What better way to celebrate our 21st Wedding Anniversary than a weekend at Warwick Castle.
It was also the place where we celebrated our 1st Wedding Anniversary, all those years ago.
The first time I visited this wonderful piece of history was back in the 1970s when I was still at first school.
I loved it then and I love it now.
It doesn't matter how old you are, Warwick Castle holds a magical quality for everyone.
From the moment we joined the 'socially-distance' queue, had our temperature taken and had our online ticket scanned, we stepped out to what you see here
...stunning isn't it.
And, it just gets better and better.
As we walked up the path, it's hard not to feel intimidated by the sheer size and majesty of this place.
To think of those who passed through this entrance; people of power, prestige, nobility. People who made a difference in our history. People such as:
Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, also known as Kingmaker.
King Edward IV
Queen Elizabeth I
The Prince of Wales - who was crowned, King Edward VII in 1901
Diana, The Princess of Wales.
Queen Elizabeth II
It sets my imagination on fire just walking through the Gatehouse and Barbican 😍🔥
Just imagine the castle under siege; the sounds, the screams, cries, horses whinnying and neighing, the sound of their hooves on the stones, their harness and reins, the clash of weapons, the smell of fire, sweat and fear.
Picture the scene...
Stepping into the Barbican, so narrow and dark.
Bodies pushed together; a mixture of adrenaline and fear coursing through each and everyone - our ancestors; fathers, sons, uncles, cousins...
Their Sweat. Their hearts racing. Their heavy breath. Blood pounding. Blood pouring from wounds whether merely a graze or devastatingly fatal.
The air filled with fear, anger, courage, dread, worry, determination...
Thank goodness this is all in my imagination. Some changes are for the best.
Thank goodness our way of life has evolved (although, sometimes I wonder...)
One of the attractions we like to visit whilst at Warwick Castle is Kingmaker.
It takes you back to 1471 when Richard Neville, the 16th Earl of Warwick, was preparing for battle.
When walking through these dark, narrow corridors and through rooms filled with furnishings of that period, you realise this is the closest we're ever going to get at reliving what it was like back then.
Strategically placed speakers provide the sounds of horses, blacksmiths and stonemasons busy at work, men cheering, women giggling, the chink of coins being counted.
All this adds to the atmosphere, not to mention the wax figures that feature in each room.
As I walked around a corner, dimly lit by a flickering light, I came face to face with a soldier. For a split second, I thought he was real. I actually stood there waiting for him to speak ( I know what you're thinking: what a doughnut 🙄).
It's a bit creepy, to be honest. The way these figures are positioned, not to mention their realistic features - you'd expect them to jump out at you at any moment. 😲😃
Who was Kingmaker?
There are many books written about him. I've yet to buy one, but I've been researching and so far these have the best reviews:
Warwick the Kingmaker: by A.J. Pollard
Warwick the Kingmaker: by Paul Murray Kendall
Warwick; the man behind the Wars of the Roses: by Tony Riches
Until I treat myself to a copy of one of these books, I've been reading about Kingmaker online.
Here are some of the many interesting facts I've found out about him:
Richard Neville was born on November 22nd 1428 and died April 14th 1471 at the age of 42 yrs.
He married Anne de Beauchamp (daughter of Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick, and Isabel le Despenser) in 1436 - he was eight and Anne was 10 years old.
Richard and Anne had two daughters; Isabel Neville, (who later became Duchess of Clarence) and Anne Neville, (who became Princess of Wales when she married her first husband, Edward of Westminster; and then Queen of England after marrying Richard III).
In 1449, Richard Neville became the Earl of Warwick through his marriage to Anne, (she succeeded as Duchess of Warwick following the death of her father, followed by the death of her brother and then the passing of his daughter - Anne's niece). Following this, Richard became one of the most powerful men in England.
His part in the first battle in the War of the Roses, 'The battle of St. Albans', led to him being appointed Captain of Calais.
He helped dispose of King Henry VI (Lancastrian) in favour of Edward IV (Yorkist) - earning him the name: Kingmaker.
During the first years of Edward IV's reign, Richard Neville was at his most powerful. His role was: virtual ruler of England, High Admiral of England, Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster as well as being Captain of Calais.
In 1469, King Edward IV and the Earl of Warwick were no longer allies. Richard travelled to Calais where his eldest daughter, Isabel, married Edward's younger brother, George of Clarence. This was deliberately going against the King's wishes.
Whilst in Calais, Richard spread unrest in England, bringing on a rebellion in Yorkshire.
While Edward IV was preoccupied with the rebellion, Richard Neville invaded England.
Richard's invasion was a failure and ended in his death at the Battle of Barnet.
Richard Neville's involvement in the War of the Roses was a key part of English history. I could write so much more about this subject alone, but there are many, many more interesting facts and stories tied to Warwick Castle.
The Great Hall.
The Great Hall is the largest room in the castle.
Over a period of 400 years, it has gone through many changes. The hall as we see it now, is built over the ruins of the original medieval hall. It was gutted by fire in 1871 and underwent a major refurbishment.
During the late Victorian period, the hall was used as a living room and was lavishly furnished. However, the Countess, Daisy Greville, also hosted many spectacular parties there. The most noted was what she called her 'house warming'; in 1895. It was a costume ball called Bal Poudre and was themed on the French King, Louis XVI. The party was so lavish that at the time it was called the 'event of the winter.'
Warwick Castle's Royal Weekend Party.
I read an article recently about a new book by Hugo Vickers called; 'The Sphinx.' This article fascinated me.
It's all about the late Duchess of Marlborough, her maiden name was, Gladys Deacon.
I bought the book from my all time favourite shop; Wyre Forest Books and, since the moment I brought the book home, I haven't been able to put it down.
Gladys Deacon was a fascinating woman
Gladys Marie Spencer-Churchill is such a character that she deserves a blog all of her own. I could write pages and pages about her. But, instead, I shall just say - in a nutshell - her whirlwind of a life consisted of:
murder, lavish parties, spiralling mental health issues, being acclaimed the most beautiful woman in the world, suffering one of the earliest known cosmetic surgery disasters and spending the end of her life living as a recluse.
If a film was ever made about her, it would be a blockbuster.
Anyway, back to Warwick Castle!
Following my discovery of Gladys Deacon - I've found the whole Marlborough-House-Set an interesting topic. So, Warwick's Royal Weekend was something I really enjoyed, especially when I walked into one of the rooms and came face to face with a familiar figure.
The wax figures - as in Kingmaker - are very realistic. When I saw the figure of a man sat at a table (photo shown above) I recognised him at once as the Duke of Marlborough - none other than Gladys Deacon's husband.
The then Earl, Francis Greville, 5th Earl of Warwick and his wife, Daisy Greville, were a part of the popular Marlborough-House-Set.
This was the name given to a group of friends of the Prince and Princess of Wales - later known as King Edward VII and Alexandra, Queen Consort.
Members of this set increased often because the Prince, known affectionately as Bertie, welcomed all who were fun-loving, loved sports, wealthy and good-mannered.
These are just a few which were linked to the Marlborough-House-Set:
Lord Charles Bereford
Lady Randolph Churchill
Alice Keppel (great grandmother to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall)
Duke of Marlborough and...
Francis Greville, 5th Earl of Warwick
Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick
I was engrossed by the many black and white photographs hung upon the walls of these people, some of which were taken in the castle's grounds.
I've also been enchanted by the romantic ruins of near-by Witley Court.
Further study of that magical place also provided ties to the Marlborough-House-Set and more photographs featuring the much-loved Prince and his wide circle of friends.
These are just a few of the photographs I took around Witley Court in Worcestershire.
Witley Court is tragic and yet so very beautiful.
To draw this blog to a close, I'll show you some of the photographs I took around the grounds of Warwick Castle. Unlike Witley Court, we are fortunate to be able to see this place still in all of its beauty. To walk around the castle and its grounds in Autumn is truly a sight to behold.
If you don't believe me, then take a look for yourself 😍🙂
I hope you found this blog interesting. I'd recommend a visit to not only Warwick Castle but Witley Court too.
Whilst writing this, I've come across a book about the Marlborough-House-Set by Anita Leslie. If any of you have read this, then please let me know what you thought of it. I think it'll be next on my bucket list - or birthday list...
Take care and stay safe everyone.
Gill and her goldie girls. 🐾