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8-08-2015, 16:18

Leeds Castle

Contemporary with Bodiam is Leeds Castle (see Figure 24). Built at the end of the thirteenth century on two islands on an artificial lake set in an extensive meadow and woodland, Leeds Castle, like Bodiam, seems to rise from the water. The building of a gloriette on the smaller of the islands recalls Moorish buildings in Spain, the home of Eleanor of Castile, queen of England when Leeds was being built. In Spain, water played a large part in palace and garden architecture. At Leeds the broad lake formed by a dam reflects the castle’s lime-washed walls. The dam also created a mill race that powered a grain mill, which was fortified as part of the barbican. The story of the contested ownership of Leeds Castle gives an idea of how much it was appreciated. Bartholomew de Badlesmere, one of Edward II’s courtiers, in 1318 exchanged property worth three times as much for the pleasure and convenience of living at Leeds. But Edward II’s French wife, Queen Isabella, wanted the castle herself. In 1321 when Badlesmere was away, Isabella arrived at Leeds with her retinue and demanded entry. Margaret Lady Badlesmere refused to admit the queen. So began a confrontation between two strong-minded women. To allow the queen to enter would jeopardize the ownership of the castle, so Lady Badlesmere barred the gate. The queen, following French precedent, expected all castles to be open to her, and considered a closed gate an insult. A fight broke out between the castle guard and the royal party in which some of the queen’s men were killed. King Edward sent in troops, and Lady Badlesmere had to surrender her home. She was imprisoned in the Tower of London and only released in 1322 after her husband’s death. Left with neither home nor income, Margaret de Badlesmere and her young son Giles petitioned the queen and council to give Leeds back. Isabella, now the queen mother and regent, kept Leeds but gave Margaret another more valuable but less prestigious property.