Leeds Castle, 5 miles southeast of Maidstone, Kent, England, dates back to 1119. In 1278 the castle came into the hands of King Edward I, for whom it became a favourite residence. The castle seen today dates mostly from the 19th century and is built on islands in a lake formed by the River Len to the east of the village of Leeds.Built in 1119 by Robert de Crevecoeur as a Norman stronghold, Leeds Castle descended through the de Crevecoeur family until the 1260s. What form this first castle took is uncertain because it was rebuilt and transformed in the following centuries. However, Adrian Pettifer speculates that it may have been a motte and bailey.The last private owner of the castle was the Hon. Olive, Lady Baillie, a daughter of Almeric Paget, 1st Baron Queenborough, and his first wife, Pauline Payne Whitney, an American heiress. Lady Baillie bought the castle in 1926. She redecorated the interior, first working with the French architect and designer Armand-Albert Rateau (who also oversaw exterior alterations as well as adding interior features such as a 16th century-style carved-oak staircase) and then, later, with the Paris decorator Stéphane Boudin. During the early part of World War II Leeds was used as a hospital where Lady Baillie and her daughters hosted burned Commonwealth airmen as part of their recovery. Survivors remember the experience with fondness to this day. Upon her death in 1974, Lady Baillie left the castle to the Leeds Castle Foundation, a private charitable trust whose aim is to preserve the castle and grounds for the benefit of the public.The castle was opened to the public in 1976.