A large circular castle with a peaceful mill pond around much of it. The intricate gatehouse on the front and the massive circular keep on the inside both underwent extensive restoration during the Victorian era. Many noteworthy and historic Norman structures may be seen in the walled town of Pembroke, which developed around the castle.
Pembroke Castle, in Pembroke, Wales, is one of the greatest castles in all of Britain, a monument to the power and riches of the medieval Earls of Pembroke and the significance of Pembroke during that time. It is also the spot where the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII, was born.
Pembroke Castle: A Past in the Making
Pembroke, in South Wales, was built on top of a massive cave that was inhabited by ancient peoples long before the Norman knights arrived. After the Norman Conquest, when Rhys ap Tewdwr, the Welsh monarch of the south-west, agreed to a ceasefire with William the Conqueror, our narrative truly starts.
When Rhys died in 1093, the Norman Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, attacked Tewdwr despite William’s promise to leave the area alone. Once Roger had taken possession of Pembroke, he promptly started construction on a castle there. After Roger’s death in 1094, his son Arnulf chose Gerald de Windsor as a steward of the Pembroke estate. Within a short period of time, Gerald found himself defending the crude Pembroke stronghold against the Welsh invasion.
In 1102, during Arnulf’s rebellion against the crown, Henry I conquered Pembroke Castle. Henry married Gerald de Windsor, who had become the king’s steward, to Nest, the widow of Rhys (and Henry’s own mistress). Henry founded a planned community (a borough) and mint in the area around the castle. The area became a focal point for the community known as “little England beyond Wales” when Henry extended an invitation to immigrants from England and Flanders to reside in his new borough.
The lands of Pembroke were given to Gilbert de Clare, whom King Stephen, Henry’s successor, created the first Earl of Pembroke. Gilbert’s son Richard ‘Strongbow’ de Clare angered Henry II, who then took Pembroke for himself. After some convincing, Henry agreed to make Isabel, Richard’s daughter, a royal ward after Richard’s death in 1176, when no male successor was found.
At the age of 17, Henry gave Isabel in marriage to William Marshall, whom he had just made Earl of Pembroke. Pembroke Castle is one of the finest castles in Britain because of the efforts of William Marshall and the not inconsiderable wealth that Isabel de Clare brought with her.
Unfortunately, Marshall’s five sons were all but useless, inheriting in turn and dying childless. Even though Llewelyn the Great raided the Pembroke lands in 1220, the citizens of Pembroke paid a hefty charge of 100 pounds to keep him away from their castle and town. By the time Marshall’s last son passed away in 1245, the castle had already attained its current form. William of Valence renovated the outer ward and created additional residential sections in the late 13th century. Aymer, his son, constructed the wall that encircled the town.
Pembroke Castle had its heyday in the 13th century and then steadily declined after that. When Owain Glyndwr’s uprising broke out in 1405, a French force besieged the fortress. Jasper Tudor, Henry VI’s half-brother, became Earl of Pembroke in 1457. As his brother Edmund Tudor’s widow, Tudor invited Margaret Beaufort to Pembroke Castle. At the time of Edmund’s death, Margaret, who was only 13, was carrying the child who would become Henry VII; the birth took place at Pembroke Castle.
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During the Tudor era, the Pembroke lordship was abolished, and the castle thereafter lost much of its significance. John Poyer, mayor of Pembroke town, garrisoned the castle for Parliament and repaired its defenses in 1642. Poyer became an advocate for the underpaid and angry Parliamentary troops after the war. After two months of resistance to Oliver Cromwell’s siege, Poyer and his allies gave up and surrendered the town and fortress. Poyer was executed, the southern towers were partially demolished, and the city walls were partially torn down. Thus, Pembroke Castle became nothing more than a lovely ruin, drawing painters to its magnificent walls and surviving turrets.
The restoration of Pembroke Castle to its present condition is largely attributable to Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps. Just before World War II, Philipps financed a 10-year repair and archaeological exploration campaign that helped restore the castle to its medieval splendor.
As one of Wales’ most popular tourist attractions, Pembroke Castle is an important part of the country’s history. One of the best-preserved and most historically intriguing medieval castles in a nation that appears to specialize in such things is a big draw for tourists, and with good cause. It’s highly recommended that you go on an expedition.
And if you visit in the summer, be sure to take a walk along the path that encircles the majority of the mill pond at the castle. The castle looks stunning in the golden light of dusk. Several parking garages that require payment are located close by. The entrance to the castle is located on Westgate Hill, with the quickest access being on Common Road.
Set in a picture-perfect location on the edge of the estuary, this massive stronghold has been preserved almost whole. Its maze of corridors, stairwells, and tunnels tells the story of the fortress’s medieval existence and exploring it is a lot of fun. This historical masterpiece is the birthplace of Henry Tudor, father of the notorious Henry VIII and grandfather of Elizabeth I, and the seat of a series of important lords who played significant roles in creating British history.
Have a picnic on the well-maintained grounds or take in the estuary views from St. Anne’s Bastion while enjoying a bite from the snack bar. Make a fun and easy keepsake at the Brass Rubbing Centre. Take a stroll around the millpond and ancient town walls to complete your tour, and then see the castle’s splendor from across the river.