Leeds Castle is located near the village of Leeds in Kent.
The castle started life as a Saxon Manor. It was listed in the Domesday book as such but the Normans soon changed the site by building a stone castle on an island in the river Len. In 1278 it was owned by Queen Eleanor of Castile and remained a Royal residence for over 300 years until it became a private home. It has remained a private residence to the 19th century when at the death of Olive, Lady Baillie it was taken over by the Leeds Castle Foundation.
The stone keep was built during the reign of Henry I by Robert De Crevecoeur in 1119. The castle became a royal palace for King Edward I of England and his queen, Eleanor of Castile in 1278. He made major improvements to the castle, including the barbican, made up of three parts, each with its own entrance, drawbridge, gateway, and portcullis.
Henry VIII transformed the castle for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. A painting commemorating his meeting with Francis I of France still hangs in the castle. His daughter, Queen Elizabeth I was imprisoned in the castle for a time before her coronation.
The castle escaped destruction during the English Civil War because its owners, the Culpeper family, sided with the Parliamentarians but in the 1660s it fell into disrepair because it was used as a prison for Dutch and French prisoners of war. These prisoners set light to the Gloriette causing damage which would not be repaired until 1822.
The last private owner of the castle was the Hon. Olive, Lady Baillie, a daughter of Almeric Paget, 1st Baron Queenborough, and his first wife, Pauline Payne Whitney, an American heiress. Lady Baillie bought the castle in 1926 and then she redecorated the interior, first working with the French architect and designer Armand-Albert Rateau and then, later, with the Paris decorator Stéphane Boudin. Baillie established the Leeds Castle Foundation. The castle was opened to the public in 1976.
On 17 July 1978, the castle was the site of a meeting between the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan in preparation for the Camp David Accords.