To celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History month, our Explainer Team Leader Kimberley has told the stories of some of the incredible women that have lived in, stayed, or are connected with Nottingham Castle. This post will touch on a few of them, but you’ll have to come to the Castle to find out all their secrets.

Empress Matilda

Empress Matilda, 1102-1167
Empress Matilda, Image from the Bayeux Tapestry

Following the death of her brother, Matilda, then Empress of the Holy Roman Empire was declared heir to the throne of England. Her cousin, Stephen, took England’s throne. In the civil war that ensued Matilda became the first ruler to capture Nottingham Castle in 1141. Though she eventually had to concede, her son became Henry II after Stephen’s death.


Queen Isabella

Isabella of France from Froissarts Chronicles
Isabella of France from Froissart’s Chronicles

Following a rather disastrous marriage to Edward II, in part due to his liking for a couple of male courtiers, she ended up staging an invasion of England and deposing her husband in favour of her son, Edward III. When ruling as regent with her partner, Mortimer, they faced unpopularity throughout the country and stayed at Nottingham Castle with an armed guard. This didn’t stop Edward III arranging the kidnapping and eventual execution of Mortimer as a traitor. You can find more about this story when we open the Mortimer’s Hole tours soon!

Lucy Hutchinson

Lucy Hutchinson Black and White
Lucy Hutchinson

Lucy is a key figure in our rebellion galleries, she was stationed with her husband at Nottingham Castle during the British Civil War. As the wife of the Governor she was a nurse and medic for both sides at the Parliamentary-held Castle. After the war she wrote a memoir from the perspective of her husband, alongside translations and poetry that aligned with her political and religious views.

Margaret Cavendish

Portrait of Mary Cavendish
Portrait of Margaret Cavendish

When you think of an early science fiction book, you might think of Mary Shelly and Frankenstein. However, someone you might not know of is Margaret Cavendish, second wife to the Duke of Newcastle, who built the Ducal Palace. She wrote The Blazing World in 1666, and it has been heralded as a utopian and feminist romance, adventure story and autobiography which includes talking animals, submarines pulled by fish men and is widely seen as a piece that questions society’s norms- a genre that was perceived to be in the remit of only men.

Jane Kirkby

Miss Kirkby
Jane Kirkby

Jane Kirkby could have walked straight from the set of Bridgerton. She lived in the Castle over the regency period and was a single woman of independent wealth. She would throw lavish parties with barrels full of oysters and would feature her menagerie of pets- including at least one monkey! Jane was often ridiculed in the local press and painted as an eccentric, something which reflected society’s opinion of her status.

Eileen Casey & Muriel Wallis

Image of "The Suffragette Handkerchief" featuring signatures of imprisoned Suffragettes
The signature of Eileen Casey appears on “The Suffragette Handkerchief”
Photograph of young Muriel Wallis
Young Muriel Wallis

A pair of suffragettes and a plot to blow up the Castle? Casey was a suffragette who was imprisoned several times for her militant action. In 1914, when the King and Queen were set to visit Nottingham, she was discovered with all the equipment to lay a bomb. She was arrested, and jailed, but interestingly that morning she had made a call up to the Castle- perhaps to the Director of the art gallery’s daughter, suffragette supporter Muriel Wallis. Was there a plan to blow up the Castle, similar to how it was burned down in 1831? Or was it just a coincidence…

Dame Magdalene Odundo

Piece by Dame Magdalene Odundo from the Nottingham Castle collection
Piece by Dame Magdalene Odundo from our collection

We have a wide-reaching collection of art, including local and international artists. Odundo uses emsubi, the traditional Ugandan pottery technique, to produce her highly complex works of art. Her pots are hand-coiled and unglazed, and their colour comes from thin layers of slip clay. She spends many hours burnishing (polishing) the clay with a metal or wood scraper, before and after firing. Her sculptural pieces are also based on the human body, each one with its own character and sense of movement. You can explore our vast collection in the newly renovated galleries in the Ducal Palace.

Find out more about Nottingham Castle’s groundbreaking historical women in our Castle Characters area and discover the amazing women artists of the Castle collection when our galleries reopen later this year.