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Location: Warwick, England
The earliest fortification on this site was built in 914 AD, by Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great. Ethelfleda ordered a ‘burh’ or earthen rampart built to protect the hill top settlement of Warwick from invading Danes, who were a real threat to Mercia and the Anglo-Saxon kingdom.
In 926, on orders from King Athelstan, Guy of Warwick was sent to slay a large menacing bovine, who was terrorizing the town folk of Dunsmow Heath. He was knighted for his bravery, and according to legend, it is Guy’s sword that is in the castle’s Armory. The sword is over 5 feet long and more than 15 pounds.
In 1068, William the Conqueror, built the first true castle on the site in order to consolidate the Norman Conquest in the Midlands and Northern England. He built a motte and bailey style fort. It sat at the edge of the cliff over looking the river, securing the area and his lines of supplies.
Inside the stockade was a square timber tower with wooden buildings lining the inside of the palisade. Along one side was the thatched hall (the Great Hall), a chapel, kitchen, bakehouse and brewhouse. Along the other side was the blacksmith, barracks, armory and stables.
The Great Hall was the largest room in the castle and has been the heart of the castle throughout history. In the early middle ages the Great Hall’s location is thought to be where the Cedar Drawing Room is today. "Straw and dirt covered the floor. Burning in the center of the room would have been a large fire, its smoke turning the air acrid. The only natural light filtered through narrow lancet windows. This is where the nobility ate, drank and slept." The Great Hall standing today was built in the 14th century. It was rebuilt in the 17th century and restored in 1871 after being destroyed in a fire. On display are 16th century equestrian armor, and a cauldron known as ‘Guy’s Porridge Pot’ after the 10th Earl of Warwick. The pot is about 500 years old and was used to cook stew for the castle’s garrison of soldiers. There is a child’s suit of armor. It belonged to Lord Denbigh who died from one of the many illnesses that claimed the lives of so many children in those days. He was only 4 years old.
In 1088, William the Conqueror appointed Henry de Beaumont (1088-1119) Constable of Warwick. At some point he changed his name to Neville. Five generations of his descendants held the title of Earl of Warwick until Thomas de Beaumont died in 1242 without an heir. The castle and title passed to his sister, Margaret and her husband John De Plessis.
All construction after c.1260 on the castle was in stone, replacing the original timber structures.
Margaret and John du Plessis (1242-1263) never had children, resulting in the title passing to her cousin William Mauduit in 1263.
In 1263, Mauduit became Earl during the Baron’s war. Several nobles became resentful towards Henry III’s court policies. William in an unwise move, sided with the King. Simon de Montford, Earl of Leicester and the leader of the rebellious nobles, sent John Gifford, Governor of Kenilworth Castle, to Warwick. "Mauduit did little to prepare for the defence of Warwick Castle." In 1264, Gifford "breached the castle walls, captured Mauduit and his wife and held them to ransom."
William Mauduit died in 1268 he was succeeded by his nephew, William de Beauchamp. This would be the beginning of a dynasty that would last for 148 years and bring Warwick Castle to the height of it’s fortunes.
William (1268-1298) made a name for himself as a military commander serving under King Edward I.
"Reflecting the growing importance of the de Beauchamps, his son Guy (1298-1315) was one of a group of earls known as the Ordainers. With their own interests firmly at heart, they aimed to impose, through a list of ‘ordinances or constitutional demands, some form of control over the way King Edward II, both raised his revenue and governed the kingdom. For some Ordainers, complaints about royal power (especially royal spending) centered on the role of Piers Gaveston in the court, he was Gascon Knight and the King’s lover." In 1312, given a false promise of safety, Gaveston surrendered. Seizing the prisoner, Guy de Beauchamp brought him to Warwick Castle where he was tried for treason in the Great Hall. Gaveston was found guilty of his crimes and was sentenced to death. He was taken to Blacklow Hill, located just outside of Warwick, where he was beheaded.
Guy de Beauchamp died in 1315, his son, still a child, did not inherit the title until 1329. Thomas de Beauchamp (1329-1369) became Earl during the verge of the outbreak of the Hundred Years War. He became one of the King’s favored commanders, fighting at Crecy (1346) and Poitiers (1356). Thomas was one of the first men to be made Knight of the Garter. He became military advisor to the King’s son, the Black Prince.
Thomas started the massive 14th century reconstruction of Warwick Castle. It is said "of the men who planned each parapet and arrow hole, of the masons who chiselled each stone to a perfect fit, of the builders who climbed the wooden scaffolding that enveloped each rising tower, we know little. Except that their skills were unsurpassed. And that, perhaps with son following father, they labored over the decades to create not just an impregnable fortress, but, a monument to their age." The towers and curtain wall are the result of the huge reconstruction during the 14th and 15th centuries.
Caesar’s Tower was built by Thomas de Beauchamp in the first half of the 14th century. Clover leaf in shape it is three stories high and has a dungeon. Each floor is topped by a platform and parapet. Behind the parapet there is another floor with a hexagon shaped guardhouse. Leading down through a hatch in the floor at the base of the tower are twenty four very narrow steps that lead down to the dungeon. "Beyond a locked door at the foot of the steps, prisoners would endure days, weeks and months in this small dark space." The only ray of light penetrating the gloom came from a small shaft high up on the wall and one small window that gave both light and ventilation. There is a drain that runs across the middle of the floor that is the only sanitation in the dungeon. Confirming an even more pitiful existence is the ‘oubliette’ (french for forgetting), which is a dungeon within a dungeon, which is a hole in the dungeon floor where it’s victim had just enough room to lie in the cold dank dark. With only a small slit to peer out of, this is where they were left "forgotten" to die, as the "French name for this horrible fate suggests." Some of the earliest prisoners were French soldiers who were captured and held for ransom during the Hundred Years War in 1356. Others were Englishmen and Royalists captured during the Civil War (1642-1651). The most famous victim was King Edward IV in 1496 who was captured by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, in conspiracy with Edward’s brother, the Duke of Clarence, during the War of the Roses. Another prisoner held in the tower was a Royalist soldier held during the Civil War who carved this message in the stone wall, "MasTER johN SMYTH GUNER TO HIS MAJESTY HighNESS WAS A PRINSER IN THIS PLACE AND LAY HERS froM 1642 TELLth...." it is still visible today.
There were many devices with which the prisoners were tortured in the dungeon. The most gruesome were: Chain hangings, "For a really serious offence, a man might be hung alive in the chains near the place of his crime until his body entirely rotted away. It is said that many a strong man, who had stood fearless when sentenced to death, broke down completely when measured for his chains." The rack, with the victims tied at each end, it would slowly pull them apart. And the boot, "The boot was a clamp that went on the leg of its victim. It was heated to an unbearable temperature before it was clamped on."
Guy’s Tower was also built during the 14th century. It is twelve-sided
and has five stories, the first four stories make up a vaulted chamber with two smaller rooms, a bedchamber and a gardrobe (toilet). The fifth story is a hexagonal shaped guardroom.
The Bear and Clarence Towers are located in the center of the north wall. Richard of Gloucester started building them in 1478, not only to protect from outside attacks but also to protect him inside the castle from attacks from within. Wells were dug and ovens were installed, providing the necessities needed for those locked inside the tower to endure an attack. They were originally supposed to be the same height as Guy’s Tower. When he was crowned King Richard III, he was killed two years into his reign and in 1485 work was stopped on the towers. Clarence Tower is named after Richard’s older brother, the Duke of Clarence.
The entrance to the castle had to be heavily fortified. The barbican houses a drawbridge that spans a dry moat giving the gatehouse more protection. Attackers would have to get by the first iron portcullis (from the french word ‘porte couler’ meaning running door) and make it past a barrage of crossbow bolts and arrows. If they succeeded, they would find themselves trapped in a narrow, roofed passage with arrow slits on both sides and ‘murder holes’ above their head where stones and missiles would be thrown down at them. The survivors were then faced with large wooden doors, struggling through crossfire up towards the gatehouse, then would have to conquer a second portcullis, another set of murder holes and another large door.
The Ghost Tower (originally called the Watergate Tower) was built in the 14th century. Guards could keep watch over the river for signs of enemy approach. In 1628, Sir Fulke Greville died from stab wounds inflicted by one of his servants unhappy at the sum left him by Greville in his will. Doctors tried to save Greville, but he lingered for 27 agnoizing days before dying. His ghost returns to his bedroom at midnight, where he has been seen sitting at his desk writing his will. The hauntings at Watergate Tower resulted in its name being changed to the Ghost Tower.
In 1397, Thomas de Beauchamp (1370-1397, 1399-1401) confessed to treachery and was exiled to the Isle of Man. When King Henry IV usurped King Richard II, Thomas reclaimed his inheritance.
Richard de Beachamp (1401-1439) was the most prominent of all the de Beauchamps. He forged his reputation during the Hundred Years War. The King knowing his full abilities, had him tutor is son the future King Henry VI. "In 1431, the English bought the captive Joan of Arc for a ransom fee, it fell to Richard de Beauchamp as Captain of Calais, to superintend her trial for supposed heresy and her subsequent execution by burning in the market place at Rouen in northern France." War was very profitable for Richard; he made enough to continue the expensive rebuilding program at the castle.
In 1445, Richard’s son made Henry de Beauchamp the first Duke of Warwick; he was also the last dying in 1446 he took the title with him.
His only heir was his infant daughter who died at the age of five. The castle and title passed to his sister Anne de Beauchamp. Anne married Richard Neville in 1449 ending the de Beauchamp dynasty.
In 1449, Richard Neville became Earl of Warwick. During the War of Roses his help in disposing of both Kings, Henry VI and Edward VI, won him the title of Kingmaker. He was killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, the title and castle passed to his brother George, Duke of Clarence.
In 1478, the Duke of Clarence was suspect of plotting against the King. He was imprisoned and executed. His son Edward became Earl of Warwick (1478-1499). Being the last Plantagenet and a possible rival to King Henry VIII, Edward was taken to the Tower of London. He was held from 1478 until 1499 when he executed for alleged conspiracy. Since there was no natural successor to Edward, the castle became property of the Crown.
In 1547, King Edward VI (King Henry VIII’s only son) granted the title to John Dudley. Upon the King’s death Dudley had daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, placed on the throne. Lady Jane was the King’s cousin. The young King named her his successor instead of the rightful heirs, his half sisters, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth. Dudley’s support was rapidly diminishing, and Lady Jane Grey’s reign as Queen of England would end after two weeks. Mary Tudor claimed birth right, and condemned Dudley, Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guilford ( Dudley’s son) to death. They were beheaded at the Tower of London.
The Dudley family was once again in favor of the crown when Elizabeth I, succeeded her half sister Mary. Queen Elizabeth I granted Ambrose Dudley, Guilford’s brother, Earl of Warwick (1561-1590) she also granted him the castle. Ambrose died in 1590 without an heir and for the second time the castle was reverted back to the Crown.
In 1604, King James I "presented the by now dilapidated castle to Sir Fulke Greville. (The title Earl of Warwick, however, was conferred upon Lord Rich in 1618 and it remained in his family until 1759)." Greville was Chancellor of the Exchequer until 1621. "Greville was elevated to the peerage as Baron Brooke." Greville was murdered in 1628 by a his manservant in the Ghost Tower. The estate passed to his adopted heir, Robert Greville, the 2nd Lord Brooke.
The excellent condition of the castle is due to the efforts of Sir Greville. He "dedicated a large sum of money and the rest of his ‘worthy’ life to the restoration of the castle." He built the Chapel in the early 1600s. It is built on the site of the old chapel founded in 1119. Until 1900, the families of the Earls of Warwick worshiped in this chapel. The medieval stained glass windows in the Chapel were presented by the Earl of Exeter in 1759. There are also Flemish wood carvings which date back to 1740.
In 1642, the castle withstood a siege by Royalist Troops. The soldiers were imprisoned in the Dungeon, a soldier "MasTER johN SMYTH GUNE; TO HIS MAJESTY HighNESS...." carved this message into the dungeon’s wall and can still be read today.
The Armory was added in 1669. Originally the brewhouse, it has been used as a washhouse and then as a library. The Armory is divided into three historical periods, the first spanning 500 years from 1000 AD to 1500 AD. This period shows the development of body armor in response to the weapons being used at the time. During the earliest part of this period, soldiers wore knee length coats of chain mail. Chain mail was made by skillfully working metal rings into interlocking strands, a typical coat weighed about 30 lbs. It had the advantage of flexibility for hand to hand combat. During the last part of the 13th century technology increased the firepower of the crossbow and more importantly the longbow; this resulted in the development of plate armor. Although heavier and more cumbersome, plate mail could withstand the impact of high velocity bolts and arrows. Despite plate armor, the longbow was still a fearsome weapon. "A highly skilled archer could fire up to 15 arrows a minute with enough lethal force to penetrate armor even at some distance." The last section consists of military items from the 1700’s and the 1800’s. "The Armory contains the majority of the castle’s Armory collection which numbers over 1,000 pieces." In the center of the Armory, "sitting on a fully caparisoned horse is a knight in Italian jousting armor dating from the 1570’s. Other major exhibits include a helmet that once belonged to Oliver Cromwell, a rare iron hat similar to one worn by King Charles I during the Battle of Naseby (1645). There is a fine collection of pistols, carbines, muskets and rifles, crossbows and arrows, a 10th century Viking stirrup and a mediaeval bascinet."
Robert Greville died in battle at Lichfield "the castle passed to each of his three sons over the next few years." First to Francis (1643-1658), then to Robert (1658-1677). Both died without heirs. In 1677, Fulke Greville became the 5th Lord Brooke (1677-1710).
"As the 17th century faded into the 18th century, Warwick Castle found itself bathed in a new light. The elegance of the State Rooms and the imaginative scope of the gardens reflected a tolerant, civil perspective on life."
"For the Castle, the time of conflict was finally over."
In 1759, Francis Greville, the 8th Lord Brooke, petitioned for the title Earl of Warwick when the last Lord Rich died ending the family line. Francis’ petition was granted thus "reuniting the earldom and the castle once more. Francis commissioned the building of the State Dining Room and the private apartments. He rebuilt the porch stairs leading into the Great Hall, and hired Lancelot 'Capability’ Brown to refashion the look and design of the gardens and grounds."
"His son, George Greville (1773-1816) made further improvements to the look and style of the castle. He put the finishing touches to the State Rooms and bought many of the paintings and pieces of furniture now on display."
Francis Richard Greville held the title from 1893 to 1924.
His son Leopold, "Guy", held the title from 1924 to 1928.
Charles Guy Greville, the 7th Greville Earl, held the title from 1928 until 1984.
"In November 1978, his son David sold Warwick Castle to The Tussaud’s Group."
"The Tussaud Group has since carried out extensive restoration work and opened up substantial areas of the castle previously closed to the public."
"The Victorian Rose Garden was opened by HRH The Princess of Wales in 1986 having been restored back to it’s original design."