The marriage of Henry I and Matilda
of Scotland was celebrated in Winchester
in 1100 and Henry II and King John were
frequent visitors during their reigns.
The ‘History of the King’s Works’ notes
consistent expenditure on the castle from
1155 onwards, suggesting its importance
as a favoured royal residence. Henry
III was born here in 1207 and spent a
considerable sum on improvements to the
castle, repairing damage suffered in a siege
by Louis of France in 1216 and building
impressive additions to the residential and
defensive elements of the castle. Henry
is believed to have spent in the region of
£10,000 – a considerable sum in the 13th
century, transforming the castle including
building the Great Hall (top right), various
royal chapels, the kitchens, gatehouse and
the apartments of both the king and queen.
Winchester continued to be a favourite royal residence in the reign of Henry III’s son, Edward I but unfortunately, while Edward I and his second wife, Margaret of France, were staying at the castle in 1302, a fire broke out. The king and queen had a lucky escape from the burning royal chambers out of a side door but their apartments were destroyed by the blaze and it appears were never fully restored to their original glory. This lack of adequate accommodation for the royal family and court after the fire, arguably contribute to a decline in prominence of Winchester as the king spent less time in the city.
However, royal visits continued – Henry VIII brought Emperor Charles V to the Great Hall in 1522 to admire the Round Table. Mary Tudor brought more Spanish guests to the Great Hall in 1554 for her wedding to Philip of Spain, Charles V’s son. Unfortunately, the castle suffered considerable damage during the Civil War, thus the Great Hall is the only major piece of the medieval royal residence to survive.