Belvoir Castle is today one of Leicestershire’s most popular tourist attractions, as well as our most attractive stately home, but how many people realise that the history of the castle goes back nearly 1000 years.
In 1070, Robert de Todeni had the castle built. He had been William the Conqueror’s standard bearer at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. This castle would have been a traditional Norman castle – with a large keep and a surrounding wall.
The castle was passed down through Robert’s son Albini, and stayed in the family until 1247, when the male line came to an end. The castle passed to the De Ros family through the marriage of Isabel de Albini.
The castle met its destruction during the wars of the roses when, in 1464, its owner Lord Ros was executed for supporting the Lancastrians. The castle was handed over to Lord Hastings, who demolished the castle, using the stone to build a new castle at Ashby de la Zouch in north west Leicestershire. It was not until the reign of Henry VIII that the second Belvoir Castle was built by the Manners family, with work being started in 1532 by Thomas Manners, the first Earl of Rutland.
The castle was completed in the 1550s by Thomas’s son, the second Earl, and the second castle could best be described as a well fortified manor house. This castle survived about 120 years, but then came the English Civil War. In 1646 the 8th Earl of Rutland supported the Parliamentarians, and the royalist army came from nearby Grantham, and attacked the castle. The royalist-occupied castle was soon surrounded by Parliamentarians, who held it in siege for around 3 months. Eventually the Royalists gave in, and the Parliamentarians decided to destroy the castle.
After the civil war, the Earl requested funds to rebuild his castle, and was granted £1,500. In 1654 work began on the third Belvior Castle which was finished in 1668. In 1799 the fifth Duke of Rutland and his wife Elizabeth Howard (of Castle Howard, Yorkshire) redesigned the castle and spent 30 years rebuilding the castle in the Gothic style, producing the building which stands today.
In 1816 a fire destroyed the north-west front of the castle and the main staircase, but it was rebuilt by the Earl of Rutland.
The castle is currently home to His Grace the 10th Duke of Rutland, who is a direct descendent of Robert de Todeni, and therefore the castle has been home to the same family for nearly 1000 years.
The castle is now open to the public, and also contains a museum to the 17th/21st Lancers Regiment. For information about visiting and to find out more about the castle, please visit http://www.belvoircastle.com/
Article by D. Spencer
Information from www.belviorcastle.com and www.castlegate.net