Leeds Castle isn’t in Leeds. Nor is it anywhere near Yorkshire. It sits in the middle of Kent. The name of the castle originates from the Saxon chief who owned the land – Leed, who built a wooden structure. Then, like so many fortifications, it changed numerous times over the centuries. The castle turned to stone in the 1100s, changed hands among the Normans until Edward I bought it for his queen.
It seems the castle has been the choice of many a king for their wives: Eleanor of Castile, Ann of Bohemia and Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife. At the time, 1519, Henry was enamoured of his wife, in later years he made a concerted and lengthy effort to divorce her.
After surviving the English Civil War, Leeds castle passed into new ownership and another rebuild. The castle as it stands looks like a Tudor design, but the facelift happened in 1823. Following a stream of private owners, the castle became the responsibility of a charitable trust who keep it maintained and open to the public.
Once upon a time, I lived in Kent. I visited the castle with my cousin and we sat upon the banks of the moat and admired the view. The sun shone, the sky blue and the castle was reflected in the still waters as a perfect mirror image. I don’t recollect the interior. It is the blending of stone and water that sticks in my memory.
The castle hosts a dog collar museum. I definitely don’t remember that addition. Why dog collars, I don’t know, but I doubt it was the idea of the queens of England who once lived in its walls.
“Excuse me, your majesty, there’s a lady at the gate with a large box. She’s says it’s a gift and contains many precious items.”
“It’s not another present from Henry, is it?” Katherine rolled her eyes upwards. Her ladies in waiting tittered in unison.
The steward grimaced. “I would assume it isn’t.”
The queen waved a dismissive hand. “Whatever it is, put it in the cellar. Somebody will find a use for it. One day.”