April 2016 A to Z Challenge. I’m participating by writing about history.
C is for Culpeper Garden at Leeds Castle.
Leeds Castle is located in Maidstone, Kent, England. It was a Norman stronghold in the 11th and 12th centuries, a royal palace in the 13th through 15th, and a Tudor palace in the 16th century. It was also owned by my family at one point. The Culpepers (my mother’s family) owned the castle before the English civil war in the early 1600s. They lost it due to being on the wrong side of the war. If you’re not familiar with the outcome of the war, the king was beheaded and the royalist Culpepers fled to the new colonies to escape the same fate.
In the mid-1600s, the royal family was returned to the throne, and the Culpepers got their house back!!
What is now called the Culpeper garden was originally a kitchen garden and nothing more, but in 1980, a designer transformed it into a cottage garden. It has an informal layout with low box hedges bordering Roses, Lupines, and Poppies. It is said to be named after herbalist Nicholas Culpeper, who is a distant cousin of mine. Nicholas transcribed the pharmacopoeia from Latin to English “so that all men may prescribe for themselves.” He ended up dying in the war mentioned above, but as far as I know, he never lived in the castle. It is still nice that they honored the family hundreds of years later by naming something after them.
The final Culpeper owner of Leeds was Catherine Culpeper. She married Thomas Fairfax in 1690 and the property then transferred into the Fairfax family. Below are photos of Catherine and Thomas. Since their grandfathers were bitter enemies during the war, I’ve always wondered if the families condoned the marriage, if Catherine was being rebellious by marrying the enemy, or if the Fairfaxes were simply out to take everything from the Culpepers. I’m currently writing a story about it called “The Culpepper-Fairfax Scandal.” I’m not set on the end yet, so we’ll see where the characters take me and which scenario plays out. At some point in the story, I need to include a stroll through the garden.