Baynard’s Castle, one of "two most strong Castels" (Stow 1:60) in London, has a long and storied history. Located on the banks of the Thames, it was built sometime in the late eleventh century "by Baynard, a Norman who came over with William the Conqueror" (Weinreb and Hibbert 129). The castle passed to Baynard’s heirs until one William Baynard, "who by forfeyture for fellonie, lost his Baronie of little Dunmow" (Stow 1:61). From the time it was built, Baynard’s Castle was "the headquarters of London’s army until the reign of Edward I (1271-1307) when it was handed over to the Dominican Friars, the Blackfriars whose name is still commemorated along that part of the waterfront" (Hibbert 10).
Ownership of the castle changed several times over the first three centuries of its existence. By 1428, it had been restored and rebuilt several times, most recently following a fire, and by 1446, the castle had become royal property (Stow 1:66; Weinreb and Hibbert 129). Once the castle passed to the monarchy, it became the site of many important events. In 1461, Edward IV was proclaimed king at Baynard’s Castle, where he resided (Stow 1:66; Weinreb and Hibbert 129). Upon Edward’s death, his two sons were mere infants, incapable of ruling England. In 1483, "Richard [Duke] of Glocester, being elected by the Nobles and Commons in the Guildhall of London, tooke on him the tytle of the Realme and kingdome, as imposed upon him in this Baynards Castle" (Stow 1:66). According to tradition, Richard III was offered the crown at Baynard’s by the Duke of Buckingham (Weinreb and Hibbert 129).
After the defeat of Richard III, Henry VII again rebuilt the castle, but in a grand style more like a palace and less heavily fortified (Stow 1:66–67). His son Henry VIII reportedly used the castle to host lavish banquets, and to provide a home for some of his wives. Catharine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and Anne of Cleves all lived at Castle Baynard. Anne of Cleves was the last member of the royal family to use the castle as a permanent home (Weinreb and Hibbert 129).
In 1553, Lady Jane Grey and Mary Tudor were both proclaimed queen there (Weinreb and Hibbert 129). Stow gives the following account of the decision to install Mary as queen:
In the year 1553 the 19. of July the Counsell partlie moved with the right of the Lady Maries cause, partly considering that the most of the Realme was wholly bent on her side, changing their mind from Lady Jane lately proclaimed Queene, assembled themselves at this Baynardes Castle where they communed with the Earle of Pembrooke and the Earle of Shrewesbury and Sir John Mason Clearke of the Counsell, sent for the Lord Mayor, and then riding into Cheape to the Crosse, where Gartar King at Armes, Trumpet being sounded, proclaimed the Lady Mary Daughter to king Henry the eight and Queene Katharen Queene of England, &c.
During Elizabeth’s reign, Baynard’s Castle was owned by the Earl of Pembroke, who entertained the Queen at a dinner and fireworks display there (Stow 1:67, Weinreb and Hibbert 129).
When the new Lord Mayor took his oath of loyalty to the monarch on 29 October each year, he was rowed from Westminster to the city of London along the Thames. Upon disembarking, he would be presented with the first of the land pageants in the Lord Mayor’s pageants that were written especially for his installation. In 1613, Sir Hugh Middleton disembarked at Baynard’s Castle, where part of Thomas Middleton’s The Triumphs of Truth took place.
- Hibbert, Christopher. London: The Biography of a City. Rev. ed. London: Allen Lane, 1977. Print.
- Stow, John. A Survey of London. Reprinted from the Text of 1603. Ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. Print. [Also available as a reprint from Elibron Classics (2001). Articles written before 2011 cite from the print edition by volume and page number.]
- Weinreb, Ben, and Christopher Hibbert, eds. The London Encyclopaedia. New York: St. Martin’s, 1983. Print. [You may also wish to consult the 3rd edition of The London Encyclopedia (2008). Print.]
This project is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
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