My current WIP is a time travel set in 1817 England, featuring my favorite time-traveling lady, Lady Pendleton, in a role as deux ex machina. She’s helping my 21st century heroine (Helena) adapt to the Regency era while she searches for answers to a mystery regarding her family origins. In Chapter Seven, Helena is serving as a temporary governess to Lady P’s grandchildren in Kent, about two miles from one of the most charming castles in England, Leeds Castle. So why shouldn’t she—accompanied by the hero, of course—take the children on a field trip?
Upon learning of the fabulous maze on the property, I was all set to have my protagonists have a private interlude while the children explore the maze. Until I discovered that the maze wasn’t put in until 1987! (While I adore research, sometimes it can really be a downer!)
I toyed with the idea of doing it anyway—how many of my readers will know this? The problem is—I would know it! However, the idea occurred to me of my heroine—who had visited the castle in the 21st century—mentioning the maze and getting blank stares from everyone, and then the current owner stroking his chin and saying what a good idea that would be! And my heroine as usual wondering if her mistakes—and she makes them frequently—might have some horrific effect on the time-space continuum. Something my intrepid Lady P doesn’t believe in.
Anyway, I thought my readers at Susana’s Parlour might enjoy the results of some of my research on Leeds Castle. It’s very visitor-friendly—I’ll be including it on my list for my own trip this summer.
Originally a Norman stronghold, the first structure was built almost a thousand years ago, in 1119. In 1278, King Edward I expanded it, creating the lake that now surrounds it and building a barbican (a fortified outpost or gateway) that spans three islands and a gloriette (pavilion or other structure built in a garden) with apartments from the king and queen. In 1519, Henry VIII remodeled it for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
- Eleanor of Castile, first wife Edward I, bought it in 1278.
- Margaret of France, second wife of Edward I, was given the castle after Eleanor’s death.
- Following the death of Edward II, his wife Queen Isabella held it until it passed to Edward III on her death.
- Richard II gave it to his wife, Anne of Bohemia,
- in 1382.Henry IV gave it to his wife, Joan of Navarre, in 1403.
- Henry V left it to his wife, Catherine of Valois in 1422.
- Her grandson, Henry VIII, gave it to his wife, Catherine of Aragon, in 1500.
- Elizabeth I was imprisoned there during her sister Mary’s reign.
- George III and Queen Charlotte visited there in 1778.
Fiennes Wykeham (later Martin was added) took possession in 1793, selling the family estates in Virginia in order to make extensive renovations of the property in Tudor style, which were completed in 1823. Fiennes Wykeham was the son of Mary Fox, daughter of Charles Fox, the colorful Whig leader. This turned out to be quite fortuitous, since I had set up my hero to be a distant relative of the Melbourne family, who were prominent Whigs as well. Turns out Fiennes Wykeham was a friend of his and quite amenable to the idea of the visit to the property—still under renovation in 1817—in Chapter 7. (I love it when a plan comes together!)
Planning a Visit?
Be careful—Leeds Castle is not anywhere near the major English city of Leeds in the north. It’s near the village of Leeds, about five miles from Maidstone in Kent. There are bus tours, or you can drive or take a train/bus combination—it’s about two hours from London. You’ll find lots to do there for adults or children. In the center of the maze is the entrance to a mysterious grotto. There’s a dog collar museum—yes, that’s right—and you can even book overnights there for special events, such as an opulent Valentine’s Dinner with your special Significant Other, and a great 1920′s House Party in April. Here’s the brochure: http://user-3vovb8a.publ.com/Leeds-Castle-Dine-Sleep-Events-2014#8. There’s a golf course, a playground for children, falconry displays, and you can even punt on the moat. Click here for more information.