Nestled in the beautiful Costwold hills surrounding the Saxon town of Winchcombe, Sudeley Castle is most famous as the last resting place of Queen Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife. The castle is a grade 1 listed building and one of the only castles in the country to still be a private residence.
It is thought that a castle has existed on the Sudeley site since the 12th Century. Very little is known of it until the 1440’s when Ralph Boteler, the first Baron Sudeley, built a moated castle on the present site. Unfortunately, due to Boteler’s Lancastrian sympathies, the castle was confiscated by King Edward IV and given to his brother the Duke of Gloucester, who would later become King Richard III. Under Richards’s ownership, a royal suite was added which comprised of a banqueting hall and numerous state rooms.
After the King was famously slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 the castle fell into Tudor hands. It was later visited by Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn but would not be lived in again until Henry VIII’s son Edward gave the property to his uncle Thomas Seymour. Seymour went on to marry the Dowager Queen Catherine Parr and had parts of the castle renovated when he found out Katherine was expecting a child. Unfortunately she did not get to enjoy her newly refurbished home, passing away following childbirth just a couple of months after moving in. The Dowager Queen was buried in the castle garden. Katherine’s step daughter Elizabeth visited Sudeley on several occasions whilst she was queen. One notable visit was made by her in 1592 where a great feast was held to celebrate the anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
During the civil war of the mid-17th Century, the casket containing the body of Queen Katherine Parr disappeared. The castle and chapel were left in ruins and it wasn’t until 1782 that the Queens casket was discovered by a local farmer. After being disturbed several times over the next 30 years, the body of the Queen was finally laid to rest in the tomb of Lord Chandos in St. Mary’s Chapel.
Aside from the chapel containing the tomb of Queen Katherine, there is also an exhibition about her life and works. On display are several original books written by Katherine, the first queen to ever have her own written works published.
There is also a clothing exhibition called ‘Six Wives at Sudeley’ with several reconstructions of costumes that would have been worn by the wives of Henry VIII. The textile theme continues, with a display of ‘textile treasures’ showcasing textile techniques from the last 400 years.
In early 2014 the castle launched a new exhibition dedicated to King Richard III. Having once owned the property, it was considered as one of several fitting locations for the ‘King Richard III Reconstructed Head’ tour. Despite the tour moving on, the castle now has its own replica head of the King on display.
Sudeley has 9 gardens for you to explore on your visit. The Queens Garden has been a favourite of many English Queens including Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Elizabeth I and Katherine Parr. It has over 70 varieties of roses and is worth a visit in June when the roses are in full bloom. The Secret Garden, initially created by Rosemary Verey is a must see, as is the secluded Knot Garden and the Tithe Barn Garden.
And finally, there is the Sudeley Pheasantry; a collection of rare and endangered birds from around the world.
Once you have finished exploring make sure you stop off in the Café for their special – Katherine’s Afternoon Tea Parr-ty, a delicious selection of sandwiches and cakes!