The Fitzalan family (earls of Arundel) was joined with the Howard family (dukes of Norfolk) by a marriage alliance in Tudor times, and the two families’ heraldic symbols, a lion and a horse, are captured in two great stone statues in the castle grounds. Many of their leading members are buried in grand tombs in the Fitzalan chapel, which is, unusually, joined to Arundel’s parish church, partitioned only by a glass screen.
Nowhere speaks so much to the long history of the dynasty as the magnificent gallery corridor in the main castle building, where you can view priceless portraits of illustrious noblemen and women who have lived there, reaching back to the 15th century. The most famous include King Henry VIII’s strongman Thomas Howard and the Elizabethan courtier Philip Howard, who was executed for his Catholic faith in 1595 and declared a saint by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
But beyond the family “snapshots” Arundel Castle is packed with fine art, including stunning works by Canaletto, Gainsborough and Anthony van Dyck, who visited England before the Civil War of the 17th century and painted some of the most famous images from the court of King Charles I. Much of it is the legacy of the “Collector Earl”, another Thomas Howard, who scoured Europe for great works old and new before his death in the 1640s.
Unlike many British castles, which were abandoned after the Civil War, Arundel remains a home. Although the family resides in a private section, the public rooms retain a rich, lived-in feel, particularly the extraordinary wood-panelled library and the Victorian bedrooms, which were designed for a visit in the 19th century by Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the royal court.
Outdoors, though, is where the castle really dazzles with its magnificent gardens. There is the Italian-influenced “Collector Earl’s Garden”, a huge glasshouse filled with grapevines and peach trees and acres of slightly wilder green space cut through with tree-lined avenues. Stroll out of the castle and through the picturesque village around it and you’ll also find Arundel Castle’s famous cricket ground, where some of the greatest players in the modern game have appeared, and where charity matches are still contested today. For my money, there are few more beautifully, classically, exquisitely English castles anywhere in the nation.