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JOHN OF GAUNT—HIS FAMILY.
In the following reign, when so much noble blood flowed on the scaffold, Lancaster was often exposed to the cold-hearted suspicions of his nephew, Richard the Second. In a former part of this work, where we have detailed at some length the circumstances attending the trial and execution of Richard Fitzalau, Earl of Arundel, the Duke of Lancaster appeared at his trial; and it was he, John of Gaunt, who was conspicuously active in bringing that unhappy nobleman to the block. He survived him, however, only two years ; and after many splendid services to the state, and having borne the titles of “Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Brittany, King of Castille," and been thrice married, * he died at his Castle of Leicester, or, according to others, at Ely House, in Holborn. Instances of his knightly prowess and prudent sayings are often detailed by the old chroniclers.
When leading the van in the battle against Henry, the bastard brother of Don Pedro in Spain, near the city of Pampeluna, pointing to the enemy in front—“There," said he to Sir William Beauchamp," there are your enemies; this day you shall seeme a good knight or die in the quarrel.” When John Wycliffe was called before the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, and other prelates and peers, of whom this Duke of Lancaster was one; he (in favour of Wycliffe) spoke some reproachful words against the bishop, which gave such discontent to the citizens that they rose in an uproar and resolved to have murdered him, and to have set fire to his house, called the Savoy—then the fairest structure in England—had not the bishop qualified them.' On the accession of his nephew, King Richard, observing that he was under improper influence, and fearing that public blame might attach to him as the principal adviser, he obtained leave to retire to his Castle of Hereford, which he intended to have made his chief residence, and had taken measures for repairing and fortifying it. But in this he was defeated by the King's injustice, who took it from him, at which he was much troubled, and in consequence took up his residence in his Castle of Kenilworth.—Baron.
The Hall, already mentioned, was finished only two years before the death of John of Gaunt, who, after being deprived of his other castle by King Richard, as above stated, employed his active mind in a thorough restoration of that at Kenilworth; "and for which,” says Dugdale, “he obtained a warrant from Richard, directed to Robert de Skillington, master
• By his first wife, the countess of Kenilworth, he had, besides his son and heir (Henry de Bolingbroke), two daughters, Philippa, Queen of Portugal, and Elizabeth, Countess of Pembroke. By his second wife, Constance, daughter of the King of Portugal, he had another daughter, Catherine, who became consort of the Spanish king. And by Catherine
Swinford, his third wife, he had five sons, namely,
mason, and supervisor of his buildings at Kenilworth, to impress twenty masons, carpenters, and others.”
The Strong Tower, or that which in the “Romance of Kenilworth" is called Mervin's Tower, is also ascribed to John of Gaunt. Henry de Bolingbroke, his son, Duke of Hereford, who was destined to play so conspicuous a rôle in the national history, succeeded to his illustrious father in 1399. On his return from abroad—where he had been some time in exile—to take possession of his heritage according to the royal patent, Richard, jealous of his power and growing popularity, applied to the parliamentary commissioners, and by their authority revoked his letters patent, and retained possession of the late Duke's estates. So glaring an act of injustice could not be overlooked, either by Hereford or his friends. Connected with most of the principal nobility by blood, alliance, or private friendship, they were easily brought, by a sense of common interest, to take part in his resentment; the consequences of which were, the deposition of King Richard, the elevation of Henry de Boling broke to the throne, and the origin of those unnatural wars between the houses of York and Lancaster which deluged the country with blood.
During these fierce and sanguinary contests, the castle and demesnes of Kenilworth were alternately in the power and custody of the rival houses; but the lighter amusements of the age, the chivalric entertainments, jousts and tournaments, which had so frequently enlivened its courts, had been laid aside for the stern realities of domestic war. Days of battle and nights of mourning, or fearful preparation, drove mirth and festivity from the gate; while the continual tramp of steeds, the clang of arms, and the approach of
THE CIVIL WAR-THE CASTLE TOWERS.
fresh conflicts, kept alive that melancholy interest and excitement, which for a time isolated this magnificent fortress and its garrison within the pale of its own fosse and ramparts.
“O England, years are fled since first
Wide o'er thy plains the war-cloud burst!
The Swan Tower forms the north-west angle of the outer wall, at the meeting of the lake and canal, or wet ditch. Near this, and of an oblong shape, divided into parterres cross-fashioned, and with a circular space in the centre, was the ancient garden of the Castle, which communicated with the Maison de Plaisance already named, and this again with the strong tower adjoining. In shape it is octagonal, and is supposed to have derived its name from the swans which resorted hither to be fed by the keeper. Another of these towers, which forms the opposite or north-east angle of the outer wall, is considerably larger than the preceding, polygonal in shape, and contained several apartments, two of which have fire-places. It is known in the History of the Castle as “ Lunn's Tower," and is seen to advantage in the general view of the Castle from the north-east. Of nearly the same size within, but not nearly so high, and in its architectural style and proportions deserving of particular attention, is the Water Tower. It appears to have been intended for military defence, and used in connexion with the other warlike outworks by which, on the land side, the castle wall was protected. The next prominent object in the same line, where the lake and ditch again meet on the south-east, is Mortimer's Tower, already described. Communicating with this, by means of a long gallery, was the Flood Gate, which contained a “spacious and noble room," from which the ladies might conveniently witness the martial pastimes of joust and tournament in the capacious tilt-yard adjoining, which extended from tower to tower. The buildings here enumerated form the chief features in the outer circuit, and succeed each other at various distances along the embattled wall on the north and east of the castle.
The Kitchens, three in number, occupied the whole space between the
keep and the strong tower on the
to Stow, kept his “ Lent in
the Castle of Kenelworth, and caused an harbor there to be planted in the marish for his pleasure, among the thorns and bushes, where a foxe had harbored, which foxe he killed, being a thing thought to prognosticate that he should expell the craftie deceit of the French king; besides which he also there builded a most pleasaunt place, and caused it to bee named 'le Plaisant Marais,' or the Pleasaunt Marsh." Here, also, during the same Lent, “ whilst the King lay at Kenelworth, messingers came to him from the Dolphin of France, named Charles, with a present of Paris balles with him to play withall; but the Kinge wrote to him that he would shortlie send to him London balles, with the whiche he woulde breake down the roofes of houses.” Of this incident Shakspeare has taken advantage in the following scene in his play of Henry the Fifth :
The prince, our master,
K. Hen. What treasure, uncle ?
HENRY THE FIFTH AND THE DAUPHIN
Tennis-balls, my liege.
On the accession of Henry the Seventh, the Castle was bestowed upon his son, as Duke of Cornwall, who, to the numerous repairs and embellishments made by his royal predecessors, contributed many others. He removed what was called the ‘Plaisance en Marais'-supposed to have been a small summer-house in the marshy flat beyond the walls—to the interior of the castle-yard, where its remains are still visible near the Swan Tower. Inheriting the munificence and taste of his father—" the onlie phoenix of hys tyme for fyne and curious masonrie,”* and whose“ buildings were most goodlie and after the newest caste, all of pleasure,” † the. Duke evinced in his repairs of Kenilworths that love and patronage of the fine arts by which he was afterwards distinguished as Henry the Eighth. The building formerly known as “ Henry the Eighth's Lodgings,” was a capacious structure, situated between the Keep, or Cæsar's Tower, on the right, and Leicester's Buildings on the left; comprising an extensive suite of apartments, and forming the eastern side of the inner court. Through this building, close to the tower, was the archway leading into the castle-yard. From Henry the Eighth it descended to his son, Edward the Sixth ; then to Mary, and lastly to Queen Elizabeth, who bestowed it upon her favourite, Robert Dudley, fifth son of the Duke of Northumberland, with all the royalties thereto belonging. This forms the most memorable incident in the history of Kenilworth.
This Sir Robert Dudley appears on almost every page of the history of Elizabeth's reign. He had been included in the attainder of his family, but was restored in blood by Queen Mary, who appointed him, when a very young man, Master of the Ordnance at the siege of St. Quintin. Elizabeth
Among other repairs and alterations, he is said to have caused the “ banqueting-house," erected by Henry the Fifth, to be taken down, and part of it to
be rebuilt within the base-court, near the Swan Tower. But the “ banqueting-house" here mentioned, appears to have been the same as that already noticed as " le Plaisant Marais."