This then and now image comparison of Leicester’s Building is so gratifyingly unchanged, we might as well have converted the ‘now’ image to black and white just to cheat you all! There is very little difference between the two images, apart from the shadows showing the time of day the two photos were taken.
Leicester’s Building was built, unsurprisingly, by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to whom Kenilworth Castle was granted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1563. He set about converting his new home into a sumptuous palace, in which he hoped he and his intended wife, Queen Elizabeth I, would make their summer residence. She, evidently, had other ideas.
During her most famous visit, in 1575, she stayed for 19 days, the longest she ever remained in a courtier’s mansion. He treated her to fireworks, a splendid garden, dramatic shows and lavish gifts. No dice. Elizabeth stormed off, unimpressed with the proceedings, leaving Dudley heavily in debt for it all (to Elizabeth herself, would you believe) and in 1578 he ended up marrying the wonderfully named Lettice Knollys instead. When Dudley died, Lettice was left rich under his will, but his overwhelming debts of around £50,000 diminished her wealth. It would not be until the death of Elizabeth, and the accession of her successor James I, that the crown agreed to cancel the remainder of her late husband’s debts.
Leicester’s Building was built outside the old inner curtain walls that contain the Castle’s inner court. It was built up from the old inner ditch, and it is thought that this caused structural problems, which forced the addition of the corner staircase tower on the right to shore the structure up. In the event, this allowed the creation of a private staircase to allow Elizabeth (and, presumably Dudley hoped, himself?) to be able to roam freely between the entertainment rooms and the bedroom suite above, unhindered by the mere mortals on the invite list to their near inner sanctum.