There has been a castle on the site of current Balnagown Castle since the 14th century, although the present building was remodelled in the 18th and 19th centuries. Balnagown is the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan Ross.
In the early 14th century, a castle was begun at Balnagown by Hugh, Mormaer (Earl) of Ross. Hugh was husband of Maud, sister of King Robert the Bruce, although after Hugh's death in 1333, his family lost royal favour and their lands were forfeit. Balnagown was acquired by a stepson of Hugh in 1375 who expanded the estate, a process which continued over the following centuries. In 1585 Alexander Ross, 9th laird of Balnagown, was outlawed, as was his son George.
During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, David Ross, 12th of Balnagown, fought for King Charles II at the Battle of Worcester (1651), although he was captured and died in the Tower of London. The 13th laird, another David, married Anne, daughter of James Stuart, 4th Earl of Moray, in 1666. David and Anne rebuilt Balnagown, as attested by a datestone of 1672 on the castle, although they left no heir, and the estate passed to the Rosses of Halkhead in 1711.
In 1754 Balnagown passed to another branch of the family, when it was inherited by Admiral Sir John Lockhart-Ross, 6th Baronet. The admiral spent much time and money improving the Balnagown estate. His son and heir Sir Charles Lockhart-Ross consulted James Gillespie Graham on Gothic Revival style alterations to the castle, and Italian gardens were laid out. Sir Charles Ross, 9th Baronet, inherited in 1911. He continued the tradition of agricultural improvement, introducing the silo and the combine harvester to the estate. He also invented the Ross rifle, which he had manufactured in Canada. To prevent the seizure of Balnagown by the Inland Revenue, Ross had the estate declared a ward of the court of Delaware, and he was subsequently unable to return to Britain for fear of imprisonment. From his death in 1942, until 1972, the castle was unoccupied and became dilapidated. In 1972, it was purchased by Mohamed Al-Fayed, who began restoration of the house and grounds.References:
The first historical record of Lednice locality dates from 1222. At that time there stood a Gothic fort with courtyard, which was lent by Czech King Václav I to Austrian nobleman Sigfried Sirotek in 1249.
At the end of the 13th century the Liechtensteins, originally from Styria, became holders of all of Lednice and of nearby Mikulov. They gradually acquired land on both sides of the Moravian-Austrian border. Members of the family most often found fame in military service, during the Renaissance they expanded their estates through economic activity. From the middle of the 15th century members of the family occupied the highest offices in the land. However, the family’s position in Moravia really changed under the brothers Karel, Maximilian, and Gundakar of Liechtenstein. Through marriage Karel and Maximilian acquired the great wealth of the old Moravian dynasty of the Černohorskýs of Boskovice. At that time the brothers, like their father and grandfather, were Lutheran, but they soon converted to Catholicism, thus preparing the ground for their rise in politics. Particularly Karel, who served at the court of Emperor Rudolf II, became hetman of Moravia in 1608, and was later raised to princely status by King Matyas II and awarded the Duchy of Opava.
During the revolt of the Czech nobility he stood on the side of the Habsburgs, and took part in the Battle of White Mountain. After the uprising was defeated in 1620 he systematically acquired property confiscated from some of the rebels, and the Liechtensteins became the wealthiest family in Moravia, rising in status above the Žerotíns. Their enormous land holdings brought them great profits, and eventually allowed them to carry out their grandious building projects here in Lednice.
In the 16th century it was probably Hartmann II of Liechtenstein who had the old medieval water castle torn down and replaced with a Renaissance chateau. At the end of the 17th century the chateau was torn down and a Baroque palace was built, with an extensive formal garden, and a massive riding hall designed by Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach that still stands in almost unaltered form.
In the mid-18th century the chateau was again renovated, and in 1815 its front tracts that had been part of the Baroque chateau were removed.
The chateau as it looks today dates from 1846-1858, when Prince Alois II decided that Vienna was not suitable for entertaining in the summer, and had Lednice rebuilt into a summer palace in the spirit of English Gothic. The hall on the ground floor would serve to entertain the European aristocracy at sumptuous banquets, and was furnished with carved wood ceilings, wooden panelling, and select furniture, surpassing anything of its kind in Europe.