Middleham is likely one of the most important places connected to Richard III.
The castle was the home of his first cousin, Richard Neville (16th Earl of Warwick), otherwise known as “the kingmaker”, Richard was sent here to undergo his knightly training, although the exact age that he began his stay here, and for how long this wardship lasted is not certain, but it is likely that it was when he was about ten years of age and at least for three years. It was here he formed the friendships that would last a life-time with Francis Lovell and Robert Percy. He grew up alongside Warwick’s daughters, Isabelle and Anne, the latter eventually becoming his much loved wife and consort. This was the place he grew to love and call home and when he married Anne (1472) they made Middleham their primary residence, and their only child, Edward, was born here (probably in 1476) and died here in 1484.
Edward IV was also held prisoner here by Warwick in 1469 and it was where Richard Grey was imprisoned here by Richard in 1483.
Richard also set up a collegiate church in the village, now the parish church of St Mary and St Alkelda, and it is filled with information graphics about his life, has copies of the grants given to both church and village and even a copy of Richard III’s great seal and of the Middleham jewel (a fine 15th century gold locket found close to the castle a number of years ago).
It also has a window showing Richard with his son, Edward Middleham, in prayer, representing the boy’s investiture as Prince of Wales.
Middleham is a lovely village just outside the small market town of Leyburn, surrounded by the beautiful Wensleydale. The castle is managed by English Heritage, and although a ruin, there is enough of it remaining that you may climb to the top of the inner keep and get a good sense of how grand it must have been in the late 15th century, especially after Richard had improved the design.
For the second year running, the Richard III Festical was held the first weekend in July, 2016 and it has been announced that there will be every attempt to make this a yearly event. Well worth the visit to celebrate His Grace’s life where it seems he was happiest.