Kenilworth Castle – Lavish Love Token

Elizabeth at KenilworthNicola here. One of the things that I have missed the most about Lockdown is not doing my tours at Ashdown House, and not being able to visit other castles and stately homes whilst everything has been closed so it was very exciting when English Heritage started to re-open a number of their historical sites and I could get my history fix again. Last week, for the first time in 5 months, I went to a castle and I thought I would share the trip here for those who would enjoy a virtual history fix.

A place I’d never been to but had always wanted to see is Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire. Kenilworth has a very long and fascinating history from the time of its building as a great tower in the 1120s, through a period when it was one of the favourite palaces of the Lancastrian kings, and the royal visits of Queen Elizabeth I. It was this aspect of Kenilworth’s history that particularly fascinated me, and Robert Dudley’s final, failed attempt to persuade Elizabeth to marry him. So I took The Forgotten Sister along with me on the road trip as I thought Amy Robsart would enjoy seeing the place (more on that later!)

Kenilworth was built on a low hill surrounded by two streams, and a causeway was constructed across the valley to create a dam and Across the mere
 a lake. The lake has gone now but in the old pictures it looks huge and magnificent. Originally a water defence – a giant moat – it also supplied fish and waterfowl for the castle and there were two water mills. Over time, though, it came to be most valued as a place where you could take pleasure cruises. At the far end of this mere was a harbour and “the pleasaunce in the marsh,” a mansion built by Henry V for banquets and entertainments, because one massive castle clearly wasn’t enough! From a distance Kenilworth looked like the ultimate castle of medieval romance. In 1279 an event called a “round table” was held there; inspired by fashion for romance literature it was a series of tournaments and festivities with an Arthurian theme. The same theme was employed when Elizabeth I visited in 1575 and was greeted by “the lady of the lake” who had allegedly lived there since Arthurian times! It’s fascinating that the legends we still read and write about now were equally powerful so many centuries ago!

One very cool thing about the approach to Kenilworth is that you walk over the causeway across what is now a dry lake and this was also used as the tiltyard. It was rather fun to imagine knights on horseback thundering along there during the joust!

Elizabeth's lodgingsKenilworth started off as a Norman era tower keep but grew over the centuries. John of Gaunt added a set of buildings in the 14th century and in the 1530s Henry VIII added another range now known as “King Henry’s Lodgings.” Major renovations were made by Robert Dudley when he was granted the castle in 1563. He wanted to emphasise the grand royal and chivalrous associations of the castle whilst transforming it into somewhere more modern, a place that Queen Elizabeth would be prepared to visit and stay. With this in mind Robert built and entirely new building, the size of a country house, next to the great tower and designed it with huge glazed windows, plaster friezes and ceilings. Elizabeth first came to visit in 1572 but perhaps she wasn’t as impressed as Robert might have wanted her to be as he continued to develop Kenilworth and created one of the finest gardens in Europe.

It was this garden that was Robert’s secret weapon in his last attempt to woo Elizabeth in 1575. Knot garden His lavish entertainment of her made full use of the landscape for hunting and riding; there was a new bridge built from which to view the mere, plays were enacted on the water, including Triton riding on an 18 foot mermaid, and fireworks dazzled overhead and under water. Elizabeth spent nineteen days at Kenilworth, eating, drinking, riding and making merry. The final not-so-subtle hint of Robert’s aims was a masque entertainment in which the chaste nymph Zabeta (a play on the name Elizabeth) debated whether she should wed. Unfortunately, the weather turned bad and the play was cancelled. Not to be discouraged, Robert then arranged for Elizabeth to be waylaid by torchlight by a “wild man” covered in moss and ivy who revealed that the gifts Robert had given Elizabeth were a sign of his true love for her. Finally, as she was leaving, an actor dressed as a holly bush, representing Robert, intercepted her and told her his name was “deep desire.” He recited a poem encouraging her to stay: “live here, good Queen, live here: You are amongst your friends. Their comfort comes when you approach and when you part it ends.” Perhaps it was all a bit too try-hard for Elizabeth, for although she retained a deep affection for Robert Dudley all her life, she would not marry him nor anyone else.

Kenilworth ruinWe visited Kenilworth on the 445th anniversary of the day Elizabeth left, the day on which she was accosted by the holly bush. Even without the lake, the whole site is tremendously impressive and the huge castle buildings exciting to explore. After the English Civil War the castle was “slighted” by Parliamentarian troops leading to the ruin that you see today, and it was this romantic appearance and the story of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley that inspired Sir Walter Scott to write the novel “Kenilworth,” which draws not only on Elizabeth and Robert’s love story but also on the death of Robert’s first wife, Amy Robsart.

Although Amy never went to Kenilworth and Robert would no doubt have preferred to forget the TFS with Elizabeth and Robertstory of his wife’s suspicious death, someone with a sense of humour has named one of the rooms in the castle “Amy Robsart’s Chamber.” So I took my novel of Amy Robsart along so it could cuddle up with Elizabeth and Robert.

The recreated Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth really is gorgeous and I enjoyed strolling around it, taking in the scent of the flowers and admiring the aviary, the arbours and the fountain. It’s a stunning place and I feel sure that if Elizabeth I had been tempted to accept Robert Dudley, this place would surely have swung it for her more than a man dressed as a holly bush. However, Elizabeth had plenty of other palaces and gardens of her own and so not even this lavish love token was enough to persuade her. We’re lucky, though, that the castle and its beautiful re-created gardens are still there to give a history hit and transport us back to the past.

Which place have you missed visiting the most whilst everything has been closed? I must admit that the swimming pool comes a close second to all the historical houses for me!

65 thoughts on “Kenilworth Castle – Lavish Love Token”

  1. Lovely post, Nicola, and poor Dudley, doing all that work in vain! He really did try very hard, didn’t he?
    I’ve really missed visiting Raglan Castle, which isn’t too far from where I live! It’s a lovely place, another ruin – it too was “slighted” by the Roundheads during the English Civil War. But there are lots of other castles and stately homes I’d like to visit – hopefully soon!

    Reply
  2. Lovely post, Nicola, and poor Dudley, doing all that work in vain! He really did try very hard, didn’t he?
    I’ve really missed visiting Raglan Castle, which isn’t too far from where I live! It’s a lovely place, another ruin – it too was “slighted” by the Roundheads during the English Civil War. But there are lots of other castles and stately homes I’d like to visit – hopefully soon!

    Reply
  3. Lovely post, Nicola, and poor Dudley, doing all that work in vain! He really did try very hard, didn’t he?
    I’ve really missed visiting Raglan Castle, which isn’t too far from where I live! It’s a lovely place, another ruin – it too was “slighted” by the Roundheads during the English Civil War. But there are lots of other castles and stately homes I’d like to visit – hopefully soon!

    Reply
  4. Lovely post, Nicola, and poor Dudley, doing all that work in vain! He really did try very hard, didn’t he?
    I’ve really missed visiting Raglan Castle, which isn’t too far from where I live! It’s a lovely place, another ruin – it too was “slighted” by the Roundheads during the English Civil War. But there are lots of other castles and stately homes I’d like to visit – hopefully soon!

    Reply
  5. Lovely post, Nicola, and poor Dudley, doing all that work in vain! He really did try very hard, didn’t he?
    I’ve really missed visiting Raglan Castle, which isn’t too far from where I live! It’s a lovely place, another ruin – it too was “slighted” by the Roundheads during the English Civil War. But there are lots of other castles and stately homes I’d like to visit – hopefully soon!

    Reply
  6. Thank you, Nicola, for a fascinating post. I’ll admit to being charmed by the fact that you took a book for its own holiday!
    I think I have most missed going to the library (more precisely two libraries) where I would typically browse or wait between buses (another non option) or volunteer. Thrift stores visits are another thing I missed; fortunately, a few have reopened.

    Reply
  7. Thank you, Nicola, for a fascinating post. I’ll admit to being charmed by the fact that you took a book for its own holiday!
    I think I have most missed going to the library (more precisely two libraries) where I would typically browse or wait between buses (another non option) or volunteer. Thrift stores visits are another thing I missed; fortunately, a few have reopened.

    Reply
  8. Thank you, Nicola, for a fascinating post. I’ll admit to being charmed by the fact that you took a book for its own holiday!
    I think I have most missed going to the library (more precisely two libraries) where I would typically browse or wait between buses (another non option) or volunteer. Thrift stores visits are another thing I missed; fortunately, a few have reopened.

    Reply
  9. Thank you, Nicola, for a fascinating post. I’ll admit to being charmed by the fact that you took a book for its own holiday!
    I think I have most missed going to the library (more precisely two libraries) where I would typically browse or wait between buses (another non option) or volunteer. Thrift stores visits are another thing I missed; fortunately, a few have reopened.

    Reply
  10. Thank you, Nicola, for a fascinating post. I’ll admit to being charmed by the fact that you took a book for its own holiday!
    I think I have most missed going to the library (more precisely two libraries) where I would typically browse or wait between buses (another non option) or volunteer. Thrift stores visits are another thing I missed; fortunately, a few have reopened.

    Reply
  11. Thank you very much, Christina, I am so glad you enjoyed the post. I think you would love the castle! Poor Dudley, perhaps Elizabeth just thought he had gone over the top! Of course she had so many castles of her own anyway…
    I’d love to visit Raglan Castle. The Roundheads were very busy slighting things, weren’t they!

    Reply
  12. Thank you very much, Christina, I am so glad you enjoyed the post. I think you would love the castle! Poor Dudley, perhaps Elizabeth just thought he had gone over the top! Of course she had so many castles of her own anyway…
    I’d love to visit Raglan Castle. The Roundheads were very busy slighting things, weren’t they!

    Reply
  13. Thank you very much, Christina, I am so glad you enjoyed the post. I think you would love the castle! Poor Dudley, perhaps Elizabeth just thought he had gone over the top! Of course she had so many castles of her own anyway…
    I’d love to visit Raglan Castle. The Roundheads were very busy slighting things, weren’t they!

    Reply
  14. Thank you very much, Christina, I am so glad you enjoyed the post. I think you would love the castle! Poor Dudley, perhaps Elizabeth just thought he had gone over the top! Of course she had so many castles of her own anyway…
    I’d love to visit Raglan Castle. The Roundheads were very busy slighting things, weren’t they!

    Reply
  15. Thank you very much, Christina, I am so glad you enjoyed the post. I think you would love the castle! Poor Dudley, perhaps Elizabeth just thought he had gone over the top! Of course she had so many castles of her own anyway…
    I’d love to visit Raglan Castle. The Roundheads were very busy slighting things, weren’t they!

    Reply
  16. Thank you, Kareni! I think The Forgotten Sister enjoyed the trip out 🙂
    I’m with you on missing the library. Ours has a wonderful local studies centre and I so want to get in there to do some research. The thrift stores have started to re-open her as well now but things are very far from normal.

    Reply
  17. Thank you, Kareni! I think The Forgotten Sister enjoyed the trip out 🙂
    I’m with you on missing the library. Ours has a wonderful local studies centre and I so want to get in there to do some research. The thrift stores have started to re-open her as well now but things are very far from normal.

    Reply
  18. Thank you, Kareni! I think The Forgotten Sister enjoyed the trip out 🙂
    I’m with you on missing the library. Ours has a wonderful local studies centre and I so want to get in there to do some research. The thrift stores have started to re-open her as well now but things are very far from normal.

    Reply
  19. Thank you, Kareni! I think The Forgotten Sister enjoyed the trip out 🙂
    I’m with you on missing the library. Ours has a wonderful local studies centre and I so want to get in there to do some research. The thrift stores have started to re-open her as well now but things are very far from normal.

    Reply
  20. Thank you, Kareni! I think The Forgotten Sister enjoyed the trip out 🙂
    I’m with you on missing the library. Ours has a wonderful local studies centre and I so want to get in there to do some research. The thrift stores have started to re-open her as well now but things are very far from normal.

    Reply
  21. I seem to recall that after her divorce from Henry Catherine of Argon was sent/retired to a place that started with a K. Was it Kenilworth?

    Reply
  22. I seem to recall that after her divorce from Henry Catherine of Argon was sent/retired to a place that started with a K. Was it Kenilworth?

    Reply
  23. I seem to recall that after her divorce from Henry Catherine of Argon was sent/retired to a place that started with a K. Was it Kenilworth?

    Reply
  24. I seem to recall that after her divorce from Henry Catherine of Argon was sent/retired to a place that started with a K. Was it Kenilworth?

    Reply
  25. I seem to recall that after her divorce from Henry Catherine of Argon was sent/retired to a place that started with a K. Was it Kenilworth?

    Reply
  26. I miss being able to visit family and friends. Although I have seen a few people at a safe distance, it’s not the same as being able to visit each other’s homes.

    Reply
  27. I miss being able to visit family and friends. Although I have seen a few people at a safe distance, it’s not the same as being able to visit each other’s homes.

    Reply
  28. I miss being able to visit family and friends. Although I have seen a few people at a safe distance, it’s not the same as being able to visit each other’s homes.

    Reply
  29. I miss being able to visit family and friends. Although I have seen a few people at a safe distance, it’s not the same as being able to visit each other’s homes.

    Reply
  30. I miss being able to visit family and friends. Although I have seen a few people at a safe distance, it’s not the same as being able to visit each other’s homes.

    Reply
  31. Hi Anne! It was Kimbolton Castle where Catherine of Aragon went to live. I’ve never been there but the pictures suggest that these days it doesn’t look much like the original Tudor building!

    Reply
  32. Hi Anne! It was Kimbolton Castle where Catherine of Aragon went to live. I’ve never been there but the pictures suggest that these days it doesn’t look much like the original Tudor building!

    Reply
  33. Hi Anne! It was Kimbolton Castle where Catherine of Aragon went to live. I’ve never been there but the pictures suggest that these days it doesn’t look much like the original Tudor building!

    Reply
  34. Hi Anne! It was Kimbolton Castle where Catherine of Aragon went to live. I’ve never been there but the pictures suggest that these days it doesn’t look much like the original Tudor building!

    Reply
  35. Hi Anne! It was Kimbolton Castle where Catherine of Aragon went to live. I’ve never been there but the pictures suggest that these days it doesn’t look much like the original Tudor building!

    Reply
  36. It really isn’t, is it, Karin. We are allowed to meet up with close family but can’t touch. It feels unnatural not to be able to hug friends and family. Roll on a time when we can visit properly again!

    Reply
  37. It really isn’t, is it, Karin. We are allowed to meet up with close family but can’t touch. It feels unnatural not to be able to hug friends and family. Roll on a time when we can visit properly again!

    Reply
  38. It really isn’t, is it, Karin. We are allowed to meet up with close family but can’t touch. It feels unnatural not to be able to hug friends and family. Roll on a time when we can visit properly again!

    Reply
  39. It really isn’t, is it, Karin. We are allowed to meet up with close family but can’t touch. It feels unnatural not to be able to hug friends and family. Roll on a time when we can visit properly again!

    Reply
  40. It really isn’t, is it, Karin. We are allowed to meet up with close family but can’t touch. It feels unnatural not to be able to hug friends and family. Roll on a time when we can visit properly again!

    Reply
  41. I’ve wanted to see Kenilworth for the John of Gaunt/Katherine Swynford connection. The Anya Seton novel is a treasured favorite.

    Reply
  42. I’ve wanted to see Kenilworth for the John of Gaunt/Katherine Swynford connection. The Anya Seton novel is a treasured favorite.

    Reply
  43. I’ve wanted to see Kenilworth for the John of Gaunt/Katherine Swynford connection. The Anya Seton novel is a treasured favorite.

    Reply
  44. I’ve wanted to see Kenilworth for the John of Gaunt/Katherine Swynford connection. The Anya Seton novel is a treasured favorite.

    Reply
  45. I’ve wanted to see Kenilworth for the John of Gaunt/Katherine Swynford connection. The Anya Seton novel is a treasured favorite.

    Reply
  46. Yes! Katherine Swynford! I don’t remember the historical novel I read where I fell in love with her,but that house does have quite a history!
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    Reply
  47. Yes! Katherine Swynford! I don’t remember the historical novel I read where I fell in love with her,but that house does have quite a history!
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    Reply
  48. Yes! Katherine Swynford! I don’t remember the historical novel I read where I fell in love with her,but that house does have quite a history!
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    Reply
  49. Yes! Katherine Swynford! I don’t remember the historical novel I read where I fell in love with her,but that house does have quite a history!
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    Reply
  50. Yes! Katherine Swynford! I don’t remember the historical novel I read where I fell in love with her,but that house does have quite a history!
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    Reply
  51. Books like that make such an impression. I think it’s the way I came to be interested in a lot of historical characters – Katherine, Anne Boleyn, Richard III, all through fiction that encouraged me to find out more about them.

    Reply
  52. Books like that make such an impression. I think it’s the way I came to be interested in a lot of historical characters – Katherine, Anne Boleyn, Richard III, all through fiction that encouraged me to find out more about them.

    Reply
  53. Books like that make such an impression. I think it’s the way I came to be interested in a lot of historical characters – Katherine, Anne Boleyn, Richard III, all through fiction that encouraged me to find out more about them.

    Reply
  54. Books like that make such an impression. I think it’s the way I came to be interested in a lot of historical characters – Katherine, Anne Boleyn, Richard III, all through fiction that encouraged me to find out more about them.

    Reply
  55. Books like that make such an impression. I think it’s the way I came to be interested in a lot of historical characters – Katherine, Anne Boleyn, Richard III, all through fiction that encouraged me to find out more about them.

    Reply
  56. Thanks for an interesting post. I’m not much of a sightseer as one of my SI joints worst enemies is a car ride and living in the middle of Michigan as I do, any sightseeing involves a drive. What I do miss most is visits with family and friends. Although I often live by choice as an introverted hermit, I don’t think I felt the pinch as soon or as hard as some of my extroverted family and friends. I think depression is a real thing much intensified by this isolation for some. I’ve recommended increased Vitamin D3 and sunshine to some friends who say they are beginning to fray around the edges. We had almost a week of reprieve from hot and humid which was a lovely chance to be outside and really enjoy it.

    Reply
  57. Thanks for an interesting post. I’m not much of a sightseer as one of my SI joints worst enemies is a car ride and living in the middle of Michigan as I do, any sightseeing involves a drive. What I do miss most is visits with family and friends. Although I often live by choice as an introverted hermit, I don’t think I felt the pinch as soon or as hard as some of my extroverted family and friends. I think depression is a real thing much intensified by this isolation for some. I’ve recommended increased Vitamin D3 and sunshine to some friends who say they are beginning to fray around the edges. We had almost a week of reprieve from hot and humid which was a lovely chance to be outside and really enjoy it.

    Reply
  58. Thanks for an interesting post. I’m not much of a sightseer as one of my SI joints worst enemies is a car ride and living in the middle of Michigan as I do, any sightseeing involves a drive. What I do miss most is visits with family and friends. Although I often live by choice as an introverted hermit, I don’t think I felt the pinch as soon or as hard as some of my extroverted family and friends. I think depression is a real thing much intensified by this isolation for some. I’ve recommended increased Vitamin D3 and sunshine to some friends who say they are beginning to fray around the edges. We had almost a week of reprieve from hot and humid which was a lovely chance to be outside and really enjoy it.

    Reply
  59. Thanks for an interesting post. I’m not much of a sightseer as one of my SI joints worst enemies is a car ride and living in the middle of Michigan as I do, any sightseeing involves a drive. What I do miss most is visits with family and friends. Although I often live by choice as an introverted hermit, I don’t think I felt the pinch as soon or as hard as some of my extroverted family and friends. I think depression is a real thing much intensified by this isolation for some. I’ve recommended increased Vitamin D3 and sunshine to some friends who say they are beginning to fray around the edges. We had almost a week of reprieve from hot and humid which was a lovely chance to be outside and really enjoy it.

    Reply
  60. Thanks for an interesting post. I’m not much of a sightseer as one of my SI joints worst enemies is a car ride and living in the middle of Michigan as I do, any sightseeing involves a drive. What I do miss most is visits with family and friends. Although I often live by choice as an introverted hermit, I don’t think I felt the pinch as soon or as hard as some of my extroverted family and friends. I think depression is a real thing much intensified by this isolation for some. I’ve recommended increased Vitamin D3 and sunshine to some friends who say they are beginning to fray around the edges. We had almost a week of reprieve from hot and humid which was a lovely chance to be outside and really enjoy it.

    Reply

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