One sunny early Spring Saturday, Alan and I decided to have a potter around Knaresborough castle. I’d not been there for a long while and had forgotten what a fascinating place it is.
The castle became a royal residence in 1331 when it was part of the marriage settlement of Philippa of Hainault, mother of John of Gaunt. It was one of her favourite homes and she spent many summers here with her family. The town benefited hugely from her interest and became extremely prosperous. John of Gaunt inherited it and on his death left it to his third wife Katherine Swynford, who was his mistress for many years.
The most notorious occupants of the castle however, were Hugh de Moreville, Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy and Richard de Brett who committed the gruesome murder of Thomas Beckett in Canterbury Cathedral, during a period of conflict between him and Henry II. The three knights fled North and barricaded themselves in the castle for a year. Their reason for coming to Knaresborough was the strong anti-Beckett feeling that existed there – the Archbishop of York being Thomas’s enemy.
There’s a local legend they were marked by ‘divine justice’ – animals shrank away from them and dogs refused crumbs from their table.
It was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War and after a six-month seige was captured by Parliament troops. It was destroyed in 1648 – not through warfare but by order of Parliament, who ordered the ‘slighting’ of all Royalist Castles. The locals being thrifty Yorkshire folk, seized the opportunity to put the crumbling stonework to good use – many of Knaresborugh’s town centre buildings are built from ‘castle stone.’
Luckily the medieval courthouse in the grounds survived the destruction intact – this was built around the 14th century, although the lower storey dates back to the 12th century – the upper floor is Tudor, mentioned as the ‘House of Records’ in 1561.
We so enjoyed re-exploring this link to Yorkshire’s colourful past.
On the August bank holiday weekend I had a very successful ‘Meet the Author’ event at Middleham Castle, where I signed books and met and chatted with such lovely people. So many were keen to know more about the castle; its link to King Richard; the War of the Roses and of course the inspiration behind my novel.
As you can see from the big smile on my face and my nearly empty stall, I’d almost sold out of books – shortly after this photo was taken I sold my last copy of ‘Renaissance -The Fall and Rise of a King.’
My thanks go to Gill of English Heritage for her support and constant supply of coffee, and Ricardians – Sue, Marion and Rosemary – who were there raising funds for the ‘Missing Princes Project’ – for their lovely company, and help with my misbehaving banner!
Watch out for some more ‘Out and About’ snippets.