The first stone castle was built by a Norman baron in the reign of William the Conqueror’s son Henry I, on an island in the River Len. In 1278, a century and a half later, it came into the possession of Queen Eleanor of Castile, first wife of Edward I.
For the next three hundred years it remained a royal residence, before again becoming a private home. This in turn was handed down over four centuries, by both inheritance and purchase, through a network of interlinked families.
Sold in 1926 to pay death duties, it was acquired by a wealthy Anglo-American heiress, later to become the Hon. Olive, Lady Baillie. The castle was her lifelong love and she ensured that after her death the castle, managed by the Leeds Castle Foundation, should be enjoyed by visitors from all over the world.