Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who owned the castle in the reign of Elizabeth I, was her favourite. It was widely rumoured that they would marry, especially after Dudley's wife's sudden death following a fall downstairs - not at the castle. It is believed now that her death was a tragic accident attributable to cancer having spread to her bones, but at the time there was a great deal of gossip and many people thought that Dudley had arranged her death. One foreign ambassador reported back to his masters that it was expected that Elizabeth would marry Robert Dudley 'who hath killed his wife to make room for her'. Elizabeth was much too shrewd to make a marriage which might damage her reputation, and she remained single. Their friendship lasted into old age, until his death, and even survived his second marriage.
Among Dudley's improvements at Kenilworth was this building - known as Leicester's building - which was built to provide luxury accommodation for VIP guests. The VIP guest in question was undoubtedly the Queen, who visited the castle and stayed in this building while being lavishly entertained with masques, music, water pageants and extravaganzas throughout her stay.
This view of the building was taken from the Tiltyard, and also shows the curtain wall.
Left is Leicester's building as seen from the inner court. There was a suite of rooms on each floor and they are built with very high quality masonry which shows that they were intended for important guests. The principal suite was the one on the first (centre) floor, with the big windows. Right at the top of the building is a window with a tantalizing glimpse of a door which can be seen through it. (close-up on the right).
This is one of the windows in the principal apartment. It looks out over the outer court to the curtain wall. It is probably the view that Elizabeth I enjoyed when she stayed in this apartment, though she would have seen not trees, but the lake and the water pageants arranged for her entertainment.
The stables are also a Tudor addition, built up against the curtain wall between two medieval towers. The upper floor was the living accommodation for grooms and other castle servants. The lower part, the stables themselves, is built of stone, but the upper storey, the living quarters, is timber framed with braces. The original infill would have been lath and plaster, but this was later replaced by brick. The ground floor of the stables now houses the castle's cafe, exhibition and gift shop.
The medieval towers flanking the stables are Lunn's Tower and the Water Tower. This is Lunn's Tower. Both towers have a spiral staircase at one corner. Although they are not visible in this photograph, Lunn's Tower has arrow slits similar to the ones at the top of the Keep, and this was a defensive tower. The Water Tower was built later, with large windows with window seats, and its arrow slits are purely decorative and are in fact dummy slits. The Water Tower was built as a dwelling.
Leicester's other major building was the gatehouse on the side of the curtain wall where the lake narrowed to a moat width. Here it was possible to have a normal bridge to lead to the Coventry road and the road to the town of Kenilworth. Leicester's purpose was to provide an imposing entrance, wide enough for carriages, for anyone coming from Coventry or London. Although it was closed to the public at the time of writing, because structural repairs were necessary to stabilize it, the gatehouse is the best preserved building in the castle complex. It has all its rooms and their windows intact, and the windows are glazed. It has three floors, plus the turret rooms at the top.
This final view of the castle looks into the inner court, and shows an almost panoramic view with Leicester's building on the left, the Great Hall ahead, and the Keep on the right. The stables are directly behind you and Leicester's gatehouse behind you and to your right.
The most difficult thing to convey in photographs is the sheer size of this castle and its buildings. If you click here and view the full sized picture of the Keep, you will see a man walking beside it, which helps to put it into perspective.