Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth and the Kenilworth Entertainment of 1575
by Dr Gillian White
Thursday 29 September 2016
The Society opened its 2016-2017 season of talks with a truly fascinating presentation by Dr Gillian White on Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the entertainment he presented for Elizabeth I at Kenilworth Castle in 1575.
The entertainment lasted over a number of days and included banquets of up to 300 courses, fireworks, theatricals and other spectacles. The earl had even extended the castle in preparation for visits from the queen, with a new gatehouse and new royal apartments. There was speculation at the time that Leicester aspired to the queen’s hand in marriage. He was already married however, and when his wife, Amy Robsart, was found dead at the foot of some stairs at their home, the suspicious circumstances and subsequent gossip put paid to any ambitions he might have had.
The lecture gave a stunning portrayal of Robert Dudley and his relationship with the queen. One of the most interesting questions in the lively Q&A session which followed the talk, was why Elizabeth never married. Dr White felt that, having seen how her sister Mary lost much of her power when she entered the married state, Elizabeth was determined not to make the same mistake, her royal position being the most important aspect of her life.
Dr. White specialises in the history and visual arts of late medieval and sixteenth-century England. She formerly worked for the National Trust at Hardwick Hall, about which she then wrote her PhD at Warwick University. She now teaches part-time at Leicester University and at Oxford University, as well as freelance lecturing and teaching.