For almost five centuries, Kenilworth Castle served as a royal residence. The Kings and barons who created and lived in its buildings are among the most familiar names in English History.
It once stood at the heart of a 1,600-ha (4,000-acre) hunting ground, and surrounded by a vast man-made lake, it represented a rich prize to the generations of royal and almost-royal great men who owned it: among them Geoffrey de Clinton, John of Gaunt, Henry V, and Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester.
This meant it could withstand an epic siege in 1266, when rebellious barons held out against Henry III's siege engines for six months, succumbing only to starvation.
Queen Elizabeth 1st at Kenilworth.
Queen Elizabeth I had granted Kenilworth Castle to her favourite, Robert Dudley, in 1563 and he spent a fortune transforming it into a luxurious palace fit to receive his queen and her court.
The following extract is from the Kenilworth Castle website. (Copyright © Reading Museum Service (Reading Borough Council). All rights reserved.)
"The queen visited him there several times on her famous summer progresses away from London. Her fourth and final visit lasted for 19 days, from 9 to 27 July 1575, the longest she had ever stayed at a courtier’s house. In her honour, Leicester built sumptuous apartments especially for her use, with large airy windows with superb views, huge fires and a whole chamber dedicated to one of the queen’s great passions – dancing. Decorated with dazzling plasterwork, hung with rich tapestries and furnished sumptuously, this would have been the summit of Elizabethan luxury. Leicester also devised the most lavish series of entertainments for the queen, and took as much care with the surrounding landscape as he had with the buildings, embellishing his park with bowers, arbours, seats and walks. He wanted Elizabeth’s privy, or private, garden to be as magnificent an outdoor space as the interiors he had created for her.
Two detailed accounts of the festivities survive, one written by the poet and actor George Gascoigne, the other by Robert Langham, keeper of the council chamber door. It is from Langham, a minor official, that we have the description of the garden. Although it was designed as a privy garden, closed to all but the queen’s closest companions, one day, while the queen was out hunting, Adrian the gardener allowed Langham to sneak inside. Langham’s account is written in the form of a long letter, in a curious style which has provoked a great deal of debate. Although he cannot have visited the garden for more than a few hours, Langham left an extremely detailed description of its features. The accuracy of his account is borne out by archaeological evidence, which confirms that an eight-sided fountain once stood at the centre of the garden, just as he claims."
Photos of the reconstructed garden. ( A tour of the garden is here if you want more information.)
The tower which was built by Dudley for the Queen's visit in 1563 has this rather long drop to the grounds outside the castle. I suspect a dunny.
Above right: really thick walls to withstand attack.
The shots below are some more of the stones, window arches, and below ground rooms.
To the left are the underground rooms and above is the light pouring through a doorway from a window high up in the wall. Possibly a dungeon?
Looking back through the remains at a row of arches over doorways.