Thoughts from Lincoln on Thanksgiving

Bringing back genuine gratitude this holiday season will be befitting to a world who has grown too dependent on appliances, devices and ‘time saving’ technologies. To understand where we have been we must go back as far as is necessary and really look around. For many, this will be the first time. For others it will be a homecoming and we can get where we’re going from there. Together. - The Castle Lady

Lincoln_Oyster“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven;
we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity;
we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.
But we have forgotten God.
We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace
and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us
and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts,
that all these things were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success,
we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace,
too proud to pray to the God that made us.”

Abraham Lincoln

HappyThanksfrom The Castle Lady

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A Thanksgiving Milestone

The following writ was spoken on the battlefield of Gettysburg by Abraham Lincoln on November 18, 1863 after a civil war battle that rocked the world for bloodshed and struggle. He wrote this proclamation which is known as The Gettysburg Address for all Americans in the hope of saving our nation from becoming divided. Our freedoms were fought for on our very land and we all would do well to remember what it took to get there. – The Castle Lady

lincoln-memorial_D.C.“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

   The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom;

And that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

As we approach Thanksgiving let us remember the sacrifice our men made for us all and give thanks for an undivided nation bonded in peace.

thanksgiving_tomturkeyThe Castle Lady

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Sonorous Sudeley Castle

Thy sun is set, Gloucestershire_Police_Authority_Map

thy battlements are fallen,

And sunk to ruin thy baronial hall,

Once far-famed Sudeley!

Waves the cross no more

On thy reft towers; nor grins the leopard rude

His feudal fierceness on thy tumbling roof.

Sir Egerton Brydges

Sudeley_Castle_aerialSudeley Castle  is one of those English traditions which receive plenty of publicity but not always for the best reasons. Essentially it is a former Tudor Palace best restored during the Victorian era which centered on the interiors. I remember watching a BBC special (titled Crisis at the Castle, June 27th 2007) on my local PBS station and was captivated by the naturalness of the family who had gained it by inheritance and matrimony. Every bit as historic as Berkeley, the 15th century castle did not weather the years quite as well but if you are truly a castle enthusiast you will enjoy the grown over ruins of the old part of the castle every bit as much as the Elizabethan portion which is occupied by the current heirs of today, namely the lovely Lady Elizabeth Ashcombe and her children, Henry and Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst (siblings), who struggle with finances and the onerous responsibility of keeping up a privately-owned castle plus supporting a family. Lady Ashcombe, born the daughter of a U.S. Southern doctor, has occupied the castle for over four decades and has put her heart and soul into refurbishment and restoration. The situation reminds me, for all of the world, of Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire- that is, if Eastnor had late-medieval ruins. But Sudeley may be the most relevant castle remaining which weathered the Wars of the Roses and if it was eradicated would leave us at a loss to understand that era in English Royal history without its artefacts, art and architecture- interior and exterior.
SudeleyAt a local level, Sudeley is most famous for the beautiful gardens which have won many awards and happens to be part of the Midlands Garden Tour which dot the B4632 from Cheltenham all the way to Warwick Castle. As a picturesque route the plan was designed to show a variety of English gardens from the most humble cottages and manor homes to castles such as Warwick and Sudeley. Over the centuries the estate eventually comprised 12,000 acres of land but was reduced to 1,200 upon the death of a key member of the Dent-Brocklehurst family in 1932 because of incredible debt owed for death duties- the bane of the manor born. If you approach Sudeley from one of the many footpaths that lead down to it from the Cotswold Hills you will be stunned by the magnificent appearance of the stone and the surrounding gardens. You will see topiary and a prodigious collection of old roses, Queen’s Garden which is central and part of the original Tudor parterre and don’t miss the Knot Garden or the recently replanted Secret Garden by Sir Roddy Llewellyn and originally created by the late Rosemary Verey. The 15th century ruins of the Tithe Barn with a large carp pond are located across the lawns and also a very picturesque and peaceful place to stop and rest.
Sudeley_Castle_1880_FOMorrisengravI’m sure that the Sudeley presence on the telly brought about more visitors and traffic these past seven years. Being a working castle it is let for corporate and private events, £20,000 weddings and occasional rock concerts. The actress Elizabeth Hurley, who lives in Gloucestershire, was married to Indian textile heir Arun Nayar on Sudeley grounds in 2007 in a well celebrated service. Much is tolerated here but the castle is merited for the plethora of past royal connections alone. Present day visitors of the common kind are accommodated rather than wholly welcome by every family member. If you think this is unusual then imagine your home being basically opened up to the public and having to allow just about anything to transpire which will bring in money. Sudeley inhabitants take their days off from visitors and all outsiders just like anyone else would so make sure you call ahead to visit and perhaps give them as much notice as possible if you have a sizable group. It’s only good manners, anyway! Connoisseur Tours of the private apartments are available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. This summer it was open daily during normal business hours which ended in October. All special events must be by prior arrangement, of course.
Sudeley_GatehouseSituated between Winchcombe, and Cheltenham (eight miles northeast) just off the B4632 and nestled in the Cotswold Hills, Sudeley’s rich history spans a millennium and many of the features that remain contain memories, bad and good. Over the course of time it has changed hands more than a dozen times and been a royal residence continually during the Wars of the Roses plus many years after that period. Those were turbulent times to say the very least. As a result, this castle has been host to numerous Kings and Queens with Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Parr among them. Lady Elizabeth Ashcombe is the current head of a household (since 1979) which was once the property of King Ethelred (the Unready) indicating that the long line of heirs to this property occupied the estate before the Conquest and was mentioned in a 10th century charter as part of the Hawling estate. The original descendants were from a direct line of Charlemagne! A royal deer park was kept stocked in the nearby oak woods and the boundaries of it remain visible to the present day although anything that was built on the grounds from that period is now completely eradicated. Leland, in his itinerary account, said that he could still see the platte (outline) where the former manor stood! This manor would, of course, have been fortified.
Sudeley_Northview_LaraEEakinsBefore the middle ages and the Saxon occupation period between 500 and 798, Roman villas were built in the area of Winchcombe. It was settled by the Hwicci tribe making it the principal city of Mercia during the reign of King Offa. A Benedictine abbey was built by 811 in the town and was established for nearly seventy years before the Viking invasion when it was heavily damaged. Before the Norman invasion a political struggle ensued over the abbey between secular priests and Benedictine monks for a period of six years with the original priests gaining power in the end. This was settled after the death of King Edward (the Confessor).
Sudeley_TitheruinsFrom Ethelred the estate of Sudeley was passed to Goda, his daughter, as a wedding present and, eventually, to her son Ralph de Mederatinus, the Earl of Hereford. The first Sudeley heir was Ralph’s son, Harold, who headed a long line of progeny even though he was denied his earldom after the Norman invasion. As a sibling to Edward the Confessor, Goda held onto Sudeley during the invasion because she was distantly related to William the Conqueror and her descendants managed to continue proprietorship up until 1368 at which time it passed on to William Boteler. They were related to the Sudeleys by marriage when John, the 9th Lord de Sudeley’s sister married into the Boteler family. William’s son Thomas was made Baron Sudeley in 1441 as he was a respected admiral serving the Crown under Henry V and Henry VI during the wars against France. He acquired quite a bit of wealth while in service and rebuilt Sudeley as a country house rather than a fortification. His work can still be seen in the Tithe Barn, St. Mary’s Church, and remaining portions of the Banqueting Hall and Portmare Tower which was named after a captured French Admiral- the ransom money paid for the tower’s construction !
Sudeley_BanquetingHall_ruinsWhen Edward IV took the throne in 1461 the Yorkist monarch forced Boteler to give up Sudeley outright to him and 8 years later Edward granted the castle to Richard, Duke of Gloucester (crowned Richard III by 1483) who, less than a decade later (in 1479), traded Sudeley back in exchange for Richmond Castle in Yorkshire. Middleham Castle was Richard’s boyhood home and official seat in Yorkshire but when he was named Lord of the North, he used Sudeley as his base of operations when he led the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1469. Richard gained Sudeley once again when he ascended the throne of England and he rebuilt the Banqueting Hall (which still shows portions of the Gothic oriel windows) in place of Boteler’s old Eastern range of the inner court and became what was once considered the royal suites. After he was defeated and killed by Henry VII on Bosworth Field (1485), the castle was granted to Jasper Tudor, the Duke of Bedford. Henry VIII visited the castle with Anne Boleyn late in July of 1535 but he neglected Sudeley during his reign. By 1548 the very young Edward VI had granted the castle to his uncle, Thomas Seymour and he in turn married the boy’s step-mother Katherine Parr_QueenKatherine Parr- the last sovereign queen to Henry VIII. (Henry had died in 1547.) As a former queen she took pre-eminent status with Lady Jane Grey as one of her attendants but her fate was short here. Tragically, she died after giving birth to a daughter, Mary, only a year after residence and she is entombed on Sudeley’s estate in St. Mary’s Church, a 15th century edifice which faces the castle and is surrounded by elaborate gardens. Katherine Parr is the only Queen of England buried at a private residence- all others being entombed at Westminster Abbey. Lord Seymour had built a lavish new suite especially for Katherine’s private use but only one room of it remains today which can also be viewed on the tour and contains many relics of her belongings and effects. A lock of her hair, found when her tomb was re-opened a second time in July 1807, ( previously opened in May of 1784 and October 14th, 1786) was lent to Miss Agnes Strickland for the use of her work, by Mrs Constable Maxwell, of Everingham Park who stated that ,” It was of the most exquisite quality and colour, exactly resembling threads of burnished gold in its hue. It was very fine, and with an inclination to curl naturally.” The fate of Katherine’s daughter Mary is unknown to this day.

KathrynParr_tomb_plaqueHer survivor, Sir Thomas Seymour, who was also the brother of Jane Seymour (Henry VIII’s third wife), faced the fate of being mock-tried and executed on 33 counts of treason on March 20, 1549 by his own brother, Edward, the Duke of Somerset, who was the Lord Protector of Edward VI but his treatment of Katherine Parr alone would have been reason enough for the execution, according to an account by a lady-in-waiting by the name of Elizabeth Tyrwhitt. Katherine was not left in peace even in death because her remains were disturbed during the Civil War, when the castle was heavily damaged under orders by Col. Edward Massey and Sir William Waller- the chapel was also desecrated as was the original plaque above her tomb. Sudeley was Prince Rupert’s headquarters and later Charles I during this period and quite a struggle ensued over the years between the Crown and Parliament. From 1644 to 1649 the castle was garrisoned by Parliamentary Troops until the Council of State gave orders that it be slighted or rendered untenable as a military post. The damage was devastating and evidence of it still remains in the ruins.

                                                                                     Lady Jane Grey’s Execution
ExecutionofLadyJaneGrey_Paul_DeLaroche_1833After the Civil War the castle was abandoned for a span of nearly two hundred years during which time the ruins you will see today were plundered for stone and pillaging took place. Katherine’s brother William, the Marquess of Northampton, took possession, at some point but the property was confiscated by the Crown and he was stripped of his title when it was found that he was involved with John Dudley’s plot to make Lady Jane Grey the Queen of England. The estate and castle were granted to Sir John Brydges in 1554 by Queen Mary making him Lord Chandos of Sudeley but apparently he did not choose to use any part of it as his seat although the estate remained in his family for a century. Queen Elizabeth I was entertained several times at Sudeley including a spectacular week-long anniversary celebration in 1592 following defeat of the Spanish Armada some years before and I suspect it was a great spot to celebrate her victory over one particular inappropriate and ill-fated suitor who traipsed through Sudeley during her tender years! The third Lord Chandos, Giles, entertained the Virgin Queen in one of these ‘Progresses’ (as she called them) and presented her with a special piece of jewelry with a gold chain depicting a falcon or pheasant and inlaid with crystal for the body, head, tail and legs, breast of gold and sprinkled with tiny rubies and emeralds.
Greyfriars-SudeleyKatherine’s tomb was rediscovered in 1782 and was opened only to find that she was nearly intact and the body was undefiled- which means that it had not deteriorated ! Weirdly enough, six years later King George III paid a visit to inspect the ruins and fell down a flight of stairs in the Octagon Tower of the Banqueting Hall where a member of the housekeeping staff, one Mrs. Cox, saved him by breaking his fall ! Inexplicably, over the following decades, Katherine’s coffin was opened several more times which caused the body to deteriorate badly and this was finally put to an end when her tomb was restored and she was re-interred in the year 1861. Her shrine can be visited now and is quite fascinating. Accompanying the fact that she died on the date of my birth-but 410 years prior- has not escaped my attention! On September 10, 2012 a funeral re-enactment was carried out as the first such event to take place at the castle on the anniversary year of Katherine’s birth- 500 years passed ! The most recent public event at Sudeley took place in April this year (and again very recently), displaying a reconstruction of Richard III’s head after his remains were found in a parking lot in Leicestershire last year. A book is now out titled The Search for Richard III: The King’s Grave which was recently reviewed by History Today.
sudeley_mapSudeley_Castle_StMarysChurchMuch of what you will see on a tour is the result of an extensive program of reconstruction beginning in the 19th century with Harvey Eginton of Worcester and, later in 1858, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architects hired by Worcestershire glove makers, the Dent Brothers, when they acquired the estate in 1837. Many of the furnishings and embellishments were purchased by them from the Strawberry Hill auction when Horace Walpole’s possessions were liquidated. Scott rebuilt the north outer courtyard and restored and stabilized ancient ruins along the inner south court. He completely restored St Mary’s Church, which is seated on the grounds close to the north end facing the castle, saving it from the brink of total disaster. Scott was also responsible for creating a Stable block and restoring the almshouses and school which adjoin Sudeley and were originally built by Lady Dorothy, wife of Baron Edmund Brydges. They still stand and can be viewed by the public.
Sudel_Tudor_DocumentThe interior tours reveal beautiful furnishings and an extensive art gallery throughout and includes surprises such as the Elizabethan Sheldon Tapestry which depicts Adam and Eve expelled out of the garden of Eden, in the library- all giving a long standing good impression on visitors and guests. Emma Dent-Brocklehurst is a good deal responsible for most of the character of Sudeley’s interiors and exuberant restorations and is one of the reasons that medieval and Victorian mesh so well here. She published a book on the history of Winchcombe and Sudeley in 1877 and with the help of J. Drayton Wyatt who was G.G. Scott’s assistant, added to the North and West lodges on the property along with a Golden Jubilee addition (for Queen Victoria) to the western range, North Tower and a new main entrance from Winchcombe along with a piped in water supply for the town- all before the turn of the 20th century.

Sudeley_SW_view_meettourAt regular intervals, Sudeley has gone through several restorations, mostly during the latter part of the 16th century and during Emma Dent’s period of possession in the 19th century- resulting in a splendid overall view to the remaining estate which leaves an impression of true architectural wonder and is well preserved to the present day. Among the stand out rooms you’ll find a Gothic Miniature room (a bit overdone but the view of the Knot Garden from the windows is breathtaking) and the function and events rooms such as Chandos Hall, North Hall, Banquet Hall and Pavilion are memorable. A Tudor Document Room, at the commencement of the tour is decorated in rich colors of purple and gold and contains Katherine Parr’s handwritten books along with a love letter written to Seymour accepting his proposal of marriage. The Sewing Room provides a look at antique textiles and the nicest surprise of all- a wonderful view of the landscaped ruins ! The library is also well known for its comfort, architectural SudeleyLibraryfunctionality and beauty. There is also a permanent exhibition, with fascinating artifacts from the Roman period up to the present day and spanning the entire history of the estate and castle including a good portion of English monarchs- long and short term. Civil War memorabilia is also a part of the exhibition especially in the Chandos bedroom where you can view the bed where Charles I laid his head and the Major’s dressing and bathrooms. The Morning Room is also lovely and the Lace bedroom showcases a canopy which Anne Boleyn hand made for her daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I !
Sudeley_Chandos-BedroomAlongside paintings throughout of Dutch and English Old masters encompassing Turners and Van Dycks, many royal portraits can be seen validating the castle’s history. Among them are a portrait of King Henry VIII and his children, by Sir Antonio More; The marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, by Mabeuse; Charles I by Van Dyke; a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, by Zucchero; also the two most valuable carvings of King Henry VIII, in bone, stone, and boxwood, by Holbein; a pictura dura table weighing nearly a ton, formed from the rarest and most valuable marbles, elaborately worked in intricate devices, and enriched with turquoise, lapis lazuli, and other precious stones, the stem gracefully carved and gilt, displaying the ducal arms of Tuscany! It formerly adorned the Medici Palace at Firenze of Lorenzo de Medici.
Sudeley-castle_StMarys_tomb_KathParrSudeley interiors are absolutely overwhelming and when you are finished with the tour you will see the castle as an art treasure trove with internationally recognized collections. Mary Dent-Brocklehurst was the supplier of the Walter Morrison paintings. During WWII Sudeley became a safe house for the Tate Gallery’s entire collection while the London Blitz raged on and even housed POWs on the grounds for a decade during the mid-20th century. This year the extended and revamped route of the tour included a special collection of artifacts titled ’20 Treasures of Sudeley’ featuring works of art with great historical importance.

This year a Channel 4 TV documentary on Richard III was aired and Sudeley was one of seven venues chosen to take part in ‘The King in the Car Park’ shows which took place on April 2nd and 15th giving guests a chance to actually see, by recreation, the actual face of a key historical figure in England’s history and hear talks from several authors and historians on the impact of the discovery. If you’ll recall, I put up an entry about the find of his remains on April 23, 2013. The exhibit was returned to Leicester afterward to go on display in the new King Richard III visitor center but a permanent exhibition will also remain at Sudeley Castle for all future guests !

Sudeley_StMarysIf you should find yourself unable to leave the castle premises, once you’ve fallen under its spell, I have good news! There are fourteen holiday cottages available which can accommodate up to five people right on Sudeley property. You must book ahead, of course and make plans accordingly. There is so much to do here that you could make this a regular holiday. No squatters allowed, though. The map below will give you a little bit of the lay of the land which includes a licensed restaurant, gift shop, plant center, visitor center and vintage shopping. An adventure play fort is close to the adjacent parking with regular falcon and owl talks and live exhibitions for the kids. It’s all here !

Screen-Shot-2014-01-28-at-10_38_271. Visitor and Plant Center
2. Tithe Barn and carp pond.
3. Castle entrance
4. Talks and tours meeting point
5. Café
6. Mulberry Garden and Lawn
7. Queens’ Garden
8. White Garden
9. Knot Garden
10. Castle ruins
11. East Garden (new)
12. St Mary’s Church
13. Secret Garden (1979)
14. Pheasantry (rare bird exhibitions)
15. Tudor Physic Garden (Tudor herb garden)
16. Herb Garden Walk
17. Adventure Fort Play Ground an interesting take on the castle by Willow see the gardens before you go ! June 10, 2010

T- 01242 602959
enquiries addressed to Kevin Jones

Take a gamble on my kisses !
The Castle Lady

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The Haunted Palace

Poe( poetic excerpt from Edgar Allan Poe’s story The Fall of the House of Usher)

In the greenest of our valleys,
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace-
Radiant palace-reared its head.

In the monarch Thought’s dominion-
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair.

berkeleyBanners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow
This-all this- was in the olden
Time long ago!;
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
A winged odor went away.

Wanderers in the happy valley
Through two luminous windows saw
Spirits playing musically
To a lute’s well-tuned law;
Round about a throne, where sitting
(Porphyrogene !)
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing
And sparkling evermore.
A troop of Echoes whose sweet duty
Was but to sing.
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

Poe_HalloweenBut evil thing, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch’s high estate;
(Ah, let us mourn, for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him, desolate !)
And round about his home, the glory
That blushed and bloomed
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travelers now within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a rapid ghastly river,
Through the pale door;
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh- but smile no more.

submitted for All Hollow’s Eve 2014

OwlThe Castle Lady

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Ah, Travel…


If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.
– Lewis Carroll

No road is long with good company.- a Turkish proverb








the beautiful way to abandon your life
for awhile…


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Autumn is Harvest Time

Put together enough of the right elements and you can improve everything by taking it in the context of this special time of year we call fall or autumn. To me, there is something more special about this season than any other. The scents are heady outdoors and inside in the warmth there is brewing, baking and dessert making that will fill your head with the rich scent of all the harvests- what we reap from summer. The colors of our lives become earthy and vibrant and the environment feels more healthy and alive. The tapestry of autumn is rich and magnificent. Enjoy !
- The Castle Lady


In Harvest-time, harvest folk
servants and all,
Should make all together
good cheer in the hall,
And fill the black bowl
Of blyth to their song,
And let them be merry,
all harvest-time long.

Thomas Tusser
an Elizabethan farmer-poet

want to know more ?

CastleLady_tn_spring_2013The Castle Lady

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Keep Calm…

U.S.A.This is an anniversary date for me. For many Americans this is Patriot Day- the day we keep in remembrance of one of the greatest catastrophes of the 21st century and a horrible beginning to it. I happened to be on THE castle tour of Europe when it happened. There were only a few more days left of the tour which started in Paris and that day we had just finished a tour of three schlosses in Bavaria. Those were Neuschwanstein, Linderhof and Herrenschiemsee Castles which were all started (and only one finished) by Mad King Ludwig. That day a black cat crossed my path at Linderhof, showed up in the reception hall and was promptly tossed out on its ear. If it was an omen then it was also vengeful.
By then, 9/11 had happened nearly a day ago but we were not to hear about it until weT.T. cloud got to our hotels that night and turned on our T.V.s. I couldn’t get English on mine and several other tour mates said they couldn’t get English either. We all saw the towers in flames and then collapse. I was horrified and everyone else looked like they were in shock at dinner that night. We all decided to finish the tour, bravely and many Germans including two friends of mine who live in Nuremburg were very empathetic and compassionate about it when I communicated and/or encountered them. I stayed on for another week in Germany because, of course, my flights home were cancelled and rescheduled for a week later. I speak German so there was no difficulty in navigating and getting along by myself in Munich where our tour ended. I investigated some more castles- Nymphenburg just outside Munich on my own and Nuremberg’s Kaiserburg citadel, with its massive towers, and Albrecht Durer’s house with my long time friends. They showed me around and made me feel quite at home but most of that week I wandered around like a love-struck expatriate in Munich wondering what was next. I had spent nearly two weeks in a grand fantasy world that I’d always dreamed of and then came down to a crushing reality that no one wants to encounter.
Plane_NewI remember feeling as if home was light years away and several times the thought crossed my mind that I may never make it home. I started looking around and wondering if the whole world would change because mine already had. I was unsettled for sure but by the time I was on a plane and headed for home (on the same flight path as one of the planes which had been flown into the towers) I felt a new feeling that I had never experienced before. I was resolved that no matter what happened I would bravely forge ahead. That is what it means to be an American. Our bravery cannot be denied.
For Americans, security will never be certain again. I remember people talking about how no one would ever have the guts to attack us on our own shores. That is now a myth we all wanted to believe and is gone and blown away. No American will ever be the same since 9/11, who remembers it, and we will now look behind us in apprehension on that premise.
There is one reassurance, however, that I hope everyone will take to heart. It is simply that this country was established on the basis of trusting in God and our forefathers urged us in word and deed, written and spoken, to preserve that basis at all costs. They set up a fine government but without God on our side it would still be for naught. It doesn’t say In God We Trust on our coins for no reason. The bravest of us have In God We Trust stamped on our hearts.

see: How Did You Die? on my February 25, 2008 entry

“The task ahead of us is never as great as the power behind us.” R.W. Emerson

Castle_o_ice_cakeSeptember 5, 2014

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Even Summer Days are Too Short

coastI still find
each day too short
for all the thoughts
I want to think
all the walks
I want to take,
all the books
I want to read
and all the friends
I want to see.

-John Burroughs

Here’s to long summer smiles…

The Castle Lady

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My Summer Reading 2014

This summer became a bit of a blur because I wasn’t as engaged with my reading as in past summers. There were too many tasks that needed to be done and everything fell to myself because it’s only me now. If I don’t do it, then it doesn’t happen or it doesn’t get done. Period. At some point I was supposed to become a millionaire. What happened to that ? Well, I hope I get to that point and sooner rather than later. Anyway, the following is a poem that my mother kept by her station for many years and is actually the truth. Before I could read a word, I remember my Mom reading my books to me and I could read at a third grade level before I started kindergarten ! True story. As you read on you’ll get my account of the reading I managed to do this summer and hopefully will be interesting for you. - The Castle Lady

499073Mother Read To Me
When I was just a little girl
My mother read to me
First Mother Goose, then fairy tales
The classics, poetry.

She sat beside my bed each night
Reading stories old and new.
She instilled in me a love for books
Because she loved them, too.

A mother, now, I love to read
Here in my rocking chair.
A little one held in my lap
What special time we share.

I wouldn’t trade my childhood,
For wealth or royalty.
Because when I was growing up
My mother read to me.

Dawn E. McCormick, TX

Cacklefur_G_StiltonOccasionally I check out children’s literature just to see what’s hip in the 8 and under realm and I found a cute book titled The Secret of Cacklefur Castle written by Geronimo Stilton who writes prolifically on many subjects in story form. The plot is tight but uncomplicated and extremely interesting for children and the illustrations are absolutely wonderful and includes a cartoon plan of the castle which will delight children and adults. Its humor is definitely in the accelerated range for children so keep a dictionary handy if you read to your child and I highly recommend that you do that for those children who are only starting to learn how to read. Don’t worry about keeping a child engaged if the words seem big. All children will rise to the challenge if the illustrations keep the story exciting and this is definitely the case. Don’t be surprised if your child becomes a Geronimo Stilton fan.

I chanced upon finding a copy of Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune which was written by a relative and another author who was keen on researching and writing about Huguette and her father who seemed to be opposite sides of a vast amount of money. W.A. Clark, a 19th century copper multi-millionaire, is unknown to most people today but he was right up there with the Astors and Carnegie with one of the most beautiful mansions on Fifth Avenue. As a person who lived the privileged life of sole beneficiary to a vast fortune, Huguette became a very generous person to those she felt she knew but her wealth seemed to stymy her talents and she became trapped in an acquisitive lifestyle that is the fate of the super rich. Before the book came out I had seen a write up in the paper when she passed away at the age of 104 on May 24, 2011- only two weeks prior to what would have been her 105th birthday.
She had occupied a hospital bed for twenty years at the time of her passing even though she was not ill and was infamous as a recluse who patronized the arts. This book strips away what was known and opens up a third person narrative that showcases what an incredible life she had led and also gives us a good idea of how her father amassed his fortune from simple prospecting to acquiring businesses and land. Huguette was fascinating in her true persona rather than the one which was supposed by photojournalists and paparazzi. Those people who managed to get close reveal a warm-hearted, compassionate and generous soul who was as devoted to her doll collection as she was to her small and close circle of friends and those she patronized. To those who are fascinated by great wealth, this book will delight you no end!

Obtaining a copy of I am Malala this year proved to be a bit of a struggle but I did manage to finally borrow a copy from the library. It was not an easy read in that the subject matter of what happened to Ms. Yousafzai when she dared defy the extremist Islamic faction in her town came to blows. She had received attention in Pakistan by encouraging other girls and women to get an education and had been very vocal about her opinions and views. Only days after my mother passed away back in October 2012, I remember hearing and reading the news reports that she had been singled out, on a bus she was riding with her best friend to school, by the Taliban and was shot in the face at point blank range. From that point, she was whisked out of the country in critical condition and she tells all of her tale with such aplomb that I was extremely impressed with her courage. All women in the free world should read this book to understand what other women face in third world countries when they dare to defy the stereotypes and forge their own path. It made me understand what I’ve been taking for granted.
Novels_Stories_Jackson_120x174_LOAI also managed to find time to get a hold of a copy of the LOA anthology of Shirley Jackson’s best known novels and stories. I have been a Shirley Jackson fan from way back and adore almost everything she ever wrote. Her most famous novels are included in it such as We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House both of which I read as a teenager. I was most interested in reading some of the stories which were published in this book for the first time and was pleasantly surprised at the volume of stories I had never read before. For all of you who have not so much as been introduced to her, do please check out this book at the library or go to LOA’s web site and obtain this book. Ms Jackson was one of the preeminent literary novelists of any time period in the English language and Queen of the Unordinary because she could illuminate mundane lives and use a bizarre but completely plausible twist to set you on your head.
I could go on and on but I think I’ve given you a brief idea of where my head’s been at this summer. This has been light reading for this year and I hope to have some big reports for you soon on my favorite subject. Castles.


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Gloucestershire’s Grand Castle Hotels

Thornbury_south range_garden

There are two castle hotels within Gloucestershire’s boundaries which serve their respective areas very well. One, Thornbury Castle in South Gloucestershire, is a genuine late medieval castle which once accommodated Henry VIII and there is Clearwell Castle, in the Forest of Dean, which is a late medieval renaissance castle with some very convincing gothic features and equally as comfortable for guests as Thornbury. Both are price-y but wonderful for a castling tour envisioned by each and every castle lover. -The Castle Lady

Thornbury_Castle_Raving_LoonyAs the ‘last true castle built’ and the ‘only Tudor castle to operate as a hotel and restaurant’ in England, Thornbury Castle Hotel is in an elite class owing to its genuineness and excellent current condition. You will be intrigued by its appearance from any photo you will view and the architecture is eclectic and lovely. Seated on the west side of town in its own park and of the castle’s three reception areas, fronted by grand bay windows on the south side, you are given a chance to literally drink in the refreshingly brilliant atmosphere upon arrival. For starters, you are greeted to your room with a full decanter of sherry and strolling the medieval grounds in the 21st century is no less exhilarating than it was when Henry VIII toured Thornbury’s gardens and grounds. Originally built in 1511 by Edward Stafford, the third Duke of Buckingham, it was not to be entire for a number of centuries for several reasons as you are about to find out.
Thornbury_receptionAnthony Salvin, the 19th century restorer of Warwick and Caernarfon Castles (among many others), finished some of the work begun by the second and third Dukes of Buckingham, for Henry Howard in 1824. Salvin expanded and restored the chimneys in a style very similar to those of Hampton Court Palace (the haunted, gigantic one in Surrey) and added a wing in 1850. The tower and gatehouse appear in their original early 16th century form and adjoins the privy garden which encompasses a 500 years old vineyard- exclusive to the Muller Thurgau grape- and makes an excellent white wine diners can enjoy at meals ! Inside this flagstone paved courtyard, the east side is bereft of a Great Hall (where it would have been seated) and the remainder has rooms to one side which are partly ruinous and roofless and were, in part, Salvin’s unique restorations. The library extends into the five-lobed two-story bay window with a view over the restored privy garden and a good part of the furniture, portraits and tapestries are reproductions.
Thornbury_Howard_bedroomAccording to the Domesday Book, a manor house known as ‘Turneberie’ had 103 residents and was owned by Matilda of Flanders (William the Conqueror’s wife) and there is earlier documented evidence of the town itself from the 9th century as a settlement called Thornbyrig. A town charter was created in 1252 and even earlier buildings, such as St Mary’s Church, still show evidence of having been built in the 12th century. Extensions to the church were most likely built during or after the time of the charter. Thornbury was listed as a small market town so the castle and town probably co-existed long before the Norman invasion. As a matter of fact, a hoard of 11,460 Roman coins dating from 260 AD were found here in 2004 !
Thornbury’s coat of arms bears features for four families relevant to the town’s history. Those were Attwells’, Howards, Clares and Staffords. John Attwells left £500 in his will for the establishment of a Free School which merged with what is now known as Marlwood School in 1879 and his coat of arms was later acquired as their badge. Three families held the manor at Thornbury over several centuries. It bears the motto Decus Sabrinae Vallis which means Jewel of the Severn Vale.
Today, the estate is comprised of fifteen acres which includes the vineyard, high walls and the oldest (unchanged) Tudor garden in England. The castle’s appearance does not belie the sad history of the inhabitants, however. Henry Stafford, the 2nd Duke was betrayed by a servant in the 15th century and was executed for the charge of treason against Richard III. (This phenomenon was contagious, by the way. Richard may have been a bit paranoid about Stafford’s lineage!) Edward Stafford, Henry’s son (the 3rd Duke) also endeavored to restore Thornbury, becoming a favorite of Henry VII and came to be Constable of England but he was also betrayed by a ‘retainer’ and was executed meanly in 1521 with dubious evidence of treason against Henry VIII. (Once again, Henry’s political clout and lineage was a greater motivation.) Hence, the King seized the house, of course, and managed his brief, albeit thorough, visit of Thornbury accompanied by his then wife, Anne Boleyn. At the time, it probably was not quite comfortable enough for her majesty as it had not been completed but its basic quadrangular courtyard configuration was in place. The Duke’s Bedchamber where they slept is available to guests.
thornbury-castle_interiorThornbury Castle is like no other in that the interior is posh with rich furnishings, paneled walls, beautiful and large open fireplaces throughout and has twenty-six bedrooms modeling period furnishings and accessories. The Tudor Hall has some original features along with suits of armor (an array which are practically everywhere you look in the castle), tapestries and underfoot heating which wafts through the oak floor boards. It is often used for private dining but two adjoining rooms to the hall, the Great Oven and the Boyling House, are utilized as additional accommodation for weddings and functions making capacity up to a hundred guests. The cuisine offered has included such fare as Sunday Roasts, Marinated Field Mushrooms glazed with Goat Cheese, Carpaccio of Blue Fin Tuna and Glazed Barbary Duck Breast with Carrot Mousse or Butterscotch Pudding and traditional English cheeseboards- AA Rosette quality food.
Thornbury_Castle_dining_GloucestershireThere are two more dining rooms which cater to smaller groups- the Baron’s Sitting Room which seats 22 and the Tower Dining Room for 30 people, maximum. The Chancellor Lounge is an addition to the Baron’s Sitting Room where you can sit apart to enjoy a drink or aperitif before sitting down to your meal. The Baron’s Sitting room looks out over the vineyard, castle walls and courtyard so it’s especially thrilling to dine there but the Tower Dining Room, with its polygonal tower walls, sports arrow-slits and a wonderful open fireplace. Medieval atmosphere spills over at Thornbury.
If you need complete privacy in your accommodations, a charming Victorian gatehouse on the castle grounds has two bedrooms and separate, secluded gardens but with full access to the castle and all its facilities- great for a bride and groom before and after the ceremony ! However, all the rooms are en suite so everything you will need is available whether you stay in the Gloucester Bedchamber which looks out over the two Tudor gardens or other rooms with a spectacular view of the historic parkland. All are well appointed with televisions, four poster or coronet beds, tapestries, ornate carved ceilings, luxuriously warm fireplaces with comfortable furnishings and opulent bathrooms with full amenities.
thornbury-castleCroquet lawns, archery and falconry, fishing, quad biking and other activities are available nearby and the castle is ideally situated for exploring the west country. Picturesque High Street in the town brings visitors from around the area and the museum provides quite a bit of information on Thornbury and its history. The town is a Britain in Bloom award-winner and now has its own competition, Thornbury in Bloom. There is a walking heritage trail, starting at the Town Hall, with 40 waymarkers indicating places of interest. Thornbury is the ideal base from which to explore the actual Cotswolds and the charming villages and towns there, such as Northleach, Stroud and Nailsworth. To the east, you’ll find Westonbirt Arboretum (near Tetbury) planted in the heyday of Victorian plant hunting and home to one of the finest tree collections in the world. With some 18,000 trees and shrubs, carefully laid out over 600 acres of beautiful Grade One listed historic landscape, you’ll find plenty to explore! Castles to be visited and are very near include Berkeley, Beverston, Blaise and Bristol (in North Somerset). Gloucester and Cheltenham aren’t far either.

T: 01454 281182 info +44 (0) 844 482 2152 

(from £175 to £615, prices are for two persons sharing a room)

Access to the castle is left of St. Mary’s Church at the very end of Castle Street in Thornbury, off the A38, five miles from Junction 16 on the M 5


Clearwell-Castle-EdClaytonphotogrWhen you head north and west you will want to check out all the castles and ringworks thrust up in what was once the Royal Forest of Dean. Clearwell is a very close neighbor to St Briavel’s even though they are world’s apart in nature.

Clearwell_Court_Castle_HotelClearwell Castle sits right on the border of West Gloucestershire where today’s Forest of Dean makes contact with south Wales. It is a great home base for a castle lover in this area and is a sheer delight as a castle hotel in every sense of the word. It has its own history and is blessed with being in proximity to a few of the most enigmatic castles on British soil. Contrary to popular local belief, Clearwell Castle is not a folly castle. Its history began as Clearwell Court back in the 15th century, built by Robert Greyndour. Its interior comprised of a hall, chapel and twelve rooms at that point. It was not built as anything more than a family residence and when Robert’s widow passed away in 1484 the house came into possession of the wife of the first Thomas Baynham. A descendant, also named Thomas Baynham, rebuilt a good part of the house when he took possession in 1580. The estate passed to the Throckmortons by marriage during the 17th century and through outright sell, Francis Wyndham of Uffords Manor in Norfolk, took possession of the estate in 1684. Clearwell_entrancehall

Clearwell_CastleFrom that time the residence remained in his family until 1893. Under the direction of Roger Morris, Clearwell received crenellation and Gothic features in 1727. Morris was an 18th century architect who also was responsible, in part, for Inveraray Castle in Scotland and Clearwell’s exterior appearance, as it stands today, is his work. Restoration was carried out over the centuries with a ha-ha (terraced gardens) being added late in the 18th century. Walking around the estate you’ll see statuary, a gatehouse, stable block, gateway with twin three-storied towers, gate lodge and piers from centuries ago. The castle shows no obvious signs, inside or out, of former devastation and it’s a great retreat for a weary traveler.

ClearwellCastle_May2008Until 1908 the house was known as Clearwell Court and after it was purchased byClearwell_interior Henry Collins became known as Clearwell Castle and sold a few years later to Col. Charles Vereker. This neo-Gothic tower house was restored in the mid-20th century after a devastating fire in 1929. During WWII a housebreaker stripped off the lead roof, wood floors and fixtures. By 1952 the castle was facing demolition but was saved by Frank Yeates, the son of a former gardener of the estate, who restored the castle to its former glory alongside his family and friends. He sold his own bakery business in Blackpool in order to save it and worked tirelessly, room by room until it was completely refurbished. Work stopped upon his death in 1973. The Yeates family did one last thing before the castle was sold in the 1980s to become a hotel and wedding venue- they put in a recording studio specifically for Ozzy Osborne’s band, Black Sabbath.
Through the 1970s it was used as a rehearsal and recording studio by many famous rock bands which included Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Badfinger, the Sweet, Mott the Hoople and Bad Company. Peter Frampton recorded his 1975 self-titled album at Clearwell.

Besides the castles and ringworks to which it neighbors, the Clearwell Caves are some of the very oldest underground workings in Britain and a visit will give you a first hand look at caverns created by forest miners through the centuries who made their living digging for iron ore and ochre. On a typical tour you descend 100 feet clearwell_cavesand meander through nine caverns filled with equipment and geological displays. For the more adventurous visitors, a range of extended trips with caving experiences explore the warren of deeper workings revealing the caves as the miners left them centuries ago. There is a gift shop, visitor center, a café, picnic areas and free parking as well. Nearby castles include St. Briavel’s, Lydney’s Little Camp Hill, Little Dean Camp at Cinderford, Newnham-on-Severn and Chepstow and Caldicot Castles in Wales.
T- 01594 832535

Clearwell is 1.5 miles south of Coleford. Take the B4228 road towards St Briavels and Chepstow. After one mile, turn right for Clearwell village (immediately past Lambsquay Hotel). The car and coach park is clearly visible after a few hundred yards.

TheCastleLady_April_2013The Castle Lady

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