Sudeley Castle is a combination of a medieval stronghold and Elizabethan manor house. Sudeley was home to Katherine Parr, widow of King Henry VIII, and she is buried in the chapel at the castle.
The first castle on this site was constructed during the reign of King Stephen in the 12th Century. It was besieged during The Anarchy and destroyed.
The present castle was started in 1442 by Ralph Boteler. He was a military commander under King Henry V and it is thought that Sudeley Castle was built with his spoils from the Hundred Years War.
The castle was crenelated without a licence and in 1458 Boteler received a pardon for adding the battlements without royal consent.
During the War of the Roses Boteler was on the losing Lancastrian side. He was forced to sell the castle to King Edward IV, who gave it to his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Richard used it as his base for the decisive Battle of Tewkesbury.
The early castle was built with an inner and outer courtyard surrounded by a moat. The outer courtyard would have been used for retainers while the inner court would have had family and state buildings.
Richard swapped Sudeley Castle for Richmond Castle and it reverted to the Crown for a time. He was soon back in charge though, this time as King Richard III of England.
During his reign he replaced the original east range with royal apartments. He added the Banqueting Hall with its fine oriel windows and the adjoining state rooms. The fact that the windows go through the outer wall also suggests that Sudeley Castle's role was changing from medieval fortress to palace.
After Richard's death at Bosworth the castle changed hands a few times until it gifted to Thomas Seymour. Seymour was also made Baron of Sudeley.
Katherine Parr, King Henry VIII's widow, married Thomas Seymour in secret. It was only a few months after the king's death and that combined with the secrecy caused a scandal at court. The now pregnant Katherine was send to Sudeley Castle in the spring of 1548. She died in August shortly after giving birth to her daughter and she was buried in the Boteler Chapel. Lady Jane Grey, who had lived at Sudeley for some time, was the chief mourner at her funeral.
After Thomas Seymour's execution for treason in 1549 Sudeley Castle was given to Sir John Brydges, 1st Baron Chandos. He had previously served as Lieutenant of the Tower of London and had attended Lady Jane Grey at her execution.
Sir John completely revamped the castle during the 1570s. He rebuilt the outer courtyard with an Elizabethan mansion house. Many of the buildings we see today are the result of his work.
Queen Elizabeth I was no stranger to Sudeley Castle either. She visited a few times most notably in 1592. A spectacular three day long feast and celebration was held at the castle to celebrate the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
During the English Civil War, George, 6th Lord Chandos, declared his support for King Charles. The castle passed back and forth between the Royalists and Parliamentarians a couple of times until it finally landed under Parliamentarian control in 1644. When they left in 1649 they slighted the castle.
Sudeley was never reoccupied by the Baron and it was left to rot for two centuries. It changed hands repeatedly and was even being used as an inn at one point.
In 1837 it was bought by the Dent family. They spent much of the 19th Century restoring and reconstructing the castle. The Elizabethan ranges were restored along with the Chapel. The family also bought Tudor furniture and art to go in the castle.
The castle passed down the family line and had further renovations and modernisation in the 20th Century. Today the castle is run as a family home and visitor attraction by Lady Ashcombe and her children.
Sudeley Castle is a popular venue for weddings and private events. The castle also hosts public events and exhibitions throughout the year. Facilities available at the castle include toilets, coffee shop, visitor and plant centre, cottages for hire on the estate and an adventure playground.
Outside, the grounds have no less than nine superb gardens. Also included in the entrance fee is access to St Mary's church where Katherine Parr is buried.
Status: Family Home / Visitor Attraction / Wedding Venue
Owner: Lady Ashcombe
Tel: +44 (0)1242 604 244
Opening Times: 17th March to 2nd November Daily 10.30am-5.00pm
Lawns and castle at Sudeley
Looking across the gardens at the castle