Kimbolton Castle

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Kimbolton Castle in Kimbolton, Cambridgeshire, is best known as the final home of King Henry VIII's first queen, Catherine of Aragon. Originally a medieval castle but converted into a stately palace, it was the family seat of the Dukes of Manchester from 1615 until 1950. It now houses Kimbolton School.

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Norman castles

A wooden motte and bailey castle was built in Kimbolton, on a different site, in Norman times. Later, King John granted Geoffrey Fitz Peter, Earl of Essex permission to hold a fair and market in Kimbolton, as a consequence of which a market place was created, with the existing church at one end and a new castle at the other. No remains of this castle (most likely a fortified manor house) remain, although it was built on the site of the present castle.

Tudor castle

The castle went through various phases of ownership until, by the 1520s, it belonged to the Wingfield family. The medieval castle was rebuilt as a Tudor manor house, parts of which survive. Catherine of Aragon was sent here in April 1534 for refusing to give up her status or deny the validity of her marriage. The fenland climate damaged her health, and she died here in January 1536. Her body was carried in procession to the Peterborough Abbey (now Peterborough Cathedral). She is reputed to haunt the castle.

Earls and Dukes of Manchester

The castle was bought by Sir Henry Montagu, later 1st Earl of Manchester, in 1615. His descendants owned the castle for 335 years until it was sold in 1951.

Charles Edward Montagu, the 4th Earl who was created 1st Duke of Manchester in 1719, had many works of reconstruction carried out between 1690 and 1720. Sir John Vanbrugh and his assistant Nicholas Hawksmoor redesigned the facades of the castle in a classical style, but with battlements to evoke its history as a castle, the portico was later added by Alessandro Galilei. The Venetian painter Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini redecorated some of the reconstructed rooms in 1708, including the main staircase and the chapel. Rich, gilded furnishings in a Louis XIV-inspired style were commissioned from French upholsterers working in London.

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