Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, England
I have finally figured out how to put pictures on my blog! I am way behind in this computer age so it was a real accomplishment.
After seeing Shakespeare's town on Easter weekend we decided to drive over to Warwickshire where the famous Warwick Castle is. It was only 12 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. We have been told that this castle is very commercialized but hearing about it many times and being so close, plus the fact that we've never seen a castle, we thought we should go ahead and check it out.
As with all these old places here, there is a ton of history in this old castle. The daughter of King Alfred (Aethelflaed) built a 'Burh' or 'Burgh' at the site in 914 AD. At that time 'Burhs' meant "fortress" and were for the whole community, rather than a 'castle' which was a private enterprise. They were usually built on a hilltop or along a river. (The castle sits on a hill along the River Avon.) The term "fortress" over time changed to "fortified town" or "town". In time 'burh' changed to Burgh, Burry and Borough which are common in many British places today. Anyway, Aethelflaed built this Burh to protect the town of Warwick from the Danish invaders.
In 1068 William the Conqueror built a motte and fort at the sight and names the first Earl of Warwick, Henry de Beaumont. Five generations follow. In the 1200's the wood is replaced by stone. There are many changing of hands over the years. The castle was badly damaged during the Baron's War and had to be reconstructed in 1315.
During the reign of Edward III came the great Chivalric age and Warwick Castle was the scene of many tournaments, feasts, banquets, etc. During the War of the Roses the Earl of Warwick changes allegiances by defeating Edward IV and restores Henry VI to power. But eventually Edward IV defeats the Earl and kills him. The following Earls of Warwick are branded as traitors and executed, temporarily ending the title of Earl of Warwick.
Richard III takes ownership of the castle until he is killed in a battle against Henry Tudor. The Tudor kings keep Warwick Castle to themselves.
The history of Warwick Castle enters another period of executions and treachery with the short reign of King Henry VIII's son Edward V. John Dudley at the time is a very important man holding many titles, one of them being Earl of Warwick. However with the King being ill he realizes that if the king dies and the throne goes to one of his sisters then Dudley would lose his power. He plots with the Earl of Suffolk and arranges a marriage with his son and the Earl's daughter, Lady Jane Grey. The young king dies, and Lady Jane Grey is Queen of England. She is only there for nine days however, before the rightful queen, Queen Mary takes the crown. John Dudley was beheaded for treason and the castle is passed to the poet Sir Fulke Greville. He was murdered by a discontented manservant and his ghost is said to haunt Warwick Castle.
Robert Greville, the cousin and adopted son of Fulke is named the next Earl. After that Charles II was restored to the throne and things calmed down for Warwick Castle. Robert Greville turned the castle into a showplace and made some great additions.
In 1978 the Earl of Warwick sold the castle to the Tussaud company which owns Madame Tussaud's in London. They did extensive restorations (adding the wax figures of some of the royalty) and opened it to the public.
Over the years there have been many queens and kings who have visited the castle. These include Queen Elizabeth I in 1572; King William III in 1695; Queen Victoria in 1858; Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip in 1996.
That's your little history lesson this time.
We went over to see the weapons makers tent and got a little lesson on long bows. The fellow told us that all boys from age seven up were required by law to practice the longbow for one hour each day and two hours on Sundays. By age 11 they would be proficient at it and would be able to have five arrows in the air per minute. I can't remember the poundage of the bow but Joe tried it and was able to pull it back and the guy said it was half the weight that an 11 would have done. To show you how crazy some of the British laws are, that law was in effect until 1998!! I couldn't believe my hearing and made him repeat it several times.
There were all kinds of sights and scenes going on that day. I can't even tell you all of them. People reciting stories, jousting, some crazy thing on horses that we never managed to get over in time to see, they also had a Princess tower that little girls could go up and dress up like princesses. It was one of the real towers too.
They had a place called The Peacock Garden which was a garden with trimmed hedges and sidewalks all around and peacocks roaming all over. Have you ever heard a peacock scream? It would make your blood curdle.
When we entered the castle the first room we saw was the Great Hall that had all the armor that the knights wore. There were two knights on life size horses covered in armor in the middle of the room. There was a beautiful banquet side table that was made from one Oak tree. This would have been the main hall for feasts with guests.
The next room was the beautiful State Dining Room where the special honored guests would dine. It had a big table set up with all the dinnerware and the figure of Queen Elizabeth standing at the head of the table.
Then there was a hall that led straight from the Great Hall and went all the way down to the end of the building. Each room was connected on that hall so that you had to go through each room to continue to the next. They did not have their own private doors to any of the rooms. The further a guest was allowed to go down that hall showed their importance.
The first few rooms were drawing rooms where they would entertain guests. The rooms became more private as you walked along. First room was the Red Drawing Room:
Second was the Cedar Drawing Room. Notice the legs of the fancy table. Each leg is a woman in different stages of pregnancy. For the life of me I can't remember the significance of that. But it was still interesting.
Room three was the Green Room with a display set up of Henry VIII and his wives. They looked so real! I just loved the ceiling in this room. There was a secret door in that room where if someone had to they could disappear and come out in the bowels of the castle.
THOSE POOR WIVES!!!!
Room four was the Queen Anne Bedroom which had a beautiful four poster bed and old old tapestries covering all the walls.
The last room was the Blue Boudoir. It was a tiny room with a small writing table, no bed, and a figure of a young lady sitting at the table as if gazing out the window. The walls were covered in blue satin fabric. There was a stunning clock that once belonged to Marie Antoinette on one wall.
I was a little disappointed in one respect. In all my imaginations about seeing castles I have always pictured long stone staircases going up to dark dreary halls and endless amounts of bedrooms and things. We were only allowed in those rooms in the castle and they were all on one level. Now, that castle is huge so there are many more rooms throughout. I don't even care if they're decorated, I just want to SEE them. Another thing I want to see is the dungeons. The only way to see the dungeons at this castle was to take a specific tour of them. Which would be fine but it is more like a haunted house tour with actors and such. We saw that in London when we came last October. We waited in this huge line and went through the London Dungeon tour that was a glorified haunted house. We were both so disappointed in it. I love that stuff, but it has to be authentic! So we didn't see these dungeons. I am very excited to go to more castles that are not so commercialized as Warwick Castle. We did have a great day, but I'm looking forward to seeing MORE of the castle next time. I hear Wales has wonderful castles.
I'm leaving you with this picture of this adorable little boy who was dressed for the day.