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Framlingham Castle


HIS castle is said to have been founded by Redwald, one of the most powerful of the kings of the East Angles, between 599 and 624. It belonged from its first erection to the Crown, and it was to it that St. Edmund fled from the Danes in 870; but it was set on fire, and he was thus driven from it. He fled to Hoxne, about twelve miles from Framlingham, where he was discovered and martyred, as we have recorded in the last sketch. Framlingham Castle remained in the hands of the Danes until they were conquered by the Saxons.

William and Rufus kept the castle in their own possession, but Henry 1. gave it to Roger de Bigod, in whose family it continued till another Roger de Bigod appeared, a most turbulent and troublesome subject Edward I. made him resign this strong fortress again to the Crown. It is supposed that Framlingham was entirely rebuilt in the reign of Henry II., and the walls attest that it is of Norman, not Saxon architecture. Edward II. gave the castle to his half-brother, Thomas Plantagenent, of Brotherton, from whom it descended to Thomas de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. From the Mowbrays it descended to the Howards, Sir Robert Howard having married Margaret, daughter of Thomas Mowbray. His son, John Howard, was created Earl Marshal and Duke of Norfolk, June 28th,, 1483. He was the "Jockey of Norfolk" in Shakspeare's Richard III., and fell at the battle of Bosworth Field, 1485; his son being attainted, the castle became the property of Henry VII, who granted it to John de Vere, thirteenth Earl of Oxford, from whom it again returned to the Howards.

Thomas Howard, the third Duke of Norfolk, gave it to Henry VIII. "for the royal children." He saw that the Seymours would succeed in effecting his mill, and he was resolved to disappoint them of Framlingham, of which they were covetous.

Edward VI. gave it to his sister Mary, and here she sought refuge and found safety when her young brother's death exposed her to the machinations of her enemies - the Northumberland clique and the council.

She had a very narrow escape of losing her liberty and probably her life then, for the Duke of Northumberland, who had kept the dying Edward in a state of absolute thraldom, concealed his death for two days, and the council, at his instigation, wrote to Mary as if by command of the king, asking her to come to her brother, who was very ill, and earnestly desired the comfort of her presence. Mary at once set out to go to him, for she loved him almost with a mother's love; but young Throckmorton had overheard the duke talking from his bed to Sir John Gates early in the morning after the death of the young king. They were discussing the destination of the Princess Mary, and he heard Sir John exclaim sharply: "What, sir! Will you let the lady Mars escape and not secure her person?"

Young Throckmorton hurried home and told v hat he had heard to his father and brother. They all knew the king was dead, for Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, his elder brother, had been present at Edward's deathbed, and had returned from it in deep grief. They resolved to save Mary. They sent for her goldsmith, and persuaded him to meet her at Hoddesdon and tell her the true state of affairs. At first she feared the message was a trap to lure her into an act of treason by proclaiming herself queen in her brother's lifetime; but the elder Throckmorton soon appeared on the scene to confirm their messenger's story, and she believed his account of the deception just practised on her. She must fly at once, and she did. She diverged from the London road to Suffolk, taking the direction of Cambridgeshire as the nearest way to Bury St. Edmunds. They travelled late, she and her attendants, but at last, wearied and anxious, they reached Sawston Hall, near Cambridge, and by the advice of Andrew Huddlestone, one of her gentlemen, Mary asked hospitality of his relative, its owner, Mr. Huddlestone. He saw the danger he ran in receiving her, but he at once admitted the royal fugitive. Tradition says that the princess left the house very early the next day in the disguise of a market woman, riding behind Mr. Huddlestone, who had put on the livery of one of his own servants. When she gained the rise called Gogmagog Hills she turned her steed and looked back at Sawston Hall. At that moment it burst into flames. The party adverse to her at Cambridge had attacked the house as soon as they had heard that it sheltered her, and set it on fire. She gazed at it undaunted. "Let it blaze," she said; "I will build Huddlestone a better." But unhappily she forgot her promise, or only partially redeemed it, for the present Sawston Hall was not finished when she died. Mary was received loyally at Bury St. Edmunds, but she did not stay there; she hastened on to her house in Norfolk, Kenning Hall. But this dwelling was much exposed, and could not be defended if attacked. Therefore Mary (after writing to the council) started for her castle of Framlingham, in Suffolk. It was twenty miles distant from Kenning Hall, but she never drew bridle till those twenty miles were achieved, and she had reached Framlingham, embosomed in the Suffolk woodlands. The treble circle of moats that girdle the town and fortress were then full and efficient, and the castle in good repair. The queen arrived at nightfall with her little train of cavalry, her knights and their servants, and her ladies, and ascended by torchlight the woodland eminence on which Framlingham is built. They passed the mighty causeway, over two deep moats, and very soon afterwards the standard of England floated over its towers. The next day the chivalry of Suffolk gathered round their queen, and she was soon at the head of an army of 13,000 men, all volunteers and unpaid, though she ordered her captains if any man were in need to relieve him " as a gift."

Mary remained at Pramlingham. The tide of popular feeling set in her favour; the fleet yielded its officers to the adherent of Mary who claimed them from Yarmouth as traitors, and her cause was everywhere successful. She left her castle of refuge, and made almost a triumphant progress from Suffolk to London, to take a crown with its cares and temptations and miseries, and the dreadful name it has brought her for ail time.

The site of Framlingham Castle is a high mound, from whence springs the source of the river Orr. This stream supplied the three moats, which are in the summer season gaily enamelled with golden irises. On the edge of the mound is reared a magnificent circle of walls and towers enclosing an area of more than an acre. 1 The outer walls remain nearly entire at the present day. They are forty feet high, and more than eight feet thick, and there were once in them thirteen square towers.

After crossing a walled causeway over the double moat, and passing through the gateway, the spectator enters into the spacious area. To the right, nearly opposite, are seen several chimneys, whose summits are hollow pillars of wreathed brickwork very elaborately wrought. The chimney of the state bedroom on the second floor still remains, and on one side of it is a recess about the size of a dressingroom with an arched window looking towards the east This is declared by tradition to have been Mary's 2 chamber, but it was evidently the oriel or private oratory pertaining to her state chamber which was the room to which the chimney belonged. 3 

The defences consisted of the outer and inner moats, the latter running close to the walls save where the mere, on the west side, protected it. The outer wall of the ancient building alone remains. The Rev. C. Hartshorne, who was a very distinguished and learned antiquary, was of opinion that there was a keep to the castle, and that it stood in the south-east angle. The barbacan appears to have been built in the reign of Henry VIII., probably by the Duke of Norfolk, who erected the church at Framlingham about that time. The seats of the warders are in good preservation, though the work is dilapidated.

James I. granted Framlingham to the first Baron Howard de Walden, youngest son of the fourth Duke of Norfolk. He was created Earl of Suffolk in 1603, but he made Audley Inn his abode, and the castle fell to decay. His son sold it to Sir Robert Hitcham, senior sergeant to James I., who bequeathed it in 1636 to the master and scholars of Pembroke College in trust for charitable use. Thus the castle was never repaired when it would have been possible to preserve so interesting and noble a pile.

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Picturesque England - Matthew Spong 2004