With a 800 years old history, Kenilworth Castle is well known for the love story between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley.
There is an audio guide, free for members, not sure if it’s included in the ticket, just shy of £10. I had the audio guide, but the castle is so big and there are so many stories that I had to chose from the things that appeared more interesting to me and only listen those.
The story of the castle begins before entering the gates with a description of the man-made lake that served as a special place for jostling. It was fascinating to hear about jostling that started as a pretend war, but they were killing each other and in time the rules changed to protect the riders and the horses. The games took place underneath this bridge.
The castle on the right was built in the 1200s for defense. The building in the middle is newer, built in 1371, it has bigger windows and the one in the left was the one built in 1570s for the visit of Queen Elizabeth I. She used the building in 1572 and again in 1575 on her progresses.
Seeing all the buildings next to each other is impressive; how the architecture evolved through the centuries and the everyday life. Less wars and technological development meant they could have bigger windows and luxury was important.
Leicester’s Gatehouse was built in early 1570s by Robert Dudley. There was an entrance passage for carriages to go thru. Above there are 2 floors. Colonel Joseph Hawkesworth, 80 years after the gatehouse was built, transformed it into a house with building materials robbed from elsewhere in the castle.
This beautiful private garden was made in 1575 by Robert Dudley for Queen Elizabeth I. He wanted to show his position as a prominent courtier and royal favourite. There were scented plants (vines, honeysuckle, sweet musk rose).
The design is made today from a detailed description written by an eyewitness of the royal visit. In the background is the aviary, filled with singing colourful birds. I imagine it was breathtaking 400 years ago.
The Great Hall is part of the buildings made in the 1370s. It was designed to show the wealth and the status of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, son of King Edward III. The Hall was inspired by Windsor castle’s Great Hall.
The first wife of Robert Dudley died in 1560 in suspicious circumstances, two years after Elizabeth become queen and Robert was a favourite at court.
Three years after his first wife’s death, Robert Dudley received Kenilworth back from the Queen. The Queen visited the castle a few times while it was renovated and buildings were added to the castle. In 1575 Queen Elizabeth I visits Kenilworth for 19 days, the longest visit ever made by a monarch. Robert tried to persuade Queen Elizabeth to marry him during her stay. She refused him. He left the building he built to impress her in disrepair and he didn’t remarry for 18 years. His second wife was banished from court and their only son died aged 3. Dudley died in 1588.