The list of royal visits is not necessarily complete for there is no record that King Harold came here even though he held the manor – but perhaps he did visit. As we know, in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings he lost the manor (also the kingdom and his life). It is unrecorded and rather unlikely that William the Conqueror came here. Later records do help and this is what is known at present.
Henry II and the Market Charter
Hugh de Ceviliog, Earl of Chester and lord of Campden Manor, joined a revolt against King Henry II, so in about 1174 was temporarily dispossessed of the manor. Henry II sent Hugh de Gondeville to run the manor on his behalf and, in order to increase the revenues, granted a market charter. A new town was laid out on a ‘green field’ site and plain Campden became ‘Market Campden’ – or Chipping Campden.
Somehow Hugh de Ceviliog regained royal favour for he was restored to his lands in January 1177, and 1185 the king himself visited Campden. The royal records, known as Pipe Rolls, show that 2 casks of wine, costing 26s 4d each, were sent from Bristol to the king while he was at Chipping Campden.
The next king to visit was John, who arrived on Saturday 25th July 1215, the Holy Day of St James, just one month after signing Magna Carta.
He was the guest of one of the richest and most powerful barons in the land – Ranulf de Blundeville, Earl of Chester. Ranulf was Lord of the Manor of Chipping Campden, held by the Earls of Chester since before the time of Domesday Book (1089).
The king’s visit lasted two nights, but it is uncertain where he would have stayed. It is certain that Ranulf would not have brought the king to stay if he had not been able to impress him with the superb accommodation he could provide.
On Sunday, 26th July King John remained in Campden, resting and presumably enjoying the fine food and wine supplied by his host. Did he ride along the High Street on the following morning when he set off to Feckenham, to see the shops all open for business? What did the local people think about this royal visitor? It is hard to tell. John had a bad reputation; indeed until a little earlier he had been excommunicated. Rumours must have been rife and the behaviour of his accompanying retinue – of maybe well over 100 – probably did not help. However, as all who lived in the manor owed everything in feudal terms to the Lord of the Manor, they would not have dared to do other than have appeared enthusiastically welcoming.
John’s successor, Henry III, came here three times. In May 1220, still only 9 years old, he paid his first visit and three years came again, aged twelve. Roger de Somery, then lord of the manor welcomed him for his third visit on 16 April 1247. Did he come here on a fourth occasion? We can’t be certain – but he was certainly near here in August 1285 when the Battle of Evesham was fought.
Edward I and Edward III
Less is known of some later visits apart from their dates. Chipping Campden seems to have been a comfortable place to stop en route to other places for hunting or other battles perhaps. Edward I marched through Campden in 1290. Edward III is recorded as having visited five times – in 1327, twice in 1328, in 1332 and again in 1338.
Charles I and II
No more such visits are known until the time of the Civil Wars. Charles I led his army from Moreton to Broadway and Evesham on 6 June 1644. Did he divert to Campden for some refreshments – or did he just stay on the road above? Then in 1651 tradition has it that Charles II passed through while escaping in disguise after the Battle of Worcester.
After that there is a very long gap for it is not until 5 July 1908 that, Edward VII, our next royal visitor, was to be seen. Let us hope that we shall not have to wait so long again for our next.