A Raby Castle story

Most castles in Britain faced their doom when, post the English Civil War in the middle of the 17th century,  Parliament decided to slight ex-royal strongholds. Raby Castle managed to survive this, but then it met with new enemies who nearly destroyed it. Sometimes your biggest enemy is the enemy from within…

Christopher Vane inherited Raby Castle when his father was executed at Tower Hill. He became the first owner in centuries to start rebuilding and modernising the castle. Later, he (almost) became the man behind its total destruction, and it was all because of… his son’s wife.

In 1698, Christopher became the first Baron Barnard. He married Elizabeth Holles who was the daughter of an Earl. Things looked very bright for the Vane family, until their son and heir, Gilbert, told them that he would like to marry a girl called Mary Randyll. She was the daughter of an MP, but one without any title or wealth, and, even worse her father had spent time in jail after he could not pay back debts which were created during his election campaigns.

This was still an era when marriages were not about love, they were about titles and money. This was a peerage disaster. Gilbert should at least have married a daughter of an Earl or something, or, alternatively, married a wealthy heiress; Mary Randyll was neither. His mother hated the match and eventually, his parents tried to force him to cancel the engagement. Gilbert was in love, and he did not care about his parents, so the young couple got married.

His parents were furious. They called their son a mad man and accused his wife of manipulating him. They wanted to disinherit him, but this was not something that they could legally do; he was the heir for both the barony and the estates of the family. So his parents decided to destroy his inheritance. They started to sell everything they could from Raby, all the furniture, the paintings, anything of value… They had no mercy for the castle itself, and his father sent men up onto the roof to take the lead out, making the castle vulnerable to rain. The situation at Raby looked terrible. Gilbert had no choice but to take his parents to court…

As you can imagine, this trial became the most exciting story of its time. Finally, the court ruled in favour of Gilbert. His parents not only had to stop the sale, but they also had to replace furniture and fittings and make good the damage they had created. The court also made sure that they did this from their own personal money, and not using money from the estate.

Raby Castle was saved, but all of its medieval treasures (except the family portraits) were gone, and the disastrous relationship between Gilbert and his father can still be seen until today. When you visit the great hall at Raby Castle, you can see all the portraits of the castle owners on display. Whoever arranged these pictures made sure that the picture of Christopher Vane would be hung as far as possible from the one of his son, Gilbert.

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