I have to confess that I have not come across anything quite like this book masquerading under the guise of garden history. It recounts the creation of the gardens at Kenilworth Castle by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and those at Theobalds by William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and is billed with Hello-style hype as ‘a story of love, rivalry and spectacular design’. The gardens at Kenilworth reached their apogee in 1575 in time for what turned out to be Queen Elizabeth’s last visit. Those at Theobalds were, in the main, laid out after that date, reaching their peak at the close of the reign, by which time they covered nine acres and were intersected by a network of canals.
This is an account of Elizabeth’s reign turned upside down, seen in terms of garden design, gardeners and herbalists, and plants and flowers. Dudley and Cecil fight it out not only in the political but also in the horticultural arena, as one trumps