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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sudeley Castle

Dysfunctional Family
I remembered Sudeley Castle from a biography I had read on Queen Elizabeth I, Britain's famed Virgin Queen, who had lived from 1533 to 1603.

Elizabeth I's family life was incredibly dysfunctional. Her father, King Henry VIII had married SIX wives. He famously decapitated 2 wives. He made the 3rd pregnant and she died at childbirth. He annulled another 2 marriages. The last wife, Queen Katherine Parr,who  outlived the King, is buried in Sudeley Castle.

Queen Elizabeth I's mother was one of the two beheaded wives. I wonder what it feels like to grow up knowing that Daddy beheaded Mommy.

After Daddy died, step-Mommy Queen Katherine Parr, married Thomas Seymour, Lord of Sudeley Castle. Like any good step-Mommy, she welcomed her step-daughter, Princess Elizabeth I into her new home at Sudeley Castle. Aha! You think! Good! Some semblance of a normal family life! But noooooo... the very evil Thomas Seymour, Lord of Sudeley Castle had the bad habit of crawling half naked into his 16 year old step-daughter's bed in the early morning. Poor Princess Elizabeth I! Royalty or not, no young girl should be subject to such treatment!

Anyway, the long and short of the story is that Thomas Seymour, Lord of Sudeley Castle was eventually beheaded (because he was found in the 9 year old King's apartments with a drawn sword in hand, having just stabbed one of the King's spaniels to death). At his death, the wise Princess Elizabeth I summed him up, "This day died a man of much wit but very little judgment."

A Castle Ghost
Meanwhile, step-Mommy Katherine Parr died at childbirth bearing Thomas Seymour's child. A regal woman in green has been seen striding down the hallways of the medieval part of the castle. It is believed that she is Katherine Parr. A BBC documentary on England's castle ghosts features Sudeley Castle HERE.

A Vibrant Home
There are 3 parts to Sudeley Castle. There is the medieval part that was almost completely destroyed by Oliver Cromwell. There is the medieval part that is still intact. Then, there is the part built in the reign of Queen Victoria.

The castle is in private hands. A family actually uses it as their home. This year, for the first time, the family allowed visitors to view some of the private apartments. Photographs are not allowed in there so I can only paint the sights in words.

Rich, stately and elegant.

Brown wood panels line the walls. Portrait paintings stare down at visitors as you pass them along the corridors. The pictures seemed friendly, not creepy. The drapes are in rich royal red and gold. When the sun streams through the windows, you realise that there is nothing faded about the place. Every single deep rich colour is just that - deep rich. The period furniture looks new. Leather bound books line the walls, as do huge glass cabinets filled with delicate China vases and plates. It is as if you had stepped back in time till the today of yesteryear.

It is a castle that has been restored with discipline and rigour. If you view the photographs below, you will notice that in the garden, every hedge is well-clipped and straight. The lawns are manicured to perfection. That same manicured perfection exists within the house... except that the artistry has turned to matching furniture, art pieces, curtains and drapes. It has all been excellently done to convey class and elegance. The over the top furnishings don't at all look over the top. Everything is as it should be.

I am not the sort who enjoys heavy furniture and opulent furnishings. In fact, I flee such design approaches. Somehow, at Sudeley Castle, all this opulence only made the place seem homely and welcoming. One can live there and be happy.

Indeed, people do live there and are happy. Lady Ashcombe stays there with her family. Their everyday reality is Pretend Princess Petunia's most secret fantasy.

The Victorian construction.

The extensive grounds.

The ruins of the medieval castle that has been stylishly included in the design of the award winning garden.

Yellow roses climbing up a wall.

Remains of the original Great Hall. These elegant windows would have held stained glass panels.

Remains of the barn built to house grain.

The Secret Garden.

See how beauty rises from ruin. The knotted garden against the backdrop of the castle ruins convey a sense of timelessness and hope... that as ages pass and the years ebb away, all violence and destruction arrive at peace and beauty.

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