Random Fact: Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth is one of England’s most magnificent castles. First built in the 1120s and a royal castle for most of its history, it was expanded by King John, John of Gaunt and Henry V. In 1563 Elizabeth I granted it to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who converted Kenilworth into a lavish palace. The castle’s fortifications were dismantled in 1650, and the ruins later became famous thanks in part to Walter Scott’s 1821 romance Kenilworth.

In the early 13th century, King John (r.1199–1216) spent the considerable sum of about £1,100 strengthening Kenilworth with curtain walls and towers, and improving it with work on a dam and possibly the domestic accommodation.

In 1253, John’s successor, Henry III (r.1216–72), gave Kenilworth to his sister Eleanor and her powerful husband, Simon de Monfort, 6th Earl of Leicester. The outwork known as the Brays may have been created at this time.

The reformist de Montfort fell at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, but his son, Simon the younger, subsequently held Kenilworth against the King through an extraordinary six-month siege – the longest in English medieval history. The garrison eventually surrendered to the King on 13 December 1266.

Elizabeth I visited the castle four times during ‘progresses’ through the country, and her visit in July 1575 was the longest she ever made to any courtier during her reign. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, made extensive embellishments to the castle, including making an enclosed hunting park of 800 acres, and within the castle he built what’s known as Leicester’s Building, a four storey tower block, designed especially for the Queen’s use during her visits of 1572 and 1575. For her latter visit, he also laid out privy (private) gardens, which have recently been restored.

On the left is the remains of Leicester's Building, on the right John of Gaunt's 14th century Oriel Tower and Great Hall

On the left is the remains of Leicester’s Building, on the right John of Gaunt’s 14th century Oriel Tower and Great Hall