Situated in the town of Warwick, County town of Warwickshire, on a bend overlooking the river Avon is Warwick Castle. It was originally built as a motte-and-bailey castle in 1068 by William the Conqueror in order to keep his control over the Midlands. Henry de Beaumont was given the position of constable of Warwick Castle and in 1088 was made Earl of Warwick.
Rebuilding the Castle
Roger de Beaumont became the second Earl of Warwick and, in 1153, his wife was tricked into believing that he was dead and therefore gave up the castle to King Henry II (at the time known as Henry of Anjou). In a later turn of events, Henry gave Warwick Castle back to the Earls of Warwick to show his gratitude for their support of his mother, Empress Matilda. Sometime later in the 12th century, during the reign of Henry II, the castle was demolished and rebuilt in stone, forming the basis of the castle that stands in Warwick today.
In 1242 Thomas de Beaumont, 6th Earl of Warwick died and the castle and title were given to his sister, Lady Margery. The castle remained in the Beaumont family for several generations and underwent a number of changes, including the addition of towers, the re-design of some residential buildings and fortification of the facade overlooking the town.
Treason and Execution
In 1449 the castle passed to the Neville family as a result of the death of Anne de Beauchamp, 15th Countess of Warwick. Through his wife’s inheritance of the title, Richard Neville became the next Earl of Warwick and in 1469 rebelled against King Edward IV, imprisoning him at the castle. After a brief attempt at ruling in the king’s name, Neville was forced to release him and was killed in the battle of Barnet in 1471. George Plantagenet, Neville’s son-in-law inherited the castle next but was executed in 1478.
The castle then became the property of the crown since George’s son, Edward, was just 2 years old when George died. Nevertheless, Edward later made a claim to the throne and as a result was imprisoned by Edward IV. He was held in the tower of London eventually executed by King Henry VII in 1499 for High Treason. This spelt the end of the line for the title of Earl of Warwick of its first creation.
Warwick Castle was repaired and renovated while in the care of the Crown but fell into disrepair due to its age. In 1547, Warwick was granted to John Dudley, with the second creation of the Earl of Warwick title. Queen Elizabeth I visited the castle twice during her progress. When Ambrose Dudley, 3rd Earl of Warwick, died in 1590 the Warwick title once again became extinct.
A Magnificent Residence
In 1604 Warwick Castle was converted into a country house by Sir Fulke Greville who was given the house by King James I. In 1618 the title Earl of Warwick was created for the third time and given to the Greville family. Sir Fulke Greville died on 1st September 1928 after being stabbed by his manservant, enraged at having been left out of Greville’s will. Renovation began on the castle by the Greville family, and in 1642 the castle’s defences were fortified in preparation for the English Civil War. Robert Greville, 3rd Baron Brooke was a Parliamentarian. On August 7, 1642, Warwick Castle came under siege by Royalist forces which eventually ended on August 23 when they retreated to Worcester. After the Battle of Edgehill, prisoners were held at Warwick. Further improvements were made during the 18th century and in 1759, France Greville, 8th Baron Brooke, was created Earl of Warwick, the fourth creation of the title.
Warwick Castle Today
The Greville family remained the owners of Warwick Castle until 1978 when it was purchased by the Tussauds Group. Tussauds invested heavily in the castle, restoring the building and its grounds ready to be opened to the public. That same year, it became a member of the Treasure Houses of England, a consortium consisting of ten privately owned stately homes with the aim of marketing themselves as tourist attractions. In 2001 the castle was named one of Britain’s top 10 historic houses and monuments by the British Tourist Authority. Today Warwick Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument reflecting its significance as a historic building. It is also a Grade I listed building. In 2005, the castle became the home of the record breaking Trebuchet. At 18 metres tall and weighing 22 tonnes, it is one of the world’s largest working siege engines. On August 21st, 2006, the Trebuchet entered the record books as the most powerful catapult in the world, breaking the previous Dutch record by sending a 13kg projectile 249 metres at up to 260 km/h.