Although a residence existed on the site from around the 11th century, the building of the current Sudeley Castle was begun in the 15th century by Ralph Boteler. However, he was compelled to sell Sudeley to the Crown after he fell out of favour, and the castle was then granted to Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III), who used it as a base before the Battle of Tewkesbury.
He probably had the banqueting hall built. This now lies largely in ruins and is part of the gardens. After Richard’s death in battle, the property was transferred to King Henry VII, who granted it to his uncle Jasper Tudor. King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn stayed at the castle once – in 1535. Following the accession of King Edward VI, his maternal uncle Edward became Lord Protector of the Realm, while his other maternal uncle Thomas was created Baron Seymour of Sudeley. A few months into his reign, his father’s widow Catherine Parr remarried Thomas. This happened in secret and caused a bit of a scandal.
In 1548, Catherine Parr found herself pregnant for the first time (having been married three times before), and she moved with her husband to Sudeley Castle. Tragically, she would die there on 5 September 1548, shortly after giving birth to a daughter named Mary, who probably died in infancy. Two days later, Catherine was buried at St. Mary’s Church, which stands on the grounds of Sudeley Castle.
Over the years, her tomb suffered damage, and the location was even lost. Her coffin was discovered in 1782, and in 1817 her remains were placed in a stone vault. The chapel was restored in 1863, and Catherine’s remains were then placed in a tomb designed by George Gilbert Scott. It is a life-sized effigy under a canopy of carved marble.
Following the English Civil War, the castle was left largely in ruins though it was lived in. It was saved in 1837 when the brothers Dent purchased it. They partially restored, and it is still owned by the Dent family today. Parts of the castle are open to the public, as is St Mary’s Church, and it is largely dedicated to Catherine Parr.
Sudeley Castle is a wonderful place with great and enthusiastic staff. When they learned I was from the Netherlands, I was shown a bust of William the Silent above the door to the private quarters and a window with an old Dutch saying. What a wonderful personal touch.
The castle can be a little difficult to reach by public transport. I ended up taking a coach from London Victoria to Cheltenham before having a taxi take me the rest of the way to the castle. Parking for cars is available.
In addition, the shop has some lovely merchandise and awesome staff, and there’s also a cafe on site.
Plan your visit here.