posted 02-28-2001 01:37 AM
Following is an article from John Kinross's "Discovering Castles in England and Wales" by Shire Publications Ltd.
Near the railway station, Berkhamsted is one of the most important castles in the country, although little remains today, except the motte and bailey, and a unique double moat. The route taken by Duke William after the Battle of Hastings crossed the Thames at Wallingford and he approached London from the west. At Berkhamsted he was greeted by Edgar Aethling, Earl Morcar and Edwin, who came out from London to submit to his authority. William gave the Saxon castle of Berkhamsted to his brother Robert, Count of Mortain, who built a strong keep here on top of a motte. It had its own well and staircase. The two-acre bailey was ultimately enclosed in the 12th and 13th centuries by a massive wall interspersed with semi-circular defensive towers. The entrance was by the south – not the present entrance but across a causeway – and there was a small dernegate over two drawbridges to the north-east. The most unusual features of Berkhamsted are the earth platforms or small malvoisins outside the north moat. These are believed to be mangonel platforms built by the French army that attacked and captured the castle in 1216. They may have been part of the defences, but if so, why were they outside the moat instead of within it?
The Earl of Cornwall lived here after the death of the Count of Mortain, as did Thomas a Beckett when he was Lord Chancellor. King John obtained the castle from the property of King Richard I’s wife Berengaria and spent about £250 on repairs. His queen was here when the barons and the Dauphin’s French army attacked and captured the castle. John’s second son Richard, Earl of Cornwall, inherited it and built a three-storey tower and numerous apartments for his family. King Edward I granted it to his queen, Margaret of France, and in 1309 Edward II gave it to Piers Gaveston, his favourite, who married the king’s niece.
During the building of Windsor Castle, Berkhamsted was an important royal palace. The Black Prince spent his last days here in 1376 and the captive King John of France was brought here from Somerton. The final inhabitant of note was Cicely, Duchess of York, who made it her home until she died in 1496. Queen Elizabeth I leased it to Sir Edward Carey for the rent of a red rose each year in memory of Cicely, the “Rose of Raby”, who was born a Lancastrian but married a Yorkist. Carey built nearby Berkhamsted Place out of the stones from the castle, which remained part of the Duchy of Cornwall until 1930, when it passed to the Commissioners of Works.
I have posted a copy of an old postcard of the castle on the Photo Archive. Hope this is sufficient for your needs.
The broken stones, the ruined walls,
'Tis few who know where hist'ry falls.