Leeds Castle. A Very Special B&B

Posted on November 20, 2013 by

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      Built on a lake, Leeds Castle is, as you might expect, photogenic. It is not, as you might expect, in Leeds, Yorkshire. It’s in Leeds, Kent.

      From a distance, the Castle looks as if it’s floating. Not that you need to see it from a distance, you can get up close and personal. You can even stay there – well, not in the castle – in the old stable block – without breaking the bank but make sure you don’t get a room facing the restaurant. If the refrigeration plant roaring all night doesn’t keep you awake, the roaring of the boiler which serves the block surely will. The Receptionist was not the least surprised we changed rooms. We’d still go back though. Lovely place.

      The war loving Edward I loved Leeds Castle. It was probably Edward we have to thank for the lake, a stroke of genius. This is the Edward with Hammer of the Scots inscribed on his tomb in Westminster Abbey, the abbey his father built for Edward’s coronation. The Welsh, who he also hammered, didn’t get a mention. Hoping to pacify them, he made his son, another Edward, the first English Prince of Wales. The war loving Edward was also the wife loving Edward who built all those Eleanor Crosses to mark the places where the corpse of his adored Queen rested on her way to be buried in his Abbey.

      His son, Edward II, the said Prince of Wales, was no pushover either. When Lady Badlesmere refused his wife, Queen Isabella, entry to Leeds Castle and ordered archers to take aim, Edward took the castle by force. He incarcerated the Lady with the unpronounceable name in the Tower of London, the first woman imprisoned there. The arrows which killed six of Isabella’s royal escort were a double whammy as she owned the castle. Released from The Tower, Lady Badlesmere joined a convent, Isabella moved into Leeds Castle.

      This is where Anne of Bohemia stayed on her way to marry Richard II in Westminster Abbey. Her visit didn’t pass without incident either. The wedding was planned for 1381 but The Peasants Revolt delayed it by a year. There would not be another royal wedding in the Abbey for over five hundred years (Princess Patricia, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria got married there in 1919). Anne wore an eye popping headdress. Cow horns, two feet high, two feet wide were enclosed in a wire frame and covered with gauze. Anne and Richard were the Posh’n’Becks of their day. It was Edward who invented the handkerchief. No wiping noses on sleeves for him.

      What a love match. Richard was devastated when Anne died. He had the place where she died rased to the ground wanting no memory of it. Richard was the first English king to insist on a double tomb. You can see the pair in Westminster Abbey still holding hands (these stories are in Royal Hertfordshire: Murders & Misdemeanours).

      In Tudor times, Henry VIII revamped the castle for Catherine of Aragon his much loved wife until Anne Boleyn appeared on the scene. Not much is left of what was known as The Royal Castle of Leeds. Today’s pile was built in 1823 but still well worth a visit.

      In keeping with the tradition of turning Britain into The Blue Peter Experience Leeds Castle has a maze. We stopped sneering when we had to ask a guide to get us out. The Grotto beneath it is well done too.

      When the castle grounds close for the evening and the crowds go home, Bed and Breakfasters have the place to themselves to wander round the five hundred or so acres. The herb and kitchen gardens are absolutely delightful as are the peacocks who did what was expected of them, strutted their stuff and showed off something rotten. Magic.

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