Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Leeds castle is a beautiful English castle steeped in history, set on an island surrounded by a body of water, built during the reign of Henry I, William the conqueror’s son, on an island in the River Len, Leeds Castle has an incredible history of being a royal residence, then becoming a private residence which was handed down by inheritance and purchase. Before finally being sold in 1926 to the American heiress, Lady Baillie who after her death left the castle to the Leeds Castle Foundation.
Eleanor of Castile, King Edward I’s queen, bought the castle in 1278 and started the long standing royal ownership of the castle. Eleanor died in 1290 and when Edward married the French half-sister of Phillip IV, Princess Margaret, they spent their honeymoon at the castle and Edward later granted the castle to his new queen, beginning the tradition of the castle being retained by the queens of England after the King’s death.
Henry IV gifted Leeds Castle to his second wife, Joan of Navarre. In 1419, Joan of Navarre was imprisoned, by her step son, Henry V, in Leeds Castle and charged with plotting the King’s death by witchcraft by the ‘most high and horrible means’.
Between 1517 and 1523, Henry VIII ordered major alterations on the castle to turn it into a magnificant royal palace for King Henry and Catherine of Aragon, his first wife. In what is now known as the Catherine of Aragon room, there was once a fire place displaying the royal arms entwined with lovers’ knots.
The Maiden’s Tower which stands seperate from the rest of the castle is a late-tudor structure which replaced and earlier medieval building. Henry VIII’s rebuilding work of the castle included the tower being reconstructed to accommodate the queen’s ladies in waiting. The Maiden’s Tower was where we commenced our tour and also where we had the opportunity to taste test some Henry VIII’s style mead, which is a kind of syrupy, honey flavoured wine.