From the medieval fortress to the Elizabethan palace, Kenilworth Castle has been at the center of England's uproar for much of its 900-year history.
Kenilworth Castle is one of the great historical sites of the United Kingdom, and yet very little known outside United Kingdom.
It was a royal castle for most of its history, and many of the buildings remain unaltered since the reign of Elizabeth I. Its walls enclose a series of outstanding works of medieval and early Renaissance architecture.
The first castle was established on a low sandstone hill at the crossroads of two ancient trackways in the 1120s by the royal chamberlain, Geoffrey de Clinton. De Clinton built most of the Norman great tower and also founded Kenilworth Priory close by.
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In the early 13th century King John added an outer circuit of stone walls and a dam to hold back a great lake, thus creating one of the most formidable fortresses in the kingdom. It withstood a full-scale siege in 1266.
Subsequently the castle was developed as a palace. John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, constructed the great hall, with associated apartments and services. in the 15th century the castle was a favoured residence of the Lancastrian kings, who were drawn here by the excellent hunting; Henry V built a retreat called ‘the Pleasance in the Marsh’ at the far end of the lake.
in 1563 Elizabeth I granted the castle to her favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He converted Kenilworth into a great house for her entertainment, which culminated in 19 days of festivities in 1575.
The castle’s fortifications were dismantled in 1650 after the Civil War, and Leicester’s Gatehouse was converted into a residence by the Parlliamentarian officer, Colonel Hawkesworth. Later the ivy-clad ruins became famous as the setting for Sir Walter Scotts’s 1821 novel Kenilworth, which romanticized the story of Robert Dudley and Elizabeth I.
The castle was given by Lord Kenilworth to the town of Kenilwoth in 1958, and since 1984 it has been managed by English Heritage.