Imatges de pàgina


notice of the different parts of these magnificent ruins, it will be necessary to give a brief

History of the Castle.--According to the commonly received account, Kenilworth Castle was built by Geoffrey de Clinton, already mentioned, upon whom the manor of Kenilworth had been conferred by Henry I. After having been possessed by three of his descendants, it reverted to the

Henry III. bestowed it on Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, and his wife Eleanor, the king's sister, for their respective lives. From this time Kenilworth begins to occupy a prominent position in history. When the earl took up arms against his sovereign, it became a great place of resort for the insurgent nobles. In the bloody battle of Evesham, August 1265, in which no quarter was given, the barons were defeated, and Montford and his eldest son slain. His younger son, Simon de Montford, and the remains of the rebel party, rallied at Kenilworth, which became the centre of their operations. In 1266, the king came against Kenilworth with a large force; but for six months it resisted all his efforts. At length the garrison, being much reduced by sickness, surrendered on highly favourable terms. Henry bestowed Kenilworth on his younger son Edmund, whom he created Earl of Leicester and Lancaster. In the reign of Edward I., while Kenilworth was in the possession of this prince, it was the scene of a splendid tournament. The chief promoter of this chivalrous festival was Roger Mortimer, Earl of March. The knights were one hundred in number; and among them were many distinguished foreigners, who had come to England expressly for the occasion. The ladies were also a hundred in number. It is recorded by the chroniclers that the whole party dined at a round tableall difficulties regarding precedence being thus avoided. Edmund of Lancaster was succeeded in the possesion of Kenilworth by his son Thomas, who was beheaded for joining in a rebellion against Edward II. That monarch, however, soon fell before the power of the barons, and was confined in Kenilworth till he abdicated in favour of his son, after wbich he was taken to Berkeley Castle, where he was murdered. Kenilworth was restored by Edward III. to Henry, brother of the late possessor, as a reward for his services in the rebellion which had placed him on the throne. By his marriage with Blanche, grand-daughter of this earl, John of Gaunt, son of Edward III. and Duke of Lancaster, became the possessor of the castle and estate. This nobleman made large additions to the fortress. When his son, Henry

of Bolingbroke, supplanted Richard II., Kenilworth again became the property of the crown. It continued in the possession of the crown till Queen Elizabeth conferred it on her favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who expended on the castle and the surrounding domains the sum of £60,000 sterling

–a sum equal to half a million of our present money, He built the entrance gateway and tower on the north side, and the part of the castle called Leicester's Buildings. He also rebuilt Mortimer's Tower and the Gallery Tower, at the two opposite ends of the tilt-yard. Queen Elizabeth visited Leicester at Kenilworth, in the years 1566, 1568, and 1575. It is the last of these visits that Scott has immortalized. We quote part of his description of the castle as it existed at this period :

"The outer wall of tbis splendid and gigantic structure enclosed seven acres, a part of which was occupied by extensive stables, and by a pleasure garden with its trim arbours and parterres, and the rest formed the large base court, or outer yard of the noble castle. The lordly structure itself, which rose near the centre of this spacious enclosure, was composed of a huge pile of magnificent castellated buildings, apparently of different ages, surrounding an inner court, and bearing in the names attached to each portion of the magnificent mass, and in the armorial bearings which were there blazoned, the emblems of mighty chiefs who had long passed away, and whose history, could ambition have lent ear to it, might have read a lesson to the haughty favourite who had now acquired, and was augmenting the fair domain...... The external wall of this royal castle was, on the south and west sides, adorned and defended by a lake, partly artificial, across which Leicester had constructed a stately bridge, that Elizabeth might enter the castle by a path hitherto untrodden, instead of the usual entrance to the northward, over which he had erected a gate-house or barbican, which still exists, and is equal in extent, and superior in architecture, to the baronial castle of many a northern chief. Beyond the lake lay an extensive chase, full of red-deer, fallow deer, roes, and every species of game, and abounding with lofty trees, from amongst which the extended front and massive towers of the castle were seen to rise in majesty and beauty."- Kenilworth, chap. 25.

Sir Walter Scott has faithfully as well as charmingly interwoven with his story the particulars of the "princely pleasures with which Elizabeth's visit was celebrated. During the seventeen days of her stay, the queen was entertained by a series of gorgeous spectacles, and by every species

[ocr errors]

of amusement which the age could produce. As may be seen from the extracts from “Kenilworth Inventory," that are given by Sir Walter Scott, the furniture of the castle was of the most magnificent and costly description. Master Robert Laneham, whom Scott designates was great a coxcomb as ever blotted paper," mentions as a proof of the hospitable spirit of the Earl, that “the clock bell rang not a note, all the while her Highness was there; the clock stood also still withal; the hands of both the tables stood firm and fast, always pointing at two o'clock”—the hour of banquet! The quantity of beer drunk amounted to "320 hogsheads of the ordinary sort.The expense of the entertainments is said to have amounted to £1000 a day.

Robert Dudley, dying in 1588 at Kenilworth, some say of poison he had prepared for others, left the castle and estate to his brother Ambrose, Earl of Warwick, for his life, and thereafter to his son, Sir Robert Dudley, whose legitimacy he had not publicly acknowledged. Sir Robert produced proofs of his legitimacy; but the castle and domain were nevertheless seized by the crown. Subsequently it was bestowed by Cromwell on certain of his officers, who demolished it for the sake of the materials, felled its timber, and drained its moat. Charles II., on his restoration, granted the castle and estate to Laurence Hyde, afterwards Earl of Rochester. Kenilworth after this passed by marriage first to the Earl of Essex, and then to Thomas Villiers, afterwards Earl of Clarendon, in whose family it still remains. It has long been a complete though magnificent ruin. The present Earl of Clarendon, we believe, makes it his care to preserve this noble fabric as much as possible from further decay.

A careful study of the accompanying ground-plan of Kenil. worth Castle will materially assist the tourist in finding the various parts of the ruins as they are noticed in the following description. Standing in the outer or base court, at the eastern side of the castle, the visitor has on his right Cæsar's Tower, and on his left Leicester's Buildings. The open space between them was originally occupied by Sir Robert Dudley's Lobby and King Henry VIII.'s Lodgings, which are entirely destroyed. Between the latter of these parts of the castle and Cæsar's Tower was an arched entrance into the inner court. At the farther end of the inner court is the great banqueting hall. Having made himself familiar with these points, the tourist can readily proceed to identify the other parts of this extensive and magnificent structure.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Cæsar's Tower, evidently the oldest part of the building, has been a keep of immense strength. The character of its architecture is so thoroughly Norman as to leave little doubt that it was erected by Geoffrey de Clinton. In some places its walls are not less than sixteen feet thick. Unlike other Norman towers, it has no dungeon. This massive keep has been square in form; but one side of it, the north, is entirely demolished. It is supposed that this was done to render it untenable. The reason why it is called Cæsar's Tower is unknown. Scott conjectures that it may have received its name from its resemblance to the one in the Tower of London so called. In the soutb-east angle of this tower is the well, now covered over. It was emptied and examined in 1819, but nothing of consequence found in it. It was found to go to a depth of seventy feet below the ground-floor. Westward from Cæsar's Tower were the Kitchens, of which only a few crumbling ruins still remain. The arched passage between the Kitchens and Cæsar's Tower, built by Leicester, communicated with the Gardens. There Scott represents Leicester as standing in the midst of a splendid group of lords and ladies, when Elizabeth, having discovered the Countess Amy in the grotto, dragged her towards him, saying, “Stand forth, my Lord of Leicester! Knowest thou this woman?” The scene that ensued is one of the most powerful in the novel. Beyond the Kitchens is

The Strong Tower, or, as Scott has named it, Mervyn's Tower, will be viewed with interest from the associations Scott has connected with it. Originally a very strong build. ing of three storeys, it exactly answers the description given in “Kenilworth.” " The floor of each storey," says Sir Walter, was arched, the walls of tremendous thickness, while the space of the chamber did not exceed fifteen feet in diameter.” It is here that the hapless Amy Robsart is represented as having found a brief refirge, when she came to Kenilworth, to make her appeal to ber husband's love. The reader of Kenilworth” will scarcely require to be reminded that it was here that she wrote her letter to Leicester, and fastened it with a braid of her hair in “ true-love knot;"' that here occurred her interview with Tressilian, and the scene with Michael Lambourne and Lawrence Staples. The upper storey, which was Amy's chamber, is in ruins. Following the line of building, which now turns to the south, we next examine

The Great Hall, which has been an apartment of most magnificent style and dimensions. This and several adjoining


« AnteriorContinua »