Secrets of Great British Castles (2015–…): Season 2, Episode 5 - Lancaster Castle - full transcript

DAN JONES: For me, a great British castle

is a fortress, a palace, a home.

And a symbol of power, majesty, and fear.

For nearly 1,000 years,

castles have shaped
Britain's famous landscape.

These magnificent buildings
have been home

to some of the greatest heroes
and villains in our national history.

And many of them
still stand proudly today

bursting with incredible stories

of warfare, treachery,
intrigue, passion, and murder.

Join me, Dan Jones,

as I uncover the secrets
behind six great British castles.

This time I'm in Leeds Castle.

Not the Leeds in Yorkshire,
this one's in Kent.

It's been called
the loveliest castle in England.

But scratch that perfect surface

and you will discover its darker side.

Leeds Castle
might look pretty and genteel,

but its history
certainly isn't for the faint hearted.

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For hundreds of years, building a castle
was the ultimate macho statement.

Big and aggressive, castles usually
bristle with historical testosterone.

But not this one.

Leeds Castle has seen
its fair share of war and terror,

but it holds a fascinating secret

because its history has mostly been shaped
not by men but by women.

There's been a castle here at Leeds
for nearly 900 years.

But what we see today is largely
the work of one woman,

Olive, Lady Baillie.
The daughter of an English baron

and a wealthy American heiress.

Lady Baillie was one
of the great hostesses of her age.

She bought Leeds castle in 1926
and turned it into

one of the most glamorous party houses
in England.

Her guests included the controversial heir
to the British throne,

Edward, Duke of Windsor,
and his wife Wallis Simpson.

Movie stars like Charlie Chaplin
and Jimmy Stewart,

the great Winston Churchill,
and even James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

During the 1930s, they enjoyed
lavish dinners and parties,

played tennis and croquet and even swam
in a pool with its own wave machine.

But there was far more to Leeds
than banquets and blow-outs.

And the castle's charmed life
was about to change dramatically.


When the Second World War
broke out in 1939,

Leeds Castle became a secret center
of British military research.

Now, instead of parties there were
flame throwers being tested on the lawn

to prepare to defend England
against Nazi invasion.

It's that play hard, fight hard mentality

that summed up this castle
throughout the ages.

From the outside, it's beautiful,
glamorous, feminine even,

but beneath that veneer
it's no stranger to menace and violence.

Britain, of course,
has another famous Leeds in Yorkshire.

Here in Kent, the name comes
from the old English word Hilida

which means a babbling stream.

The first castle built on this site
around the year 1100

was the work of a Norman knight

with the impossibly romantic name
of Robert Decrevco,

or "Robert the Brokenhearted".

Sitting on three small islands

in an artificial lake
formed by the River Len,

it really is a masterful piece
of medieval engineering,

to manipulate the natural power
of the river into a man-made moat.

And it means Leeds Castle is cunningly
defended by water on every side.

Sadly, Robert the Brokenhearted
went broke and had to sell up.

Much later, in 1278, the castle
was purchased by the Queen of England.

Edward I's Spanish wife Eleanor.

It was the start
of a long royal association.

Queen Eleanor, or Eleanor of Castile
was a successful business woman

and a property magnate in her own right.

And, under her instruction,
the King's engineers began

substantial alterations to the castle.

With the moats and the barbican
providing defenses,

the rest of the castle was free to be an
elegant home for a very impressive queen.

Eleanor extended the castle on the smaller
island and called it her gloriette,

the name of a fantasy tower
in a popular 12th century poem.

In Eleanor's time,

it would have been a single storied
structure around a courtyard,

with timber walls and a leaded roof.

A main hall, a banqueting hall,
and apartments.


But it wasn't just the decor
Eleanor was interested in.

She also brought new European notions
about personal hygiene,

at a time when most English Lords
and Ladies were not so big on washing.

Thirteenth century documents

record the building of the Queen's baths
here at Leeds.

And archeologists
have now found the baths

in what was once thought to be
a boat house.

So, originally, this would have been one
of the earliest English bath houses

that was built.

And it was built by Eleanor of Castile
towards the end of the 13th century.

It would have been lined
with reigate stone tiles.

It would have been seriously opulent,
it may have been fed by piped water.

JONES: Eleanor sounds like

quite a lover of luxury, is that fair?

Absolutely, she was famous for having
glazed windows and carpets in her rooms.

It actually caused a lot of controversy

because it was seen as a bit
too luxurious, not quite the done thing.

She also owned forks in a period
when nobody ate with forks.


JONES: Eleanor traveled constantly
with her husband

because she hated being separated
from him.

And they obviously had a good time
on the road

because whenever she returned
to Leeds Castle

she was expecting yet another baby.

She was almost constantly pregnant,
wasn't she?

She was. We know of at least 16 children.

Most of them didn't survive to adulthood,

but she was basically pregnant
for most of the years of her marriage

which eventually came to undermine
her health.

JONES: Eleanor died at the age of 49
after 36 years of marriage.

Leeds Castle passed back into the hands
of her husband, King Edward l.

But not for long.

After mourning Eleanor for several years,
the 60 year old king married again.

His new wife was the King of France's
sister, Princess Margaret.

She was 17 and people called her
the flower of the French.

In 1299, Edward
and his new teenage wife Margaret

spent their honeymoon here at Leeds.

And just a few weeks later, the King
gave Margaret a very special gift

the castle itself.

She was getting one of
the finest royal residences in England.

Leeds Castle's association
with England's queens

gave it a reputation
as an idyllic pleasure palace.

But that was all about to change
as the castle was thrust

into one of the bloodiest rebellions
of the Middle Ages.

At the heart of it all

was one of the most unpopular
and spiteful kings in British history.

During the 13th Century, Leeds Castle
had been run as a palace

by two wives of Edward l.

But when Edward's son, Edward II,
came to the throne

he proved to be a big let-down.

Thanks to him Leeds would become embroiled

in one of the bloodiest rebellions
of the entire Middle Ages.

Edward ll was one of the most useless
and unpopular kings of the Middle Ages.

He was thrashed in battle by the Scots.

And he infuriated the English Barons

with his outrageous favoritism
towards a handful of intimate friends.

But he was still the King

and if you crossed him
things turned very nasty very quickly.

One of Edward's most trusted favorites

was a talented knight and politician
called Bartholomew Badlesmere.

He came from the village of Badlesmere
just a few miles away from Leeds Castle.

And he made a stellar career
for himself in Royal service.

He fought in foreign wars.
He put down Welsh rebellions.

He even went to Rome to talk to the Pope
on behalf of the King.

In return for all that loyal service,
Edward made Badlesmere rich.

And one of the prizes he rewarded him with
was Leeds Castle,

which Badlesmere received in 1318.

But that was where all his problems began.

In 1321, just three years after
Badlesmere was given Leeds Castle,

a rebellion broke out against the King.

Many of his Barons protested

against the growing influence of
one of the king's favorites,

the ruthless Hugh Despenser.

Despenser was a major rival to
Badlesmere in court.

After much agonizing, Badlesmere decided
to join the rebellion against the King.

It was the wrong choice.

Edward II was enraged
at Badlesmere's disloyalty.

He ordered him to hand Leeds Castle
back to the Crown.

Badlesmere refused.

Instead, he fled to join up
with other rebels in Oxford.

He left Leeds Castle
under the command of his wife Margaret.

Once again, a woman was in control.

The King responded immediately.

But curiously,
instead of handling the matter himself,

he sent his wife, Queen Isabella,
to do his dirty work.

A devious plan was underway.

Early October 1321,

Queen Isabella rode up to the gates
of Leeds Castle

and asked Margaret Badlesmere
to let her in.

She said she'd been on pilgrimage
to Canterbury just down the road,

and she needed somewhere to rest.

But Margaret only had to take one look
to see that that wasn't true.

For a start, Isabella was backed up by
a posse of heavily armed Royal soldiers.

She hadn't exactly popped around
for tea and biscuits.

Since Margaret's husband
was in rebellion against the King

and he told her to keep the castle safe,
she refused to let the Queen in.

It must've been a very tense standoff.

Then, in the heat of the moment,
the soldiers within the castle

started shooting a volley of arrows.

In the skirmish that followed,
several of the Queen's men were killed.

Now, this looked very bad,

but actually, it's what Edward II
had wanted all along.

"Shooting arrows at my wife!"

Now he had the perfect excuse to
humiliate Badlesmere for abandoning him.

On the 23rd of October 1321,

Edward sent an army
to besiege Leeds Castle.

And, this time,
the King led the siege himself.

Faced with overwhelming odds, it took just
a week for Leeds Castle to cave in.

Margaret surrendered hoping for mercy.

But Edward II wasn't feeling merciful.

He put 13 of the castle's garrison
to death.

Margaret and her children were all
packed off to the Tower of London

to be imprisoned at the King's pleasure.

In April 1322,
Badlesmere himself was captured.

He was dragged through
the streets of Canterbury behind a horse.

Then he was hanged and finally beheaded

with his head displayed
over one of the city's gates,

as a warning to other would-be rebels.

With Badlesmere dead
and his wife Margaret in the Tower,

Leeds Castle was confiscated by the Crown.

But, ultimately, it wouldn't be
Edward II who enjoyed it.

It would be the woman whose
deviousness had helped capture it,

Queen Isabella.

By 1326, England was fed up
to the back teeth with Edward II.

He'd made enemies of almost everyone,
including his wife.

Along with her lover,
a Baron called Rodger Mortimer

Queen Isabella raised an army
against her useless husband.

She captured him
and forced him to abdicate the crown,

and eventually had him murdered.

Along with her new found power,

Royal records from the 1320s showed that

Queen Isabella now began building up
her property portfolio,

and her dower, effectively her pension.

It says here she's increasing her dower
from 4,500 marks

to 20,000 marks.

That's a huge increase.

It's like going from
£2,000,000 to £10,000,000 today.

And she's laying claim to lands
and castles in Norfolk,

Suffolk, Leicestershire,

and we can see here
the Castle and Manor of Leeds.

Isabella's links with Leeds would last
for the rest of her life.

She was still holding the castle
on her death in 1358.

Aged 66.

It was a fitting home
for a woman who toppled a king.

In all, some six Queens of England
have claimed or been gifted Leeds Castle.

At the end of the 14th century, Richard II
gave it to his wife Anne of Bohemia.

A few years later,
King Henry IV gave it to his second wife,

the French Duchess Joan of Navarre.

But for Joan, Leeds Castle
would not only be her home,

it would also be her prison.

Joan of Navarre was the wealthiest woman
in England, but she had one big problem.

Her stepson King Henry V.

Henry spent his whole reign fighting
a ruinously expensive war against France.

And when it came to raising war funds
no one was off limits.

So, in 1419, he accused
his wealthy stepmother of witchcraft,

confiscated her lands and possessions,

and had her imprisoned
in a series of castles,

including her own home, here at Leeds.

Joan was accused of using sorcery
and necromancy,

which meant using magic
and communicating with the dead.

As it turned out,
she was never even tried.

It would have been a royal scandal
if she were found guilty,

and acquittal would have forced Henry
to return her money,

so he just kept her locked up.

For four years,
Joan was kept here as the royal witch.

If you want some kind of proof,
that all this was basically a sham

to help pay for the King's wars in France,

you just have to look at the accounts
for Joan's imprisonment.

She had a stable, horses, 19 grooms.

She had a constant stream of guests.

One of them even stayed for nine months,
and there were bills for a bird cage,

and the repair of a harp.

It wasn't easy being a witch.

Eventually, Henry had his stepmother
released quietly.

It was as if the entire episode
had never happened.

But Joan wasn't the only witch
to be imprisoned in Leeds Castle.

Within 20 years this place would be
a prison for a much more devious

and cunning woman who was married
to an eminent Duke.

Her name was Eleanor Cobham.

For me, Eleanor Cobham was one of the most
intriguing women in British history.

Her husband was Humphrey,
Duke of Gloucester.

Uncle to the useless and idiotic king
Henry VI.

Humphrey was the power behind the throne,
but more importantly

while Henry was childless,
Humphrey was also his heir.

If anything should happen to Henry,
Humphrey would become King

and Eleanor would become Queen.

And it's that fact that got Eleanor
into so much trouble.

In the summer of 1440, Eleanor decided
to have her fortune told.

She went to the best astrologers
of the day,

her personal physician Thomas Southwell

and a brilliant Oxford scholar
called Roger Bolingbroke.

The reading they gave her was explosive.

According to the horoscope,
the King was due to fall ill and die

in July or August of the next year.

Eleanor's husband would inherit the throne
and she would be Queen.

It was such a breathtaking prediction

that news of it began to spread
around the country.

When news of Eleanor's fortune telling
reached the king

he was deeply troubled.

This fatal illness was due to strike
within months.

The king's advisors then commissioned
a second horoscope

that conveniently rubbished
Eleanor's claims.

Then they had her
and her astrologers arrested,

locked up in Leeds Castle and questioned.

She had messed with the most important man
in the land, the King himself.

While she was here the charges
kept on mounting up.

She was accused of having consulted
a witch called Margery Jourdemayne,

who had given her a potion to help her
conceive a child.

Things weren't looking good
for Eleanor Cobham.

Ronald Hutton is one of Britain's leading
experts in witchcraft and folklore.

Ronald, today we think about horoscopes
as mumbo jumbo.

It's at best a bit of fun.

Was it like that in the 15th century?

In the 15th century,
horoscopes looked like

the science of the future,
so top astrologers

were rather like nuclear physicists

in the 1930s, they could really
have been on to something.

Eleanor was supposed to
have been involved in,

on the one hand, astrology,
divining the future,

but on the other hand she was accused
of trying to procure love potions.

Can you give me an example of a spell
or an incantation from the time.

This is a spell to Venus that's why it's
an effigy in green wax.

It's actually you because it's got
your hair in it.

It's to enable you
to be more attractive to audiences

which I think most presenters would wish.

Venus, known as the lady,
nourishing one, gorgeous one,

queen of beauty, giver of sweet madness,
treasure made flesh.

Bless this man.
Hear him. Heal him. Hold him.

I feel better already.

-You look it.
-Thank you.

RONALD HUTTON: Even if Eleanor Cobham
was guilty, we'll never know.

Framing political opponents
by charging them with working magic

is a favorite trick of the French
and English Royal families,

on either side of 1400.

JONES: Eleanor Cobham was charged
with 18 counts of treasonable necromancy.

Conjuring up the spirits of the dead
in order to influence future events.

And she was imprisoned in Leeds Castle
to await her trial.

Eleanor must've been terrified

by the dreadful punishments
handed out to her accomplices.

Rodger Bolingbroke,
a highly respected academic

was hanged, drawn and quartered.

The physician, Southwell, was lucky
to die in the Tower of London,

before meeting the same fate.

And the witch, Margery Jourdemayne,
was sentenced to be burned alive.

This was a particularly ghastly way to go.

Tied to a stake, and surrounded
by wood and fuel

which was then set alight.

Eleanor herself was spared but humiliated.

She was forcibly
divorced from her husband.

She was made to walk barefoot through
the crowded streets of London

carrying a lighted taper
to signify her penance.

A ritual usually reserved
for common prostitutes.

And then she was sentenced
to life imprisonment,

finally ending up 300 miles away
at Beaumaris Castle in Wales

where she would die.

Her life, and her reputation,
utterly destroyed.

Fortunately, not everyone's experience
in Leeds Castle

was as harrowing as Eleanor's.

In fact, the 16th century
would see the castle transformed

for the arrival of
Britain's most famous King,

on his way to the
Tudor version of a rock festival.

When Henry VIII stopped by,
he came with an entourage of thousands,

and Leeds Castle would have to be ready.

During the Middle Ages, a succession
of English Queens had turned

Leeds Castle in Kent into an impressive
and well maintained royal residence

and an occasional prison.

But, by the 16th century, the castle
had been ignored by the Crown for decades

and had fallen into disrepair.

The arrival of the Tudor Dynasty
signaled a revival

in the fortunes of Leeds Castle,

which is apt, because the Tudor royal line
may literally have been conceived here.

The Tudors are the most famous
and notorious dynasty

in British royal history,

including big names like
Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

But this family actually had quite humble
and very illicit beginnings.

Probably in this castle.

Those beginnings go back to one
of the many queens

to occupy Leeds Castle.

Catherine de Valois,
the wife of King Henry V.

When Henry V died of dysentery in 1422,

he left Catherine a widow
at the age of 20.

Their only child, the son and heir
to the throne, was just nine months old.

Catherine's main responsibility
was to raise the infant king,

but that didn't take up all her time.

One member of the queen's household
particularly caught her eye.

He was a dashing Welsh squire by the name
of Owain ap Maredudd ap Tewdwr

or Owen Tudor.

Catherine and Owen began an affair
which produced at least three sons.

To prevent this scandal
from becoming public knowledge

they spent their time away from the court
at London in more discreet castles,

like this one in Leeds.

After all,
where better than an island fortress

in the Kent countryside

to keep a scandalous liaison
from public gaze.

Owen and Catherine's marriage might have
been a guilty secret at the time,

but it would go on to shape
British history

because their eldest son was the father
of Henry VII, the first Tudor King,

and the man who established
the Tudor Royal dynasty.

In 1520, the secret lovers,

Catherine and Owen's great grandson,
King Henry VIII,

planned a historic meeting
with the French King Francis I.

And as part of this road trip,
the King and his Queen

Catherine of Aragon would be stopping off
at Leeds Castle,

a kind of medieval motorways services.

But it would be no ordinary stay.

Henry's ultimate destination was France
for an event that would be a bit

like the Olympics crossed
with a G20 Summit,

crossed with Glastonbury.

The idea was that Henry
and the French King Francis I

would gather together their diplomatic
corps and their whole courts

and have a party
featuring pageantry, music, and sport.

Most famously, Henry and Francis
had a personal wrestling match,

which Francis actually won.

These were two of the greatest Kings
in Europe trying to outdo each other.

And all camping under tents made
of gold cloth.

Hence the name given to this gathering,
The Field of the Cloth of Gold.


Now, obviously, Henry and his court
needed to get there,

and this painting on display
at the banqueting hall in Leeds Castle

gives you a sense of the scale
of the traveling circus.

It's showing Henry's ships leaving Dover.
I think there are about 27 of them.

And right in the middle
is Henry's flagship.

That's the ship that Henry and his Queen,
Catherine of Aragon, would've traveled on.

But more than that you've got a sense
of the sheer numbers

of people bustling around.

Most of those people would have stayed
right here at Leeds Castle.

More than 5,000 of them.

Since 1517, Henry had been ordering
major works on Leeds Castle,

making it the perfect palatial pit stop
for a king and queen en-route to France.

An upper story was added to the small
gloriette, with new apartments

including a bed chamber and a bathroom.

This new floor was exclusively reserved
for the Queen

and her closest household staff.

The Maiden's Tower was built especially

to accommodate
the Queen's ladies in waiting.

Catherine's total entourage added
up to 1,200 staff and 800 horses.

The more I look at this painting,

the more I feel almost overwhelmed
by the opulence of Henry's court.

The ships, money,
the people, the fine clothes.

I think more than anything else,
it tells you about the sheer extravagance

of kingship in the 16th century.

Maybe it's thanks
to paintings like this one

that the Tudor's are remembered
for their conspicuous consumption.

Good old Henry liked his dinner.

A feast fit for this king included soup,
herring, cod, pike, salmon, haddock,

porpoise, seal, lobster, custard tart,
fritters, and fruits.

And that was just the first course.

At Hampton Court Palace, there's a replica
of the massive wine fountain

Henry took to the Field of Cloth of Gold.

They also have a working Tudor kitchen.

I've come here to meet an expert
in Tudor cooking, Marc Meltonville.

So we know when a Tudor court came
to Leeds Castle

that there were 100s, 1,000s of people,

and they got through
a huge amount of food.

Was this typical of the Tudor court?

That's the whole point.
The court consumes conspicuously.

What you do is everything
on a large scale. You are the king.

You are the whole country moving.

So everything that you do has to be
fantastic, the best of the best.

So you bring in spices,
you bring in things from everywhere.

Food miles are really important
in Tudor diets,

the further the better.

And there's a kind of showiness
about food at the Tudor court.

Well, you do not get much showy
than the peacock there.

An exotic Asian bird which you could have
just roasted or boiled.

No one knows it's peacock if you do that.
How do you let them know it's peacock?

Well, the recipe says to skin it
but don't pluck it first.

So lift the whole skin off feathers
and all.

You slowly roast the bird
and when he's done

on the plate, lay the feathers
and skin back on,

dress it up as if
it looks like it's alive.

Bring it into the hall.

It's all about having the things
that other people can't.

At the end of the day, it tastes
not much different to chicken.

And he's got in the kitchen beef roasting
on a spit just as we've got over here.

Yeah, you don't just boil something
in a pot.

You use a ton of oak just to roast
the meat up for people.

This fire place,
one of Henry's original ones,

just like the ones you see in the
tents in the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

Huge pits covered in meat.

This is the best way
of treating fresh meat.

A good spit turner will turn at the right
speed to keep all the juices in the meat

to make it tender and juicy.

Juice into the meat, I think we
should stop talking and try some of this.

JONES: Wow, that looks amazing.

So there we are, Royal Roast Beef.

Smells delicious.

Really good.

Really good, yeah.

MELTONVILLE: It's a little custard tart.
It's got dates in it.

But it's made green with parsley,
and the base of the pastry

is sweetened with marrow bone.

JONES: With marrow bone?


It's actually quite sweet,
particularly with the dates, but then

you can really taste the parsley in there,
which is kind of a weird combination.

That actually looks very appetizing.

This... I don't want to offend you.
This is less...

-Pleasant looking. What is this?
-That's, uh...

The name of it in the
recipe book is aboulette or aboulettes.

And it's a cream, and egg, and cheese mix.

It doesn't look very good because
it's split, it's curdled.

Smells cheesy.

But actually...

It's a very strange kind of sensation.
You know it is...

Lumpy and sort of

watery at the same time.
But it tastes quite nice it's got

a depth of flavor, it's quite savory.

Eat that with a big hunk of bread,
a mug of bee,

I think we're going to be okay.

Now I'm sold. Now I'm sold.
You should've done that to start with.

So really all of this isn't just
about eating well, having delicious food.

It's about status. It's about sending
a message that I am the King

and this is my world.

It's more than just the king,
it's a message about your country.

It's "I am England.

"We are great.

"Look at what I provide just for my court.

"It must be so special.

"I must be in charge."

Amazing! Thank you Marc.

JONES: As Henry VIII's love life
became increasingly complicated,

the tradition of Leeds Castle
being given to a Queen ended.

In 1552,
after 300 years of royal ownership,

the castle was granted to
a trusted knight, Sir Anthony St. Leger,

for helping to quell
an uprising in Ireland.

Its rent was just £10 per year.

From then on, this perfect, pretty castle
changed hands at least five times,

but remained in private ownership

for better or worse.

Over time, the gloriette fell into ruin.

Most of the medieval buildings
were demolished in the 17th century.

This building, called the New Castle,
only dates from the early 1800s.

This was the era of the stately home

when a castle like Leeds no longer
needed to be a fortress

but a celebration of
aristocracy and wealth.

If you had it.

It goes without saying,
you need vast amounts of money

to maintain a place like this.

Leeds Castle has brought plenty
of families to the brink of bankruptcy.

In the early 1920s,
it was up for sale again,

this time to pay for death taxes.

And it was in a pretty bad state.

Whole sections of the castle
were lying empty.

Thousands of acres of park land
were being neglected.

Its heyday as the playground of kings
and queens had become a distant memory.

But another golden age was about to dawn.


The future was new money
from the new world.

American dollars.

Leeds Castle had found
what it always needed,

another strong lady,
a wealthy Anglo-American heiress

looking for the ultimate fixer upper.

She decided this would probably do.

Her name was Olive Paget.

Though by her third marriage, she gained
the more glamorous title, Lady Baillie.

Under her ownership Leeds Castle would be
back to its magnificent best.


Darker times were also on the horizon,

as the castle took on a key role
in Britain's fight against the Nazis

in a mission straight out of the pages
of a James Bond story.

JONES: Leeds Castle had been a playground
for medieval queens,

an occasional prison and a pleasure palace

for the great Tudor monarch, Henry VIII.

In the 20th century, it was transformed
again under a new owner,

the wealthy Anglo-American heiress,
Olive Paget,

or as she became known, Lady Baillie.

You know, the more I learn
about Olive Paget, the more I like her.

She was born in America,
educated in Paris,

and volunteered as a nurse
during the First World War.

She married a war hero
and had two daughters

then divorced.

She married again the same year.

And the happy couple bought Leeds Castle.

Now, she divorced again,
but she kept the castle.

After that divorce,
she married Sir Adrian Baillie.

Which gained her the title "Lady Baillie."

She turned what had been
a tumbled down wreck

into a fairy tale stately home.

She didn't just have the taste,

she had the money.

She'd buy exotic birds on her travels
and fly them home first class.

Llamas and zebras were bought and allowed
to roam freely around the grounds.

It was all simply marvelous.

Lady Baillie worked closely with a famous
interior designer, Stephan Budan.

Who went on to create the
French rooms at the White House

for Jacqueline Kennedy during the 1960s.

In the 50 years that Lady Baillie
owned this place,

Leeds became one of the greatest
castles in Britain.

And she was renowned for her parties.

The guest lists included politicians
and diplomats, actors and musicians,

socialites, and royalty
from across Europe.

Lady Baillie employed
a permanent staff of 40

to maintain the daily life of her castle.

Not as many as the 5,000 that followed
Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon,

but still pretty impressive.

She also developed friendships
with powerful political figures

like future prime ministers
Winston Churchill

and Anthony Eden, ambassadors,
and high ranking civil servants.

A reputation as a discreet
and charming hostess

meant she frequently had the ear
and the undivided attention

of important men.

Then, in 1939, World War II broke out
and the parties stopped.

Leeds Castle had to adapt to the times.


Lady Baillie moved her whole family
and her household

here into the Gloriette.

Outside, the moat was drained to prevent
reflection on the water

from attracting the Luftwaffe's bombs.

Then Lady Baillie did something unexpected
and incredibly patriotic.

She gave over Leeds to the War Effort.

The New Castle, her own home,
became an emergency hospital.

The Battle of Britain began
in the summer of 1940.

And much of the fighting took place
in these skies above Kent.

Now here's a quote from Pauline, one of
Lady Baillie's daughters. She said,

"We could watch dog fights in the air
and sometimes we'd search for Nazi pilots

"who'd been shot down.

"I remember I'd take a pitchfork
and wondered what in the world I'd do

"if I ever found one."

We shall fight on the beaches.

We shall fight on the landing grounds.

We shall fight in the fields.

And in the streets.

We shall fight in the hills.

We shall never surrender.

To help deal with casualties, the castle
was taken over by the Army Medical Corps.

They used this room as
an operating theater for the wounded.

The castle was also used for
the rehabilitation of badly burned airmen

who were treated by the pioneering
plastic surgeon, Archie McIndoe.

He saved the lives of countless pilots,
and those who benefited from his skills

and his treatments were known
as the Guinea Pig Club.

By the end of the war,
there were 649 members.

But Leeds Castle was much more
than just a makeshift hospital.

Among Lady Baillie's collection
of famous and powerful friends

were David Margesson,
the Secretary of State for War

and Geoffrey Lloyd, the head of
the Petroleum Warfare Department,

a secret government agency set up
to develop deadly new weapons

to defend Britain from Nazi invasion.


Because they were such good friends,
and probably because Geoffrey Lloyd

knew he could trust Lady Baillie's
absolute loyalty and discretion,

she allowed him to test petroleum
warfare weapons on the castle lawns.

Petroleum warfare was very new
and very deadly.

Weapons range from burning roadblocks
to raging seas full of burning oil,

to simply hand held flame throwers
that could be fired down fox holes,

into trenches or directly at troops.

When these were demonstrated,
to admirals and generals,

they were usually as appalled
as they were amazed.

But Churchill was impressed
and he wrote as much in a letter

to the team at Leeds.

"There must be no faltering
in the drive to nurturing British people

"by all possible means.
The virtues of skills and inventiveness,

"these are the true characteristics of
a virile nation in a technological age."

The castle survived the war without
being damaged,

although bombs were dropped
on the castle grounds,

apparently killing
one of Lady Baillie's llamas.

In 1974, Lady Baillie died, but she wanted
Leeds Castle to live on.

And she left behind a trust
and £1,400,000 to make sure

it remained a living, vibrant castle.

Calling Leeds Castle the loveliest castle
in England

actually does it a major disservice

because beneath that undoubted beauty

there's a core
as hard as those stone walls.

This is a castle that has been shaped
by strong women

and it's played a full and fearsome role

in the political and military history
of our nation.