Castles of England/Baronial War Castles
History of the Period
This period begins with the accession to the throne of Henry III, son of King John, in 1216. Some civil strife was probably inevitable as Henry was a nine year old boy and incapable of ruling without assistance. A group of rebel barons had invited Prince Louis of France to take the crown and he had led his forces in an invasion of England, laying siege to Windsor, Dover and Lincoln castles. However, he began to lose support when his forces were unable to capture these powerful castles and eventually many barons began to defect to Henry. Louis was defeated by the regent, William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, described as the greatest knight who ever lived. He fought in over 500 tournaments, never losing, as well as performing numerous acts of bravery throughout a long career serving five English kings.
In 1227, Henry declared himself of age and prepared to rule in his own right. But the barons were a powerful force in the country. In terms of castles, they outnumbered the king three to one, they had more money and more military forces. War broke out and the barons, lead by Simon de Montfort, made quick gains culminating in the capture of Henry and his son, Prince Edward. They escaped though and the war turned in the king's favour with de Montfort being slain at Evesham. In 1272 Edward took the throne as Edward I. His reign was characterised by border wars against Welsh and Scottish forces. It was while travelling to Scotland in 1307 to suppress another rebellion that he died. He was succeeded by Edward II who lead the English army into Scotland.
Edward II was not the military leader that his father was - his army failed to suppress the rebellion and Scotland was left alone for seven years. When Edward returned in 1314 the Scots, lead by Robert the Bruce, the English army was soundly defeated. Tired of his weakness he was forced from the throne by this Queen and then murdered at Berkeley Castle.
Edward III was more in the mould of his grandfather. He reestablished the authority of the crown before building up England's forces to become the most powerful in Europe. He smashed the Scots near Berwick making use of longbows and paid soldiers who had begun to replace the traditional feudal knights.
Great Towers and Pele Towers
A great tower is the name given to the main tower of a motte and bailey castle.
Castles of the Period
The first York Castle was built on the orders of William I in 1068 and was a motte and bailey castle. It was destroyed a year later by a Viking army after which it was rebuilt with a large set of water defences. It remained a centre for royal power in the north east until an explosion in 1684 damaged the castle defences beyond economic repair.
The original Kenilworth Castle was a great tower constructed in the 1120s. It was expanded by King John during the 13th century with an extensive set of water defences. Expansion continued throughout the 14th century as John of Gaunt occupied the castle as his main seat of power. At this stage the castle was redesigned in the perpendicular style. In the final stages of development during Tudor times, additional buildings were added. Kenilworth was slighted in 1649 during the Civil War leaving all but two buildings uninhabitable.