The Elizabethan Gatehouse at Kenilworth Castle has antique dining tables and other furniture dating back to Tudor times – and it is to remain open during work that will recreate the views that the Virgin Queen once enjoyed.
Founded in 1120, Kenilworth was a royal palace-fortress until Henry VIII gave it to John Dudley in 1553. Following his execution for treason, the castle passed to Dudley’s son, Robert Earl of Leicester, who wooed Elizabeth I but famously failed to win her heart, despite his best efforts. These mainly involved carrying on his father’s work of modernising and enlarging the building, adding an extra tower for guests (the Leicester Building) and rebuilding the gatehouse. Today, only the gatehouse and the stables built by his father remain intact; the rest were slighted by Colonel Hawkesworth and his parliamentary forces during the Civil War.
Hawkesworth converted the Elizabethan Gatehouse into a home in around 1650, and it remained a private residence until the 1930s. Today, visitors from Lancashire can see antique dining tables, beds and cabinets tracing the full history of the castle’s occupation, while a fascinating exhibition tells the story of the doomed love affair between Robert Dudley and his Virgin Queen.
Elizabeth slept in the Leicester Building many times, her final visit to Kenilworth being in 1575. English Heritage now has permission to build public platforms in the places the queen once stood, looking out over the home she knew she would never live in.
Genuine Elizabethan furniture is rarely seen outside museums, but antique dealers in Preston have Victorian dining chairs and other pieces in the Tudor Revival style.
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