Power and Architecture

On this trip we looked at architecture that showed power through design, function, and patronage. The first stop was to a true English castle. Kenilworth Castle is located between the cities of Coventry to the north and Warwick to the South. Kenilworh castle was originally built in the 1120’s by Geoffrey de Clinton. Geoffrey was a very trusted member of court to King Henry I and Geoffrey was tasked to built this castle to quell any thoughts of rebellion from the people of Warwick.


In the 14th C. John of Gaunt, the third son of King Edward III, member of the House of Plantagenet, built his own addition onto the castle. His addition was to serve as a grand residence for himself. Being the third son of a king, John was not likely to become king, so he used his still formidable strength to take ownership of Kenilworth and build himself his own castle.


In this time period, defense was not the main priority of castles, and at Kenilworth the Norman keep was still maintained and used as the defensive part of the castle.

The next part of the building campaign was a love story to Queen Elizabeth I. In the 16th C. Elizabeth gave control of the castle to Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester. The courtship of Dudley to Elizabeth was well known, and Dudley used the gift of Kenilworth to build his own section to express his love and loyalty to Elizabeth.


It did not work out for Dudley, but it worked for us to give us this impressive compound.


Starting on the right is the Norman construction, and then center is the work of de Clinton, and on the left is the residence of Dudley. But what is more amazing and rare than seeing this, is that weird blue canvas you can see behind the clouds. Somehow it was actually sunny in England that day, and we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. But we kept calm and carried on to the next location which was St. Mary’s Warwick.

With a castle it is easy to tell how it relates to power, but with a church it is harder to tell, but this picture might help.


This is a side chapel on the church to house the tombs of three powerful patrons of the church and surrounding area.

They are (from left to right) Robert Dudley, Holder of Kenilworth Castle, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and Ambrose Dudley, brother to Robert Dudley and Earl of Warwick. They had more titles, but it would take a while. The church became a symbol in Warwick of the power of these families and reminders to those who follow to lead a life like those who are entombed here. The church had some other interesting parts, such as a smaller chapel for prayer, or pseudo classical carving, but this is the part the pertains directly to the power that architecture can have.

The last stop on our power trip was to Lord Leicesters hospital. If the name Leicester looks familiar it is because the hospital was renovated by Robert Dudley and his title Lord Leicester is used for the hospital. Like Fords Hospital in Coventry, this is not a hospital, but a retirement home. Only this is a retirement home for retired servicemen. This gives the building a rich history, but also associates it with power because it is part of the military establishment and is influenced by both the Lord and the Crown.

At this building, scars can still be seen from a bitter battle that had the nation divided.


All political joking aside, the hospital still functions as a residence for 8 retired men and their spouses, and also a Regimental Museum of the Queen’s Own Hussars.


This hospital was a fascinating place to tour, but the bulk of our time was spent listening intently to the curator of the museum and doing something else rather cool. The curator was telling us about the history of the regiment, and what exhibit they had. He then said they had some uniforms for people to try on, so the group of us crowded around trying stuff on. Now nothing fit me, all the jackets had rather small shoulders, but two thing did fit me.

The first was a saber from around 1850 that as the curator put it “was used in anger” in England’s wars of the time that we were allowed to play with and swing around.


And second was something really fun. As with all Great Halls there is weaponry on the walls. One section of the wall were some muskets that were issued to the men living in the hospital. In the 1800’s or so there were some rebellions going on and the crown issued the residents guns based on the fact they were loyal military men and could shoot. So the curator saw our interest and went up and took down a Brown Bess from the 1800’s with bayonet for us to try out.


I have just conferred with an expert in military stances of this time period while writing this and I am slightly off, but I still got to hold the gun, so really, a minor grievance in my view. After play time was over it was tea time. We went to the cafe down stairs and had some tea to finish off the day. It was a fun and exciting day, and as I mentioned before, it was actually sunny!!


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