Arundel Castle is one of the oldest and grandest castles in the United Kingdom. A day trip to Arundel castle is almost a prerequisite to learn about the history of England. Given that it is so close to London nothing should stop you from visiting for at least a day.
The most astonishing fact I learned is that it has been in the ownership of the same family for more than 800 years! The owners of Arundel castle are the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, Edward and Georgina Fitzalan-Howard, and their children. Unbelievably, they still call it their home along some other castles in England!
A year after William the Conqueror invaded England at Hastings he visited Arundel where he gave a huge amount of land to his best pal Roger de Montgomery. In return he asked him to build a stone fortification to defend the English coast from other invaders. This Montgomery did and the castle has stood here ever since!
Getting to Arundel Castle
There are regular train services to Arundel from Brighton and London Victoria Station. The journey takes about 90 minutes from London on a direct train.
Driving to Arundel is also easy although parking can be difficult during the high season. Plan to arrive early in the morning (opens at 10AM) to beat the crowds. Also, the castle is HUGE and there are the gardens and the cathedral to see as well, so allow at least 4-5 hours to check everything out. There are plenty of pubs and chip shops in town to get lunch, so don’t feel obliged to eat at the expensive restaurant in the castle.
The Origins of Arundel Castle
Roger de Montgomery lived up to expectations! Some of the original parts of the first keep still stand! What’s more, it’s been the same family inhabiting the castle since the 12th century, which is simply jaw dropping. I find it mind boggling that the same family owned the same structure for so long. Even more because on my father’s side of the family almost every one of my male ancestors had to move from one town to another for seven generations.
I arrived at the castle early afternoon and it was a big mistake! The castle covers thousands of square meters and there is also the garden and the cathedral to look at. In retrospect I should have arrived at 10 AM on the dot for the opening time – even that wouldn’t have been enough to look around properly.
The Castle’s History in a Nutshell
William de Albini moved in around 1176 and ever since then the castle has been in the ownership of his descendants. His great-grand daughther married John Fitzalan, whose son became the first Earl of Arundel. His great-great granddaughter married Thomas de Mowbray. He in turn was the great grandson of Edward I, King of England between 1272-1307. Now you can imagine that the Arundel family is no small fish in the aristocratic sea of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
By the way, since at least the 15th century the head of the family is also the Earl Marshall of England. This brings the responsibility of organising the Queen’s or King’s weddings, funerals, engagements and everything else in between. Basically, the Earl Marshall is the party planner for the royalty. I guess if you become close friends with the Earl of Arundel you are only one step away from the Queen or King…
But here is a twist: the head of the Anglican Church, the Queen/King of the country and Empire was married off by a Catholic! That’s because the Earl is a defender of the Catholic faith! And the Earl’s family could keep all the estates and chapels as a favour by Henry VIII when he basically pillaged all Catholic estates in the 16th century. That’s something!