Carisbrooke Castle (England)

South East England     See list of castles in Inghilterra

A striking Norman castle atop a high hill above Newport. It was here that Charles I was imprisoned in 1647 before his final journey to London and death. The king's bedchamber has been preserved, as has the window through which he attempted to escape.

There was a Roman castle at Carisbrooke, established as part of the Roman efforts to defend the Saxon Shore from raids. After the Norman Conquest William fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford, established a new castle here on the traditional Norman motte and bailey plan, with a pair of bailey enclosures leading to a tall motte surmounted by a fortified keep. The castle later passed to the Redvers family. It was probably Baldwin de Redvers, Earl of Devon, who built the strong curtain wall to augment the earlier Norman defenses.

It was not long before the castle began to play a part in national affairs; in 1136 Redvers sided with Queen Maud in her bid for the throne. The Earl was defeated by King Stephen and fled here from his mainland base. He thought the Carisbrooke defenses would enable him to withstand the king's forces, but the water supply ran out and he was forced to surrender.

Carisbrooke owes much to one powerful woman, Countess Isabella de Fortebus. The Countess was one of the richest and most powerful 13th century landholders in England, with estates stretching from Wight to Yorkshire. In 1262 she chose to make her home at Carisbrooke. She transformed the stark castle defenses to create a comfortable suite of rooms including a great hall, private chambers, and the chapel of St Peter. The chapel is now incorporated inside the museum area.

The Redvers family held the castle until the line died out with Isabella's death in 1293. The castle then passed under crown control, though it was frequently granted to royal favourites. In 1377 the castle repulsed an invasion by the French, but by the Tudor period the major threat was from a Spanish invasion. Beginning in 1597 the castle defenses were extended with a series of bastions and earthworks designed by an Italian engineer named Gianbelli. The Tudor earthworks completely enclose the Norman baileys and are reinforced with stone and punctuated with 5 bastions shaped like arrowheads to counter the threat of artillery fire.

The castle is most famous for its association with Charles I. Charles was imprisoned at Carisbrooke in 1647 after his armies were defeated by Parliament in the Civil War. The king was lodged comfortably in the Constable's Lodging, a Tudor building that abuts the medieval Great Hall. Charles could not stop plotting to renew hostilities with Parliament, and two subsequent attempts to escape from his 'gilded cage' moved his gaolers to keep him in much more secure and less comfortable quarters. Charles was eventually taken from Carisbrooke to London for execution.

In 1896 Princess Beatrice, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria, was made Governor of the Isle of Wight. The Princess made the castle her summer home after 1914.

Images of the castle

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Useful infos

Latitude: 50.687345
Longitude: -1.313459
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Map of Carisbrooke Castle