Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle, Kent


5 miles South East of Maidstone




ME17 1PL

~ History ~

857 ~ Led, Chief Minister of Ethelbert IV, King of Kent, builds a wooden castle on two islands, connected to each other to the mainland by drawbridges.

1067 ~ King William the Conqueror grants Leeds Castle to his half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent..

1084 ~ Following Odo's exile for rebelling against his brother, King William grants Leeds Castle to his cousin, Hamon de Crevecoeur.

1119 ~ Robert de Crevecoeur rebuilds the castle in stone.

1139 ~ Leeds Castle is besieged and captured by King Stephen.

1215 ~ Hamo de Crevecoeur joins the barons rebellion against King John.

1260's ~ The de Crevecoeur's are dispossed of all their estates by King Henry III and is granted to Sir Roger Leybourne, a good friend and ally of prinbce Edward. The stone castle is further strengthened by an artificial lake.

1272 ~ The impoverished Leybourne's give the castle to the newly crowned King Edward I. The castle becomes a favourite of Queen Eleanor of Castile. The gatehouse is extended & keep strengthened.An outer bailey is created by the building of a wall outside of the existing Norman wall rising sheer from the waters of the lake. King Edward gives the castle to Queen Eleanor.

1290 ~ Following a meeting with Parliament King Edward & Queen Eleanor are travelling back to London when it becomes clear the Queen may not be able to complete the journey due to her failing health. Her children are called to their mothers side and near Lincoln, with her devoted King Edward at her side, she dies. Eleanor's embalmed body is borne in great state from Lincoln to Westminster Abbey, through the heartland of Eleanor's properties and accompanied for most of the way by Edward, and a substantial cortege of mourners. Edward gives orders that memorial crosses be erected at the site of each overnight stop between Lincoln and Westminster.

1299 ~ As part of a truce treaty with France, the sixty year old King Edward agrees to marry the King of France's daughter, forty years his junior. They marry at Canterbury and honeymoon at Leeds Castle. She is the first queen since the Norman Conquest never to be crowned. However, their marriage proves to be a happy one and gives him two son's.

1307 ~ Following the death of King Edward I, Margaret never remarries, despite being only 26 when widowed. She exclaims "when Edward died, all men died for me". Her step son, only two years her junior, becomes King Edward II.

1308 ~ As part of the treaty with France secured with Popal approval by King Edward I, his son marries Isabella of France.

Margaret is not pleased when Edward II elevates Piers Gaveston to become Earl of Cornwall upon his father's death, since the title had been meant for one of her own sons. She attends the new king's wedding to her half-niece, Isabella of France. After Isabella's coronation, Margaret retires to Marlborough Castle, but she stayes in touch with the new Queen and with her half-brother King Philip IV of France.

An anonymous informer reports that Margaret has provided ₤40,000 along with her brother, King Philip IV, to support the English barons against King Edward II's favourite Gaveston.Due to this action, Gaveston is briefly exiled and Margaret remains fairly unmolested by Gaveston until he death.

1312 ~ Margaret is present at the birth of the future Edward III.

1318 ~ Margaret dies. Leeds castle is granted to Lord Bartholomew of Badlesmere.

1321 ~ Queen Isabella seeks shelter at Leeds castle to test Badlesmere loyalty, but is refused entry. six of her men are killed in their attempt to gain access to the castle.

King Edward raises a hige army of 30,000 men and besieges the castle, which eventually falls. The entire Badlesmere family are sent to the Tower of London. Bartholomew and his castellan, Walter Culpeper, are executed and Bartholomew's head is displayed on the walls of Canterbury as a warning to others.

1327 ~ Following King Edward's murder at Berkley Castle, on the orders of the King's rival Roger Mortimer and his lover, Queen Isabella, she moves into Leeds castle

1358 ~ Upon the death of Queen Isabella, King Edward II extends and remodels Leeds Castle

1382 ~ King Richard II bequeaths Leeds Castle to his Queen, Anne of Bohemia.

1399 ~ The desposed King Richard II is briefly imprisoned at the castle before being taken to Pontefract Castle where he is starved to death the following year on the orders of the newly crowned King Henry IV.

1403 ~ King Henry IV gives Leeds Castle to his Queen, Joan of Navarre.

1412 ~ Queen Joan gifts the castle to Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury.

1416 ~ Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emporer stays at Leeds Castle for a month whilst negotiating an alliance with King Henry V.

1423 ~ King Henry V gifts Leeds Castle to his Queen, Catherine of Valois.

1431 ~ During King Henry VI's visit to Leeds Castle, his aunt Eleanor of Gloucester is tried before Archbishop Chichele and found guilty of 'necromancy, witchcraft, heresy and treason', and sentanced to life imprisonment.

1552 ~ King Edward VI grants the castle to Sir Anthony St Leger as a reward for persuading the Irish chieftans to accept him as King of Ireland.

However St Leger is afterwards accused of fraud and dies during the 'investigation'. The castle passes to the Smythe family.

1632 ~ The Smythe's sell the castle to Sir Thomas Culpeper who later sells teh castle to his cousin, Master of the Rolls to King Charles I.

1821 ~ After inheriting the castle Fienes Wykeham-Martin remodells the keep and builds a tudor-style block at the north end of the bailey, connected by a two storey bridge replacing the orignal wooden bridge.

Leeds Castle justifies its claim to be 'the loveliest castle in the world'. It is set majestically within a beautiful lake spanning two islands, with its reflection and manicured lawns providing a stunning setting for this gorgeous palace-castle.

The grounds are extensive and make for a fabulous walk. The castle itself is much alterted over the centuries from a grim fortress to a palace fit for a Queen, many to be precise, which is why it is often referred to as the 'queens castle'.

A stroll around Leeds Castle makes for a fabuolous day out for both Castle~Finder as well as the whole family.