The castle's location, on a ridge, surrounded on three
sides by the tidal River Cleddau, make it a formidable
stronghold. The history of the site goes back at least
to the Roman period, although there are no tangible signs
available at present.
In the middle ages, Pembroke was strategically
important. It was one of the main ports for traveling
to Ireland and the seat of the earls of Pembroke, with
a castle that was one of the strongest in the kingdom.
Both the town and the castle developed and were fortified
The first Norman settlement was established
in 1093, when Roger de Montgomery ordered the construction
of a wooden fortress on the rocky peninsula where the
stone castle now stands. This stone castle was developed
in the following years and was largely the work of William
Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, who held the fortress until
his death in 1219. It was then extended and improved
upon by all the succeeding Earls of Pembroke. The Earldom
of Pembroke was created by King Stephen for Gilbert
de Clare, one of the main figures in the conquest of
Ireland and husband of Eva, the King of Leinster's daughter.
Gilbert de Clare had two sons, the elder, Richard, succeeded
him to become the second Earl in 1148. Richard died
in 1176, leaving his only daughter, Isabel as a ward
of Henry II, who married her to William Marshal in 1184.
As a result of the marriage Marshal became Earl in 1189.
Marshal was a powerful figure in both
England and Wales, being a crusader and a loyal follower
of Henry II, then Richard I and John. Moreover Marshal
was Regent to Henry III during the King's childhood.
Perhaps Marshal's greatest bequest to Pembroke was the
Great Round Tower and a great deal of the Inner Ward.
William was succeeded by his five sons. The marshal
line ended in 1245 and the castle came into the hands
of King Henry III's half brother, William the Valence,
who again improved its defenses.
In 1400 Owain Glyndwr led an insurrection
against the Anglo-Norman settlers but was persuaded
not to attack the town of Pembroke by the constable,
who paid him a sum of money.
Jasper Tudor became earl of Pembroke
in 1454. He was the first owner to make the castle into
something approaching a home. It was during this time
that Jasper's older brother, Edmund Earl of Richmond,
sent his pregnant bride to Pembroke for protection in
1456. Edmund died several months before his wife gave
birth to the man who was become King of England, Henry
VII. The tower in which he was born is still called
Henry VII Tower.
Pembroke castle continued to be connected
with royalty and national politics through Henry VII
and Anne Boleyn, who became Marchioness of Pembroke.
When Cromwell attacked the town in
1648 the walls of the castle were in good repair,
allowing the inhabitants to withstand attack for some
time. When surrender did eventually come, some lengths
of the walls were demolished as a punishment. The castle
never recovered from this blow.
We should remember that Pembroke is
one of the greatest pre-Edwardian castles in Britain
and although damaged, the Keep is one of the finest
examples of a round keep in the country. Other fine
components of the castle are The Great Gatehouse, the
domestic and public Buildings as the Country Court and
the Norman Hall and The Wogan. The Wogan is a natural
cave over which the castle is built. The cave overlooks
the river and there is a spiral staircase that goes
up into the castle, this made for easy access to the
river and the sea. All this stone walls and constructions
are evocative reminders of Pembroke's historic pedigree.