The original defensive castle was started in 1270, and in the 15th and 16th centuries, it became the home of the powerful Bullen (Boleyn) family, who added the Tudor dwelling to the castle. This is where Thomas Boleyn, a diplomat and politician who later became the 1st Earl of Wiltshire and the 1st Earl of Ormond lived with his wife, Elizabeth Howard (daughter of the Duke of Norfolk), and their three surviving children, George, Anne, and Mary.
Anne, of course, was destined to become the second wife of Henry VIII—and the reason for his break from Rome to make himself the Head of the Church of England so that he could grant himself a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to give him a son. And since Anne herself could only give him a daughter, a pretext had to be found to get rid of her so that he could find a woman who would. She was convicted of adultery and incest with her brother George, and both of them were executed on the block.
Very tragic. But it was Anne’s daughter Elizabeth who would become one of the greatest monarchs of England, the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I. And Thomas Boleyn, who lies in the nearby church, is her maternal grandfather.
Poor Henry is more known for his marital discords than anything else he did, unless it might be destroying England’s greatest monasteries in order to steal their wealth to fund his lifestyle. (Apologies to anyone reading this who might be a Henry VIII fan, but as you can see, I’m not one.) His third wife gave him a son and promptly died, and he had his marriage to Anne of Cleves, annulled. In the annulment document, she was granted Hever Castle, which had come to him at the death of Thomas Boleyn, among other properties.
By the early 20th century, the property was in poor repair and was purchased by the American millionaire, William Waldorf Astoria, for a family residence. He added the Astor Wing, built in Tudor style, which has now become the Hever Castle Luxury Bed & Breakfast. I stayed there and highly recommend it! Be sure to book ahead, as rooms are limited.
One of the things I noticed here was the large number of families, including seniors in wheelchairs, visiting the castle and grounds. I’m pretty sure the castle isn’t accessible to wheelchairs, but the gardens have ramps so that Granny and Aunt Sally can come to enjoy the beauty of nature. I have also noticed that many of these sites offer playgrounds and activities for children, and that school children come here for field trips. Lucky kids! Imagine how much more knowledgeable and interested in history they will be when they are older than our American kids are!
For more photos, check out my Pinterest page.
Hever Castle is near Edenbridge, Kent. And if you go there by train, make sure to have a mobile phone with you, because there is no one, absolutely no one, at the Hever train station!