Places with a royal story to tell
Discover the tale of a warrior king, learn how to prepare for a royal visit and spot the ghost of Anne Boleyn. A lot of our places have a royal story to tell. Here are the top ten, as nominated by our historical experts. If you know of any others, share your knowledge on Facebook.
Mrs Greville, an ambitious Edwardian hostess, chose Polesden Lacey to entertain four generations of royalty. Her collection of photographs are a ‘who’s who’ of the period, bringing Polesden’s past to life, featuring Queen Mary, Edward VII and the Maharaja. You can see a small sample of these photos in our Facebook album.
The Queen Mother and George VI honeymooned at Polesden and the childless Mrs Greville came to love Queen Elizabeth like a daughter. See photos from the royal honeymoon on our Pinterest board.The Gold Room is a particular favourite with visitors. It was built to impress visiting royalty:
‘Let your eyes travel across a sea of tulips until they meet the magnificent mansion at Polesden Lacey, and then prepare yourself for the awe that comes of seeing the opulent rooms and furnishings, in particular the sumptuous gold room.’
- Sharif I, at Polesden Lacey
The present Blickling Hall is a Jacobean house that stands on the site of a former medieval manor. This is thought to have been the birthplace of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. Executed after her failure to provide a male heir, her unhappy ghost is believed to wander the grounds of Blickling in the form of the Grey Lady.
Anne Boleyn isn’t the only famous lady to have been to Blickling Hall. Actress, Kim Cattrall, nominated this as her special place: ‘I was visiting my cousin in Norfolk and decided to visit Anne Boleyn's childhood home. It was a perfect day.’
Among the royal visitors to Penrhyn Castle was Princess Victoria. She stayed in 1832 and again in 1859, after she became Queen, when she refused to sleep in the one-ton slate bed that had been specially made for her. She said it would have been like sleeping in a tomb. You’ll also see a brass bed in the King’s Bedroom, which was used by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, in 1894.
In 1903 Edward VII and Alexandra visited Mount Stewart, staying for two nights.
‘In accordance with the old tradition the rooms set aside for the King and Queen were redecorated and upholstered. Special white and gold damask had been specially woven in Belfast for Queen Alexandra’s rooms, and the linen was specially woven too and embroidered by the women and girls on the estate. Descendants of these very women have recently embroidered the linen for the Duchess of Kent’s wedding present.
This was the fifth visit paid by King Edward and Queen Alexandra to the late Lord and Lady Londonderry, but the first to their Irish home. The King had taken enthusiastically to motoring, and a good part of the week-end was spent in driving about the neighbourhood….’
- Marchioness of Londonderry, Retrospect, 1938
Dominating the village below it, the dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle hold many royal stories of intrigue, treachery and treason. In 978 King Edward, known as ‘the Martyr’, was believed to have been stabbed to death here, whilst visiting his step mother. In later years the castle became a royal prison to King John, before being reduced to ruins during the Civil War.
When Fountains Hall was completed in 1604, Sir Stephen Proctor played host to the young prince destined to become the ill fated Charles I, during his first royal progress from Scotland to London. After changing hands several more times, the Hall once again played host to royalty during the 1930s when the Duke and Duchess of York - later better known as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth - often visited the Vyners family there.
‘The Vyners and the Duke and Duchess of York shared an interest in horse-racing and the Vyners were rumoured to be doing up Fountains Hall as a quiet country retreat for the royal couple.’
- Tessa Goldsmith, staff member at Fountains Abbey
Dunham Massey has an incredible tale to tell. Back in 1936 the Emperor of Ethiopia gave a speech to the League of Nations, voicing his concerns about the rise of fascism. Sadly his warnings were ignored and shortly afterwards Mussolini invaded Ethiopia and the Emperor was exiled to Bath.
During this time he received a letter. Roger Grey, Dunham’s 10th Earl, had been moved by the Emperor’s speech and decided to contact him. It was to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Visit Dunham Massey to find out more about this cross-cultural story.
After exploring the house you can also enjoy the deer park and gardens: ‘The walk along the lake with the beautiful old house reflected in the water is stunning in all seasons. The cobbles alongside the old buildings are perfect for puddle jumping on a rainy day and the gardens are just magical!’
- Jo S shares her memories of Dunham Massey
Sutton Hoo is thought to be the final resting place of Raedwald, the Anglo-Saxon warrior king of East Anglia. Walk around the ancient burial mounds and discover the incredible story of the ship burial of Raedwald and his treasured possessions.
Over the centuries, Knole has evolved from manor to palace, from palace to royal residence and from royal residence to country seat. In 1538 King Henry VIII was so impressed with Knole that he forced the Archbishop of Canterbury to hand it over to him. Knole remained a royal residence throughout the Tudor period, until it came into the hands of Elizabeth I. In 1561 she gave Knole first to her favourite courtier, Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester. Then in 1566 the house passed to Elizabeth's treasurer and second cousin, Thomas Sackville, whose family still own Knole today. A portrait of Thomas Sackville can be seen in the Great Hall.
After escaping his disastrous defeat in the Battle of Worcester, Charles II took refuge at Moseley Old Hall for two days and nights. He had to sneak out in the guise of a serving man with Jane Lane, of nearby Bentley Hall.
Visitors can see a letter of thanks from Charles II to Jane, the bed on which he slept and the priest hole in which he hid. You can also soak up the atmosphere with guided tours.