Henry VIII Arrives at Warwick Castle

The Westminster Tournament Roll 1511, College of Arms, Harley Charter 83 H 1. Henry VIII and his court arriving at a joust in Westminster in February 1511.
Image courtesy of the College of Arms, supplied by Aaron Manning

After his progress through the Midlands, Henry VIII stayed at Warwick Castle from at least Tuesday 5th to Sunday 10th September 1511. Henry’s royal progresses lacked the fanciful extravagance of his daughter Elizabeth I, and instead they were business-like and ripe with politicking. In the castle’s great hall he held court with his advisers, hearing the remonstrations and complaints from his tenants in the town and local area, and undertook important court business. Such an arduous duty was likely broken up with excessive hunting by the king in the local parks (probably including Wedgnock) which were well known for their sport.  On 7th September the king wrote a letter to Margaret of Savoy, daughter of Maximilian I Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of Habsburg Netherlands, reporting the following:

He maintains various complaints made by English merchants established in the Netherlands, thanks her for the goodwill she shows towards the said merchants, and begs her to continue their benevolence.

It is probable that the merchants who made a complaint were John de Arbieto of Hordona and Peter de Malvenda of Burgos, two merchants operating out of London, who had complained about the threat of piracy in the English Channel, a serious concern for merchants and rulers in the 16th century. The complaint of the merchants, and tenants, undoubtedly took place in the Great Hall.

The hosts and chambers

Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon lodged at Warwick Castle during their stay in Warwick, hosted by the constables of Warwick Castle Edward Belknap, a privy councillor and hero of the battle of Stoke Fields, and Walter Devereux, a prominent local baron and rising star of the Tudor court. The castle had been governed by a constable since at least 1478, who was:

To be, during pleasure, constable of Warwick castle, master of the hunt within the parks of Wegenok, Berkeswell, Haseley, and Grove, and of the warren beside the town of Warwick, steward of the towns and lordships of Warwick, Berkeswell, Brayles, Berford, Moreton, and Lighthorn, with a tenement called Le Stewardys Place, in the town of Warwick.

The King and Queen probably stayed in the private chambers once occupied by the medieval earls of Warwick, which were known in 1557 as the ‘kyng and queenes chambers.’1 What interior decoration survived from the medieval period is unknown but it is possible that magnificent tapestries adorned with the legend of Guy of Warwick still hung on the walls, fine silver and gold ornaments, and finely carved bedsteads. The castle still had an impressive armoury housing the surviving medieval collection, including the legendary sword of Guy of Warwick which had, since 1509, been under the protection of William Hoggeson.

This was not the last time that Henry VIII was to visit the castle, however.

1 E 101/490/15. In July 1511, a Henry Smith was paid for setting up a new house in Sunninghill Park before the King’s arrival on his summer progress. That no such provision was made at Warwick suggests he stayed in his royal castle.

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