An imposing hilltop castle and the fact the city holds a rare and privileged title, are just two of the clues pointing to Lancaster‘s connections to the crown.
The northern city, located at the heart of Lancashire, has enjoyed an enviable and close relationship with the Royal Monarchy for many a century.
Lancaster became a duchy, or dukedom, in the 13th Century, and its ongoing strong ties with the crown led to Lancaster achieving city status in 1937.
Here we take you on a journey through history to help join the historical dots on your next visit to Lancaster.
This medieval fort is not only the location of the famous Pendle witch trial of 1612 when five residents were put on trial for wizardy, but also came under siege during the English Civil War.
The Witchcraft Act came into force in 1604 and imposed a death sentence on anyone found, among other things, to be “hurting life or limb, procuring love, or injuring cattle by means of charms". The Pendle residents were found guilty – wihtout defence - and hanged on a nearby moor.
During the English Civil War in 1642, the side representing the English Parliament was able to take the castle from the Royalists during a particularly bloody period of the conflict, and defended the year after.
Lancaster Castle is just a few minutes‘ walk from the city train station, and is well signposted on the M6 as you approach the area. Guided tours operate throughout the castle seven days of the week, and allow visitors to discover more about Lancaster’s rich and bloody history.
Duchy of Lancaster
The Duchy of Lancaster is a private estate of over 18,000 hectares, including land, livestock farms and even houses and cottages located not just in Lancashire but several other northern – and southern – counties too.
It is one of only two remaining duchies under the British Crown, that generates royal revenue, in this case for HRM The Queen.
To really get to grips with the scale of the area the duchy covers, hire a car from Lancaster and head into the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outsanding Natural Beauty, to the woodland estate of Whitewell – the largest of five rural esates owned by the Duchy.
Keep your eyes peeled for the Duchy of Lancaster crest on your travels. You can.
House of Lancaster
Henry III of the reigning House of Plantagenet created the title of Earl of Lancaster (and hence the House of Lancaster), giving it to his second son in 1267. As the title passed down from generation to generation, more and more power and land was accrued along the way, until Henry IV took the title and with it, enough power to become King of England.
Another powerful Plantagenet clan, the House of York, disputed Henry’s claim to the throne, which led to the Wars of the Roses, mostly fought between 1455 and 1487.
Wars of the Roses
The red rose of Lancaster fought against the white of York as the two rival houses contested a series of bloody battles for the English throne in the 15th century.
Richard Plantaganet, Duke of York, became temporarily ruler of England in 1455 due to King Henry VI’s decline in health. When Henry recovered and took back control, Richard amassed an army to reclaim the throne in the name of the House of York.
But it was Lancastrian leader Henry Tudor who eventually emerged victorious and was crowned King Henry VII at the war’s conclusion, following the death of the reigning Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
Henry Tudor married Elizabeth of York to unite the houses.
Today the term has taken on a friendlier meaning used to describe any sporting rivalry between the two counties, mostly at a county cricket level and whenever two notable football teams meet.
Lancaster is one of only a few UK cities that continues to enjoy a true royal connection, and we’d highly recommend a visit to the castle and the city’s museums in order for visitors to join the dots further.