A Kenilworth Castle story
Planning a marriage proposal is tricky, especially when you intend to propose to a queen. During the 15th and 16th century Kenilworth was a royal castle, but in 1563, during her reign Elizabeth I’st gifted the castle to Robert Dudley.
So many tales circulated about their relationship, It was the subject matter of many books, plays, and films. And 400 years later, people still question whether they were just friends or if there was something more than to it?
In the summer of 1587, A Spanish ship apprehended a man who claimed to be Arthur Dudley, the secret son of the Queen and Dudley. Could it have been right? Elizabeth was supposed to have given birth to him in 1561, a year in which her movements were not “tracked” miraculously (despite the fact that they always were throughout her reign). Also, we know that in 1562 she was “very ill”.
Elizabeth and Dudley never wed; mainly because he was already married, and when his wife died in 1560, there was much suspicion surrounding her death, which would have made it impossible for the two to get married; but in 1575, Dudley thought there might be still a chance.
Elizabeth had already visited his castle 3 times, and he hoped the fourth visit, in 1575, might be pivotal. He made a number of alterations to the castle interior, spending over £60,000 on the castle (the equivalent of £12 million today). He ordered a new set of portraits of himself and the Queen, to be painted and hung side by side. He then planned 19 days of entertainment for Elizabeth and her entourage; It was rumoured to have been more lavish than anything ever seen before. in England; the cost was astronomical… £1000 per day for 19 days (equivalent to £5 million today).
The guests drank 40 barrels of beer and 16 barrels of wine each day and enjoyed music, plays, naval battles in the lake and the biggest firework show in English history. It was seen from a distance of 20 miles, and it is tempting to think one of the spectators might have been 11 years old William Shakespeare, some historians claim that this may have inspired him to write his comedy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
The grand finale was to be a play called Diana and Iris. In this pageant, the goddesses of chastity and marriage argue over which one of a number of suiters should marry a nymph called “Zabata”. This was a clear message to Elizabeth; however, the play was not performed.
The official reason was bad weather, but could it is possible that Elizabeth understood what the play was about and ordered it to be cancelled.
Eventually, Dudley accepted that he would never marry the queen, so he married the Countess of Essex (which riled Elizabeth), but the two did not remain angry with each other, and when Dudley wrote her a letter a few days before he died, she kept it in a box by her bedside until her own death,15 years later.
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