Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire

Richard Cavendish opens our new series on great houses and those who lived in them with a look at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, scene of Edward II's murder.

Guarding the lush Severn meadows where the cattle graze in the Vale of Berkeley, the castle has been transformed through eight centuries from the frowning fortress where Edward II was brutishly murdered into the civilised home of one of England's oldest and most colourful families. In their twenty-four generations since the castle was built the Berkeleys have been involved in pitched battles, duels, scandals and notorious court cases. They have been army officers, admirals, members of parliament, courtiers, sportsmen and authors. Bishop Berkeley, the famous seventeenth-century philosopher after whom the University of Berkeley, California, was named, came from a junior branch, as did Sir Lennox Berkeley (1903-89), the composer, who would have been Earl of Berkeley if his father's parents had been married.

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