The first castle, probably wooden, was first mentioned in 1260 when it was besieged and burned to the ground, after which it was rebuilt in stone. In 1280 this second castle was again besieged and this time the bailey was burned down. This original castle probably consisted of a simple hall-keep, two stories high and with 1.20 meter thick walls and a surrounding moat which was fed by the nearby river Rhine.
During the 14th century the castle was continually enlarged. Until 1402 Doorwerth Castle was the property of the Van Dorenweerd family. Then it was dedicated to the Count of Gelre; Reinald IV by Robert van Dorenweerd. In return Robert was granted the castle and its land in fief. Around the middle of the 15th century the castle was enlarged again, this time by knight Reinald van Homoet, the 10th Lord of Dorenweerd, who was also the owner of Doornenburg Castle.
Doorwerth Castle reached its largest form just after the middle of the 16th century under Daem Schellart van Obbendorf, the 15th Lord of Dorenweerd. He made the castle and the group of buildings on the bailey into a unity and adjusted them to the need for more space and comfort. So by 1560 Doorwerth Castle had almost reached its present appearance. Around 1637 the bailey was rebuilt to its present appearance and a dike was build around the castle to prevent it from floodings by the river Rhine.
Shortly after, the castle changed ownership due to financial problems and was granted in fief to a German Count; Anton I van Aldenburg. His successors didn't alter the castle or the bailey but only acquired more land. At the end of the 18th century the castle wasn't inhabited any more, but was looked after by a steward for its owners who now lived in England.
As a result, the castle was in a neglected state when it was bought, in 1837, by the baron JAP. van Brakell. He carried out a thorough restoration and a complete modernization of the castle. This revival of the castle only lasted for a short time, for after the baron's death in 1844 the castle again fell into neglect; it would have certainly crumbled away had it not been bought, in 1910, by a retired artillery officer; FA. Hoefer. Again the castle was thoroughly restored, undoing some of the 19th century alterations and additions. And after 1913 it was used as a Dutch Artillery Museum.
The castle suffered heavily in 1944 when it was transformed into a cheerless ruin as a result of German destructiveness and Allied shelling. Directly after WW II a lengthy restoration followed that lasted until 1983. By then the castle was back into its 18th century state and was owned by the "Friends of the Castles of Gelderland"-foundation who now maintain the castle as a museum.