As Halloween creeps up on us we are delving into the stories of witchcraft at Leeds Castle!
In 1419 Joan of Navarre was charged with plotting the death of her stepson King Henry V by witchcraft and was imprisoned in the Castle. Henry V initially treated his stepmother cordially, but in time he began to suspect the unpopular Queen and her foreign courtiers of plotting against him, and swiftly relations deteriorated. She was suddenly charged with planning the King’s death by witchcraft by the ‘most high and horrible means’. Rather than being put to death she was imprisoned as Leeds Castle, deprived of her household and relieved of her vast wealth. Joan was never put on trial for her so-called crimes and there is no surviving evidence that Joan ever engaged in activities associated with witchcraft. However, as a foreigner she was unpopular in England and her father, King Charles the Bad of Navarre had an evil reputation as a sorcerer. Shortly before his death Henry V released Queen Joan and restored all her property to her, after which she lived peacefully and prosperously for many years.
The housekeeping accounts for her stay at Leeds in 1422 are in the Castle’s archives. Her Wardrobe Book details her expenditure and day-to-day activities at the Castle including purchases of fine garments, cloth, fur, silk and fine linen and 3 dozen shoes at 6d a pair.
A generation later during Henry VI’s reign, witchcraft loomed large again at Leeds. Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester and the King’s aunt, was also similarly accused and imprisoned in the Castle and eventually condemned as a witch.
Want to try your hand at potions making, broomstick flying and spell casting? Enrol in our Witches and Wizards Academy this Half Term. Don’t worry we won’t lock you up in the Castle for sorcery!