Kenilworth Castle [History Roadshow]

From medieval fortress to Elizabethan palace on the History Roadshow we visit Kenilworth Castle. Kenilworth castle is located in the town
of Kenilworth in Warwickshire. Constructed from norman through to tudor times the building has seen Edward II its captive, John of Gaunt and Robert Dudley it’s masters and Queen Elizabeth I its honoured guest. Come with us now on a journey to
discover the trials and tribulations of one of Britain’s great medieval castles. One of the main buildings still standing
is Leicester’s gatehouse, now this was built on the northern side and replaced an
older gatehouse the external design has towers which were originally battlements
and this gives an air of a style which was more popular more than a century
earlier. The alabaster fireplace was once part of Queen Elizabeth I private rooms. The gatehouse was built around the 1570’s and transformed into a private home after 1650, today we can take a step back
in time to see the contemporary wood panelling and ornate carved furniture which would have been particularly prominent throughout the Elizabethan era. Now you
can walk through this stunning building as it was left by the last caretaker who
departed Kenilworth in the 1930’s The castle was built over several
hundred years, initially as a Norman tower around 1120. It was significantly
enlarged by King John at the start of the 13th century and Kenilworth has played a major role in English history which included the longest siege in medieval
times. It also formed a base for the Lancastrian operations throughout the
War of the Roses. Within Kenilworths inner court there are a
number of buildings the most impressive has to be the 12th century great tower.
Originally of Norman origin this building exploits his defensive
capabilities by being set on high ground. And even after the tower was slighted a
still has its notable corner turrets and walls which in places are 16 feet wide
the tower itself goes up 98 feet making this a formidable part of the castle. The Great Hall was built by the 14th
century nobleman John of Gaunt sometime between 1372 and 1380. This part of the castle had seen previous halls built, but Gaunt went one stage further in
creating what would have been a masterpiece of engineering and design, a
scale not seen before with a quality and workmanship like no other. It was
influenced by Edward III design at Windsor Castle with lavish interiors and
resplendent exteriors which gave the building a richness fit for any royal visitor. Built alongside the great tower, Gaunt
included a massive kitchen area this replaced the original 12th century
kitchens. The new one was twice the size of others in equivalent castles of the
period with a length of 62 feet and a width of 26 feet this was cooking on a
whole new level. Today we can see the remains of the bread ovens and just to the side is where once a cauldron would have bubbled away, possibly for
cooking meat. In 1235 Henry III gave Kenilworth
to his sister and her husband Simon de Montfort who was the 6th Earl of
Leicester. He was a nobleman of French origin and a member of the English
peerage but was also the instigator and baronial opposition to the rule of King
Henry III this all culminated in the Second Barons war. At Evesham on the 4th of August 1265
Simon de Montfort entered the battlefield one last time, he was
completely outnumbered but led his forces in a last desperate bid to end
the saga. Up against him was Prince Edward the son of Henry III who
would later go on to be King Edward I The scene was set and
described by one chronicler as the “murder of Evesham, the battle it was non”
During the battle a twelve man squad of Edwards men had stalked the battlefield
independent of Edwards main army there sole aim being to find the Earl and cut
him down. Montfort was eventually hemmed in. Roger Mortimer who was a strong ally of
Henry III is said to be the one who delivered the final blow
Simon de Montfort’s body was then mutilated in a frenzy by the Royal
soldiers. Kenilworth was given to Robert, Earl of Leicester in 1563, an English statesman and a favourite of Elizabeth I He was also a suitor for the
Queen’s hand over many years. He was so keen to impress the Queen he arranged
one final attempt to woo her in 1575. It is said Elizabeth brought an entourage
of 31 barons and 400 staff for the visit she stayed for 19 days and the event was
considered a huge success. Yet even the Queen then decided not to marry
Leicester. The gardens today at Kenilworth offer a
glimpse of what they would have looked like in the 16th century.
In Elizabethan times plants were not considered to be the main purpose of
beauty, a design incorporating sculptures was the preferred decoration of the time.
Obelisks and a statue of Greek mythological figures create the focus,
that aside a pleasant and ornate bird aviary. This has to be one of Britain’s most
prominent places to visit it’s 900 year history tells a story of
wa,r peace, love and heartbreak. A piece of pure theater. From the early days of
Norman settlement to the medieval time and stately royal visits. This
outstanding piece of architecture remains and with it a beauty as a
strikingly lavish and highly significant part of English heritage. For a remarkable journey through time take a visit to Kenilworth Castle

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