Kenilworth Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Kenilworth Castle

Warwick, England, United Kingdom

Kenilworth Castle is a former medieval stronghold and royal palace, most famed as the home of Elizabeth’s beloved courtier Robert Dudley.

Lily Johnson

03 Mar 2023
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle is a former medieval stronghold and royal palace, most famed as the home of Elizabeth’s beloved courtier Robert Dudley.

Kenilworth Castle history

Kenilworth Castle was first constructed by King Henry I’s treasurer, Geoffrey de Clinton, who built the vast Norman keep in the 1120s –  this can still be seen there today.

Over the coming centuries Kenilworth earned the status of royal castle and underwent a series of changes, both under the remit of Henry II and under King John, who put into place greater fortifications from 1210 to 1215, solidifying its role as a stronghold.

In fact, so impenetrable was Kenilworth Castle that when it underwent a great 6-month siege by Henry III in 1266, its resident rebels only faltered when they ran out of food.

Further transformation of Kenilworth Castle from castle to palace came in the 14th century when John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster too made his mark on the site, however it was under Elizabeth I that Kenilworth Castle truly had its heyday.

The property of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester from 1563, Kenilworth was something of an architectural token of love. Dudley, who is largely supposed to have been the queen’s one true love, made extensive changes to the castle to make it worthy of Elizabeth and her entourage, doing everything from refitting and remodelling to adding new buildings – all on a lavish scale.

Kenilworth Castle finally met its decline after the English Civil War however. Having been under Parliamentarian rule since August 1642, it was slighted and condemned to ruin in 1649, before in later centuries becoming a romantic Victorian tourist destination, receiving visits from the likes of J. M. W. Turner, Charles Dickens, and even Queen Victoria.

Kenilworth Castle today

Now a magnificent ruin, Kenilworth Castle is open to the public to explore its fascinating history. Visits can climb staircases and platforms 18m high and look out over the atmospheric site, exploring the remains of Elizabeth I’s private rooms and imagining the famous queen too traversing its grand halls.

A number of exhibits and information boards may be found throughout, detailing Dudley and Elizabeth’s love affair, the castle’s 900-year history, and the various conflicts it suffered throughout its lifetime – you can even hold a real cannonball fired at Kenilworth 800 years ago.

Outside, the beautifully recreated Elizabethan gardens offer a realistic look into the lavish flora of the Tudor court, where countless courtiers and the queen herself would have stolen away for a breath of fresh air.

Getting to Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle is located in Kenilworth off the A46, and is clearly signposted from the centre of town, with parking available at the site. The nearest train station is Kenilworth, a 20-minute walk away, while the Johnsons of Henley 539 bus service directly passes the site. The Travel West Midlands 11 & 11X and the Stagecoach U12 services all also serve Kenilworth from the surrounding area, from which it is a 10-minute walk to the site.

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