WARWICK CASTLE, CV34 4QU
Postcode: CV34 4QU
Lat/Long: 52.2796N 1.5852W
Notes: Major tourist attraction that is well sign-posted and has dedicated (pay) car parking.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
Warwick Castle has been converted into a major tourist attraction predominantly for family groups. Nevertheless the medieval remains are accessible and the battlement walk never fails to impress. Reconstructed siege engines are also present.
1068 Timber Warwick Castle built
1160 Rebuilding in stone
1264 Castle taken by Simon de Montfort
1312 Piers Gaveston held at Warwick
1469 Edward IV imprisoned at Warwick
1471 Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, killed at Barnet
1566 Visit by Elizabeth I
1618 Conversion into stately home
1642 Castle besieged by Royalists
1695 Visit by William III
1. Edward II was widely regarded as a weak and ineffectual King who relied heavily on ‘favourites’ whilst his defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) further alienated him from his nobility. The Earls of Warwick and Lancaster executed his first favourite, Piers Gaveston, and then ruled on behalf of the King. Warwick’s death and Lancaster’s execution (at Pontefract Castle) helped Edward briefly restore his position. But in 1326 he was overthrown by Roger Mortimer, Earl of March who then exerted dominance over the country through control of the boy King Edward III. This came to an abrupt end in 1330 when a number of Edward’s peers rescued him and captured the Earl in a dramatic assault on Nottingham Castle.
A Roman Fort, an Anglo-Saxon burh and then a Norman stronghold, the strategic location of Warwick Castle enabled the Earls of Warwick to play central roles in the Baron’s War, the overthrow of Edward II and the Wars of the Roses. During the Civil War it was garrisoned for Parliament and thereafter converted into a stately home.
HISTORY OF WARWICK CASTLE
Situated at a crossing point over the River Avon on the Fosse Way, an old Roman Road that was still in use in medieval times, there has been a fortification at Warwick for two thousand years. After the departure of the Romans, the Anglo Saxons established a fortified burh here which was extensive enough to withstanding assaults by the Danes. Around 1068, following the Norman conquest, a timber motte and bailey castle was built here by Henry de Beaumont who had been created Earl of Warwick. Rebuilt in stone in the latter half of the twelfth century, it was nevertheless poorly prepared for conflict when it saw action during the second Baron's War (1264-7). Rebels from nearby Kenilworth Castle loyal to Simon de Montfort mounted a surprise attack on Warwick Castle and took the then Earl, William Maudit, captive.
Over the subsequent decades the castle underwent significant modification including the addition of the huge Caesar and Guy's Towers plus the addition of a barbican. In 1312 the castle once again became embroiled in national politics. Guy de Beauchamp, tenth Earl of Warwick, became one of a group of 'Ordainers': a group of nobles seeking to impose a list of ordinances upon the weak and ineffectual king Edward II. One key element of their grievances centred around Piers Gaveston, the favourite and alleged lover of Edward II; despite being promised safe conduct he was seized and held at Warwick castle until his trial and execution at the hands of the Earls of Warwick and Lancaster. Edward sought revenge but his position as King was compromised by the catastrophic English defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) resulting in the Earl of Warwick, along with Lancaster, taking control of the Government. Beauchamp died the following year which probably saved him from the King’s revenge; Edward had stabilised his Government sufficiently by 1322 to have Lancaster executed. The King’s own days were numbered though; Edward was later overthrown by Roger Mortimer, Earl of March.
It was during the War of the Roses, however, where Warwick reach the peak of its national importance. In 1461 the then Earl, Richard Neville, became known as the title 'Kingmaker' for his alternating support between the Lancastrian Henry VI and Yorkist Edward IV. Initially a supporter of Henry, Neville used the king's absence in the north to gain control of London and facilitate the coronation of Edward IV. However by 1469, disillusioned by his marginalisation at court in particular following the marriage of the King to Elizabeth Woodville (the ‘White Queen’), Warwick rebelled and imprisoned Edward at Warwick. Originally hoping to rule with Edward as a puppet king, the plan backfired and Warwick was forced to release him. Reconcilation failed and Warwick switched his support to Henry VI mounting a successul coup against Edward who fled abroad. Victory was shortlived though and Neville met his end at the Battle of Barnet (1471).
In the short reign of Richard III and during the early years of Henry VII, further modifications were made to Warwick castle with the addition of artillery towers. Thereafter the next major alternations were in the early seventeenth century when, due to the declining importance of castles for defensive purposes, modifications were made to make the site into a stately home. Less than 25 years later however the castle was again embroiled in the Civil War. Warwick Castle was held for Parliament and came under siege from a Royalist force in August 1642. Withstanding the initial assault, the castle was relieved by the main Parliamentary army under the Earl of Essex. Warwick Castle then served as a prison for the remainder of the wars. Thereafter further modifications into a stately home continued apace leaving the castle with the very diverse architectural mix seen today.