Europe 2012 travel blog

welsh hills in distance. barge canal leading to Severn River

Berkeley castle


After yet another 'big english breakfast' it was driving through town to the nearby docks on the Severn. We could see the Welsh Hills in the distance. Of interest; gulls nesting in the moss on the roofs of low warehouses/sheds. Canola/Rape seed (only term used by the English) leaves from this port (to where??).

Then it was through the misty rain to the oldest continuously inhabited castle(by same family; with a few hitches solved by marrying back into family). There been a wooden castle on the spot since the Berkeleys came over with the norman invasion(1066). the current castle began in 1154 when the king gave another family the right to build a Castle Keep...then the Berkeleys married back into this family and continued on. If you know any Berkeleys or FitzHardings, maybe they're descended from here. Apparently the illegitimate offspring of the families were encouraged to take themselves off to the colonies.

We had an excellent guide with many stories. Here are a few.

Richard 11 murdered here. Had to make it look 'innocent'. Their first attempt was to see if they could kill him off with disease; Carcasses of dead animals were thrown in the dungeon which had no access other then hole in the floor of his room. This had no barricade around it, so he could have fallen in, but didn't. The smell from the rotting animals might have given him some disease; it didn't. SO then it was more drastic measures. The most probable story though the guide thought, the most boring: he was smothered in his sleep. Shakespeare took the next option, much more dramatic. A red hot poker up the back passage. The result of this was eventual and painful death (hardly one that would look innocent. Shakespearean actors aren't too keen on it either.) Last story option; they murdered the guard by mistake and the King took himself off to Italy and died there many years later. His bones were brought back to England and exchanged for the bones of the guard so the 'proper' king is buried in the Berkeley graveyard!! The guide was very cynical about this option.

Elizabeth 1 was a frequent visitor as she saved money by going around to the homes of all her nobles who were expected to provide for all her needs and those of her entourage. She was known as the mean queen. When her love of hunting looked like wiping out the local deer herd, the Earl of the time had his remaining herd hidden away in an isolated corner of the estate. When she found out, she didn't behead him. Just took off in a huff and he fell from favour. (but left behind a silk stiched bedspeard which is now displayed in the castle)

One of the Earls fell for the butchers daughter. SHe was having none of it without a ring. So a ceremony was duly held. She got her ring. Over the next few years she bore him seven children, at which time she found out that the marriage hadn't been a proper one. All her children were illegitimate. This meant the eldest couldn't inherit the title. Whether legitemising this boy was the reason no one knows but another, legitimate marriage was performed. But when the Earl died the House of Lords decided that he still could not inherit the title. So the eldest male of the second lot of eight children born after the legit marriage became the Earl. But the oldest boy from the first liaison got the castle and estates.

In more modern times the castle was getting into major money problems, so like many English aristocracy he married an American after the first world war, However she wasn't an heiress. She still knew what she wanted; running water, plumbing and electricity. He proceeded to sell off much of his land all over the country, including Berekeley Square in London. Saved the day. He got her and she got the 'mod cons' but then she wanted more. She had seen the bathroom in the Waldorf Astoria in New York. This was removed from the hotel, tiles, fittings and a bell, and installed in the castle. The guide wasn't sure what the bell was for! Maybe someone to come and scrub her back!!??

Sorry no photos of the inside of the castle. not allowed to use camera inside

As it was raining when we were leaving we didnt get to see the gardens.

Enough of the castle..could go for ever. If youre ever in the area, do the guided tour.



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