DiCamillo Companion
England

Belvoir Castle

  • Earlier Houses: At least two earlier buildings existed on the site: a Norman castle and a 16th century house, bits and pieces of which were incorporated into the current castle.

    House & Family History: The name of the castle, meaning "beautiful view" in French, dates to a famous Norman castle built in the 11th century by Robert de Todeni (later Robert de Belvedeir), standard bearer to William the Conqueror. This castle was mostly destroyed by Lord Hastings in the 15th century during the Wars of the Roses and remained ruinous for years. Belvoir was rebuilt in the 16th century by the 1st Earl of Rutland, using stone from the recently dissolved Croxton Abbey and Belvoir Priory. This castle was also destroyed—this time in 1649, as part of a siege by Parliamentarians during the English Civil War (during the war Belvoir was a notable stronghold of the king's supporters; Charles I spent a night here on his way into Lincolnshire during the Civil War). The castle was rebuilt again in the 1650s and 1660s, after which it was noted for its plantations on the top of the hill (see engraving in the "Images" section). Today's Belvoir, complete with 1,200 windows, is mostly a 19th century creation. Based on the 17th century castle, and incorporating parts of the earlier castles, this romantic 19th century building was commissioned by Elizabeth, 5th Duchess of Rutland (1780-1825). Initially erected to the designs of James Wyatt, the first creation was virtually destroyed by the catastrophic fire of October 26, 1816; after the fire, members of Wyatt's family (James Wyatt had died in 1813) came together to create the Belvoir of today. All over this was overseen by the 5th Duchess, who tragically didn't live to see the finished interiors. Her husband named the grandest of these new rooms, the Louis XIV style Elizabeth Saloon, in her memory. The convicted war criminal Hermann Göring, reichsmarschall and Hitler's Luftwaffe head, supposedly planned to requisition Belvoir as his English hunting lodge after the Nazi invasion of Britain. Belvoir is at the center of Catherine Bailey's 2012 book, "The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret."

    Collections: Belvoir contains canvases by Poussin, Holbein, Rubens, Reynolds, and an interesting 1671 painting of Cheveley Park (a now-demolished former seat of the dukes of Rutland) by Jan Siberechts. The collection also includes Gobelins and Mortlake tapestries, Chinese silks, furniture, porcelain, and sculpture. The devastating October 26, 1816 fire destroyed 115 paintings, including works by van Dyck, Poussin, Rubens, Reynolds, and Titian. Belvoir once contained a famous series of paintings by Nicholas Poussin entitled “The Seven Sacraments.” Painted between 1637 and 1640, the series was purchased by the 4th Duke of Rutland in 1784. “Penance” was destroyed by the famous 1816 fire; in 1939 “Baptism” was acquired by the National Gallery of Art, Washington; in 2011 “Ordination” (see “Images” section) was purchased by the Kimbell Art Museum, Texas, for $24 million; “Extreme Unction” was sold by the 11th Duke in 2013 to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. The remaining three (“Eucharist,” “Confirmation,” and “Marriage”) are today in the collection at Belvoir. The Rutland Psalter was sold to the British Museum in 1984.

    Comments: Pevsner called Belvoir "...much the beau ideal of the romantic castle." In 1846 "White's Directory" cited Belvoir as "by far the most superb architectural ornament of which Leicestershire can boast."

  • Garden & Outbuildings: The Statue Gardens were constructed into the hillside below the castle and named after the 17th century sculptures on display. Thomas Barlow designed the stables for 1st Duke of Rutland. The Belvoir Estate today comprises approximately 20,000 acres.

  • Architect: Lancelot Brown

    Date: 1779-80
    Designed: Grounds

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    Architect: Matthew Cotes Wyatt

    Date: Circa 1820-30
    Designed: Interiors, together with Benjamin Dean Wyatt.

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    Architect: John Thorpe

    Date: 17th century
    Designed: Gallery between Rosse and Stanton Towers on the South Front of the Castle
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
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    Architect: John Webb

    Date: 1655-68
    Designed: Rebuilt Castle for 8th Earl of Rutland after damage by Parliamentary forces in 1649

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    Architect: Benjamin Dean Wyatt

    Date: Circa 1820-30
    Designed: Interior decoration of principal rooms and Romanesque Mausoleum in grounds for 5th Duke of Rutland (in collaboration with M.C. Wyatt)

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    Architect: Thomas Barlow

    Date: Early 18th century
    Designed: Stables for 1st Duke of Rutland

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    Architect: James Wyatt

    Date: 1801-13
    Designed: Rebuilt and remodeled House for the 5th Duke of Rutland

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    Architect: Jeffry Wyatville (Wyattville) (Wyatt)

    Date: 1816
    Designed: Rebuilt after fire
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
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  • Vitruvius Britannicus: C. IVth. pls. 47-50, 1739.

    John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. II, p. 61, 1853.

    John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. II, 1819.

    Country Life: XCI, 851 [Plate], 1036 [Plate], 1130 [Plate], 1942. CXX, 1284, 1402 plan, 1456, 1500, 1956.

  • Title: Belvoir Castle: 1,000 Years of Family, Art and Architecture
    Author: Duchess of Rutland
    Year Published: 2009
    Reference: pg. 49
    Publisher: London: Frances Lincoln Limited
    ISBN: 9780711230521
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Reference: pgs. 979, 1030, 1105, 1119
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Movie Locations: A Guide to Britain & Ireland
    Author: Adams, Mark
    Year Published: 2000
    Publisher: London: Boxtree
    ISBN: 0752271695
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Disintegration of a Heritage: Country Houses and their Collections, 1979-1992, The
    Author: Sayer, Michael
    Year Published: 1993
    Publisher: Norfolk: Michael Russell (Publishing)
    ISBN: 0859551970
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade II

  • "Little Lord Fauntleroy" (1980 - TV movie, as Dorincourt). "Young Sherlock Holmes" (1985). "A Hazard of Hearts" (1987 - TV movie). "King Ralph" (1991 - the White Room was used as a Buckingham Palace interior). "The Haunting" (1999). "The Golden Bowl" (2000). "Stately Suppers" (2005 - TV documentary, one of 10 half-hour episodes). "The Da Vinci Code" (2006 - as Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's Italian summer residence; exterior helicopter shots only). "The Young Victoria" (2009 - the Elizabeth Saloon was used as an interior of the Duchess of Kent's residence). "The Duchess" (2009 - HGTV 6-part docu-soap series on family life at Belvoir Castle narrated by Clive Pearce). "Victoria and Abdul" (2017). "The Crown" (2016-19 - as Windsor Castle). "The Great" (2020).
  • Current Seat / Home of: David Charles Robert Manners, 11th Duke of Rutland; Manners family here since the 16th century.

    Past Seat / Home of: SEATED AT EARLIER HOUSES: Robert de Todeni, later Robert de Belvedeir, 11th century. William d'Aubigny (Albanie), 13th century. Robert de Ros (Roo), 13th century. George Manners, 11th Baron de Ros, until 1513; Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland and 12th Baron de Ros of Helmsley; 1513-43; Henry Manners, 2nd Earl of Rutland and 13th Baron de Ros of Helmsley, 1543-63; Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland and 14th Baron de Ros of Helmsley, 1563-87; John Manners, 4th Earl of Rutland, 1587-88; Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland, 1588-1612; Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland, 1612-32; George Manners, 7th Earl of Rutland, 1632-41; John Manners, 8th Earl of Rutland, 1641-79; John Manners, 1st Duke of Rutland and 9th Earl of Rutland, 1679-1711; John Manners, 2nd Duke of Rutland, 1711-21; John Manners, 3rd Duke of Rutland, 1721-79; Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland, 1779-87. SEATED AT CURRENT HOUSE: John Henry Manners, 5th Duke of Rutland, until 1857; Charles Cecil John Manners, 6th Duke of Rutland, 1857-88; John James Robert Manners, 7th Duke of Rutland, 1888-1906; Henry John Brinsley Manners, 8th Duke of Rutland, 1906-25; Captain John Henry Montagu Manners, 9th Duke of Rutland, 1925-40; Charles John Robert Manners, 10th Duke of Rutland, 1940-99.

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01476-871-002

    Fax: 01476-870-443

    Email: info@belvoircastle.com

    Website: http://www.belvoircastle.com

    Historic Houses Member: Yes