Kenilworth is arguably the finest of England’s ruined castles, a reminder of Norman power and
Elizabethan luxurious excess.
Its early history dates from around 1120 when Geoffrey de Clinton built it, it is thought, as timbered tower on a motte, however another body of opinion suggests the tower keep was originally built of stone.
By the early 1170’s this red sandstone built castle, had passed from the Clintons into royal possession because King Henry II had become fully aware of its military importance. The castle buildings by now consisted of the towered keep, inner bailey wall and a basic causeway across a small lake.
Little attention was paid to the castle until the time of King John when, after he was excommunicated in 1208, he embarked on a massive building programme. Between 1210 and 1216 he spent £1,115 which included the construction of the outer bailey wall, creating the Mortimer and Lunn towers and improving the water defences by damming up the Finham and Inchford brooks, making what is known as the ‘Great Mere’, so producing the largest of the English castles of the time. King John was forced to cede the castle in 1215
as part of the terms of Magna Carta.
The castle reverted to royal control in the reign of John’s son King Henry III. Henry then
granted it to Simon de Montfort in 1244.
During the Second Baron’s War against Henry, the castle suffered a six month long siege, forcing King Henry to use huge trebuchets to breach its walls. The siege ended on
the 14 December 1266 after papal intervention.
To continue the castle’s history in detail would extend this introduction into several pages but its 16th century history cannot be easily passed by without mentioning the Dudley family.
From 1563 Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester continued to modernise the castle, commissioning the architect and royal surveyor William Spicer, to rebuild and extend it so as to provide modern accommodation for the royal court. It resulted in what has been termed an English ‘Renaissance Palace’.
To impress Queen Elizabeth I. Dudley went out on a limb in 1575 by
entertaining his Queen and her court for 19 days.
She brought with her, thirty-one barons and four hundred staff.
The cost to Dudley was in excess of £1,700 a tremendous sum of that time and almost bankrupted him. It was her last visit to Kenilworth.
During the civil war the castle was a Royalist stronghold but changed hands and
was eventually slighted in about 1649.
The property is now in the care of English Heritage.
English &Welsh Castle Picture Search Results
Your Search returned 8 pictures.
Click on a picture to enlarge and order