MEET a Medieval Noblewoman

We sent young Members Olivia and Felicity to Framlingham castle in Suffolk to interview former Duchess of Norfolk Margaret Brotherton, who lived here in the 14th century when she was one of England’s wealthiest women. 



Olivia: What's it like to live in a castle?
It's a hive of activity, with people rushing here and rushing there, carrying out their various duties. I have a great many servants. I have a room right at the top of the castle, which has the most magnificent views across my estate.

Felicity: Are you very rich?
I am said to be the richest widow in all of England, with a landed income of £3,000 every year. 

Olivia: How should a duchess behave?
It is your duty to maintain the great traditions of your heritage and to represent your family well by showing courtesy. For example, you must show excellent table manners, you must always place a napkin over your left shoulder or over your left wrist. You must never wipe your mouth upon your sleeve, that will never do.

Olivia: What are you most proud of?
Well, I am most proud of having lived a long and prosperous life. I have always known my own mind. I have always lived fearlessly. I have been persuasive in my time. I've had an interesting life, shall we say!


Margaret Brotherton lived from around 1320 to 1399. She was the granddaughter of King Edward I. In 1338, Margaret and her sister inherited their family's land and property, including Framlingham Castle.

After her first husband - John, Lord Segrave, a soldier and baron - died in 1353, Margaret's second marriage was to Lord Walter Mauny. But she had her land taken away for getting married without a marriage licence from the king. She was held prisoner in Somerton Castle in Lincolnshire but was pardoned in 1355 and had her estates returned.

Lord Mauny died in 1372 and Margaret spent the rest of her life looking after all her land. She lived in Framlingham Castle, where she had a lot of feasts. In one year alone, people in the castle ate 70,321 loaves of bread!


Image: A 14th-century feasting scene
© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford (MS Bodl. 264 fol 72v)


The original 11th-century castle belonged to Hugh Bigod. In 1173 he joined a failed rebellion against King Henry II, who then demolished the castle.  

Hugh's son Roger built the current castle. King John visited him here in 1213, but two years later Roger was one of the barons who made the king sign Magna Carta.  

The castle's most famous owner was Mary Tudor, elder daughter of Henry VIII, who inherited the castle in 1552 and was pronounced Queen of England while living here.

Changing Fortunes

Forty people were held captive at Framlingham Castle in about 1600. In the Tudor period it was used as a prison for people who refused to follow the Protestant church.  When castle owner Sir Robert Hitcham died in 1636, his will left instructions to create a workhouse here for poor people to earn money.

Visit Framlingham Castle

Framlingham Castle is an impressive castle in Suffolk and is where Margaret Brotherton spent most of her time after her second husband died. It is surrounded by parkland and estates, and was a symbol of Margaret's wealth and power. 

You can visit the castle to see where this important medieval noblewoman lived, and to imagine what life would have been like for her almost 600 years ago.  While there, you can take a walk along the wall, visit the workhouse and explore the exhibition to learn all about the castle's history.


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