Ashby de la Zouch Castle, Leicesetershire
~ History ~
1086 ~ The Manor of Ascebi is recorded in the Domesday Book being part of the estates of the Earls of Leicester. They in turn grant the manor to a family descended from Brittany 'le Zouch' in return for military service,
1347 ~ A survey records the manor as 'a ruinous old hall, a new chamber not yet roofed...and a long house called the bakery, brewhouse and kitchen'. A well, oast house, dovecote, an orchard and warren are also recorded.
1399 ~ With the death of the last direct heir to the Zouch inheritance, a protracted dispute over the manor's ownership ensues that is not resolved for a further 68 years.
1461 ~ Effective control of the manor passes to the prominent Lancastrian James Butler, earl of Ormond and Wiltshire.
Later in the same year he is executed following the Yorkist victory of their Lancastrian rivals, in what would later be recorded as the largest and most bloody battle on English soil, with 50,000 soldiers battling it out for ten hours in a snowstorm.
As a result, King Edward VI deposes the Lancastrian KIng Henry VI to secure the English throne.
1462 ~ The manor is granted to William, Lord Hastings.
1470 ~ King Edward IV is deposed by the 'Kingmaker' earl of Warwick has has switched sides to the Lancastrian cause.
The Lord Hastings flees to the low countries along with King Edward IV's Yorkist followers.
1471 ~ King Edward returns to England with an army to reclaim the throne. Lord Hastings provides the first important complement of men for his army, mustering 3,000 supporters at Leicester. His help is rewarded with much more power, being declared he could so more with the king 'than any man alive'.
1474 ~ A licence to fortify 4 of his manors to reflect his new status is awarded by King Edward.
1480 ~ Work begins at Ashby de la Zouch to create a new castle to serve as Lord Hastings principle seat.
1483 ~ With the death of King Edward IV, Lord Hastings position becomes vulnerable to the ambitions of the Duke of Gloucester, the future King Richard III. Later, in the same year he is executed. The King however issues a special grant to the widow of Lord Hastings, Katherine, restoring the family to its inheritance.
1529 ~ George Hastings is created earl of Huntingdon by King Henry VIII, in order to secure his support to the King's divorce of Queen Katerine of Aragon. George makes improvements to his castle at Ashby de la Zouch.
1532 ~ George secures for his eldest son, Francis, the hand of Katherine Pole, a descendant of one of King Edward IV's brothers.
1543 ~ Francis succeeds to Ashby de la Zouch and allies himself to John Dudley, the premier political figure during the reign of King Edward VI. Through this alliance he secures for his son, Henry, the marriage of Dudley's daughter Katherine. Later, for his youngest daughter, the hand in marriage through the Russian Amassador, to Ivan the Terrible. Queen Elizabeth later forbids this marriage to Ivan.
1560 ~ Henry succeeds his father as the 3rd earl of Huntingdon. Through his mother's royal descent, Francis is viewed as a potential heir to the unmarried and childless Queen Elizabeth. As a result he is treated with suspicion by the Queen but later secures her favour asa trsuted servant.
1569 ~ Mary, Queen of Scots, is briefly held as Ashby de la Zouch, with Francis entrusted as her gaoler by Queen Elizabeth.
1595 ~ With the death of Henry, his body is transported in state to Ashby for burial according to the directions issued by Queen Elizabeth herself.
1603 ~ Henry's younger brother and heir, George, on discovering the extent of Henry's debts he had run up whilst in Royal service, petitions to King Jame I liabilities for £30,000 and declares himself unable to maintain the estate of an earl.
His petition secures a visit from Queen Anne of Denmark and her son Prince Henry to his castle. The petition is granted by the King the following year.
1617 ~ George's grandson and heir, Henry, holds a day-long reception at teh castle for King James I.
1634 ~ King Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria visit the castle.
1643 ~ A devout Royalist and supporter of King Charles I during the Civil War, Henry dies leaving his eldest son Ferdinando and his younger brother Henry to continue support to King Charles I. Henry proves to be a successful commander and is created Lord Loughborough. He fortifies both town and castle against Parliament, with King Charles visiting during the resulting fighting.
1645 ~ Following the Royalist defeat at the Battle of Naseby, andhaving attended the wounded in Leicester, King Charles spend the night at the castle. With the Royalist cause failing, the King is forced to flee early the following morning.
An outbreak of plague causes a pause on the resulting fighting at the castle, but resumes after the arrival of Royalist reinforecements. With the King's cause all but lost, the following year the castle and town surrenders. The garrison are permitted to march free with 'trumpets sounding, drums beating, colours flying, matches lighted at both ends, muskets loaded'.
The town's fortifications are pulled down and the castle used by Parliament to hold Royalist prisoners.
1648 ~ In order to ensure the castle can no longer be held against Parliament defences of the castle and great tower are slighted.