Monday, May 30, 2016

Queen Elizabeth I - Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire was "Built to woo the Virgin Queen" after the owner's 1st wife died after apparently falling down the stairs



Kenilworth Castle dated 1620 by Unknown Artist

David Wilkes for the Daily Mail, London, 4 September 2014

Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire was "Built to woo the Virgin Queen... There is no doubt the views from the top of the 100ft tower, which boasts what were then the biggest glass windows in a secular building in Tudor England, are impressive enough to make you go weak at the knees.

"Whether they also made Queen Elizabeth I swoon into the arms of her favourite Robert Dudley in the spectacular quarters he created for her exclusive use at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire remains a mystery as intriguing as the rest of their relationship.


"There was, believes the Head Curator at the castle, Dr. Jeremy Ashbee, an antechamber between the two sets of rooms where Dudley, the handsome and flamboyant Earl of Leicester, could well have ‘lurked’ until Elizabeth was free of other company before popping in to see her alone. From there it is just a few short steps into the regal boudoir, where no one was normally allowed except the Queen and her ladies in waiting.


"We do not know whether their relationship was ever physical,’ said Dr Ashbee. ‘But they had known each since childhood, shared passions for riding and dancing, and it was no secret in Court circles that he was a suitor for the queen’s hand in marriage. Indeed, Dudley built the tower expressly to win her hand...’


"Their relationship - portrayed by Cate Blanchett and Joseph Fiennes in the 1998 film Elizabeth - was much talked about after Dudley’s first wife Amy broke her neck and died after apparently falling down the stairs at Cumnor Place, Berkshire, in 1560.


"Debate raged over whether Dudley had got rid of her as an obstacle to his relationship with the monarch. Dudley, who was also the Master of the Horse, overseeing all the queen’s equestrian needs for travel and hunting, was granted Kenilworth Castle by Elizabeth I in 1563.


"At a cost equivalent to tens of millions of pounds in today’s money, he began building the tower for her there in 1570. Elizabeth stayed at the castle 4 times during her summer ‘progresses’ away from London. Her last visit in 1575 caused particularly intense speculation about their relationship as she stayed for 19 days from July 9 to 27 - the longest she ever stayed at any courtier’s house.


"Dr Ashbee said: ‘We know from documentary evidence when the tower was built was right in the middle of the period when Dudley was getting her to come there. People referred to it as ‘the Queen’s lodge.' ‘She was 41 and he 42 during the 1575 visit and it has long been thought this was his last throw of the dice to get her to marry him. He even commissioned portraits of the queen and himself specifically for that visit, which might have been intended to hang in the dancing chamber above her bedroom.,,’


"Dudley failed, however, to win the queen’s hand, his chances having probably not been helped by him fathering an illegitimate son by Lady Sheffield in 1574. Elizabeth never returned to Kenilworth and he married Lettice Knollys, Countess of Essex, in 1578.


"But the queen evidently retained an affection for him and kept a letter he wrote to her shortly before his death in 1588. Its contents were mere pleasantries, but she wrote on the back ‘His last letter’ and kept it in a casket of treasured possessions by her bed until her death in 1603."



1 comment:

  1. I lived in Kenilworth whilst a student at Warwick University. In 1975 there was a MASSIVE 400 years celebration pageant at the Castle. It was truly glorious. Back then, residents of the town were allowed free access to the Castle- now everybody has to pay a large entrance fee!! At the time, some very expensive mock tudor cottages were built up near the castle, in an area called Little Virginia. My digs were in the town, in a run of terraced houses called Robsart Villas [after the poor dead Amy] Thank you for this post and the happy memories it has brought back.

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