From our outing the other week, photos.
You can see how fine the weather was. T and I both got pretty well sunburned in spite of blocking up religiously. The Bean was untouched. However, as Kenilworth is right under the BHX flight path, the sound of airplanes was deafening, and she couldn’t take it.
Now the castle. It’s amazing, the lives that buildings have. Particularly these old European ones. Kenilworth dates from the 1120s, was used by Henry II as a convenient post for spying on the too-ambitious Earl of Warwick. During the reign of Henry III, Kenilworth turned against the crown– understandably, as Henry was trying to avoid sticking to the Magna Carta— and endured the longest siege in English history.
But it survived, and grew larger. Henry V used it as a bachelor pad, it became a football during the Wars of the Roses, and Henry VIII’s daughter Queen Elizabeth gave it to her sweetie Robert Dudley, who hosted an epic 19-day party for her there. A local information site notes that:
“The festivities are said to have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. William Shakespeare was just 11 years old at the time and from nearby Stratford-upon-Avon. He could well have been among the crowd of locals that would have gathered to witness the occasion with its expensive and lavish arrangements.”
Those bear figurines on the railing in the foreground–the “bear and ragged staff”— are symbolic of Warwickshire. I can’t tell if these bears are chained to the post or not– if they are, they’re a county symbol. If they’re not, they symbolize the Earls of Warwick. Heraldry is weird.
After Robert Dudley died, the Crown took back the castle, and it was stormed by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War in the mid 1600s. They slighted it– destroyed its defenses– by blowing up some walls and ruining the moat. It’s been in a state of semi-ruin since then, having been turned over to English Heritage in the 1980s.
Now you can picnic there, and poke around the ruins and stick your head up an old fireplace. You can think about the great and good who lived there, or wonder about the ordinary maids and farmhands, or maybe just have a cream bun.