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Castles, Castles, Castles

Finally got the blog up and running!!!

I thought this might be the appropriate inaugural post for England...castles, castles, castles. We have been fortunate to be able to visit a few of the many castles here. So far, we have visited three castles and a "house" since we arrived: Knebworth House, Windsor Castle, Kimbolton Castle, and Rockingham Castle. Each castle has been unique in its own right and the history that is associated with each location is fascinating.

First up, Knebworth House. It's located right off of the A1 in Stevenage. Knebworth is considered an English country house located in, of all places, Knebworth in Hertfordshire. The house has been in the same family since 1490...yes, 1490. Knebworth is probably best known as being Britain's largest music venue. Fun fact, Queen played their last concert here with Freddie Mercury in 1986. Another fun fact...Led Zeppelin played the last of their British concerts on the property in 1979. Many famous people have stayed the night in the house, as I recall from the tour guide, reportedly Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1571 and Mick Jagger, just to name a few. Hosting a Queen was quite expensive and was known to have bankrupt estates. As one might imagine, the grounds around the house are beautiful and the architecture is Tudor Gothic. The house is cozy despite its large size and the gardens are perfectly manicured. The house is also famous because parts of several films have been filmed in or at the house. The Lytton family still lives in the house to this day.

Next, was Windsor Castle. We were so lucky to have won tickets via a lottery for this visit!!! We visited Windsor Castle right before Princess Eugenie's wedding in October. Before we began our tour, we had a light dinner at the Prince Harry pub about a block away from the castle. Windsor is a quaint little town, with so much to do and see. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and was originally built by William the Conquerer in the 11th century. To beigin our private tour, we walked into the Grand Staircase and the Grand Vestibule. The Grand Vestibule is amazing with the different swords and historical artifacts, such as the musket ball that killed Lord Nelson. We then went into the Waterloo Chamber. The room was quite impressive and was painted to showcase the success of the forces of Great Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815 when Napoleon was finally defeated. Next, we were led into the King's Drawing Room, the King's Bedchamber (such interesting decor), The Queen's Drawing Room and then the King's Dining Room. Apparently, the King's Dining Room was open to the sky until the 1820s and one could come and watch the King and Queen eat dinner, if that's what one wanted to do (not awkward at all). We also saw the Queen's Ballroom (lots of dance parties here we were told), the Queen's Audience Chamber, and the Queen's Guard Chamber. One of the most interesting rooms was St. George's Hall. Palace staff were setting up for the wedding so tables were placed all over the room (pretty interesting to see wedding photos from the room after having just been there!). The names of all Knights past and present are inscribed on the panels that cover the walls and ceiling of the Hall. We also walked into the Lantern Lobby which was built after the 1992 fire. It does feel a bit more modern in this part of the castle, but that does not take away, in my opinion, from the impressive nature of the castle. We also were treated to the Grand Reception Room and the Garter Throne Room. The Grand Reception Room houses the massive Malachite Urn, which was gifted to Queen Victoria by Tsar Nicholas I in 1839. During the 1992 fire, the urn was filled with hose water to preserve it, since the urn was too heavy to remove from the room. It did require restoration, but I didn't notice any difference or damage (not that my layman's eye could).

We visited Kimbolton Castle next on our own. We are kind of spoiled because this castle is so close. The castle was converted to a school in the 1950s. The village of Kimbolton is also adorable and is literally right across the street. Henry VIII banished his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, here when she produced a female heir, who would later become the Queen of England, Queen Mary. The room where Catherine died is now the headmaster's office..not creepy at all. Catherine was buried up in Peterborough at Peterborough Cathedral. One of the docents also mentioned the castle has a reputation for being haunted, not only by Catherine, but also by a baby. Apparently at one point in the castle's history, one of the judges - involved in the Guy Fawkes trials - lived in the castle or rented it. He apparently came home inebriated one evening, saw that his wife had delivered a baby girl, and took the child and threw it out a second story window into the courtyard. Supposedly, every year the ground where the baby was thrown turns a red hue on the anniversary of the baby's death. On a brighter note, the gardens are rather unique and were the result of "Capability" Brown, who was famous for telling clients that their property had capability for improvement. His designs were markedly different than the original gardens and not necessarily for the better, in my opinion, especially at Kimbolton. We went to the little Christmas market held at Kimbolton around the holidays and had a great time tasting, and picking up a few things.

The last castle we visited was Rockingham Castle. Rockingham Castle is located in Leicestershire. Rockingham has been in the Saunders Watson family for 450 years. Again, this castle was built by William the Conquerer. The last King to use the castle as a royal residence was Henry V in 1422. Henry VIII sold the castle because he didn't care for it and preferred the money. The tour was really unique in that our guide was a "butler" and led us on a "Victorian" Christmas tour. We started in the servants quarters and then were led into The Kitchen. It was VERY interesting to see how cooking occurred way back in the day. We saw The Great Hall which was very cozy and masculine and had fantastic Christmas decor. We toured a few more rooms in the house. It was staged for a Christmas event in the 1800s, so that was pretty interesting. Unfortunately, it was evening when we toured so we didn't see the gardens, but we did have "Christmas Dinner" at the castle which reminded me of Thanksgiving dinner in a way. Christmas is HUGE here...

Well, I suppose that is all for now. These posts will get better as I find a rhythm and get more comfortable....And no one judge me please, English was not my major and I am not a writer :) We'll also work on uploading pictures, again neither one of us is a photographer. Photography is also not approved most of the time in the castles.

Up next, the recap of our trip to London in November...possible royal sighting included!!!

Posted by LCP 08:24 Tagged castles architecture england history tour

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Comments

Can't wait to see what's up next!

by Penny

What fascinating details! Great description of these historic sites! (You DO have a talent for writing!) Can’t wait to see where you go next. Are you having any snow?

by Lucinda Cobb

As a former travel writer myself, I must give you high marks for your descriptive and lively writing!

by Ron Cobb

This is my 3rd attempt to get a reply to you (I'm not very tech-oriented). We loved reading about your adventures. It sounds like you're putting every spare moment to good use. You'll have so many wonderful memories of Europe --- thanks for sharing them with us!

I agree with Lucinda and Ron: you write beautifully and your descriptions are wonderful! Can't wait to read the next post,
Aunt Suz & Unc Bill

by Sue & Bill Payne

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