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The former home of Anne Boleyn


Tudor Relics
Gardens and Lake
In 1462, this 13th century castle came into the possession of a merchant called Geoffrey Boleyn. He set about transforming it into a cosy manor, where he and his family could live. It was a prestigious existence, but one of his descendants, Anne, managed to marry into an even richer family: the Tudors, rulers of England. Anne Boleyn became the Queen, wife of Henry VIII.
Unfortunately, this arrangement didn't end too well. Anne was wife number two out of the eventual six. When Henry's affection disappeared, he dealt with matters quite severely. Anne was falsely accused of incest, adultery, witchcraft and treason. She was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and eventually beheaded.
In a funny twist of fate, it wasn't long before Hever was owned by another Queen Anne. Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, escaped from her royal marriage lightly, with just a divorce. The castle came as part of the settlement.
The place fell out of favour after that. It wasn't looked after properly, and it began crumbling to ruins. It took until 1904, when a wealthy American called Lord Astor bought the property, for repairs to begin. In fact, it wasn't just repairs that took place. Lord Astor poured his time and money into the project, and Hever became the beautiful tourist attraction it is today.

Hever Castle
Photo Visit Kent
There's only one way inside. You have to cross the moat, via England's oldest working portcullis. Then you can explore the rooms and halls that monarchs once called their own. On display are the personal prayer books of Anne Boleyn, who signed and inscribed them herself. On the walls are rows of historic portraits, that put faces to the well-known names in Hever Castle's famous story.
Henry VIII's 16th century could be a scary place, and this fact is most obvious in the gatehouse. It's home to a collection of armour, weapons and gruesome torture devices. The display includes specially-designed beheading swords and cruel spiked collars.
Thankfully, it's easy to brighten the atmosphere. All you have to do is step outside, into the vast, open gardens. It was a labour of love for Lord Astor. To dig out the lake, for example, he employed 800 men over a period of two years! Elsewhere are gardens of all different types and styles. The rose garden displays England's famous blooms, while the Italian section shows off Astor's collection of sculpture. Everywhere you look are colourful petals, water features and works of art.

Hever Castle Tudor Garden
Photo Visit Kent
Those with time to spare should walk around the lake; it takes about an hour of steady strolling. Along the way are waterfalls, birds and World War II pill boxes.
Back in the castle grounds is a yew maze, a traditional feature of old country houses. It's eight feet tall, with a very classic design. The time it takes to complete depends very much on your navigational skills! A slightly different test is available at the water maze. It's a network of stepping stones, on the surface of a pond. The objective is to get to the centre without getting wet but, with tilting stones and hidden water jets, there are very few successful challengers.
The contents of Hever's open lawns changes as the year goes on. There are New Year, Easter and May Day celebrations. During the summer there are archery and jousting tournaments. Finally, at Christmas, fairy lights are sprinkled on the trees, and the castle becomes a winter wonderland.

Jousting at Hever Castle
Photo Visit Kent
Visitor Information
Hever Castle is open daily from 10:30am to 4pm (extended hours in summer). Entry costs around £15 for adults, £9 for children. Hever, Nr Edenbridge, Kent TN8 7NG. Tel: 01732 865224

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