William Shakespeare chronicled the history on one of England's most powerful medieval families, the Percys, in his plays Richard II and Henry IV. The Percy legacy, Alnwick Castle, remains a remarkable tribute to the impact of the Earls and Dukes of Northumberland on British history. It also stands as a tribute to the skills of the architects who designed the fortress.The original fortifications were began by a Norman in the 1080s, after the surrounding land was granted to one of William the Conqueror's standard bearers.
Yvo de Vescy began the castle in 1096 and it stood unmolested until King John ordered its demolition in 1213. The 1st Lord Percy of Northumberland bought the property in 1309 and began a major reconstruction project.The Northumberlands have continuously occupied the grand residence near the Scottish border for well over 700 years. Henry, the 4th Lord Percy and 1st Earl of Northumberland is undoubtedly the best known and the most controversial of all the lords of Northumberland. Living from 1342 to 1409, he actively participated in England's wars against the Scots and also fought with his king in France. Accused of treason by Richard II in 1399, the Percys provoked a rebellion and placed their favorite, Henry IV on the English throne.
Four years later, the Percys led another rebellion, this time against their own man, Henry IV, who they thought had not shown sufficient gratitude. Within a few months, the Royalists had seized Lord Percy and killed his son, Henry "Hotspur" Percy at the battle of Shrewsbury. Freed after one year, Lord Percy joined in another rebellion against Henry IV led by an archbishop, but with no better results. This time he fled to Scotland. In three years time, in 1408, he tried one last time to overthrow the king, but was killed by the Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1409.
When he was not occupied fighting the Scots, the French, the English, or with overthrowing his king, the 1st Earl of Northumberland undertook the transformation of Alnwick Castle into the splendid ducal residence that has been lived in by his descendants to this day. Highlighted by lush green grasses and enclosed by a sturdy towered curtain wall, Percy's work encloses the middle bailey. This includes the Middle Gateway, the well-preserved Constable's Tower and a watchtower named Hotspur's Seat. All this work was started in 1350 and continued for many years. Perhaps the first earl's most impressive addition was the Great Keep which dominates the site.Fronted by Percy's octagonal towers and encompassed by a seven-towered wall, the four storey polygonal keep commands a place of pride on top of the grass covered medieval mound.
Patrolling the battlements, life-sized stone soldiers stalwartly guard the grounds below. Visible from quite a distance, the skillfully carved sentinels would have presented a roaming enemy with the impression that a formidable garrison of soldiers awaited their approach. Attackers would know that their best decision would be to retreat with their lives intact. Even today, the stone men exude a quiet but steadfast presence and rank high among Alnwick's most prized possessions.In recent years, the fictional wizard Harry Potter practised his powers at Alnwick Castle as it stood in for Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.Ralph George Algernon Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland, continues the proud tradition established by his ancestors so long ago.
No longer fearing attack, Alnwick Castle has successfully made the transition from a rudimentary fortress to a palatial residence, undergoing major reconstruction and renovation in both the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today it is still regarded as one of England's finest stately homes. The castle is open daily to visitors for an entrance fee from April to October.
.Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Tourism.Article Source: http://EzineArticles.
By: Michael Russell