The castle was first started about 1100, and had various owners. In the 14th century, Edward III granted it to his fifth son, Edmund Langley, Duke of York from whom the Yorkists descended. Edmund’s son Edward was killed at the battle of Agincourt in 1415, and he was succeeded by his nephew, Richard, Duke of York.
Richard was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, but it wasn’t until 1476 that his body was brought back to Fotheringhay, to be buried in the church there. The funeral procession was led by his son, Richard of Gloucester (later Richard III), and was met at the entrance of the churchyard by Richard’s older brother, Edward IV.
Edward IV granted the castle and manor to his mother, Cecily Neville, and when she died in 1495, she was buried with her husband in Fotheringhay Church.
The castle was then granted to Cecily’s granddaughter, Elizabeth of York, who had married Henry Tudor, and it remained in royal hands. In 1587, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at the castle.
By 1635 the castle had fallen into ruins and was demolished. Traditionally, James I is supposed to have ordered its demolition to avenge the execution of his mother, but this has no basis in historical fact, as he died in 1625.
Stones from the castle were used for other buildings, and for roads. It’s claimed that the great staircase in the Talbot Inn in nearby Oundle came from the castle.
Nothing now exists apart a fragment of stonework from the great hall, and the motte on which the castle keep once stood. Two plaques commemorate the birth of Richard III and the death of Mary, Queen of Scots.
|Tomb of Richard, Duke of York,|
and his wife, Cecily Neville
And of course there was the 15th century font. In the words of one of the ladies preparing floral arrangements in the church when we visited, ‘That’s where himself was baptised’!