Gripsholm Castle is regarded as one of Sweden's finest historical monuments. A fortress was built at the location around 1380 by Bo Jonsson Grip, and belonged to his family until the confiscation of mansions and castles by King Gustav I in 1526. The King tore it down, and built a fortified castle with circular corner towers and a wall, for defensive purposes. Of the original medieval fortress, only the façade of a wall remains.
Since Gustav Vasa, Gripsholm has belonged to the Swedish Royal Family and was used as their residence until 1713. Between 1563 and 1567, King Eric XIV imprisoned his brother John and his consort Catherine Jagiellon in the castle. This was also one of the castles that King Eric was imprisoned in when John had overthrown him. John's son Sigismund, later the King of Poland and Sweden, was born in the castle on June 20, 1566.
The castle was again used as a prison between 1713 and 1773, before it was renovated by King Gustav III on behalf of his consort Sophia Magdalena. A theater was also added in one of the towers at this time.
Between 1889 and 1894, the castle underwent a heavy and controversial restoration by the architect Fredrik Lilljekvist during which many of the 17th and 18th-century alterations were removed. The largest change was the addition of a third floor; the planned demolition of a wing did not take place.
Today the castle is a museum which is open to the public, containing paintings and works of art. Part of the castle houses the National Collection of Portraits (Statens porträttsamlingar), one of the oldest portrait collection in the world.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.