4 October 2015

Leeds Castle

Phew, working on my allotment, cooking a roast dinner then completing this post a second time after accidentally deleting it, I'm worn out!! 
First a palace then a castle. Leeds Castle is described as the loveliest castle in the world. I haven't seen all the other castles in the world but I suspect Leeds would be near the top of the list, it's beautiful, inside and out.

It derives its name from the ancient Saxon manor of Esledes, recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. Construction of the first stone castle on the site began in 1119 by Robert de Crevecoeur, a descendant of one of William II's knights. Despite its heavily fortified appearance it wasn't built primarily for defence, many manors in Kent were fortified to remind the local people and any future invaders of the strength of the nobility.

Its beauty is not accidental, set on two islands in a magnificent lake the area surrounding the castle was carefully designed, and included raised viewing areas to see it at its best.

In 1278 the castle was bought by Queen Eleanor of Castile, wife of King Edward I, and the basic shape of today's castle emerged.  

The castle was owned by six medieval queens and remained in royal hands until Tudor times, when it was then owned by related families: The Culpepers in the 17th century; the Fairfaxes in the 18th century; and the Wykeham Martins in the 19th century. Perhaps the most famous owner was Henry VII, he transformed the castle for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

In 1926 it was bought by an Anglo-American heiress, the Hon, Olive Wilson Filmer, later to become Lady Baille (1899 -1974). She undertook extensive renovations and used the castle as her country house, entertaining the rich and famous - politicians, ambassadors, royalty and film stars for nearly fifty years. Among her many famous guests were Edward VIII, the Grand Duke Dimitri of Russia, Douglas Fairbanks junior and senior, James Stewart, Errol Flynn and Charlie Chaplin. Lady Baille left the castle to a charitable trust that is now responsible for its continued preservation. Today it looks mostly as it did in her day. 

It's another place I've been meaning to visit for a while and just never got around to it, but when I saw that one of their events was a flower festival I didn't hesitate, just booked it and went. The theme was Art Deco.

                                               A quirky drainpipe and crows checking out an empty crisp packet.

A fine suit of armour, but what's going on with the legs and feet!!

The Queen's Bedroom
The Queen's bedroom is set up as it would have looked in the 1420s when Henry V’s widow, Catherine de Valois owned the Castle. It is actually a day room where the Queen would sit on the chair beside the bed to receive guests. Beds at this time were very expensive, with only Royalty or nobility being able to afford them, and the large bed is purely for show and to impress her visitors. The fireplace was installed during Henry VIII's reign.

 The Queen's Bathroom
The bath was made of wood, the cloth covers would prevent the Queen getting splinters.

The scent of these beautiful lilies in the the Queen's Gallery was gorgeous.
The Marble statues of Henry VIII and his three children were made when Elizabeth I was alive. The picture above the fireplace (obscured by the huge globe of lilies) of a child in a white dress is of Thomas Smythe. In  those days boys wore dresses up to the age of 7.

Henry VIII Banqueting Hall
England’s most famous King held parties in this room and enjoyed banquets of exotic food such as roast peacocks and swans!

The flower festival was also a competition and we were able to vote for our favourite display. I liked the Queen's bathroom for its simplicity, the Queen's gallery for its beautiful oppulent lilies, but I eventually voted for the Henry VIII banqueting hall for it's sheer beauty.

The Chapel was beautiful in its simplicity

King Edward I and his Queen, Eleanor of Castile had 16 children! When she died, he built this chapel to remember her. It was opened in 1978 and re-consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Yellow Bedroom would have formed the private rooms of Catherine of Aragon, 
first wife of Henry VIII

To be continued......


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