Leeds Castle

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With a history dating back to the 12th century, the castle has been a Norman stronghold; a royal residence; a Jacobean country house; a Georgian mansion; an elegant early 20th century retreat for the influential and famous; and in the 21st century, it has become one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain.

King Henry VIII transformed the castle for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The stunning painting of the ‘Field of the Cloth of Gold’, which commemorates the meeting between King Henry VIII and the French King Francis I in 1520, still hangs at Leeds Castle.

Leeds Castle, which has been described as the loveliest castle in the world, is not actually located in Leeds in the county of Yorkshire in Northern England. It is in fact situated about 7 km from Maidstone in Kent and about 60 km from London.

When World War II erupted, the castle was used as a hospital. One of the most notable events during World War II was the Retreat from Dunkirk, and many of the wounded soldiers who managed to return back to England were treated at the castle, as well as injured Commonwealth airmen.

One of the most remarkable facts about Leeds Castle is that it was built on islands in a lake that is formed by the River Len. The River Len is only about 16km long before it joins the River Medway.

Today, over half a million visitors come from all around the world to view this magnificent castle set in over 500 acres of landscaped parkland with its maze, grotto, waterfowl, aviaries, and vineyard.

The first stone castle was built in the 12th century by a Norman baron during the reign of William the Conqueror’s son Henry I, on an island in the River Len. How it looked exactly is unknown since the castle has been continuously expanded over the centuries. Most of the present building was built in the 19th century.

Leeds Castle is often referred to as “The Castle of Queens, Queens of Castles”. Six queens had their primary residence in the castle during the Middle Ages. These were Eleanor, Isabella, Philippa of Hainault (the wife of Edward III), Joan of Navarre, Catherine de Valois and Catherine of Aragon.

The last owner of Leeds Castle was the indomitable Lady Baillie who bought the castle in 1926 and employed French interior designers to transform her new home. She dedicated most of her life to the improvement of the castle and left the building to the charity the Leeds Castle Foundation, and it opened to the public in 1976.