King Richard’s Palace – Portchester Castle

Richard II's Palace 2

Richard II’s Palace, Portchester Castle

Portchester Castle stands on the edge of the water of Portsmouth Harbour across from Portsmouth. For those of you not from these parts and worried by that conglomeration of consonants in the middle, the first ‘t’ is silent, as it is in ‘castle’.

The castle is rather wonderful. It was originally the site of a huge Roman fort, built to keep the Saxons out. Later it was used by the Saxons, so you can see how successful that plan was. When the Normans arrived in the eleventh century they built a keep and the Plantagenets used it as their base for invasions of France in the eleventh to fifteenth centuries.

I’ll come to the history of the castle in a future post, but today I want to concentrate on something a bit more domestic. Richard II agreed a peace treaty with France at the end of the fourteenth century and the castle no longer had a military purpose. In 1396 he had a palace built in the inner bailey. It’s true that he was restrained by the available space, but the palace is small.

Take the great hall, for instance. It’s not very great. The hall at Stokesay Castle is of a similar size and that was built by a merchant.

Richard II’s hall was on the first floor. For the king, his guests and household it was reached via stairs in the porch. The servants also had to climb stairs, but theirs were from the kitchen.  I’ve marked up the photograph below to show their entrances and exits.

Richard II's Hall diagram

King Richard’s Great Hall, Portchester Castle

Guests would climb up the stairs from the porch to a screened area. They couldn’t go directly into the hall.

Windows of the Great Hall

Windows of the Great Hall, Richard II’s Palace, Portchester Castle

The windows of the Great Hall were glazed and decorated with coats-of-arms and heraldic designs. There were windows only on the side of the hall facing the inner bailey.

Niche for langern 2

Niche for lantern, porch of Richard II’s palace, Portchester Castle

The porch was lit with lanterns.  The pillars on either side of the entrance each have a niche into which a lantern could be placed.

Windows - upper Richard II's Bedchamber

Richard II’s Palace, Portchester Castle

These might look like fireplaces, but they’re blocked windows. They’re designed to let in the maximum amount of light whilst offering a very small target to enemy arrows, since they’re on the side of the palace facing the outer bailey.

It’s believed that the upper of these two windows belonged to Richard II’s bedchamber. I don’t know about you, but I have always imagined that kings of any age would have huge and luxurious bedchambers. Not only was Richard II’s bedchamber only twice the size of mine, but his windows weren’t as large.

Richard II didn’t spend much time here, any more than he did in any of his other palaces. Like all medieval kings, he moved from place to place with his household, often staying only a few days.

Just for fun, here’s a short video I made showing the outside of the palace.

 

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB

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27 Comments

Filed under Castle, Fourteenth Century, Medieval Kings

27 responses to “King Richard’s Palace – Portchester Castle

  1. Losing the Plot

    I now so little about Richard II apaert from he was deposed and starved to death? That looks like a fab Castle

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It is intriguing to walk through these ancient sites and try to visualise how things were. I can tell you enjoyed your trip there!! We will be down that area in June/July will try to visit.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I loved hearing your voice! As with many Americans enamored of all things British, your lovely voice adds more depth to what you write. Almost musical, to my flat & nasallly-accustomed ears.

    Thank you for the tour! Look forward to more of your travelogues!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the tour and the interesting perspective. It’s odd to think of a king not having the best and the brightest.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Luke

    I live around 15 miles from Portchester Castle and visit quite often. With the Roman walls surrounding it and the graffiti from French prisoners of the Napoleonic wars inside the well-preserved Norman keep its a bit of a ‘hidden gem’…

    As for Richard 2nd, think he’s probably up there with Henry 3rd & Edward 2nd in terms of pretty useless monarchs…

    Thanks for the article!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Luke. It is indeed a gem. I don’t live much further away than that and I think it’s the first time I’ve been. It won’t be the last.

      They were rather useless, but none of them was as useless as John.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The ruins became so much more intimate from your pointing out little details such as where the separate entrances were and the niche for the lantern. I so enjoy when history comes alive in these very particular ways.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I enjoyed that, April – partly because it was a place I visited often as a kid. Really enjoyed the detail of your interpretation and thought that the video was a nice touch – I was told it is something I should do, but have resisted so far! If it’s any interest, here’s the same place on A Bit About Britain – http://bitaboutbritain.com/portchester-castle/

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Wonderful tour April. I loved the video. I found it interesting what you said about scale. I wonder if having a small bed chamber for example, would have been a security measure – more difficult for would-be assassins to hide and easier to defend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Robyn. I hadn’t thought about security, but it’s a possibility.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Makes sense to me. And Richard was a capricious man, who might, just for the change, decide on a tiny castle. Maybe he was considering putting tiny quarters in other, small castles. He needn’t bother with a large, and often arguing, household. He would not be able to hold much of a court, or entertain dignitaries. Sounds like a great idea for retreats from administrative duties.

      Do wonder if this was while he had his Cheshire bodyguards? They had to be near enough to protect him when needed. Were they garrisoned by the townspeople? If so, it couldn’t have been pleasant for the locals, since the bodyguards were known to be bullies.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The palace isn’t the whole of the castle and there was plenty of space for his household and bodyguards. The whole place was turned into a prison for French prisoners of war in the eighteenth century and there were hundreds of them there at a time.

        I’m going to do a post about the rest of the castle soon, but I wanted to write about the palace while I had most of the detail in my head.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I can see you are across this subject Shaun. Thanks for encouraging a look at the logistics which must have been tricky.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hello Robyn! Your garden is lovely! Such a restful retreat; the work you put in must have been enormous!

          I enjoy envisioning the humanity of history. In thinking about Richard II paring his household to accompany his sojourn at Portchester, I wonder about the bickering, finagling, griping & sniping that would ensue.

          Most simply wanted to be near the King. Being noticed meant everything.
          The less one was in the King’s periphery, the fewer the perks. And when Richard was in a good mood, the perks might be lavished upon a favored courtier, enough to leave a fine legacy to heirs!

          Others might want to be included for fear their political clout (and maybe a head?) would be axed swiftly by the gossiping “in” courtiers. Tongues wagged constantly. Few could truly rely on anyone else to have their backs. Richard had good reason to want to keep close watch on certain people.

          The Lords Appellant was never forgotten. Richard refused to let that traumatic event be put to rest, but he kept much to himself until the time was right to act. I don’t think he ever really trusted any powerful man after that. He chose his court from men who owed everything to him, alone.

          I like to imagine myself as an old charwoman, totally ignored as I pressed myself against a wall as Richard’s young dandies strutted by, arguing loudly as to whom the monarch needed by his side & who was superfluous. Surely the servants heard much they wished they never had!

          And the servants also had their own bickerings. The Head Butler must have had nightmares about who & what must be kept and left behind. There was also the Keeper of the Royal Wardrobe, Cellerer, Chief Groom, and many other underlings to assay good & services versus usable space. A logistics nightmare! Much had to be obtained from the land surrounding Portchester. Were the reports reliable? Was there a crop failure during the preparations, or other disaster?

          To think that all of this was done with the crudest of transportation, relying on messengers & heralds to keep everyone updated!

          Everything packable was packed! Some went on the road, some onto boats, & some into storage. Only heavy trestles, cupboards & such would be left. Not a bit of comfort left but the brightly colored glass windows covered by heavy shutters.

          I wonder about those who were left behind. Were they fed & quartered, or sent out to live with family or find temporary employment? Those are also people I try to envision. Life was always hard for the menials. Did being among the unchosen make it harder?

          Well, I’ve written way too much. But I come to Ms. Munday to fill in the cracks of my mind. She never fails! Bless her!

          Liked by 2 people

          • Hello Shaun, thank you for dropping by. I tried to visit your site but find you’re not at home??? 😦

            I’m interested in the historical past as well, but more from an anthropological point of view. It seems human behaviour alters little over time. I have learnt a great deal from April. She is a formidable researcher and impeccable in her approach.

            There is another WordPress site that may interest you. Denise is also a great researcher but sees the past through very different eyes. You may have already found her through April’s site. Her blog is:
            The Earl of Southampton’s Cat at
            toutparmoi.com

            I enjoyed your comments about palace politics. I found your take on Richard ii interesting and had to chuckle when you wished to have been a (invisible) charwoman and privy to private conversations. Gossip is power and may be traded as a commodity.

            The preparations for a journey must have been incredible. Woe be upon those responsible if anything went wrong.

            You did not ‘write too’ much. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Please tell me where I can visit your further musings.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Ah Ms. Haynes, I do apologize about the lack of a site. I have no idea how to go about it & don’t even know how to shut down my feeble attempt to make one. Thus it sits empty.

              The world is far more interesting than the life I led. I’d rather soak up information & discuss it. Mine was a humdrum life, which is why I seek places like this that satisfy my cravings for the spackle to fill the cracks of my mind.

              As a historian, I agree that we are not as far removed from our ancestors as we flatter ourselves being. I subscribe to the cyclical theory. At some point, we all return to basic human behavior that hasn’t changed since our earliest beginnings. We move along somewhat springily, like a Slinky toy. Humanity stretches and contracts depending on the forces acting upon it. There is always a “memory”, that makes it snap back when the tension is released.

              The development of artificial intelligence is a new chapter that may be our greatest blessing or bane. Will AI be cyclical? Will it flatline? Stagnate?
              Change so rapidly as to be unmanageable? Here, in its infancy, we can only speculate. I just hope tomorrow’s people can handle it.

              In the meantime, I just want to learn, learn, learn! I do dislike a leaky
              mind!

              Blessings, good lady!

              Liked by 2 people

              • Hello Shaun, let me reassure you, the only one who would think your life is humdrum would be you. This I learned in a study involving over three hundred hours of personal narratives. In fact the larger percentage of exceptional WWII immigrants who overcame all manner of challenges, deemed their lives unexceptional. So, is it the context, the circumstances that make their lives exceptional? Or is it their ability to survive and become more resilient as a result?I like to think that no matter the circumstances or challenges faced, its one’s reaction – what they do in those circumstances that defines their lives.

                Liked by 2 people

  9. Ah yes! I forgot that palaces are sometimes just inner buildings WITHIN a castle complex.
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This response took flight before it was finished!
    I liked your Slinky toy analogy. ‘Humanity stretches and contracts depending on the forces acting upon it. There is always a “memory”, that makes it snap back when the tension is released.’
    Your thoughts on AI will give me pause to contemplate as well.
    Thanks (and apologies) to April for hosting this discussion which strays beyond the original subject.

    Liked by 2 people

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