March 29, 1991
Drove to Leeds Castle through the sunny morning. I was delighted with the beauty of the countryside – the impossible green of the grass, rolling hills starred with daffodils and crocuses, trees misty with buds, tall hedges bordering narrow lanes, wood violets, hyacinths, the transparent green of weeping willows.
The approach to the castle was breathtaking – ducks, swans, geese and plovers in ornamental ponds, and one very ornamental and ornery peacock who refused to be photographed. The castle itself is beautiful, situated in a lake with stunning views over the countryside. However, the lovely interior was brought there by Lady Baillie, who owned the castle for 40-odd years from the 1920’s on.
She brought over entire staircases of oak, 16th century fireplaces, tapestries, etc. For example, the beautiful ebony floor in “Henry VIII’s Banqueting Hall” was put in by Lady Baillie in 1926, together with the centuries-old fireplace and Florentine table, so, in other words, Henry would not have recognized this room. Practically nothing belongs to any of the several previous owners before Lady B. It is a beautiful building, but basically the fantasy of a wealthy woman who could import and recreate anything she wished. There is no trace of the medieval or Tudor queens and kings.
I was impressed by the number of windows. There were several large windows, with window seats, which dated from the 13th century, a time more notable for its arrow slits than its windows. Possibly the owners of the castle felt safe because the castle is surrounded by a lake.
Had a wonderful farewell dinner at a Thai restaurant. Full moon and stars tonight.