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The castle in the Middle Ages

Victorian stained glass roundel of the chained swan, the crest and badge of the de Bohun familyCaldicot is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, not for its castle, but as an agricultural holding of Durand, Sheriff of Gloucester. Walter fitz Roger, Durand's nephew, inherited his lands as well as his fathers office of Constable of England which remained with the lords of Caldicot. Walter's son Milo was granted the Earldom of Hereford to add to his titles. Milo's five sons died childless so his eldest daughter, Margaret, took to her marriage with Humphrey de Bohun III the Earldom of Hereford, the Constableship of England, and Caldicot.

The de Bohuns held Caldicot for the next two centuries, aquiring many additional lands and titles as they became more powerful.

Stone carved with the name Thomas incorporated into the outer doorway of the Woodstock TowerIn their prominent position the de Bohuns sometimes sought to curb the power of the king, or even to oppose him. Henry de Bohun (d.1220) sided with the rebel barons against King John and was among the twenty-five earls appointed to force him to keep the terms of Magna Carta. Humphrey VIII (d.1321) was considered eligible for a royal match, marrying Elizabeth, seventh daughter of Edward I. Their son Humphrey IX never married, and his lands and titles went to his nephew, Humphrey X. The de Bohun family now held three earldoms, Hereford, Essex and Northampton, and this enormous power was the inheritance, on Humphrey X's early death in 1373 of his two small daughters, Alianore aged seven and Mary aged three. They became wards of the king, and Edward III granted their guardianship to his youngest son, Thomas of Woodstock. Thomas married Alianore and planned to keep all the de Bohun estates and titles by preparing Mary for life as a nun. However, in his absence, his brother John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, contrived a marriage between Mary and his own son Henry Bolingbroke, and the de Bohun inheritance was divided. Caldicot remained with Alianore and Thomas, now created Duke of Gloucester, who began a new building campaign at the castle.

Thomas and his brothers were initially the power behind the throne of their young nephew Richard II, but Thomas's active opposition to the king's extravagance and reliance on favourites brought them into conflict. Richard eventually took his revenge and had his uncle murdered. In 1399 Henry Bolingbroke seized the throne from Richard, and although Mary did not live to see her husband crowned Henry IV, her son, born at Monmouth Castle, would be one of the country's great heroes, Henry V, victor of Agincourt.