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Sudeley Castle

The History at this site goes back a long way. By the 10th century it had become the property of Ethelred the Unready, who then passed it to his daughter, Princess Goda.

At the time of the Norman Conquest, it’s owner was Earl Harold de Sudeley. Saxon nobles generally had their estates confiscated, but Harold avoided this by marrying a great-niece of the Conqueror.

During The Anarchy the de Sudeleys supported Empress Matilda, as did much of the area. Matilda’s half brother Robert of Gloucester being her chief military support. King Stephen seized the estate and fortified it as a royal garrison.

His Castle was destroyed during the conflict, with only a fragment of wall remaining, with the Estate being returned to the de Sudeleys by Henry II.

The last of the de Sudeleys, John, fought with the Black Prince and died childless in 1367. It then passed, via his sister, to the Boteler family.

In the 15th century, Ralph Boteler fought in France with Henry V and Henry VI and was made Captain of Calais. By 1445, he had risen to High Treasurer of England and was Baron Sudeley. He then set about building a prestigious Castle for himself, much of which is reflected in the layout of the existing Castle. Some remnants of his Castle remain, but Ralph did not get to enjoy his magnificent creation for long.

In 1461, Henry VI was overthrown and Ralph was forced to sell his Castle to the new King, Edward IV. Ralph’s widowed daughter in law also caught the King’s eye and the existence of his relationship with Lady Eleanor Boteler was part of the controversy surrounding the succession when King Edward died. The King granted Sudeley to his brother, the future Richard III.

When Richard III was crowned, he had the children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville declared illegitimate on the basis that their marriage was bigamous. He asserted that Edward had married Eleanor Boteler.

Richard then set about transforming Sudeley into a palace fit for a King. He added a magnificent Banqueting Hall, some of which can still be seen in the romantic ruins in the grounds. Like Ralph Boteler, Richard never got to enjoy his new rooms and following the Battle of Bosworth it was one of many properties granted to Jasper Tudor, reverting to the Crown when he died.

Henry VIII stayed at Sudeley with Anne Boleyn and 1535. He was accompanied by Thomas Cromwell, staying at nearby Winchcombe Abbey. It was during this visit that the Dissolution of the Monasteries was initiated.

With the accession of Edward VI, Sudeley passed to Sir Thomas Seymour and his new wife Katherine Parr. They moved to Sudeley with Thomas’s ward, 11 year old Lady Jane Grey. In 1548, Katherine died 3 days after giving birth to a daughter, Mary, who probably died in infancy. Lady Jane Grey was the chief mourner at Katherine’s funeral. There are interesting displays in the Castle about Katherine and Jane, with St Mary’s Church, in the grounds, housing Katherine’s tomb.

Thomas was not present for his wife’s funeral. He was already pursuing Princess Elizabeth and trying to arrange a match between Edward VI and Jane Grey. His plotting led to his downfall and execution.

Under Mary I, the Castle passed to Sir John Brydges, Baron Chandos of Sudeley. It was his grandson, Giles, who had the dubious honour of entertaining Elizabeth I in 1592. In his efforts to gain favour, he nearly bankrupted the family. They then lived quietly at the Castle until 1642.

George, 6th Lord Chandos, was a Royalist and Prince Rupert made Sudeley his Headquarters. During the conflict, the Castle was besieged on two occasions. At one point it sheltered Charles I.

At the end of the Civil War, Lord Chandos was heavily fined by Parliament. He ended his life in disgrace, having killed a man in a duel. He was imprisoned and died of smallpox. The Castle was slighted and neglected until it eventually came into the possession of John and William Dent, glove makers from Worcester in 1837 who started the Victorian restoration.

The Castle today is well worth visiting and has beautiful gardens and knowledgeable guides. Well presented history, with interesting displays around Katherine Parr.

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