Leeds Castle, Kent - Framed Picture - 11" x 14"
Leeds Castle is in Kent. A castle has been on the site since 1086. In the 13th century it came into the hands of King Edward I, for whom it became a favourite residence; in the 16th century, Henry VIII used it as a dwelling for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The castle today dates mostly from the 19th century and is built on islands in a lake formed by the River Len to the east of the village of Leeds.
From 857 the site was owned by a Saxon chief called Led or Leed who built a wooden structure on two islands in the middle of the River Len. In 1119 Robert de Crevecoeur rebuilt it in stone as a Norman stronghold and Leeds Castle descended through the de Crevecoeur family until the 1260s.
In 1278, the castle was bought by King Edward I's Queen, Eleanor of Castile. As a favoured residence of Edward's, it saw considerable investment. The king enhanced its defences, and it was probably Edward who created the lake that surrounds the castle. A barbican spanning three islands was also built and a gloriette with apartments for the king and queen was added.
In the Late Middle Ages, the growth of the royal household meant fewer residences could accommodate the monarchy when they visited. As a result, expenditure on royal residences in south east England generally decreased except for the Tower of London and Windsor Castle. The activity at Leeds Castle during the reign of Edward I was a notable exception to this pattern.
The castle was captured on 31 October 1321 by the forces of Edward II from Margaret de Clare, Baroness Badlesmere, wife of the castle's constable, Bartholomew de Badlesmere, 1st Baron Badlesmere, who had left her in charge during his absence. The King had besieged Leeds after she had refused Edward's consort Isabella of France admittance in her husband's absence.
Richard II's first wife, Anne of Bohemia, spent the winter of 1381 at the castle on her way to be married to the king. In 1395, Richard received the French chronicler Jean Froissart there, as described in Froissart's Chronicles.
Henry VIII transformed the castle in 1519 for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
The castle escaped destruction during the English Civil War because its owner, Sir Cheney Culpeper, sided with the Parliamentarians. The castle was used as both an arsenal and a prison during the war. Other members of the Culpeper family had sided with the Royalists, John, 1st Lord Culpeper, having been granted more than 5,000,000 acres of land in Virginia in reward for assisting the escape of the king's son, Charles, the Prince of Wales.
Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron was born at the castle in 1693 and settled in North America to oversee the Culpeper estates, cementing an ongoing connection between the castle and America. There is a commemorative sundial at the castle telling the time in Belvoir, Virginia and a corresponding sundial in America.