Kenilworth Castle – Great Britain And Ireland

The outer wall of this splendid and gigantic structure enclosed seven acres, a part of which was occupied by extensive stables, and by a pleasure garden, with its trim arbors and parterres, and the rest formed the large base-court, or outer-yard, of the noble castle. The lordly structure it-self, which rose near the center 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 favorite, who had now acquired and was augmenting the fair domain. A large and massive keep, which formed the citadel of the castle, was of uncertain tho great antiquity. It bore the name of Caesa, perhaps from its resemblance to that in the Tower of London so called.

Some antiquaries ascribe its foundation to the time of Kenelph, from whom the castle had its name, a Saxon King of Mercia, and others to an early era after the Norman Conquest. On the exterior walls frowned the escutcheon of the Clintons, by whom they were founded in the reign of Henry I., and of the yet more redoubted Simon de Montfort, by whom, during the Barons’ wars, Kenilworth was long held out against Henry III. Here Mortimer, Earl of March, famous alike for his rise and his fall, had once gaily revelled in Kenilworth, while his dethroned sovereign, Ed-ward II. languished in its dungeons. Old John of Gaunt, “time-honored Lancaster,” had widely extended the castle, erecting that noble and massive pile which yet bears the name of Lancaster’s buildings: and Leicester himself had outdone the former possessors, princely and powerful as they were, by erecting another immense structure, which now lies crusht under its own ruins, the monument of its owner’s ambition. 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 among which the extended front and massive towers of the castle were seen to rise in majesty and beauty. We can not but add that of this lordly palace, where princes feasted and heroes fought, now in the bloody earnest of storm and siege, and now in the games of chivalry, where beauty dealt the prize which valor won, all is now desolate. The bed of the lake is but a rushy swamp and the massive ruins of the castle only serve to show what their splendor once was, and to impress on the musing visitor the transitory value of human possessions, and the happiness of those who enjoy a humble lot in virtuous contentment.