Raglan Castle has three claims to fame:
- It was the last castle to be built in England and Wales,
- Most of it was built by the first Welshman to enter the aristocracy, and
- It was the second to last castle to fall during the Civil War.
The Welshman was William Herbert, later Earl of Pembroke, a staunch supporter of Edward IV. The castle in its present form was begun around 1435 by William's father, William ap Thomas, on the site of an earlier manor house, Indeed it seems possible that it may have started out as a Norman motte-and-bailey castle.
However it was in about 1460 that William Herbert embarked on a lavish building program to reflect his new found status. This came to an end following his execution at the hands of Richard Neville, Warwick the Kingmaker, in 1469.
Although there were some minor changes in later years, it was not until the Elizabethan period under the ownership of the Somerset family (then Earls of Worcester) that substantial alterations were made to convert the building into a magnificent country house with extensive gardens.
All this came to an end during the English Civil War. After a long siege it was captured by parliamentarian forces and was partially demolished. Only Harlich held out for longer. After the war, the Somersets, by then Dukes of Beaufort, concentrated on repairing and enhancing Badminton House and their other properties. Raglan was left to fall into ruin.
In 1756 things began to change when Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort, began the process of turning it into the attractive ruin we see today. Eventually in 1938 the tenth duke placed it in the guardianship of the Commissioners of HM Works, and it is now maintained by Cadw.
The substantial remains are impressive, and it does not take much imagination to picture what a truly magnificent house this once was. Of the gardens, on the other hand, there is very little trace.