William de Hever is believed to be the first owner of Hever Castle. William was a descendant of a Norman baron who came to England during the Conquest and became Sheriff of Kent in 1272, the first year of Edward I’s reign.
The Scrope family were from the north of England, owning land in both Yorkshire and Northumberland. Sir Stephen Scrope was the third son of Richard II’s minister, Lord Richard Scrope, and owned Hever Castle from 1399 to 1408.
Hever Castle first came into Boleyn ownership when it was bought by Geoffrey Boleyn in 1462. His son, Thomas, became Anne Boleyn’s father and Hever Castle became her childhood home and seven of Henry VIII’s love letters were sent to Anne while she was residing at Hever in 1528.
In 1540 Henry VIII married his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves which ended in divorce six months later. Henry VIII allowed her to lease a number of manors to enhance her status and income, including Hever. Anne owned Hever Castle until her death in 1557.
When Anne of Cleves died in 1557 the Hever estate reverted to the Crown. In that year Sir Edward Waldegrave, a member of Mary Tudor’s Council, had been appointed one of the Commissioners for the sale of Crown land and promptly assigned himself the Castle and estate.
Edward Waldegrave was succeeded as 2nd Baronet of Hever Castle in 1644 by his eldest son Henry. Henry died in 1658 and was succeeded as 3rd Baronet by his eldest son Charles. Charles was to be the last of the Waldegraves to use Hever as a refuge from Catholic persecution.
Hever proved too small to match the growing status of Henry Waldegrave’s son, James and it was sold in 1715 to Sir William Humphreys. His son Orlando inherited his baronetcy and the Hever estate on the death of his father in 1735, there followed a series of tragedies.
Timothy Waldo purchased the Castle and 1300 acres in 1749. He was a wealthy lawyer and City merchant becoming Attorney of the King’s Bench, Solicitor in Chancery, and Liveryman and Clerk of the Salter’s Company. He was knighted in 1769.
In 1830 Edmund Wakefield Meade, connected to the Waldos by marriage, had taken the additional name of Waldo. He inherited the Castle in 1841 but had no love for Hever. Hever became a working farm, being leased out to a series of tenant farmers.
William Waldorf Astor, the richest man in America, purchased Hever Castle in 1903. He grew increasingly disenchanted with America announcing that it was ‘no longer a fit place for a gentleman to live’ and in 1891 moved to England with a reputed $100 million. Between 1903 and 1908 Astor set about the restoration of the Castle, construction of the Astor Wing and creation of the lake and gardens.