Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle

Infobox Historic building

caption=Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire
name=Kenilworth Castle
location_town=Kenilworth, Warwickshire

Kenilworth Castle is a castle located in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, England (gbmapping|SP2794172163). Historically the Castle was contained within the Forest of Arden.


A fortification has existed on the site from Saxon times, but the current ruin is of Norman origin; a great square stone tower built by Geoffrey de Clinton, Treasurer and Chief Justice of England to Henry I, in about 1125. Henry II took control of the castle during the Revolt of 1173-1174, giving the Clintons another castle in Buckinghamshire by way of compensation.

Work then began to improve the defensive qualities of the castle, continuing during the reign of Henry III and transforming the castle into one of the strongest in the Midlands. The strategic advantages of water defences had long been known, and at Kenilworth a great lake was created to defend three sides of the castle. Covering over 100 acres (0.4 km²) it was an expensive endeavour, but the value in keeping siege engines at a distance and as a barrier to assault or mining was immense.

However, after all the work to improve the castle, Henry III granted it in 1244 to Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. Simon de Montfort became a leader in the Second Barons' War (1263-1267) against Henry III, using Kenilworth as the centre of his operations. Prince Edward, Henry's heir, was once briefly imprisoned at Kenilworth before escaping. De Montfort was killed in battle near Evesham on August 4 1265 facing Edward. In 1266, the rebels under the leadership of Henry de Hastings, used the castle as a refuge when Lord Edward surrounded Kenilworth. The siege of Kenilworth Castle in 1266 is the longest in English history at almost a year. The extensive water defences proved their worth, despite Edward targeting the weaker north wall, defended by only a double moat, employing huge siege towers and even attempting a night attack by barge. The siege was ended on easy terms for the defenders with the Dictum of Kenilworth. The experience gained in water defenses at Kenilworth was put to good effect at later castles built in Wales, notably Caerphilly.

Henry III bestowed the castle upon his youngest son Edmund Crouchback. The castle was inherited by Edmund's grandson Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and then passed to the Duke's son-in-law John of Gaunt.

From 1364 John of Gaunt began the castle's conversion from a pure fortress into something more liveable, work that continued with his grandson, Henry V. The castle remained in royal hands until it was given to John Dudley in 1553. Following his execution Elizabeth I gave it to her favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in 1563. Dudley further transformed the castle by making the north entrance the main entrance to suit the tastes of Elizabeth, adding the Leicester building, a large apartment and a residential block overlooking the lake. Elizabeth visited Dudley at Kenilworth Castle several times, the last of which was in 1575. Dudley entertained the Queen with pageants, bear beating and lavish banquets that cost some £1000 per day, presenting diversions and pageants surpassing anything ever before seen in England. [ [ Information about Elizabethan masques] ] [ [ Information about Elizabeth's visit to Kenilworth] ] Elizabeth stayed at Kenilworth for a month, and the entertainments are said to have almost bankrupted Dudley. Sir Walter Scott wrote an 1821 novel describing the royal visit, and Sir Arthur Sullivan wrote a choral work in 1864 about it. [ [ "The great Kenilworth booze-up: how to party like it's 1575"] Andy McSmith "The Independent" 17 December 2007. Accessed 27 March 2008] Elizabeth is said, according to local legend, to have tasted the first potato brought into the country at Kenilworth Castle. Unfortunately she ate it raw, disliked it and threw it out the window where it grew in an area now known as Little Virginia.

The castle returned to the Crown on Dudley's death. In the English Civil War, the castle was stormed and looted by Parliamentarian troops. In common with many English castles, Kenilworth was slighted (rendered indefensible) after the Civil War. One wall of the keep was blown up, and battlements and the great water defences were destroyed, in 1656.

In 1660 Charles II gave the castle to Sir Edward Hyde, whom he created Baron Hyde of Hindon and Earl of Clarendon. The castle remained the property of the Clarendons until 1937 before passing into the possession of John Davenport Siddeley, 1st Baron Kenilworth. The family presented the castle to Kenilworth in 1958 and English Heritage has looked after it since 1984.

In 2005 English Heritage announced that after archaeological investigations revealed more details of the original garden, it will be restoring the garden more closely to its Elizabethan form. A fountain and aviary will be reconstructed. The project is scheduled for completion in 2008 []

Notable constables

The constables of Kenilworth Castle include:

*Henry de Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings (1265-1266)
*Philip Marmion (appointed 1267)
*Hugh de Quilly (c. 1310-1320)
*John Deyncourt (c. 1382)
*Ralph Boteler, 1st Baron Sudeley (appointed 1433)
*Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset (1529-1530)
*John Huband (Constable of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester)
*Robert Dudley, styled Earl of Warwick (1611-1649)


Christopher Candy, [ "For the Sake of a Keep: The Siege of Kenilworth, 1267"]

External links

* [ English Heritage - visitor information]
* [ English Heritage - information for teachers] - includes plans, reconstructions and bibliography

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