The present approach to the castle is through a recently erected gateway, called the Porter's Lodge; passing in by it we find ourselves in a broad road cue in the solid rock; above our heads extend the branches of old trees, making the wide road almost a pleached avenue, while moss and ivy at the roots, growing in wild luxuriance, add a natural charm to the spot.
A sudden turn in the road and we are at the outer court, and the stupendous line of ramparts and lofty towers rise before us.
On the right is the polygon tower, dedicated to Earl Guy, having walls ten feet thick and a base of thirty feet in diameter. It is 128 feet high; on the left is Caesar's Tower, still quite perfect, though more than eight hundred years old.
An embattled wall connects it with Guy's Tower, in the centre of which is the great gateway flanked by towers. Then comes a second gateway, with towers and battlements rising above the first. In front is a now disused moat, crossed by an arch where formerly was the drawbridge. The gates were formerly defended by two portcullises; one of these still remains.
We are now in the inner court, which is rather an enclosed lawn of rich verdure; on the left is Caesar's Tower, on the right, Guy's. On one side is an artificial mound, covered with trees and shrubs and surmounted by an ancient tower.
Open flights of steps and broad walks on the ramparts are the means of communication throughout the castle.
The rooms inhabited by the family extend en suite 330 feet in length, and from the windows the most charming views are obtained.
The stately building at the north-west angle, called Guy's House, was erected in 1394. It is 128 feet high, and the wails are 10 feet thick.
Caesar's Tower, which is supposed to be the most ancient part of the castle, is 174 feet high. In a room attached to this tower are shown the sword, shield and helmet said to have belonged to the fabulous Guy of Warwick, but they are really of varying dates. The custody of the sword was anciently thought of much importance, for it was granted in 1542 to Edward Cresswell, with a salary of ad. a day out of the rents and profits of the castle. Guy's kettle of bellmetal, 26 feet wide, and capable of containing 120 gallons of water, is also preserved.
The grounds round Warwick Castle are very extensive and beautiful. In a greenhouse built for its reception is the celebrated marble vase found in the ruins of Hadrian's Villa, at Tivoli, and presented by Sir William Hamilton to the Earl of Warwick. Some magnificent cedars of Lebanon grow near the Hill Tower, of very great size and beauty.
This beautiful and majestic castle is of great antiquity. The first building was erected by the Lady Ethelfleda, the heroic daughter of Alfred, who probably intended her fort as a protection for the town, which she had recently repaired, after it had suffered terribly from recent ravages of the Danes. The donjon which she built on an artificial mound of earth can still be traced in the grounds.
The most ancient part of the present castle dates from Edward the Confessor's reign, he having erected it "as a special stronghold for the midland part of the kingdom."
It was considerably enlarged by William the Conqueror, who committed it to the custody of one of his faithful adherents, Henry de Newburgh, whom he created Earl of Warwick.
To the Newburghs succeeded the Beau. champs. Their heiress, Anne, married Richard Neville, who assumed the title of Earl of Warwick in his wife's right, and is known to all readers of English history and Shakspeare as the King-maker How he set up and pulled down (for a time) the House of York is well known, and how, at length, he fell at the Battle of Barnet. He had two daughters; he married the elder to
Clarence, the unhappy brother of Edward IV.; and the younger, Anne, to Edward, Prince of Wales, the son of Henry VI., who was murdered by Edward and his brothers after the battle of Tewkesbury. She became afterwards the wife of Richard III.
Whilst Clarence was still on good terms with his brother, Edward put him in possession (in his wife's right) of Warwick Castle, and the title of Earl. Clarence made great additions to the building. On the duke's estates being forfeited, the castle was bestowed on the Dudleys. Their line failing, James I. bestowed the title on Robert, Lord Rich, and the castle on Sir
Fulke Greville, Lord Brook, who restored the then sadly ruinous building.
In the civil war it was garrisoned for the Parliament, and in 1642 besieged by the royal forces.
Francis Lord Brook was created Earl of Warwick in 1759, and the title and castle still remain in the family.
The story of Guy, Earl of Warwick, is well known. According to the legend, he was a man of gigantic stature and strength, renowned for courage and prowess, and had slain a dun cow of extraordinary size and fierceness.
The learned Dr. Caius, of Cambridge, tells us:-
"I met with the head of a certain huge animal, of which the naked bone, with the bones supporting the horns, were of enormous weight, and as much as a man could well lift.... Of this kind I saw another head at Warwick Castle A.D. 1552, in the place where the arms of the great and strong Guy, Earl of Warwick, are kept.... In the chapel of the great Guy, Earl of Warwick, which is situate rather more than a mile from the town of Warwick, there is hung up a rib of the same animal, as I suppose, the girth of which in the smallest part is nine inches, the length six feet and a half Some of the common people fancy it to be a rib of a wild boar killed by Guy; some the rib of a cow that haunted a ditch near Coventry and injured many persons. This last opinion I judge to come nearer to the truth, since it may, perhaps, be the bone of a bonasus or urus. It is probable that many animals of this kind formerly lived in our England, being of old an island full of woods and forests; because even in our boyhood the horns of those animals were in common use at the table on more solemn feasts, in lieu of cups, as those of the urus were in Germany, according to Caesar. They were supported on three silver feet, and had, as in Germany, a border of silver round the rim."
Guy departed, according to tradition, to the Holy Land, on a pilgrimage, and on his return landed, still clad as a palmer, at Portsmouth. Here he was confronted with King Athelstane, who, though ignorant of his name and his renown, came (he told him) directed by a vision to ask him to become his champion in a combat on which the freedom of England depended.
The king informed Guy that he was at war with the Danes, and that the enemy had penetrated to the neighborhood of Winchester; but they had offered to stake their fortunes on a duel between an English and a Danish champion. Their champion was Colbran, a gigantic Saracen; the champion of England was yet to be declared.
If the latter won, the Danes and Norsemen were to leave the island; if Colbran were victor, England was to be given up to Anlaf, King of Denmark, and Govelaph, King of Norway. The stately palmer willingly undertook the fight, and defeated and killed the gigantic Saracen, his own name and fame remaining unknown. But he privately informed the king that he was Guy of Warwick, enjoined secrecy on the grateful monarch, and returned to the neighbourhood of his own castle, where his countess lived a life of devotion and charity. He did not reveal his return to her, but dwelt as a hermit in sight of his noble heritage till his death.
Guy's Cliff, the scene of this singular seclusion, is wonderfully picturesque, with its rock, wood, and water. It is supposed that there really was an oratory and cell for a hermit here in Anglo-Saxon times; it is certain that a hermit dwelt here in the reigns of Edward III. and Henry IV Henry V. visited an anchorite on the cliffs, and a chantry was founded here by Warwick, the kingmaker.
Richard Neville was of almost, or probably of quite, as gigantic stature as the famous Guy, for no one in England equalled him in majestic stature but Edward IV., whom he placed on the throne. When Edward's skeleton was discovered on opening his tomb at Windsor, its height was found to be seven feet! Warwick must have been of the same height - a giant in form as he was in intellect.
In 1871 a disastrous fire occurred at Warwick Castle, which, before it was sup pressed, consumed the whole eastern portion, including the great hall and its priceless treasures. The pictures and books, with some of the antiques in the private apartments, were, however, preserved, and the building was afterwards admirably restored.
The poet Crabb has given an explanation of Guy of Warwick's singular treatment of his wife in the following comic lines, written by him at Warwick:-
The chapel of Warwick Castle has been restored and opened for Divine worship. It was built in the reign of Henry VI., and is dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. Beneath the chapel are the rooms built for the residence of the priests now fitted up as bath-rooms. The giant statue of Earl Guy is still in the chapel, but is much mutilated; the right arm is gone, and the hand of the left arm that holds a shield. The statue is eight feet high.
Returning to the entrance of the court, a small wicket gate on the right leads into a fine avenue of venerable firs. Crossing this, a general descent conducts us to Guy's Well, which was enclosed by Richard Beauchamp when he founded the chantry. It is arched over, and the enclosure is entered by an iron gate. The water rises into two circular basins, and is exceedingly limpid and so clear that, though the well is very deep, the bottom can be seen through it.
Beyond the chapel, shrouded by trees and ivy, is Guy's Cave. It may be entered at its side through a pair of massive oak doors. The interior is very sombre and solemn. Leaving the cave, and walking by the river side, the rocks are seen to great advantage, and are grandly picturesque.
Ascending to the plantation, we pass the Bowling Green, and come to "Fair Fely's Walk," where, according to tradition, Felice used to wander lamenting the absence of her husband, and all unconscious that he was living close beside his home. The path then leads to the entrance gate through an avenue of yews.