of Hastings. William crowned king. Robert of Mortain was granted the Manor
and Honour of Berkhamsted and started work on the castle.
At the death of William the Conqueror in 1087 the succession of his son,
William Rufus was disputed among others by Robert Mortain, who was
consequently dispossessed of Berkhamsted. Later reinstated, he was one of
the few nobles to remain loyal at Henry I’s accession. However, his son
William Mortain was later in dispute with Henry I, was dispossessed and
ended his life in captivity.
||Henry I held court at the Castle.
During the reigns of Henry I and Henry II, the castle was in the hands
of chancellors, first Randulph and later Thomas à
It is unclear what happened to Berkhamsted Castle during the complicated
history of Stephen’s reign.
Henry II granted a royal charter to the merchants of Berkhamsted, which
confirmed the laws and customs enjoyed under Edward the Confessor, William
I and Henry I, and freed them from all tolls and dues. The charter also
decreed that no market could be set up within seven miles of the town.
During the time of
(1155-1164) entries in the Pipe Rolls indicate extensive building
Richard I began the royal tendency of disregarding the castle when he gave
it to his queen, Berengaria. She lived here until Richard’s death in
King John granted the Honour to his queen, Isabella, who remained in
residence until 1216.
Geoffrey fitz Piers
, Earl of Essex, one of the occupants of the castle, was instrumental in
the building of St. Peter’s Church.
Prince Louis of France laid siege to the castle, which held out for only
||Richard, Earl of Cornwall
younger brother of Henry III, was granted the castle. He made it one of
his main residences and was the administrative centre of the Earldom of
Cornwall. Each year at Michaelmas the stewards from the different
Manors came to Berkhamsted to present their
Richard and his son, Edmund, who had been born at the castle founded a
religious house at Ashridge and installed a small order of monks, the
Bonhommes to manage it.
Edward I held a parliament at Ashridge. Edward I granted Berkhamsted to his
second queen, Margaret of France. On her death
, queen of Edward II, succeeded to the Manor.
Edward III gave the castle to his son Edward, the
, as part of the newly created Duchy of Cornwall. The castle remains part
of the Duchy of Cornwall to this day.
King John of France was imprisoned in the castle after the battle of
married Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent and they honeymooned in Berkhamsted.
The castle had an extensive deer park, which was a favourite hunting ground
for the prince. Ashridge monastery was richly endowed by the Black Prince
was appointed Clerk to the Works at Berkhamsted Castle and other royal
On his accession Henry IV granted the castle and estates to his son and
heir, later Henry V, from whom it then passed to Margaret of Anjou, queen
to Henry VI.
Edward IV granted Berkhamsted to his mother
, Duchess of York, who lived here for the last 26 years of her life. She
was mother also of Richard III. Cicely suffered the tragedy of the death of
her son Edward IV in 1483 and then two of her grandsons in the Tower of
London. Two years later Richard III was killed at the battle of Bosworth.
After Cicely’s death it appears the castle was no longer lived in and
gradually fell into ruins.
We can see from the royal records that the royal connection remained. The
Under Keeper sent a buck to Windsor for the queen of Henry VII and the
Manor of Berkhamsted was granted in turn to three of Henry VIII’s wives,
Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, but they did not live
I leased the Manor of Berkhamsted, which included the ruined castle and the
deer park, for the nominal rent of one red rose to Sir Edward Carey, Keeper
of the Queen’s Jewels. He built Berkhamsted Place on the hill above the
castle using many bricks and stone from the ruins. It is thought that the
present entrance to the castle was cut through at this time.
Although in ruins the castle continued to be a focal point of the town. The
Prince of Wales, later to be Charles I made an official visit to the Manor
of Berkhamsted and heard an address in Latin given at the Grammar
There are a number of 18th
century prints, showing courting couples sitting under trees and it was a
favourite theme for poetry, notably by Sarah Littleboy, the Quaker, and the
Rev. J. R. Crawford a Headmaster of Berkhamsted School.
We know that a Grand Bazaar was held in the grounds to raise money for the
new Town Hall, that musket practice took place there in the early twentieth
century and both cricket and golf were played on the bailey.
The Duke of Cornwall had granted Earl Brownlow ‘the Site and Remains of
Berkhampstead Castle…at £1 per annum…Lord Brownlow has no actual benefit
from the property, he merely maintains it for the recreation of the
inhabitants of Berkhampstead.’
Army dirigible, ‘Gamma’ captained by J.N. Fletcher, an old boy of
Berkhamsted School (now Berkhamsted Collegiate School) landed in the castle
The twentieth century was notable for the pageants which were held in the
castle grounds, the first of these was in 1922 to mark the
anniversary of the consecration of St. Peter’s Church. This pageant was
written by the eminent historian, G.M. Trevelyan, a local resident, who
played the part of
. The same pageant was repeated in 1931.
The castle was put into the care of the Ministry of Works.
It was this act that helped save the castle from complete ruin. The
Ministry had trees removed that
were threatening the remaining masonry and had that masonry stabilised. It
also had an archaeological
survey carried out which helped determine the layout of the castle's
After visiting both the Girls’ School and the Boys’ School, the Prince of
Wales, later Edward VIII, visited the castle where he met a large assembled
gathering of ex-servicemen, Girl Guides and Boys Scouts, children from the
elementary schools and other representatives of the community.
For the duration of the Second World War a number of London statues were
brought to Berkhamsted for safe keeping and stood against the background of
the castle ruins.
anniversary of the submission of the English to William the Conqueror was
celebrated with a large pageant held in the castle grounds. Until recent
years many Bank Holiday fêtes were held annually. Concerns about damage
from metal pegs for marquees and health and safety regulations mean that
fêtes now have to be held elsewhere, on Kitchener’s Field.