Alnwick Castle: Percy Stronghold

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

Harry Potter fans – welcome to your Nirvana.  You will recognize Alnwick (pronounced Ann-ick) Castle immediately. The castle has also been in several other movies, including  Elizabeth (with Cate Blanchett). Watching Downton Abbey’s Christmas special, I was surprised to recognize Alnwick as it doubled for Brancaster Castle.

Early History

Alnwick has a rich history as a heavily fortified castle. The castle is mainly known for its association with the Percy family. In fact, the current owners are still Percys, as this castle has been in the family for 700 years.

Henry Percy, known as Harry Hotspur, was born here in the 1360s. Well known for his military prowess, he got his nickname from his quick strikes against the Scots. He was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. A statue honoring Hotspur is at the castle.

Henry 'Hotspur' Percy monument

Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy monument

Henry Percy, the third earl of Northumberland, died at Towton fighting for the Lancastrians and was attainted by the Yorkists. His lands and most of his estates, including Alnwick, were given to John Neville, Lord Montagu. His son, also a Henry, was eventually restored to the earldom after  Lord Montagu, surrendered it. Neville was created Marquess Montagu instead. The fourth earl survived the readeption of Henry VI with his lands intact, and he played a passive role in Edward IV’s return from exile.

Interior And Exterior

The interior of the castle is opulent. No pictures are allowed, but the guidebook has several impressive shots. The room that was closest to this bibliophile’s heart was the huge library. Here, surrounded by books and the marble busts of Shakespeare, Bacon, and Newton, I felt right at home.

Expect to spend quite a bit of time in the Drawing Room. It is a magnificent room, and there are no words that can adequately describe it. The guidebook says the room was designed by Giovanni Montiroli, who did an exceptional job decorating it.

Take time to walk all around the castle.  Harry Potter fans might find a game of Quidditch being played on the lawn or might be able to take a broomstick training session.

Be sure to go into the castle museum and into the coach house. Look for the Norman Chevron design on the gatehouse and the medieval stone figures on the octagonal towers. The figures are interesting, and they really add to the atmosphere of this historic building.

In 2015, Alnwick is offering a Downton Abbey exhibit.