Henry VIII's Second Visit to Warwick Castle

Annotated copy of the Smythson Plan of Warwick Castle, c.1604.
Image courtesy of RIBA

Henry VIII had previously stayed at Warwick Castle from at least Tuesday 5th to Sunday 10th September 1511. He was to return to the castle for a second visit thirty years later, in 1541. This time had seen changes to the castle from his previous visit. He was probably served dinner from his new kitchens, complete with three large fires, that had been restored in 1538.

Painting a picture

While the state visit of Warwick Castle’s most famous lodger could be seen as a purely ritualistic moment in time, it also paints a picture of a long-forgotten period of Warwick’s illustrious history. While John Leland noted in the mid-1540s that ‘the dungeon now in ruin standeth in the west-north-west part of the castle,’1 the private chambers, service area, and baronial hall were still standing and habitable enough to host the king and his court, despite severe structural problems at the base of the south buildings down near the River Avon.

Lost architecture

It is possible that the greatest vandal of Warwick’s illustrious medieval history is not the formidable Tudor King, as is often touted in the castle’s story, but the future favourite of Elizabeth I Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick. the latter tore down the old medieval chambers and built a new timber lodging in its place to house the queen.

With that the treasures and architecture of the glorious medieval apartments, that housed Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, were gone forever.

1 ‘The Itinerary of John Leland’, ed. L.T. Smith, (London, 1908), Vol.II, pp.40-41

This is a short exert of much larger study into the forgotten history of Warwick castle and its estate during the reign of Henry VIII and the Tudor dynasty.

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