Powis Castle is a medieval castle, fortress and grand country mansion located near the town of Welshpool, in Powys, Mid Wales.
The residence of the Earl of Powis, the castle is known for its extensive, attractive formal gardens, terraces, parkland, deerpark and landscaped estate. The property is under the care of the National Trust, who operate it under the name “Powis Castle and Garden”.
Princess Victoria (later Queen Victoria) visited the castle as a child when her mother took her to tour England and Wales in 1832.
Powis, unlike the castles Conwy, Caernarfon, Harlech and nearby Montgomery, which were all built by the English to subdue and rule the Welsh, was the fortress of a dynasty of Welsh princes. In 1266 four years after Edward I’s conquest of Wales, Owain ap Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, the last hereditary prince of Powis, renounced his royal claim title and was granted the title of Baron de la Pole, (e.g. “of the Poole” a reference to Welshpoole, formerly called just Poole and the location of Powis Castle). The ancient Kingdom of Powys had covered the counties of Montgomeryshire, much of Denbighshire, parts of Radnorshire and more anciently large areas of Shropshire.
In 1587 a descendant sold the lordship and castle to Sir Edward Herbert (d. 1595) second son of the first Earl of Pembroke. Sir Edward’s wife was a Roman Catholic and the family’s allegiance to Rome and to the Stuart kings was to shape its destiny for over a century. On 22 October 1644 Powis Castle was captured by Parliamentary troops and was not returned to the family until the restoration of Charles II.
The magnificent State bedroom was installed in about 1665 and further improvements were carried out during the 1670s and 1680s, possible under the direction of William Winde, who may also have designed the extraordinary terraced gardens. Winde’s employer was William, third Lord Powis (c.1626–1696), who was created Earl (1674) and then Marquess (1685) of Powis. Barred by his Catholic faith from high office under Charles II, Lord Powis became one of James II’s chief ministers and followed his master into exile in 1688. Thereafter King William III granted the castle to the 1st Earl of Rochford in 1696. The second Marquess was reinstated in 1722, and on the death of the third Marquess in 1748, Powis was inherited by his Protestant kinsman, Henry Arthur Herbert of Oakly Park, Ludlow, who was made Earl of Powis by George II.
On 6 July 1756 Lord Lyttleton wrote that `About £3,000 laid out upon Powis Castle would make it the most august place in the kingdom.’ and in 1774 Sir John Cullum remarked: `(Powis’s) grand situation, its charming and magnificent prospects, its extensive woody parks of many 100 acres (400,000 m2) … render it one of the first seats of the Kingdom.’
In 1784 Lord Powis’s daughter, Lady Henrietta Herbert, married Edward Clive the eldest son of Clive of India. Their marriage led to the union of the Clive and Powis estates in 1801, and in 1804 the earldom of Powis was recreated for the third time for Edward Clive. Edward then, in accordance with his uncle’s will, duly changed his name to Herbert. The Clive fortune paid for long overdue repairs to the castle which were carried out by Sir Robert Smirke. The garden and park were also improved. Part of Clive of India’s fine collection of old master paintings, French and English furniture, and Italian curiosities, were brought to the castle.
The final alterations to Powis Castle were undertaken at the beginning of the 20th century by G. F. Bodley for George Charles Herbert, 4th Earl of Powis (1862–1952) whose wife improved the garden which she felt had the potential to be `the most beautiful in England and Wales’. She died after a car accident in 1929 and Lord Powis also lost his two sons in the First and Second World Wars.
On his death in 1952, he bequeathed the castle and gardens to the National Trust. He was succeeded by his cousin, Edward Herbert (1889–1974), fifth Earl, whose widow, the Countess Powis, remained living in the dower house, and was succeeded in turn by Christian Victor Charles Herbert the sixth Earl.