Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Cotswold Hills in rural Gloucestershire, Sudeley Castle incorporates the ruins of a medieval castle where only the banqueting hall, the tithe barn and the dungeon tower remain intact.
The castle we see today owes its existence to Emma, wife of John Coucher Dent. With the help of the famous architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, she restored the house and gardens to create a true reflection of their former glory.
When King Ethelred the Unready gave the manor house and estate at Sudeleagh to his daughter Goda, the sister of King Edward the Confessor, he started an association with the royal families of England that was to last until the end of the English Civil War.
During the War of the Roses, Sudeley became the property of the Crown when Edward IV granted the estate to his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester who held the estate until 1478. When he acceded to the throne, as Richard III, in 1483, Richard took ownership of Sudeley for a second time. It was during this period that the magnificent Banqueting Hall and the now ruined State Rooms were built.
When Richard III was defeated and killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the new King Henry VII granted the Sudeley estate to his uncle, Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford. When Jasper died in 1495 the property reverted back to the crown.
During the Tudor period, Sudeley was to become closely associated with the intrigues surrounding the Tudor Court.
Henry VIII, accompanied by Anne Boleyn visited the castle, and when he died his son, Edward VI, granted the estate to his uncle, Sir Thomas Seymour.
When Seymour married Katherine Parr, 6th wife and widow of Henry VIII, he moved with his bride into a newly refurbished Sudeley Castle. Amongst their large retinue was Lady Jane Grey.
In August 1548, Katherine gave birth to a daughter Mary but 7 days later she died of a fever aged 36. She was buried in the Chapel of St Mary at Sudeley with Lady Jane Grey officiating as chief mourner. A year later, Thomas Seymour was arrested, indicted and then executed on 33 counts of ‘Treason and other Misdemeanours against King and Crown’. These included his alleged courtship of the young Princess Elizabeth and his proposal of Lady Jane Grey as a royal bide. It was thought that his brother Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector, felt threatened by his popularity with the young king
Before his own death in 1553, the 15 year old Edward VI, named as his successor, his Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey. In the event, Jane Grey was Queen for just 9 days before her claim was denounced and the Catholic Mary became Queen Mary I. Lady Jane Grey was executed inside the Tower of London in February 1554.
Mary I granted Sudeley to Sir John Brydges and created him Baron Chandos of Sudeley. He and his descendents would retain ownership for the next 100 years.
In 1592, Queen Elizabeth I, who as a child had spent some time at Sudeley, visited the castle for a third time as part of a tour to celebrate the anniversary of the defeat of the Armada. The three day celebration during this visit was described at the time as one of the longest parties in history.
After the Royalist defeat at Gloucester during the English Civil War, King Charles I made Sudeley his headquarters. Parliamentary forces eventually re-took the castle and garrisoned their troops there for nearly five years. After the war, the castle was ordered to be ‘slighted’ and was reduced to a ruinous state.
For the next two centuries the ruins were neglected. In 1782, the tomb of Katherine Parr was discovered in the ruined chapel and the coffin opened. Over subsequent years it was opened and plundered on numerous occasions before it was removed from an open grave and re-interred in the stone vault of the Chandos family.
Today, Sudeley Castle is the private home of Lord and Lady Ashcombe, Henry and Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst and their families. It is open to the public who can wander through its splendid rooms and view the magnificent art collection. Amongst the relics of Queen Katherine Parr are her prayer book and a love letter to Thomas Seymour accepting his proposal of marriage. Katherine now rests in peace in a beautiful tomb, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, in St Mary’s Church next to the house.
The award-winning Sudeley Castle gardens were originally laid out at the time of the 19th century restoration. Today they rank amongst the very best in England, from the centrepiece Queens' Garden, billowing with hundreds of varieties of old fashioned roses, to the Herbal Healing Garden which was introduced for the 2010 season
Sudeley Castle is one of the venues visited during the Influential Tudors and Tudor Monarchs tours of the UK organised by Ambient Tours.