Reading Abbey Ruins

Reading Abbey Quarter

Credit Great West Way

Royal Connections

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When it comes to royal connections the South East can do some serious name dropping. Both the capital city, London, and the ancient capital of the UK, Winchester, are both located in the South East and Kings and Queens of England and their families have resided here for hundreds of years.

Follow in the footsteps of royalty on your next visit to the South East, its easy to do.  With a host of storybook castles and famous cathedrals, seaside stately homes and ancient battlefields to discover.  Here are some you may want to consider on your next day out:

Royal Connections across the South

Kent and Sussex

  • Edward the Black Prince was buried in Canterbury Cathedral in Kent in 1376. Today you can view his tomb and a number of original relics associated with him. He was an icon of his time and renowned as a great warrior and military tactician.  The Cathedral, together with St Augustine's Abbey and St Martin's Church make up Canterbury's World Heritage Site.
  • Walmer Castle, Dover was once a Tudor artillery fortress constructed by Henry VIII, it also became a stately-home for the Lords Warden of the Cinque Port.  HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports from 1978-2002.
  • King Henry VIII frequently visited Leeds Castle in Kent with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon and today it is one of the most iconic properties in South East England.
  • Hever Castle is where Anne Boleyn spent her early years, soon to become second wife of Henry VIII.
  • Follow in the footsteps of William the Conqueror along the 31 miles long 1066 Country Walk.  Start at the landing place of the Normans, Pevensey Bay, visit the 1066 battle site at Battle Abbey, the castles at Pevensey and Herstmonceux and finish in the beautiful medieval village of Rye.  Battle Abbey is where the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, King Harold II, was slain during the famous 1066 Battle of Hastings.
  • Brighton’s royal connections include the beautiful but outrageous Royal Pavilion in East Sussex, built by the extravagant King George IV as a seaside pleasure palace.
  • The Observatory Science Centre at Herstmonceux is the former home of the Royal Greenwich Observatory from 1950s to 1980s. Its domes and telescopes are a ‘must’ for astronomers young and old
  • Queen Victoria stayed at Arundel Castle with Prince Albert, for three days in 1846.  The bedroom and library furniture were specially commissioned for this visit and made by a leading London furniture designer.

Herstmonceux Observatory and Science Centre, 1066 Country

Hampshire

  • Queen Victoria regularly visited Royal Clarence Yard in Gosport - now Royal Clarence Marina.  It was home to the Queens’s personal railway shed, which her train pulled into when she was embarking on the Royal Yacht or visiting the Isle of Wight.
  • One of the region’s greatest connections with royalty is Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, where King Charles I was imprisoned prior to his execution.
  • Southsea Castle in Portsmouth, was built on the order's of Henry VIII.  Its low surrounding walls make it a harder target for the new threat - gunpowder.  Head up onto the ramparts and look out for the buoy the marks the wreck of the Mary Rose in the Solent and imagine Henry VIII watching her sinking from here.
  • The Vyne near Basingstoke, Hampshire has been home to lords and ladies for five centuries. It has been visited by many Tudor kings, lived in by a Speaker for the House of Commons & been a shelter for Second World War evacuees. The house was transformed from a cluster of medieval buildings into a Tudor palace by William Sandys, who became Lord Chamberlain to King Henry VIII.
  • Isle of Wight is also home to the beautiful Osborne House. Built in the mid 1800’s, the house was the summer home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
  • Queen Victoria’s sea cadet son Prince Alfred lived at Alverbank House (now the Alverbank Hotel) in Gosport when he did his training preparing for a naval career. The house was also visited by Robert Peel; the Prime Minister, and by the Duke of Wellington.

Royal Clarence Marina, previously Royal Clarence Yard, Gosport, Hampshire

Berkshire

  • Kings and Queens of England have lived within the Royal Windsor area for centuries. Today visitors flock to Windsor Castle each year to see the State Apartments and the Albert Memorial Chapel amongst others. Be sure to visit St George’s Chapel, resting place of many British monarchs.
  • King Henry I, son of William the Conqueror, had Reading Abbey built in the 12th century to be his mausoleum. The Abbey located in the centre of Reading, celebrates 900 years of history in 2021.
  • Eton College in Berkshire is one of the world’s most well-known educational institutions and is famous for educating members of the world’s royal families.
  • The River Thames was granted royal status by Edward the Confessor in 1066 and has played an important role in royal history both as a means of travel but also ceremonial events. Enjoy breath-taking views of Windsor Castle, Eton College & Windsor Racecourse with a trip along the river with French Brothers.
  • In the 17th and 18th centuries, the 'Season' of balls, receptions and sporting events began. The tradition reached its peak in the 19th century, when the purpose altered slightly when children of marriageable age were launched into society.  Today a number of events still remain including Royal Ascot, the Boat Race, Royal Windsor Horse Show, Chelsea Flower Show and Glyndebourne.

French Brother Boat Trips, SL Streatley, Windsor

Surrey & London

  • Hampton Court Palace in Surrey has many links with King Henry VII and today you can find out more about his formative years at the Young King Henry VIII Exhibition.
  • The future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother spent the first part of their 1923 honeymoon relaxing at Mrs Greville's house in the Surrey Hills - Polesden Lacey near Dorking.
  • Guildford Castle grounds opened as public gardens in 1888 to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. The gardens have wonderful floral displays, centred on the 11th Century Castle Keep.
  • The stunning buildings and extensive grounds of Old Royal Naval College tell 500 years of remarkable history that lists an incredible cast of monarchs and famous British figures, from Henry VIII and Elizabeth I to Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson. 

Guildford Castle and Gardens, Guildford, Surrey

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