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The 16th Century

Whilst King Henry VII never took an interest in Leeds Castle, his son King Henry VIII transformed it from a fortified stronghold to a magnificent royal palace. Between 1517-1523 on his orders, major alterations were made so that he and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, could visit the castle in comfort. 

From the inventory taken in 1532, on the death of the constable Sir Henry Guildford who had supervised the work, it is clear that the principal apartments were still in the Gloriette and that an upper floor had been added. Fireplaces decorated with the royal arms and Spanish motifs suggest that this floor was reserved for the exclusive use of the Queen; one such fireplace displayed the royal arms intertwined with lovers’ knots.

Tudor Fireplace at Leeds Castle in Kent The best documented royal visit to Leeds was in 1520 when Henry, with the Queen and a huge retinue of over 5000 people, spent a night at the Castle on his way from Greenwich to northern France for a ceremonial meeting with Francis I of France. This meeting became known from its magnificence as the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and was part of unsuccessful diplomatic attempts by Francis to woo the English away from their alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Royal records show that venison from the Leeds estate and butter from the dairies were supplied for the meeting. 

In 1552, after nearly 300 years of royal ownership, Leeds Castle was given to Anthony St. Leger by Edward VI in recognition for his services to Henry VIII in subjugating the uprising in Ireland.


Find out more about the history of Leeds Castle