The Age of Castles in England spanned from 1066 to 1485, when Norman invaders took control of the country. The era has left behind many architectural monuments, including Alnwick Castle, which played an important role during the period.

The Battle of Alnwick

In 1093, Malcom III of Scotland invaded England with the intention of regaining the land between England and Scotland — where a wooden castle may have been built by Gisbright Tyson.

In a surprise attack, Robert de Mowbray, the Earl of Northumbria, marched north and attacked the Scottish army, killing Malcolm III.

By 1095, Mowbray rebelled against William II to put Stephen of Aumale on the throne. The rebellion failed and Alnwick Castle was returned to the crown.

Remodeling Alnwick Castle

In 1096, William II gave the castle to Yvo de Vescy. The wooden castle was rebuilt in stone, with Yvo likely beginning the work and continued by his son-in-law Eustace Fitzjohn. Unlike most Norman keeps which were square, Alnwick Castle’s keep is circular.

Ambush at Alnwick

In 1173, Scottish King William IV (better known as William the Lion) invaded northern England, attacking Alnwick Castle and other castles in the area. Thanks to Alnwick Castle’s strong defence, the attack failed. William attempted the attack again in 1174 but failed and was captured.

A Royal Rebellion

During the reign of King John, owner of Alnwick Castle Eustace de Vescy rebelled against the king, becoming allies with Alexander II of Scotland. Threats to destroy the castle were made by King John, although these did not materialise.

Barnard Castle — which was owned by Hugh de Baliol, an ally of King John — was besieged in 1215. De Vescy was killed in battle there in 1216by a single arrow to the head.

Following the death of the last legitimate member of the de Vescy line around 1296-1297, the castle fell to Antony Bek, the Bishop of Durham. However, Bek sold the castle to Henry Percy in 1309, positioning a trusted warrior with much success in battle as defender of the East March section of the England - Scotland border.

The Percy Legacy Begins

Over the subsequent generations, the Percy lords of Alnwick rebuilt many parts of the Castle and continued to secure the border against Scottish incursions, including a famous victory at the Battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346. Thirty years later, they were elevated to Earls of Northumberland by King Richard II; unfortunately for the family, the 1st Earl was killed in 1408 rebelling against King Henry IV, who he himself had helped to take the throne. The earl’s son Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, one of England’s most celebrated knights, was himself killed fighting the king five years earlier. Hotspur’s son was reinstated to his lands and titles by King Henry V.

The Wars of the Roses

During the first battle of the Wars — the Battle of St Albans in 1455 — the 2nd Earl of Northumberland was killed fighting for Lancastrian King Henry VI. The Percys’ rival family in Yorkshire, the Nevilles, fought for the Yorkists led by Richard, Duke of York.

In 1460, Henry’s wife Margaret of Anjou defeated the Yorkists at the Battle of Wakefield. Richard was killed and his son Edward took up his cause, becoming King in 1461. He was secured as King following the Battle of Towton, which saw the death of the 3rd Earl. His title and lands were confiscated and his teenage son was imprisoned until he swore fealty to the new king.

Between 1462 and 1464, Margaret gathered a Scottish - French army and took several castles in Northumberland, inc luding Alnwick, where she left a garrison of 300 French soldiers. Edward’s ‘Kingmaker’, the Earl of Warwick, gathered a force to lay siege to all these castles. Scottish soldiers created a distraction at Alnwick allowing the French soldiers to escape via the Postern Tower, but this left the castle available for Warwick to take. He placed Ralph Percy in charge, who surrendered it back to Margaret. Warwick laid siege again, this time brining cannon. Alnwick surrendered before he could use them against the castle.

In 1469, Young Percy was released from prison, and swore fealty to Edward, becoming a Yorkist. By 1471, Edward’s trusted supporter and advisor, the Kingmaker, was killed fighting against the king (who he had turned on). Margaret was taken prisoner and Henry VI was murdered in the Tower of London. In 1473, The Percy titles and lands were restored to the 4th Earl and The Barbican at Alnwick is finished by 1475 .