• Olympic torch in Leeds Castle, Kent

  • A symbolic tradition dating back to the ancient Olympic Games in Greece, the Olympic flame relay in the run up to London 2012 begins on Saturday 19 May 2012 at Land’s End. Travelling the breadth of the UK, on the 66th day of its tour the flame will reside in Kent – and it won’t be the first time.

    The county boasts a rich cultural heritage and is one of the most popular places to visit in the UK. It was one of the few counties to receive the honour of the Olympic flame in the last London Olympics in 1948 - the austerity of the post-WWII Olympics did not allow a nation-wide torch relay. Historic Kent was one of the few exceptions. 

    On Thursday 19th July 2012, the Olympic torch will stay overnight at Leeds Castle Kent– the latest in a long line of notorious and historic guests the castle has received.

    Leeds Castle has been described as ‘the loveliest castle in the world.’ Built over two islands in the River Len and surrounded by the picturesque Kent countryside, the castle has had a somewhat amorous effect on its guests over the years. The castle played a significant role in the founding and course of Britain’s great monarchic dynasty: the Tudors.

    Previous famous lodgers at the castle

    Owain Tudor and Catherine of Valois        

    Recognising the romantic qualities of the castle, King Henry V gifted Leeds to his consort Catherine of Valois. After Henry’s death in 1422, Catherine was only 21. She fell in love with Owain Tudor, a Welsh courtier who was most probably Catherine’s keeper of wardrobe.

    Fearing political unrest should she remarry undesirably, a hasty bill was passed in parliament stating that Dowager Queens were not allowed to remarry without the permission of the King. The King however, Catherine’s son Henry VI, was just 6 years old.

    Catherine and Owain allegedly married in secret in the early 1430s and went on to have at 6 children. Their son Jasper Tudor was the father of Henry, Earl of Richmond, who would go one to defeat Richard III at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 and become Henry VII of England – the first Tudor King.

    Olympic torch in Leeds Castle, KentAnne Boleyn

    The most famous of the Tudor Kings, Henry VIII spent a great deal of time at Leeds Castle and declared it a ‘Royal Palace of Honour’ for his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Henry built the Maiden’s Tower to house Catherine’s Ladies in Waiting. One of these ladies was Anne Boleyn, who would become the desirous monarch’s ill-fated second wife.                      

    In order to marry Anne, Henry overturned British secular law and ousted the Pope as head of the Church. Carelessly sparking a political tension which would dominate daughters Elizabeth and Mary’s reigns, Leeds Castle’s lusty lure was beginning to reap havoc.

    Elizabeth I

    The setting for her mother Anne Boleyn’s doomed love affair, Leeds Castle embodied an altogether different sentiment for Elizabeth. Arrested by her sister Mary for fear of a Protestant revolt which would see her lose the crown, Elizabeth was held under house arrest at various locations in Britain – including Leeds Castle.


    Leeds Castle is featured on the Great British Heritage Pass. Exclusive to the international visitor, the Pass entitles free entry into some of the most popular historical places of the UK. You can buy your Pass online from the official supplier – VisitBritain.


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    AlexanderA writes for Britain's National Tourism Agency about Leeds Castle Kent
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