Come and visit the Queen’s Official Residence in this her Diamond Jubilee Year. Set in 13 acres of Berkshire countryside not far from London and just off the M4 Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. See the Magnificent State Apartments, St George’s Chapel and see Queen Mary’s Dolls House or brave a tour of the Round Tower.
First built by William The Conqueror around 1070 to guard the approaches to London and it was also convenient for the royal hunting forests. It was originally built entirely of wood but in the 12th century the outer fortifications were replaced with stone. The base of the Round Tower was built in 1170. Many of the Kings and Queens of England have lived at Windsor and as the Royal Residence of choice it has been extended and improved by many of them over the years. Edward III spent the princely sum of £50,000 between 1350- 1370 and transformed it from a military base to a glorious Gothic palace fit for a king.
Henry VIII built a terrace so that he could watch the Royal Hunt from it when it was no longer able to accompany the huntsman and he and Jane Seymour are buried in the chapel there.
By the time Elizabeth I moved in it was all starting to look a bit threadbare so she had all of the interior refurbished and redecorated. George IV added to the height of the Round Tower and in celebration of beating Napoleon added the Waterloo Chamber and refurnished all the state rooms with furniture in the style of the French Empire.
In November 1992 a fire caused extensive damage to the ceiling of St George’s Hall, the Grand Reception Room, the private chapel, the State Drawing Room and the Crimson Drawing Room. The restoration has been overseen by the Duke of Edinburgh and was completed to a modern Gothic style using some of the original drawings supplied to George IV.
Windsor Castle has been home to 39 monarchs.
What to see today?
Throughout the year most of the Castle is open to visitors and from May – July you can watch the Changing of the Guard everyday apart from Sunday. It’s probably worth not rushing to get to the castle though as it’s busiest time is from 9:30- 11:30 so it’s better to get there a bit later. Similarly unless you particularly want to watch the Changing of the Guard it may be better to go between October – March because the beautiful apartments created by George IV are open to the public.
If you are feeling in need of some exercise then why not see if you can beat the Round Tower with it’s 200 steps the top is 65.5 metres above the Thames and offers spectacular views of the London skyline and all its famous landmarks. Please check the website beforehand because there are several stringent health and safety restrictions on this tour.
My personal favourite is the outstanding Queen Mary’s Dolls House which is the subject of the photograph above. Built for Queen Mary between 1921-1924 this house is 1:12 in scale and includes over 1,000 pieces. The little house has a fully stocked wine cellar, electricity, running hot and cold water, even flushing loos and working elevators. Every little girl’s dream!
The official apartments are furnished with works of art and fine furnishings from the Royal Collection. So no matter what time of year it is well worth a visit.