Fotheringhay Castle in the Northamptonshire village of Fotheringhay is large motte and Bailey castle thought to have been built on the orders of Simon de Senlis, 1st Earl of Northampton, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon in around 1100.
Simon de Senlis died in 1113, leaving his wife Maud free to marry. Henry I (1100-1035), arranged for Maud to marry Prince David of Scotland. As part of this marriage, Prince David, who would later become King David I of Scotland (1124 – 1153), gained control of Fotheringhay Castle as well as other estates in Huntingdonshire.
The ownership of the castle descended through the Scottish royal family until the 12th Century when it was confiscated by King John 1199 – 1216) from Prince David of Scotland, not to be confused with David I.
In 1215, the castle was returned to the control of the Scottish royal family. Shortly after this David of Scotland rebelled against the king, the castle was confiscated by the king. William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke was granted the castle.
In 1218, William Marshal was ordered to return the castle to the control of Prince David. David would go on to die in 1219, and by this time, the castle at Fotheringhay hadn’t been returned to his control.
Alexander II, King of Scotland had a claim to the castle through his family ties with the now deceased Prince David. Henry III’s (1216 – 1272) sister, Joan, was now to marry the king of Scots, and the castle would form part of the dowry for this. In December 1219, Marshal finally handed control of the castle to Henry III.
William II de Forz, 3rd Earl of Albemarle rebelled against the king in 1220. In January 1221, his forces attacked and seized Fotheringhay Castle. Henry III’s forces would go on to seize the castle back for the crown.
Later in 1221, Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent was given custody of the castle on his marriage to king of Scotland’s sister. During the Second Barons War (1264 – 1267), Fotheringhay Castle was taken and held by Robert de Ferrers, 6th Earl of Derbyshire between 1264 -1265. Edward II (1307 – 1327), granted the castle to John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond. John would go on to die in 1334. On his death, his grand daughter, Mary de St Pol, the widowed Countess of Pembroke would go on to inherit the castle.
Mary de St Pol died in 1377. King Edward III (1327 – 1377) gave her property to his son, Edmund Langley. In 1385 he was made Duke of York, with Fotheringhay Castle becoming his principal seat or caput. Around this time a great deal of money was spent in improving the castle.
Edmund Langley died in 1402. Upon his death his estates, including Fotheringhay Castle, passed to his son Edward of Norwich, his eldest son. Edward would go on to be killed at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Edward didn’t have any children, so his estates passed to his nephew, Richard of York.
Richard of York became 3rd Duke of York, a powerful position and he was married to Cecily Neville of the House of Neville. a powerful family from the north of England. Richard fathered two future kings: Edward IV (1461 – 1470, 1471 – 1483) and Richard III (1483 – 1485). Richard III was also born at Fotheringhay Castle.
In March 1454, Richard of York was made ‘protector and defender of the realm’ whilst Henry VI (1422 -1461, 1470 – 1471) was mentally ill. He held this position until February 1455.
During the Wars of the Roses (1455 – 1485), Richard of York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. The castle remained a favourite residence to the family, with Cecily nee Neville entertaining guests there including Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s queen.
Mary, Queen of Scots spent her final days at Fotheringhay, having been imprisoned at other castles for the last 18 years of her life. Mary was tried and convicted of treason at the castle. Mary was beheaded at the castle on 8th February 1587.
By the end of the reign of Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603), the castle was in was in a state of disrepair. By 1635, it was in a ruinous state and was demolished soon afterwards.
Today, the castle’s earthwork and masonry remains are on private land but can be seen from a public footpath that runs nearby during reasonable daylight hours.