For over 900 years, almost continuously, Arundel Castle has been home to the earls of Arundel. This title was granted in 1067 to its founder Roger de Montgomery, and was then handed down to the d’Albini, the Fitzalan and finally the Howards, dukes of Norfolk, in 1580.
Today, as per tradition, the 18th duke’s duties include officiating at State funerals, investiture and coronation. The ‘earl of Arundel’ title is used by the heir apparent.
Holders of this illustrious pedigree were caught in the political turmoil of medieval and Tudor times, where their staunch Catholic faith placed them in jeopardy. Some met an untimely death on the scaffold or in battle. But there were also two cardinals, a saint, a poet, a collector of ancient marbles and a lucky courtier, Thomas the third duke, who was reprieved on the eve of his execution when Henry VIII died.
Much of Arundel Castle today is the legacy of the 15th duke. From 1875 to 1900 he enlisted architect Charles Buckler to complete the restoration begun by his predecessors after extensive damage during the Civil War.
On the site of the lower bailey, the quadrangle greets you with turrets and chimney stacks. Inside, every room is a showcase of Victorian craftsmanship, enhanced by a rich and eclectic collection of furniture, paintings, tapestries and priceless artefacts. The armoury displays battle and ceremonial weapons, while the chapel boasts Purbeck marble columns and stained glass reminiscent of Canterbury Cathedral. There are also galleries hung with family portraits and a staircase topped with heraldic beasts leading to lavish bedrooms and Victorian en-suites.
Look out for Canaletto landscapes in the small drawing room, the fine portraits and heraldic fireplace in the main drawing room and the white and gold furniture in the Victoria Rooms, commissioned for a royal visit in 1846.
Other highlights of Arundel Castle include the 133-foot long Barons’ Hall that commemorates the Magna Carta, the stunning Regency library fitted out in carved mahogany with Chinese lanterns and 10,000 books, many related to Catholic history, and the dining room. Set in the former medieval chapel, this room has fine furniture, silverware and memorabilia – notably Queen Victoria’s coronation homage chair and a glass case containing, among other items, the rosary beads carried to the scaffold by Mary Queen of Scots.
The south passage retains some early features, complementing those in the grounds, namely the Norman motte and its restored oval keep, the curtain wall and part of the inner gatehouse, and several towers. Walk around the 40-acre grounds to see the ancient cork and ginkgo trees, the themed gardens and Victorian greenhouse. Here too is the late
14th-century Fitzalan Chapel, burial place of the dukes and an unusual Catholic enclave within an Anglican parish church.
Don’t miss: the d’Albini corbels (Barons’ Hall) and the choir stall carvings (Fitzalan Chapel).
Arundel Castle, Mill Road, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9AB