Sudeley Castle is where Henry VIII’s last Queen, Katherine Parr, went to live after Henry’s death (where she cared for Lady Jane Grey).
Continuing her affair with Thomas Seymour from before she married Henry VIII, Katherine married Seymour but died aged 36 shortly after the birth of their daughter. She is buried in the chapel at Sudeley, the only English queen buried in a private home.
Seymour (the brother of Jane Seymour, another of Henry’s wives and uncle of Edward VI) fled (remember he was involved in the plot to control the country at the time, Edward being an infant) and no one is quite sure what happened to the daughter.
Previously, Sudeley had been given to Richard III (the Duke of Gloucester) by his brother Edward IV, and while he used it as a base for the Battle of Tewkesbury, nine years after acquiring the lands he swapped Sudeley with Richmond Castle (before it returned to his ownership again when he became king and henceforth he commissioned further building works, included a now ruined banqueting hall). Edward IV had originally come by the castle when its owner was forced to sell to the Crown, being on the wrong side in the War of the Roses.
After the York dynasty ended, Henry IV granted the lands to his uncle and future protector of Henry VII, Jasper Tudor. Anyone who watched the recent TV series “The White Queen“, which chronicles the reign of Edward IV and his queen, Elizabeth, will be all too familiar with this period of history. The whole audio book is here.
It was Edward VI who granted Sudeley to his uncle, Thomas Seymour, bringing us full circle.
Later, Charles I fled to Sudeley during the English Civil War and Cromwell’s men burned much of the structure down. Thus, while there would have once been a vast double courtyarded manor house, today just one side of the wing remains (plus some skeletal ruins).
Moving to the early Victorian times, after ownership by the Pitt family of Stratfield Saye (now home to the Dukes of Wellington) and the Dukes of Buckingham & Chandos (owners of Stowe), the Dent family, rich from making gloves, sought a country home and they purchased Sudeley (which had become a ruin and saw sheep grazing amidst it, much like at Eltham Palace).
Consequently, the interiors are Victorian, most of the rooms open to the public having been turned into a museum which I’m sure Americans will love (the current owner is an American). The Dents attended the Strawberry Hill sale following Horace Walpole’s death, though there should be some lovely Tudor items in the castle. A guide told me that recently, the current family have stripped Victorian plaster off the walls in some of the private rooms, recreating the feeling of being inside an actual castle as opposed to a Victorian country house.
If you like history and beautiful gardens then a visit to Sudeley is a no brainer. You will also find a rare pheasant sanctuary.
When visited: May 2014