Royal Tales of the Chilterns: murder, lost treasure and pole vaulting

Royal Tales of the Chilterns: murder, lost treasure and pole vaulting

It’s Platinum Jubilee time, and the Queen celebrates 70 years on the throne. In the run up to platinum jubilee weekend people all over the country are planning events. You can find out what’s going on in the Chilterns or near you at: The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee 2022

To entertain you in the run up, here are some stories about Royals in residence in the Chilterns throughout history and the dramatic rise and fall of Chilterns towns and villages, with tales of battles, murder plots, Royal pole vaulting disasters and lost earrings. You can visit all the places mentioned.

  • Did you know that the tiny village of Ewelme once had a palace?
  • Did you know that the Royalists surrendered to Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian Roundheads at Wallingford, and that Wallingford Castle was once one of England’s most important castles?
  • King Henry VIII once tried to pole vault across the river at Hitchin… find out if he made it below.

Wallingford, William, War and Murder

Did you know that Wallingford used to be the same size as King Alfreds Capital, Winchester? This tranquil market town was a powerful place, in the 9th century. Here’s a timeline of Royal Wallingford happenings.

1066: Wigod, Lord of Wallingford, let William the Conqueror and his army across the river at Wallingford, fresh from victory over King Harold, on his way to be crowned King in London.

1067: William built Wallingford Castle, which remained one of the most impressive and powerful castles in England throughout the Middle Ages.

1155: Henry II held a Great Council at Wallingford and rewarded the town with a Charter of Liberties allowing it to have a guild, burgesses and hold regular markets as the town still does today.

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Wallingford Castle

Famous residents in the 14th century: Piers Gaveston who was gifted the castle by Edward II and held a huge tournament there 1307. Wallingford was Edward the Black Prince’s principal residence. Edward II’s wife, Isabella, plotted here against her husband with Roger Mortimer, who was involved in Edward’s murder. Young King Henry IV was tutored in Wallingford.

Civil war and 1652: Wallingford Castle was a Royalist Stronghold in the English Civil War and the site of the Royalists’ surrender to Oliver Cromwell and the Roundheads. The castle was destroyed by Cromwell in 1652.


Wallingford Castle Gardens and ruins for a roll down the hill into the dry moat, and a circular walk through Castle Meadows to the river, returning to town along the Thames. Wallingford Museum for more history fun facts.

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Wallingford Castle Gardens

Ewelme’s Palace and Duchess Alice

Did you know that the tiny village of Ewelme once had a palace? Alice de a Pole, Duchess of Suffolk and her father Thomas Chaucer once lived there. You’ll know of Alice’s grandfather, Geoffrey Chaucer the poet of The Canterbury Tales fame.

Ewelme’s beautiful 15th century Almshouses were established in 1437 by the Alice de la Pole and she and Thomas are both buried in St. Mary’s Church, which adjoins the Almshouses. Thomas has a memorial brass on a fine tomb chest and Alice lies beneath one of the most magnificent medieval church monuments in the country. Her effigy was examined by Queen Victoria’s commissioners in order to discover how a lady should wear the Order of the Garter. Married three times, Alice was a powerful and influential woman. Amongst her husbands were the 4th Earl of Salisbury and the 1st Duke of Suffolk, Lord Chamberlain of England.

Ewelme’s village pond is known as King’s Pool – legend has it that Henry VIII bathed his ulcerous legs in the pool, and that he also visited Ewelme on his honeymoon with his new Queen Katherine Howard and she playfully pushed him into the pool.

Queen Elizabeth II attended St Mary’s Church on 15th April 1962 for the christening of her godchild Edwina Hicks (who is also granddaughter of the late 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma). Edwina’s father, David Hicks, world famous interior designer to the aristocracy had his funeral in St Mary’s Church in April 1998.


Ewelme’s Almshouses, St Mary’s Church, the Watercress beds and nature reserve, and stop by Ewelme’s village shop and café for a cuppa. Ewelme Pottery is also worth a visit during Oxfordshire Artweeks or buy appointment.

Read more about Ewelme's Royal connections

Berkhamsted Castle

William the Conqueror was formally offered the royal crown here after his victory at the Battle of Hastings, and this motte and bailey castle was built by the William’s brother. Royal hands that the castle has passed through include Henry 11, Edward the Black Prince, Henry V, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.


Berkhamsted Castle ruins for a picnic in the company of Royal ghosts of feasting kings and queens. For a modern history fix check out The Rex Art Deco cinema and do the Berkhamsted Waterways walk.

Read more about Berkhamsted's Royal connections
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Hitchin and Henry VIII

King Henry VIII was partial to a bit of hunting in the beautiful countryside. Although we know him as a formidable corpulent royal, he was athletic in his younger days and the story goes that he once tried to pole vault across the River Hiz. Having become heavier than he realised, the pole snapped under him and he fell into the river, which greatly tickled his servants. This event was, until recently, commemorated on the sign of the Buck’s Head pub in nearby Little Wymondley.


Picturesque St Mary’s Church by the River Hiz, Hitchin Market, one of the largest outdoor markets in the region, and the British School’s Museum.

Read more about Hitchin's Royal connections
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St Mary's Church in Hitchin © Jim Osley 

Princes Risborough

The Manor of Risborough was owned by royalty for over 600 years including Edward, the Black Prince. After his death, the Manor was handed down through royal generations until eventually in 1628 Charles I sold the Manor of Princes Risborough to the City of London in part repayment of his large debts.


For the KOP Hill Climb, the Chilterns Cycleway, and the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway.

Read more about Princes Risborough Royal connections

Chenies Manor

Henry VIII is said to have entertained at this wonderful Tudor manor house near Amersham, built around 1460. Queen Elizabeth I visited several times, and in July 1570, according to an entry in a wardrobe book, she lost some small gold fastenings called aglets from her dress. There is a huge oak tree in the grounds of the Manor, known as Queen Elizabeth’s Oak, under which it is thought she lost the jewellery. You can visit the house and its beautiful gardens which have been restored by the current owners.

Visit Chenies Manor 

Read more about Chenies Manor's Royal connections
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From Victoria R - The Royal Gifts of Hughenden

Discover the stories behind the gifts given to Benjamin Disraeli by Queen Victoria in the top floor Manor exhibition at Hughenden. Read more.

Lindy Hop at Chilterns Open Air Museum

On Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd June come and join in the Jubilee celebrations at Chiltern Open Air Museum. Jeep, Jump Jive will be playing music from their US Army Force Jeep. The whole family can have a go at some Lindy hop with dance classes at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.

Have a look at the Jubilee bunting made by local school children and explore the museum’s collection of over 30 historic buildings and working historic farm. Book here.

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