Exploring the Fairy-tale Charm of England’s Leeds Castle

England's Leed Castle

From medieval times through the Roaring Twenties and beyond, what often has been called the most beautiful castle in England was home to some of the country’s most important and influential kings, queens, lords, and ladies.

If the storied stone walls of Leeds Castle could speak, they would tell a tale rich with the fascinating history of the royalty and notable families who have called this regal residence home. Built nearly nine hundred years ago in a valley of the River Len, near Kent, England, the beautifully restored castle is a trove of antiques, art, and history. It was home to six queens, a palace of Henry VIII, and an escape for the glamorous and powerful.

The majestic structure first belonged to one of William the Conqueror’s lords, Robert de Crevecoeur. In 1278, the castle became the palace of Edward I, and it remained a royal dwelling for the next three hundred years. One of Leeds’s most infamous residents, Henry VIII, used the castle as a staging post en route to Paris. Although it was not their permanent home, Henry and his queen, Catherine of Aragon, transformed the residential tower—called the Gloriette—into a magnificent castle rivaling the opulent estates of France.

By 1552, the power of English royalty had diminished, and the Crown had no further need for Leeds. Several notable English families successively owned the estate until 1926, when Hon. Olive, Lady Baillie, an American heiress, bought the sprawling residence. Leeds Castle was a great source of passion for her—in the mid-1920s, she commissioned a complete internal reconstruction of the Gloriette. Each room was painstakingly restored and decorated by two preeminent French designers.

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In the Queen’s Room, ruby-colored damask bed linens and emerald-hued wall hangings are adorned with the monogram “HC,” symbolizing onetime residents King Henry V and his wife, Catherine de Valois. In the next room is a canopied and linen-lined bathtub—the height of the canopy denoted the elevated rank of the queen.

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