Sudeley Castle

This week I fulfilled one of my promises I made to myself when we arrived in Gloucestershire and visited Sudeley Castle at Winchcombe. Not such a feat as it's only about eight miles away, but these things take planning.

The origins of Sudeley Castle go back to the year 500, when Roman villas were built on land around the area, followed by Anglo-Saxon tribes – the Hwicci – who settled the Severn Valley. Next, Winchcombe became the chief city of Mercia under King Offa.

The castle is mentioned throughout all the interesting times, often with the current owner picking the wrong side in any fight going, from the Norman Conquest, to the Civil War. In 1139, John de Sudley joined the Empress Mathilda's side against King Stephen, and in 1170, William de Tracy of Sudley was one of the four knights who murdered Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Then in the Wars of the Roses, the then owner, Ralph Boteler was a Lancastrian.
Ruined Banqueting Hall

It's more recent, and more interesting history, for me at any rate, owes its fame to the fact Sudeley - pronounced Soodely - was the home of Queen Katherine Parr when she was married to Thomas Seymour. Seymour refurbished Sudeley for his new bride, where they were accompanied by Lady Jane Grey and the cleric Miles Coverdale, with maids-of-honour and gentlewomen-in-ordinary, more than 120 gentlemen of the household and Yeoman of the Guard.

On August 30th 1548, Katherine gave birth to a daughter, Mary, only to die a week later of puerperal fever at 36-years-old. She was buried in the Chapel of St Mary in the grounds with Lady Jane Grey officiating as Chief Mourner. Sudeley was also the scene of Seymour's famous would-be seduction of the Princess Elizabeth which helped signed Thomas Seymour's fate as he was executed the following year on thirty-three counts of treason.
'Tomb of Quene Kateryn
The tomb of Katherine Parr with its beautiful white marble effigy is to be found in the exquisite chapel beneath an impressive stained glass window. As to the fate of Lady Mary Seymour, allegedly she went to live with the Duchess of Suffolk, but nothing is heard about her after her second birthday.
Chapel Widow of Lady Jane Grey

Prince Rupert made his headquarters at Sudeley, and invited Charles I there to prepare a council of war. However their occupation didn't last and the Roundheads saw them off. As punishment for its misguided loyalty - like they probably had a choice! Sudeley was 'slighted', and the more magnificent parts of the castle dstroyed, including the Banqueting House.

These parts are still in ruins, but much of the castle has been rebuilt and is still lived in by descendants of the Victorian merchants who bought it in the 19th century - or doubtless the entire place would be a ruin by now.

The views of the Cotswolds are lovely, and I would have shown more of the interior but for the fact cameras aren't allowed inside and I didn't relish being thrown out.

As this is the 500th Anniversary of the birth of Katherine Parr, there is a special exhibition, although only a fraction of it relates to the Tudor Queen as most of the exhibits appear to be Victorian. However there is a model of Katherine Parr posed on a bier surrounded by candles representing her lying in state with a film of mourners running in the background, amongst them a crying child which I assume represents Lady Jane Grey - all of which was decidedly eery.  The tomb itself was far more peaceful - and beautiful, a lovely resting place in a pretty chapel. Although apparently her tomb had been desecrated and robbed in the past.


Lisa Yarde said…
Thank you so very much for once again making me incredibly jealous of your easy access to these sites.
Anita Davison said…
Didn't you say you were coming here at the end of August - stay a while lady and I'll show you all these lovely places - Wales isn't that far off.
Petrea Burchard said…
Lisa's comment made me laugh! Yes, it's an envy-inspiring post, but you know how I relish every word of it.
Anita Davison said…
Maybe you'll get to the UK soon too, Petrea - I will enjoy being a guide.
Petrea Burchard said…
I'd love that.

Your post reminds me, just a little, of the Brimstone Butterfly's tours of these wonderful places. During my brief time in England some years ago, I toured as many as I could. Even Buckingham Palace was open while I was in London. You can bet I paid my ten pounds for that. (It must be drastically more now!)
Alison Stuart said…
We visited Sudeley in October last year. Lots of lovely Civil War context :-)

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