A warm welcome to Belvoir.
We feel so very fortunate to be acting as custodians for what is a short time in Belvoir’s many centuries of history – to this splendid historic home and estate. We delight in being able to share Belvoir’s many treasures, its history and stories with you.
It is our aim to preserve and cherish Belvoir and all within the home and estate to enable future generations to enjoy for many more centuries to come…
Belvoir Castle is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland. The family have lived at Belvoir in an unbroken line for almost a thousand years. Crowning a hill in Leicestershire, its turrets and towers rise over the Vale of Belvoir like an illustration in a romantic fairytale.
The land was a gift from William the Conqueror to one of his Norman barons – Robert de Todeni who fought for him as his Standard Bearer at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The first castle which was begun in 1067, was constructed primarily to defend its Norman owners from attack, and so took full advantage of its defensive position high up on the ridge. By 1464 the Wars of the Roses had taken their toll on the building and it was more or less in ruins. Some 60 years later it rose again, but as a nobler structure with a central courtyard, parts of which can still be recognised today. But in 1649 that too was destroyed, by Parliamentarians after Royalists had seized it during the Civil War. Its third incarnation, began in 1654 was designed as a large family home with no connotations of defence or war.
The castle you see today finally emerged in the early 1800s and was built for the 5th Duke and Duchess of Rutland between 1801 and 1832 by architect James Wyatt.
The castles was give the French name Belvoir – meaning beautiful view – now pronounced ‘beaver’ remains as one of the most magnificent and beautiful Regency houses in England.
Belvoir Castle is adorned both indoors and out with the products of creative artists who have been admired – or hired – by each generation of the Manners family, who have arranged these paintings, sculptures and furnishings to reflect their innermost aesthetic preferences.
The Fifth Duke, John Henry (1787-1856), and his Duchess, Elizabeth (Duchess 1799-1825) created many of the interiors you will enjoy today, but they did so with heirlooms passed down mainly from his father and great grandfather, and with their own acquisitions and commissions too.
The present Duke’s Great Grandmother, Violet (Duchess 1906-1925) was a portrait artist herself, and you will see portraits of and by her around the Castle. She also added and arranged furniture and objets d’art in both the Castle and its Gardens in her own inimitable style.
John, 3rd Duke of Rutland (1721-79), was the first member of the family to avidly collect Old Masters, including works by Gaspar Poussin, Durer, Rubens, , although he never did the conventional Grand Tour that stimulated many other collectors of his time. Within ten years his burgeoning collection demanded a Gallery, and he extended the Castle in 1750 with a ‘Picture Room’ that was more attractive inside than out and so was the first wing to be demolished when his grandson John Henry began his re-modelling of Belvoir. But the idea of a Gallery dedicated to the display of the collection has taken root: come upstairs to see Henry VIII after Holbein, Teniers’ Proverbs, and three works by Gainsborough.
Charles, 4th Duke (1779-1787), may not have held the title long, dying tragically young as a result perhaps of his convivial style as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in Dublin Castle, but his impact on the collection was disproportionate. He splashed out to buy Poussin’s Seven Sacraments when hard-up in 1785, and resisted all advice to sell them at an instant 100% profit.
At the same time, Charles was commissioning top contemporary portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds to paint his own family and friends, pre-eminent animal artist George Stubbs to immortalize his beloved dogs, and the famous sculptor Nollekens to model busts that now adorn the Regent’s Gallery. To John Henry and his children these were not remote ancestors and great statesmen; they were people they had known and loved.
Belvoir has many rooms with layers upon layers of history interwoven into the very fabric of the building. Here is a taste of some of the rooms at Belvoir…
The Guard Room
This room was designed to leave a lasting impression on any visitor to Belvoir, once alighted from your carriage in the covered Portico, then walking down the Pre-guard room flanked by 18th Century Brown Bess Flintlock Muskets you enter a room with a wow factor. The guard room was designed in true gothic revival architecture – accomplished by architect James Wyatt, commissioned by the 5th Duke and his wife Duchess Elizabeth
The Kings Rooms
Consisting of a suite of 3 rooms they were designed for the exclusive use of The Prince Regent – later King George IV who was a close friend of the 5th Duke of Rutland, later in 1843 the rooms were occupied by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on a visit to Belvoir.
One of the most evocative rooms in the castle. This was the first room in England at it’s time to be decorated in the style of Louis XIV. The panellings came direct from Madame de Maintenon’s palace in Paris and were used by the 5th Duke to furnish the room in a decadent and opulent fashion following the sudden death of his beautiful wife Elizabeth. It is often remarked that the room is a representation of his grief at his loss where he put his heart and soul into making the room somewhere she would have loved.
Volunteer in the Castle
If you are interested in art and history and would like to be considered as a volunteer please contact us on 01476 871001