June 4, 2016
Another fantastic English breakfast this morning! I have an hour to pack my bags before the coach picks us up. We board the coach and take a half hour drive to Kenilworth Castle. The complex is absolutely beautiful, even if it is mostly in ruins. The castle was first built in 1124 by a man named Geoffry de Clinton, who was a member of King Henry I’s court. Since then, Kenilworth Castle has had a long and colored history of falling in and out of the hands of royals and aristocrats. Each owner built additions to the complex, just the same as they did at the Tower of London. Kenilworth was inhabited by the Tudors and the Stuarts and several members of their court from the time it was built until the 1640s when civil war forced the royals to abandon many of their residences, and some of the castles were destroyed. The majority of the buildings that still stand are in ruins, except for the stables that have been refurbished into a cafe, and Leicester’s Gatehouse. Leicester’s Gatehouse was the preferred house of Robert Dudley, a member of Queen Elizabeth I’s court. This is a particular part of the castle’s history that I found most interesting.
Queen Elizabeth gifted Kenilworth Castle to Dudley in 1563. Lord Robert Dudley was named a member of Queen Elizabeth’s court shortly after coronation at age 25. The two had been friends since Elizabeth was 8 years old and it was clear that she was in love with him. However, two main obstacles faced them as a couple: first, Elizabeth’s chief minister frowned upon the idea of her marrying someone in her own court, thinking that this would degrade her position as Queen; second, Dudley was already married. On September 8, 1560, Dudley’s wife was found dead under suspicious circumstances, and rumors of murder would follow Dudley for the rest of his life. Though Elizabeth did receive dozens of marriage proposals, she never accepted any and remained the Virgin Queen. In July 1575, Elizabeth made her final visit to Kenilworth Castle. Dudley has built the Queen’s privy garden specifically as a gift for her on this visit. It is rumored that Dudley made one final marriage proposal to Elizabeth on this visit, but again she declined. Dudley died suddenly in 1588 at the age of 56, possibly from malaria. Elizabeth would outlive him by another 15 years.
After Kenilworth, another two hour coach drive brought us back to Bloomsbury, London, where we will be staying for the remainder of our trip. Pickwick Hall is not Buckingham Palace, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I had a quick dinner and went grocery shopping to stock our fridge! I’m very excited to be able to cook here and not have to eat out for every meal. Tonight we are going bowling as a group. Tomorrow is a free day. I’m going to Portobello Road with one of my roommates, *cue Bed Knobs and Broomsticks music.*
In other news, I am slowly but surely getting a chaco tan. Success.