The ‘Magnificent Palace’

During the early 1660s, even though Kilkenny Castle was described as being ‘in pretty good repair already’, and as ‘a pretty house and (with) brave stables’, the family’s new ducal status meant that not only the castle but other Ormond properties would be remodelled. An extensive programme of building and refurbishment began around 1662, and work continued on the castle while the duke and duchess resided in London between 1669 and 1675.

When the ducal couple returned from England in 1675, inventory was taken of the contents of the castle. Over one hundred rooms were listed in the various buildings, including the old gatehouse where there was a porter’s lodge and a room ‘over the gate’.

Within the central block of the castle new apartments for the duke and duchess were being created from the earlier oldfashioned interiors, and the State Apartment was renovated. These alterations were in keeping with fashionable, formal planning and symmetrical arrangements then current in European and English great houses.

A veritable army of craftsmen was employed at the castle to carry out these changes. Accommodation within the building was provided for stone carvers, painters, gilders, carpenters, upholsterers and various other skilled men.

Lavish furnishings were installed in the interiors and hundreds of paintings were hung on the walls of the formal rooms. A reminder of this phase of the building may be seen in the rainwater heads on the drainpipes in the courtyard, (some are later replicas) which bear the date 1682; these may also have been erected to commemorate Ormond’s elevation to a dukedom in the English peerage, which occurred in the same year.