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Nottingham Castle is a castle in Nottingham, England. It is located in a commanding position on a natural promontory known as "'Castle Rock'", with cliffs 130 feet (40 m) high to the south and west. In the Middle Ages it was a major royal fortress and occasional royal residence. In decline by the 16th century, it was largely demolished in 1649, but sufficient fragments remain to give an impression of the layout of the site. A ducal mansion later occupied the summit of the promontory. This was burnt out by rioters in 1831, and later adapted as an art gallery and museum, which remains in use today.
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There is some uncertainty whether a castle existed on the site before the Norman Conquest. If there was it would have been smaller and far less elaborate in design than the one that stood there afterwards, keeping in line with Anglo-Saxon architectural tradition.
The first Norman castle was a wooden structure and of a motte-and-bailey design, and was built in 1067, a year after the Battle of Hastings, on the orders of William the Conqueror. This wooden structure was replaced by a far more defensible stone castle during the reign of Henry II, and was imposing and of a complex architectural design, which eventually comprised an upper bailey at the highest point of the castle rock, a middle bailey to the north which contained the main royal apartments, and a large outer bailey to the east.
For centuries the castle served as one of the most important in England for nobles and royalty alike. It was in a strategic position due to its location near a crossing of the River Trent; and it was also known as a place of leisure being close to the royal hunting grounds at Tideswell, which was the “Kings Larder” in the Royal Forest of the Peak, and also the royal forests of Barnsdale and Sherwood Forest. The castle also had its own deer park in the area immediately to the west, which is still known as The Park.
Whilst Richard the Lionheart was away on the Third Crusade, and a great number of English noblemen were away with him, it was said that Nottingham Castle was left derelict and it was occupied by the Sheriff of Nottingham. In the legends of Robin Hood, Nottingham Castle is the scene of the final showdown between the Sheriff and the hero outlaw in many tales.
In 1194, a historic battle took place at Nottingham castle when the supporters of Prince John captured it. The castle was the site of a decisive siege when King Richard I, returned to England and besieged the castle with the siege machines he had used at Jerusalem. Richard was aided by Ranulph de Blondeville, 4th Earl of Chester, and David of Scotland, 8th Earl of Huntingdon.
Shortly before his 18th birthday, Edward III, with the help of a few trusted companions, staged a coup d'état at Nottingham castle (19 October 1330) against his mother Isabella of France, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. Both were acting as Regents during Edward's minority following their murder of his father Edward II at Berkeley Castle. The young king entered the castle via a secret passageway and arrested both Isabella and Roger Mortimer. Mortimer was sent to the Tower of London, and hanged a month later. Isabella of France was forced into retirement at Castle Rising Castle. With this dramatic event, the personal reign of Edward effectively began.
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