The ruins of the enormous Norman-era Kenilworth Castle are among the most dramatic and interesting nationwide. The castle played an important role in English history, before being in great part destroyed in 1644 by the Parliamentarians.
Kenilworth was built in in the mid-12th-century by Geoffrey de Clinton, Treasurer and Chief Justice of England under King Henry I, but had to relinquish the castle to Henry II.
In 1253, Henry III appointed Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, as governor of the castle, then donated it to him Nevertheless, Montfort rebelled against the king in the Baron's War (1263-1267). After he was killed in battle in 1265, the siege of Kenilworth started and was to last for almost 9 months, the longest siege in English history.
The Archbishop of Canterbury excommunicated Montfort's followers in an attempt to weaken their morale, but only to be excommunicated himself (and the King !) by a defender disguised as an ecclesiastical. Montfort's supporters were eventually forced to surrender owing to famine and diseases.
Later, Edward II was imprisoned in Kenilworth, before being moved to Berkeley Castle and murdered (see Gloucester).
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, inherited the castle, enlarged it and built the Great Hall. Henry V built a banqueting house at Kenilworth to celebrate his astonishing victory over the French at Agincourt (1415).
Kenilworth was acquired by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and effective ruler of England under boy king Edward VI. The castle was confiscated after the execution of John Dudley for attempting to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne, but Queen Elizabeth I gave it back to his son, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who happened to be her favourite.
The Queen visited three times Kenilworth, and the pageantry of her visit of 1575, witnessed by the young William Shakespeare, is said to have inspired the author for his play A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sir Walter Scott described the intrigues of Robert Dudley, his wife and Elizabeth I in his book Kenilworth (1821).
Kenilworth was mostly left in ruins after the English Civil War. At the restoration of the monarchy, Charles II granted the property to Sir Edward Hyde, and made him Baron Kenilworth and Earl of Clarendon. The castle remained in this family until 1938, when it was purchased by Sir John Siddeley (later Lord Kenilworth). The castle has been managed by the English Heritage since 1984.
Opening Hours & Admission
Kenilworth Castle is open daily all-year-round from 10am to 6pm (until 5pm in October, and 4pm from Nov. to March). It is closed from 24 to 26 December and 1 January.
Admission is £4.80 for adults, £3.60 for concessions and £2.40 for children.
How to get there
Kenilworth Castle is located in the town of Kenilworth, just a few kilometres south of Coventry.