early history of Sissinghurst Castle, Kent. What we know is that it started life as a Saxon pig farm and was owned by the de Saxingherste family in the 13th century. Unfortunately, nothing of their moated manor house remains, except for the moat that surrounds two edges of the orchard. The prospect tower, which can be seen from almost everywhere on the Sissinghurst estate, dates from the 16th century. Sissinghurst Castle was originally built on the site of the manor as a large private residence by Sir John Baker, Thomas's grandson, shortly before 1550. Under the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Queen Mary, he held various appointments. These included Recorder of London, Member of Parliament, Attorney-General, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Speaker of the House of Commons and Privy Councillor. Sissinghurst's position and its owners' wealth meant that it held some eminence in royal circles. Edward I first visited in 1305, long before Sir John Baker had built his great house and Queen Mary Tudor came from Rye in 1557.
Queen Elizabeth I also stayed here with Sir Richard Baker for three days in August 1573.


Traces of Sir John's windows can still be seen in the garden wall - one window is clearly marked by an iron grille and, underneath it, there is a small sunken garden, which was once a cellar.


By 1752 Sissinghurst was in a very dilapidated condition and it was destroyed around 1763.
The destruction was so thorough that even the foundations of the house were picked up and carted away. This accounts for the fact that no foundations are to be found in the orchard, where the majority of the great house once stood.



The famous gardens, created in the 1930s, are owned and maintained by the National Trust.


From the times of the Norman Conquest until the Tudors, the powerful Bishops of Winchester shaped English politics from within the walls of Farnham Castle. For 800 years, the Bishops of Winchester used the Castle as a home and administrative centre. The palace has played host to meetings and celebrations and monarchs including King John and Queen Victoria have stayed at or visited the castle during this timeFarnham Castle overlooks the historic town of Farnham on the western border of Surrey.


The Castle consists of two parts; The Keep and the Bishop's Palace, a complex of buildings that reflect changing architectural styles through the centuries. The Keep and the Bishop’s Palace are popular tourist attractions. Historical associations and nearly continuous occupancy make the Castle one of the most important historical buildings in the south of England. Henry VIII and Anne would have visited in August 1531, hawking and hunting in the parklands. 

The Bishop's Camera has a scissor beam roof that has recently been dated to 1381. The 12th century Chapel is probably the oldest part of the palace. Wayneflete's Tower was built in 1470 and the Bishop during the first part of Henry VIII's reign carried out extensive modifications. 

Odd fact: The ghost of a monk has been spotted at the castle on several occasions. This is thought to be the ghost of the Bishop of Morley, who lived at the castle for some time in the 17th century and spent the last years of his life sleeping in a coffin in a tiny, cupboard sized room. He spent enormous sums of money to renovate the Palace, but led a simple and austere life, rising every morning at five and working without a fire. There have been reports of a strange atmosphere around this room by the staircase of the castle, and any dog who is brought near to the place becomes terrified. 
The original building, built by the grandson of William the Conqueror, was demolished by Henry II in 1155 after the Anarchy and then rebuilt in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. In the early 15th century, it was the residence of Cardinal Henry Beaufort who presided at the trial of Joan of Arc in 1414. The castle was slighted again after the Civil War in 1648. Since then more buildings have been constructed in the castle's grounds, the most impressive being those built by Bishop George Morley in the 17th century.


The large motte was formed around the massive foundations of a Norman tower and then totally enclosed by a shell keep, with buttress turrets and a shallow gatehouse. Attached to the motte is a triangular inner bailey, with a fine range of domestic buildings and a 15th century brick entrance tower. The formidable outer bailey curtain wall has square flanking towers, a 13th century gatehouse and a large ditch.


English Heritage has guardianship of the Keep but Farnham Castle now manages the visitors to the Keep. Entry is free. Local guides provide tours of the Bishop's Palace. The palace can be used for conferences, meetings and weddings. 


The picturesque town of Ampthill with its Georgian buildings lies in Bedfordshire. In the 15th century a fine castle, Ampthill Castle, was built by Sir John Cornwall, from ransoms after the Battle of Agincourt. The castle is sadly gone, but some indications of castle life remain, such as the local ponds allegedly built to supply the castle with regular supplies of fish. Henry VIII was a frequent visitor to the castle, which he purchased in 1524, and Catherine of Aragon lived there from 1531 until the divorce in 1533. She was ordered to move to another house, and on the day of  her departure, the people of Ampthill came to bid farewell, showering her with well wishes and very publicly pledging their support. 

The hilltop castle had a large great hall, a central courtyard, several stone towers and an excellent deer park. Henry used the property as a progress house, and enlarged and improved the castle in 1533, building extensive royal apartments. Anne Boleyn would have had her own rooms; her falcon badge was installed in windows of several chambers.  It fell into decay by the end of the 16th century. Final demolition took place before 1649 and its site is marked by a cross erected in the 18th century. 

In Ampthill Park today stand the ruins of Houghton House, built by Mary, Countess of Pembroke, in 1621. The roof was removed in 1794 and it became a ruin.



Allington Castle is one of Kent's best kept secrets. The stone built castle dates back to medieval times and is surrounded by a moat. A large lake split by a causeway leads up to the castle entrance. The castle is also surrounded by beautifully restored gardens featuring ornamental ponds and fountains, Italian gardens, lavender walk, rose arbor with temple and a walled Tiltyard garden. The castle interiors are fully furnished and in character with its medieval origins, with tapestries, antique furniture and a Great Hall in which Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn dinned with Sir Thomas Wyatt around 1530. Anne's family home, Hever Castle, is located only a few miles from Allington. 

Thomas Wyatt the Elder was renowned as a poet and is looked upon as the father of the English version of the sonnet. He is also well known as the thwarted lover of Anne, and nearly lost his life for that affection; he was imprisoned at the Tower for allegedly committing adultery with her, but was released. 

Graven in diamonds with letters plain,
There is written her fair neck round about,
'Noli me tangere [Do not touch me], Caesar's, I am'.

From his cell window in the Bell Tower he may have witnessed the execution of Anne and of the five men charged with adultery and treason. He wrote a poem that is said to be inspired by the gruesome experience, which was cited on the TV series The Tudors during the scenes where the unfortunate men were beheaded, one by one. 

These bloody days have broken my heart.
My lust, my youth did them depart,
And blind desire of estate.
Who hastes to climb seeks to revert.
Of truth, circa Regna tonat [it thunders through the realms].

The bell tower showed me such sight
That in my head sticks day and night.
There did I learn out of a grate,
For all favour, glory, or might,
That yet circa Regna tonat.

He died at Allington in 1542. His son, Thomas the Younger, intended to unseat Queen Mary I and, perhaps, place her younger sister, the future Elizabeth I, on the throne. The rebellion failed and lead to his beheading. As further punishment, for treason, Wyatt’s head and limbs were hung from gallows after his death.

Sir Thomas Wyatt
Portrayed by Jamie Thomas King on The Tudors

Allington Castle stands on land once held by the Celts, then the Romans and next the Saxons. As early as 1086 there is mention of a manor house at Allington (Elentun). A Norman castle was built, probably a stone bailey with a moat, in the 11th century. When that castle was ordered destroyed by King Henry II in 1174, a manor house was rebuilt that included dovecotes that remain to this day.



Sir Henry Wyatt had suffered imprisonment and torture in Scotland under Richard III for Wyatt’s support of the Tudor claimant, Henry VII, and the castle was awarded to him with gratitude by Henry in 1492. Sir Henry served the king for many years as a Privy Councillor, with the king’s finances, and finally as executor of his will. 

This wealth enabled him to refurbish and expand Allington Castle, adding tall Tudor windows, a large porch, modern fireplaces, an improved kitchen and a courtyard through which England’s oldest Long Gallery ran. One of the towers was also torn down and in its place a Tudor dwelling was built. A magnificent, panelled Royal Room was added to house important guests. The public rooms featured high, stone walls and the private lodgings of the family were beautifully furnished with wood panelled walls and luxurious carpets, tapestries and furniture.Thomas had a brother, Henry, and at least two sisters, Margaret and Anne/Mary (their names and fates are disputed, they seem to have been mixed up, as girls were obviously not deemed important enough for records, but one of them was Anne's chief lady in waiting and present at her execution). 

Towards the end of the 16th century the castle was badly damaged by fire, remaining largely derelict until 1905 when it was restored for Sir Martin Conway.


In 1951 the castle became home to a convent of the Order of Carmelites. It is currently the private residence of the psephologist Sir Robert Worcester and Lady Worcester. Allington Castle is a private residence and unfortunately not open to the public. By request wedding ceremonies, receptions and photography sessions can be held at the castle.