Ludlow was constructed at the instigation of Walter de Lacy or his son Roger in the late eleventh century in the Welsh frontier region. It is situated in a prominent position on a natural ridge that overlooks the River Teme, on the north-west corner of the adjoining town. The first castle was made of stone and consisted of a walled enclosure and gatehouse tower encircled by a ditch. In the second half of the twelfth century its extent was greatly expanded through the addition of the outer bailey. Major building work in the inner bailey was carried out in the thirteenth century and fourteenth centuries. Geoffrey de Geneville gained ownership of the castle through his marriage to Maud, heiress to Walter de Lacy in 1252. Ludlow was subsequently acquired by Roger Mortimer, later earl of March, through his marriage to Joan, Geneville’s granddaughter in 1301. The Mortimer inheritance later passed to Edmund, duke of York, the nephew of Edmund Mortimer, upon the latter’s death, in 1425.
Ludlow was the favourite residence of Richard, duke of York, which he frequently visited. York’s first rebellious act against the government of Henry VI occurred in the autumn of 1450, when he landed at Beaumaris in Anglesey, having left his post as lieutenant of Ireland without permission. Royal officials in the region attempted to block his passage through Wales, but he succeeded in making his way to the safety of Ludlow. The castle subsequently served as his headquarters for his first campaign against the king two years later. On 9 January 1452, York issued a public statement from the castle, in which he declared his loyalty to the king but claimed that his enemies were acting against him. From Ludlow, he sent out instructions to his supporters to raise men in the region and elsewhere in the kingdom. York was eventually outmanoeuvred by royal forces and forced to surrender to the king at Dartford in Kent, but escaped serious punishment. Seven years afterwards, Ludlow once again served as his base of operations for his rebellion against the king. The different contingents of the Yorkist army joined forces at Ludlow, before eventually taking up a defensive position a short distance away to the south at Ludford Bridge in October 1459. Whilst there they were confronted by a larger royal host led in person by Henry. Before a battle could take place, the Yorkist leadership fled the field and took refuge overseas. Ludlow was then looted by the royal soldiers, with a garrison installed in the castle, under the command of the newly appointed constable, John Sutton, Lord Dudley.
Ludlow thereafter played a limited role in the campaigns of the Wars of the Roses. York briefly stayed there in 1460, as did his son, Edward IV, in the following year. The accession of the latter to the throne meant that it thereby became a royal castle. From 1473 onwards, the king’s eldest son, Prince Edward, and his council frequently resided at Ludlow. In the same year, a set of household ordinances was created for the governance of his household, which shows the careful arrangements made for the education and upbringing of the heir to the throne. Following the unexpected death of his father in April 1483, Edward V left Ludlow and made his way towards London for his coronation. However, whilst on-route his entourage was intercepted by his uncle, Richard, duke of Gloucester, and he was subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London.
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