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From secret love affairs in Preston Hall to holidays on the Isle of Sheppey, the Tudors and King Henry VIII have countless links to Kent

The Tudors, a royal family infamous for King Henry VIII and his six wives, had a special connection to Kent during their years on the throne.

Although their main residence was in London, the family regularly visited Kent, owned our castles, and used it as a gateway to continental Europe during their 118 year reign.

King Henry VIII
King Henry VIII

The first, and probably most well known link, comes from the fact King Henry VIII resided in the beautiful setting of Leeds Castle in Maidstone.

The historical landmark says while his father King Henry VII never took much of an interest, between 1517 and 1523 King Henry VIII made major changes to the castle to suit his visits with first wife Catherine of Aragon.

He transformed the castle into the Tudor Palace flattening archways, decorating fireplaces and even adding a whole new floor believed to be reserved exclusively for his queen.

He also closed the chapel King Edward I had built to remember his beloved queen, Eleanor.

His second wife, Anne Boleyn also has links to the county in Tonbridge, Sevenoaks and the Isle of Sheppey.

Henry VIII made major renovations to Leeds Castle. Picture: Leeds Castle Foundation
Henry VIII made major renovations to Leeds Castle. Picture: Leeds Castle Foundation

Before the pair were married, Henry took over Penshurst Place near Tonbridge in 1521 when he had its owner, the third Duke of Buckingham beheaded for being a traitor.

It was then managed by Anne Boleyn’s brother, George when the pair were courting.

Anne Boleyn Close in Eastchurch is thought to have got its name from the king and queen's stay in Shurland Hall.

According to On the Tudor Trail, it was owned by one of Henry VIII’s most trusted courtiers, Thomas Cheyne.

In 1532, Henry and Anne stayed at the 16th-century gatehouse for three days while waiting to travel to France to meet King Francis I.

Anne Boleyn Close in Eastchurch. Picture: Google Street View
Anne Boleyn Close in Eastchurch. Picture: Google Street View

It's believed they would have been seeking approval for their upcoming wedding.

All that remains today is the shell of the gatehouse and fractions of the great hall where the couple would have been entertained during their brief visit.

Kent was a familiar setting for the former queen who grew up living in Hever Castle in Edenbridge which was owned by the Boleyn family since 1462.

When Anne and Henry's marriage broke down and she was executed, her family's status plummeted and Henry VIII later gave the castle to his fourth wife Anne of Cleves.

King Henry VIII, the second Tudor King is also the reason why Kent is known as the Garden of England.

Tudor manor Shurland Hall at Eastchurch
Tudor manor Shurland Hall at Eastchurch

Legend has it he coined the phrase after polishing off a plate of Kentish cherries during the days when the county first supplied food and drink to London.

He was so impressed by the fruit harvests and gave the county the prestigious title which has stuck ever since.

Moving on to wife number five, Catherine Howard has a link to Kent the former queen herself would probably rather have kept a secret.

Preston Hall in Aylesford has been nicknamed her 'secret love nest' for the alleged affair she had with Sir Thomas Culpeper, the king's Royal courtier.

Whether the pair were romantically involved has been the subject of many debates since the 16th-century but evidence certainly suggests they spent a lot of time together.

Preston Hall in Aylesford
Preston Hall in Aylesford

The stately home which dates back to 1102 was owned by the Culpeper family and Thomas was Catherine's first cousin.

To avoid speculation of others living in the house, the pair would regularly meet in a secret staircase.

When Henry VIII found out about the affair, he sentenced the lovers to death for treason.

Multiple sources say on the day of her beheading, Catherine Howard declared her love for Culpeper standing on scaffolding in Preston Hall saying "I die a queen, but I would rather die the wife of Thomas Culpeper".

The famous affair in Aylesford was also the subject of an episode of the popular TV drama The Tudors which aired between 2007 and 2010.

A portrait of Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle
A portrait of Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle

Sissinghurst Castle in the Weald of Kent has direct links to the Tudors mainly through the fact it was a useful place to stay on their travels.

During their reign it was owned by Sir John Baker who bought it in 1530.

It's documented that Henry VIII's first daughter Mary I visited in 1557 while her sister Elizabeth I stayed with Sir John’s son Sir Richard Baker in 1573.

Knole House in Sevenoaks, the former archbishops palace during the times of Thomas Cramner, was taken over by the Tudors in 1538 according to the National Trust.

It is said Henry VIII loved Knole so much, he forced Thomas Cramner to hand it over to him.

Knole in Sevenoaks. Picture: Shutterstock
Knole in Sevenoaks. Picture: Shutterstock

He thought it was the ideal place to hunt and later it became a useful residence for Mary I.

It stayed in the Tudor family until around 1561 when Elizabeth I gave it to courtier, Robert Dudley.

By 1566 the house had been passed on to the Sackville family who still own the estate today.

Dover Castle also played an important rule in the family's history.

It became Henry VII medieval palace and his son later built three artillery forts to protect the harbour.

The Great Tower’s royal apartments in the landmark were then refurbished especially for Anne of Cleves on her way to marry Henry in 1539.

Queen Elizabeth I also visited in 1573 and is said to have kept a watchful eye over the landmark during the war with Spain.

By the time Henry VIII died in 1547, it's believed he owned around 70 residences across England.

During his reign he was also responsible for building the coastal fortresses at Deal and Walmer when France and Spain threatened invasion.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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