Secrets of Great British Castles

Cardiff Castle

Season 2, Episode 2 of 6

Dan Jones is in the heart of Wales, exploring a stronghold that was built not just as an impenetrable fortress but also as a lavish fairy tale home: Cardiff Castle. Cardiff Castle is a truly remarkable site with a history that spans over two thousand years. Roman soldiers slept here, noble knights held court here, and the Bute family - one of the world's richest - transformed the Castle into a romantic, Victorian fantasy. The Bute family brought power and prosperity to Cardiff, which they turned from a sleepy backwater into one of the greatest coal exporting ports in the world. The castle also provided shelter for more than eighteen hundred people during WW2 in the castle's air raid tunnels. Jones discovers that one of William the Conqueror's eldest sons, Robert Curthose, was imprisoned here. In 1106 Henry I gave the castle to his illegitimate son, Robert of Gloucester. After a failed attempt by Robert Curthose to take England from Henry I, William the Conqueror's son was imprisoned in the castle until his death in 1134. In 1314 the castle was given to Hugh Despenser the Younger, the controversial favorite of Edward II. Harsh governance by the Despensers encouraged a Welsh rebellion under Llywelyn Bren. In 1315 Bren attacked the castle. In 1318 Bren was crushed, hung, drawn and quartered on Despenser's orders. Jones meets Dr. Mary Lewis from Reading University who shows Dan the bones of someone who had suffered the same grisly death. Dr. Lewis believes these bones to be those of Hugh Despenser the Younger... Cardiff Castle was besieged many times during the English Civil War. Jones meets a weapons expert who shows him how gunpowder challenged Cardiff Castle's defenses and learns how to load and fire a musket.

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