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Bolingbroke Castle

Bolingbroke Castle was the birthplace of King Henry IV in 1367 and was destroyed during the English Civil War by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians in 1643.

Today Bolingbroke Castle is owned by English Heritage. Although largely ruined, you can still see some of the original 13th Century hexagonal castle built by Ranulph de Blundeville, Earl of Chester and Lincoln in the 1220s.

Bolingbroke Castle History

Bolingbroke Castle was one of three castles built by Ranulph de Blundeville after his return from the Crusades.

For generations it remained in the possession of the Earls of Lincoln, one of whom was England’s wealthiest and most powerful man, Henry Grosmont of Lancaster. His two children Maud and Blanche (mother of Henry IV) were born at Bolingbroke Castle.

Maud inherited Bolingbroke Castle (and much of the Lancaster estate) from her father, but died childless shortly after her marriage to the Duke of Bavaria .

Maud’s heir was her younger sister Blanche, who at the age of 15 married John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III. Bolingbroke Castle had been Blanche’s childhood home and this is where she gave birth to their children.

She and John had seven children in all, only three of whom – two girls and a boy – survived infancy. Their only son, Henry Bolingbroke, was later to become King Henry IV.

A year after Henry’s birth, Blanche died of the plague at Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire at the age of 23. She was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral after a state funeral. John of Gaunt, inherited his wife’s fabulously wealthy Lancastrian estates, including Bolingbroke Castle. Despite marrying twice more, John was buried alongside Blanche of Lancaster in accordance with his wishes.

Several years earlier, Katherine Swynford had been appointed as governess to Blanche and John’s two surviving daughters, Phillipa and Elizabeth of Lancaster. Katherine became John’s mistress and bore him four illegitimate daughters.

In 1396, Katherine Swynford married John of Gaunt in Lincoln Cathedral. One of the witnesses to the marriage was her sister Philippa, wife of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Katherine died in 1403. Her tomb and that of her youngest daughter with John of Gaunt, Joan Beaufort, lie under a magnificent carved stone canopy in Lincoln Cathedral.

Henry of Bolingbroke became England’s first Lancastrian king after usurping the throne of Richard II in 1399.

Over the next two centuries, Bolingbroke Castle fell into a state of neglect and disrepair.

During the English Civil War, it was fortified to become a Royalist garrison.

In 1643, after the Parliamentary victory at the Battle of Winceby (located between Bolingbroke and Horncastle), Bolingbroke Castle was beseiged. Despite holding out for several weeks, The Royalists eventually surrendered on 14th November 1643.

Bolingbroke Castle was partially destroyed by The Parliamentarians a few months later, ensuring that it was never to be lived in again.

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