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What Is Warwick Castle?

By Ray Hawk
Updated: May 23, 2024

Warwick castle is an ancient English fortification in south-central Britain, which was initially constructed in 1068 AD by William the Conqueror, the first Norman King of England that reigned from 1066 AD till 1087 AD. The castle was an important fortification for England for 600 years. From the 17th to 20th century, Warwick castle has been intermittently open to tourists, and, as of 2011, was considered to be one of England's top ten historic monuments by the British Tourist Authority (BTA). The structure officially includes the boundary walls and outbuildings such as stables and a conservatory, and is one of England's best preserved historical sites. When constructed by William the Conqueror, however, Warwick castle was a modest wooden structure, and was gradually converted to stone in the 13th century.

The original makeup for types of castles in England during the period of the 11th century was one based on the motte and bailey design. This meant that Warwick castle had a motte, or wooden watchtower, built on an elevated earthen mound which provided extensive views of the surrounding land. The bailey was a fortification behind and below the motte ringed by a wooden fence, which was perpetually manned by soldiers. The soldiers also lived within the confines of the bailey, where they were supplied with food and water from outside.

The history of Warwick castle is a long and bloody one. It was first laid siege to in 1264 by Simon de Montfort of nearby Kenilworth castle, which resulted in the partial destruction of its stone walls and the capture of the current ruler, William Mauduit, the 8th Earl of Warwick. King Edward IV was imprisoned for a time at Warwick castle in the 15th century and historical events such as the Hundred Years War of the 14th century and the War of the Roses of the 15th century involved rulers and events connected to Warwick castle.

Under royal ownership, the castle also featured prominently in the rivalry between Mary Tudor and Lady Jane Grey for the throne, with Grey ruling as Queen of England for only nine days in July 1553. Grey acquired the throne through the machinations of her father-in-law John Dudley, who was the Earl of Warwick at the time and the most powerful noble in England. Shortly after Lady Jane Grey was removed from the throne, John Dudley was beheaded by the crown for treason.

As of 1978, Warwick castle has been owned by a media group in England that also owns the famous Madame Tussaud's wax museum in London. It is considered as of 2011 to be one of the most interesting castles to visit due to its rich history and range of attractions. Warwick castle has also been cared for and improved upon since the reign of Charles II in the mid-17th century.

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