With the Queen’s platinum jubilee upon us, we are all looking forward to a long weekend of celebration. While her majesty is unlikely to bestow a royal visit on Kenilworth this weekend, she wouldn’t be in bad company if she did! Doing some digging. we were surprised at just how many places in Kenilworth have had Royal Visits or have royal connections. So, why not get in on the act and consider a royal visit to Kenilworth of your own this jubilee weekend! Here’s the low down you need:
For discussing royalty, we couldn’t start anywhere else! Although it might be considered cheating as Kenilworth Castle was a royal possession for much of its history, its still quite remarkable how many Kings and Queens came through its gatehouse! Initially sponsored by Henry I it first became a royal possession under his son, Henry II and was significantly fortified by King John – although we have no record that any of them actually visited.
Things get more interesting when Henry III and (the later)Edward I conducted the siege of Kenilworth and won the castle back from the supporters of Simon de Montfort. Whilst they probably visited in the aftermath of the longest siege in English history, they probably didn’t linger too long (corpses, disease and 6 months of destruction probably didn’t make it too pleasant)!
Edward II definitely visited in 1323 after the battle of Boroughbridge. Henry IV did use the castle sporadically but his son Henry V valued it as his escape from Royal Life, building the pleasance out beyond the mere. Henry VIII later ordered the pleasance demolished, but again we aren’t sure whether he did this in person. His daughter Elizabeth I visited repeatedly when the castle was owned by one Robert Dudley (more on that below).
James I and Charles I both visited what was then a royalist stronghold in the run-up to the English Civil War, with Charles using it to house his troops prior to the battle of Edgehill. Finally Edward VII and the future George V visited in 1892 (phew!).
As you can see, a visit to the Castle is just about the most Royal thing you can do in Kenilworth!
Of course the most famous royal connection for Kenilworth revolves around the “romance” between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley. Elizabeth visited him at Kenilworth numerous times, including the famous 19 day visit in 1575. Along with massive renovations to the Castle, Dudley entertained the Queen with fireworks and boating on the Mere and hunting in the walled forest of the Chase. Take the Castle and Abbey Trail to discover more!
Elizabeth I is documented as having taking Sunday service at St Nicholas twice during the days she spent as a guest of Robert Dudley in 1575. Dudley commissioned the ornate west door of the church (using stones from the Abbey) to impress Elizabeth on her visit. Why not dress up in your finest for a visit in Elizabethan style?
Queen Victoria visited this very spot, well not quite this very spot, but was within the walls of Pomeroys Bistro back when its façade graced Kenilworth’s original train station. Victoria visited in 1858, although she reportedly stayed in the station whilst Prince Albert visited the castle. Despite this Abbey Fields hosted a meal of “meats and plum pudding” for 2,000 townsfolk in celebration of her visit. We aren’t sure if that’s on the menu today, but do drop in for an atmospheric drink regardless!
It might be ruined (dissolved on orders of Henry VIII), but in its heyday The Abbey was a large and lavish place with ample quarters for guests. Its very likely that Henry III stayed here in 1266 whilst conducting the siege. Its also possible that the August 1266 parliament (which led to the Dictum of Kenilworth) was held in the Abbey. For more on the Abbey why not try our puzzle trail – Mystery of the Abbey?
Not the source of Royal visit (although George V may have wandered past when he visited in 1892), but just for fun you’ll find a George V post box opposite the castle on Castle Green!
That’s a lot of royalty, so why not follow in those illustrious footsteps and have your own royal visit to Kenilworth this weekend?