Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

Location: Alnwick, Northumberland  Map

Constructed: 11th century


Haunting in Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle is situated in Alnwick, Northumberland county. First portion of Alnwick Castle was constructed in 1096 by Yves de Vescy, Baron of Alnwick after Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Its strategic location was supposed to defend against the Scottish tribes in the North. It did not work very well and in 1136 it was taken by the invading king David I of Scotland. In the 14th century the castle was purchased by 1st Lord Percy of Alnwick. He undertook an extensive renovation of Alnwick citadel's defenses to match the warfare tactics. Abbot’s Tower, the Middle Gateway and the Constable’s Tower date back to these times. Over time however military importance of the castle have decreased. Alnwick Castle was neglected until Hugh Smithson and Elizabeth Seymour inherited it becoming the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. They undertook a major reconstruction of the Alnwick Castle, turning it into a fashionable residence. Over time new features were added including electricity in 1889 that was delivered by a hydro plant near by. Today it serves as an open museum. Alnwick Castle keeps medieval charm that is often used by movie makers for filming locations. This includes: Becket, Ivanhoe, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Elizabeth and pretty much all of the Harry Potter movies.
Local legend claim that one of the lords of the castle who lived in Alnwick Castle in the twelfth century turned into a vampire after his death. By day he lived underneath the castle, but at night it emerged from his hiding place. When he attacked local villagers who ventured too close to medieval citadel. Historian William of Newburgh recorded these events. During the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century casualty rate went through the roof. Villagers blamed the vampire for these deaths and his body was recovered and burned. Today some people claim they see a shadowy figure that walks around his former possessions of Alnwick Castle.



Early history
In the 11th century, the Norman Gilbert de Tesson, the standard-bearer of William the Conqueror, built a wooden fortress on the site of the current castle. During the time of de Tesson, several significant events took place in the castle and its environs. In 1093, at a distance of only one and a half kilometers from the castle, Malcolm III Canmore, King of Scotland, died at the hands of Robert Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria. Two years later, de Tesson joined Mowbray in a rebellion against King William II of England. The rebellion was crushed, and de Tesson lost his possessions. The following year, Alnwick passed into the hands of Ivo de Vessy, who began to build a stone castle on the site of the fortress of Gilbert de Tesson.

De Vessey
Beatrice, de Vessey's daughter and heiress, married Eustace Fitzjohn. In 1134, after the death of de Vescy, Eustace received the title of Baron Alnwick and became the new owner of the castle. He was close to the Empress Matilda and actively supported her in the fight against King Stephen for the English throne. In addition, Fitzjohn was one of the associates of the Scottish King David I and also supported him in the uprising against Stephen. As a result of all these rebellions, the castle was taken from Fitzjohn in 1138, but after the suppression of the uprising, Fitzjohn managed to somehow regain Stephen's trust, get the castle back and finish its construction. In 1157 he died and was buried in Wales.

De Vessey's descendants became famous for their difficult relationship with the crown. In 1172 and 1174, the Scottish King William I the Lion besieged Alnwick twice, and both times the castle garrison, led by William de Vessey, successfully withstood the siege; however, during the second siege, the castle was saved by the army of the British, who, under the cover of fog, quietly crept up to the army of William the Lion and captured him. In 1184, William de Vessy died and Alnwick was succeeded by his son Eustace, who, ironically, was married to the daughter of William the Lion.

After John the Landless came to the English throne in 1199, William the Lion laid claim to Northumberland and defended his claims for 14 years. During this period, while traveling to negotiate with the Scottish king, John the Landless stopped twice in Alnica.

Eustace de Vescy was one of the instigators of the conspiracy against John the Landless in 1212. For this, John several times ordered the destruction of Alnik, but his orders were not carried out. In 1215, de Vessey joined the barons' rebellion against John and, in addition, joined the army of the Scottish king Alexander II, which he sent to Northumberland. After such open defiance, John the Landless carried out the threat and burned Alnik. In 1216, Eustace de Vescy was killed during the siege of Barnard Castle.

After the next forty years of calm, new troubles awaited Alnwick. In the mid-1260s, John de Vescy, Eustace's heir, joined Simon de Montfort in a rebellion against Henry III. In 1265, at the Battle of Evesham, he was wounded and taken prisoner. As often happened with defeated rebels, all his lands and property were taken from him. Surprisingly, after leaving captivity, de Vessy again managed to get forgiveness from the monarch and restore the rights to own the castle. After John's death in 1288, the castle passed to his brother William. Throughout his life, Alnwick continued to be at the center of the conflict between England and Scotland, which culminated in the rebellion of the legendary William Wallace (Braveheart) against the English King Edward I Longshanks. In the same year, William de Vessey died without an heir, and the castle came under the care of the Bishop of Durham. In 1309 the Bishop of Durham sold Alnwick and the surrounding estates to Sir Henry Percy.

Percy, Earls of Northumberland
The Percys were one of the most powerful English families. One of the Percys - Sir Henry, nicknamed Hot Spur - became the hero of Shakespeare's play "Henry IV". The members of the Percy family had a rather restless character - for centuries they schemed and rebelled against both the English kings and the Scottish ones. Henry, 1st Lord Percy of Alnwick, rebelled against King Edward II, causing him to lose the castle, but then regained it. During his ownership of Alnwick, he significantly updated the castle and rebuilt many things. Most of the buildings of that time have been preserved in excellent condition and have survived to this day.

On the death of the 1st Lord Percy in 1315, the castle passed to his son Henry (this was a family name and was borne by seven subsequent Lords of Percy). Most of his life, the 2nd Lord Percy fought on the continent, but managed to devote time to the castle, updating some buildings in accordance with the requirements of that era. In 1352 he died at Alnwick. His son, the 3rd Lord Percy, was also a warrior and participated in regular skirmishes between the British and the Scots and the French. The 3rd Lord Percy died in 1368.

The next Henry, 4th Lord Percy and 1st Earl of Northumberland, went down in history as the most infamous owner of Alnwick. An experienced warrior, distinguished for thirty years in campaigns against France, this Henry Percy was one of Scotland's chief adversaries. His son, the same Henry Hotspur of whom Shakespeare wrote, showed himself as a warrior at a rather tender age - when he was 12 years old, he fought at the battle of Otterburn. Under the cover of night, Henry "Hot Spur" led troops to the Scots, but made the mistake of mistaking the location of the camp servants for the camp of the Scottish army, and was defeated. Nevertheless, he showed sufficient courage, which justified his nickname and earned the reputation of a real warrior.

In 1399, King Richard II accused the Earl of Northumberland and his son of treason. In response, they, having agreed with other barons, raised an uprising and put their favorite, Henry IV, on the English throne. In 1403, deciding that the king had not thanked them enough for their help, the Percys rebelled again. During the rebellion, Henry Hot Spur was killed and his father's army was surrounded. Percy's allies withdrew their support and surrendered Alnwick to the royal forces. The following year, Henry Percy was released from captivity, and in 1405 he again rebelled against the king. In the end, he had to flee to Scotland, although he did not calm down on this and subsequently made another attempt to rebel against the king. In 1409 he was killed.

The next Henry Percy managed to reclaim Alnwick. This Henry was a close friend of the future King Henry V and, unlike his treacherous ancestors, remained loyal to the crown all his life. Scotland continued the wars of independence, and in 1424 Alnwick was first besieged and then burned by the Scots. Over the next thirty years, the Earl of Northumberland invaded Scotland, then the Scots attacked his possessions. In 1448, the Scots, led by the Douglas clan, burned the castle again. In the same year, the 2nd Earl of Northumberland joined the Lancastrians in the Wars of the Scarlet and White Roses and was killed at the Battle of St Albans in 1455.

His son, the 3rd Earl of Northumberland, followed in his father's footsteps - he also became a supporter of the Lancasters, fought against Scotland and the Yorkists. In 1461, he participated in one of the bloodiest battles in England - the battle of Towton - fought bravely and fell on the battlefield along with 38,000 other warriors. After his death, Alnwick Castle went to the crown, and then was transferred to Lord Montagu.

However, the war was not over. In 1462, the castle was besieged twice, and in 1463 it was captured by the Yorkists. Alnwick returned to its rightful owners, the Earls of Northumberland, only in 1469, after the accession to the throne of Edward IV. Twenty years later, after trying to impose a new tax on the inhabitants of the lands subject to him, the 4th Earl of Northumburg was torn to pieces by a mob.

Brief history in later centuries
Over the following centuries, the castle remained the center of a wide variety of events.

The castle housed the headquarters, which gathered troops to fight the Scots.
The county, along with the castle, went to the crown for some time after Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, was executed in 1572 by order of Queen Elizabeth I Tudor for supporting the Scottish Queen Mary Stuart, who claimed the throne.
Thomas' brother, the 8th Earl of Northumberland, who also supported Mary Stuart, died in the Tower under mysterious circumstances.
From the middle of the 17th century, the Earls of Northumberland stopped living in the castle, and Alnwick fell into disrepair.
In 1766, Sir Hugh Smithson was granted the title of 1st Duke of Northumberland. He began to restore Alnwick and succeeded in this - the castle became famous for its fantastically luxurious interiors. Since then, the Dukes of Northumberland have continued to improve the castle and increase its splendor.