Everything You Need to Know About Windsor Castle…
Situated high upon a hill, Windsor Castle towers above the surrounding area. Often shrouded in a magical mist, the Castle’s imposing stone buildings survey Windsor Great Park and the town of Windsor from its vantage point above the skyline.
In recent years, Windsor Castle has become a much-talked-about royal residence, following the success of Netflix drama, The Crown. The Castle was the home of Queen Elizabeth II, who considered it a favourite amongst all her castles and palaces. The castle has however, been home to many British monarchs aside from the late Queen, and many have left their mark on the architecture and decoration of its interiors.
The History of Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle was founded by William the Conqueror, a French claimant to the English throne, who seized the Crown in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings. At the beginning, the castle was nothing but a cube-shaped structure with four walls and small slits for windows, topping a man-made mound which was surrounded by a moat. It was one of many new Castles built by William the Conqueror to prevent invasion to his Kingdom.
Windsor Castle wasn’t originally favoured as a residence for royals. However, in the 1200s, Henry III, started to make improvements to the Castle, making it fit for a King. New buildings were added in the upper section of the castle to house the Royal state apartments, so that the King and his family could enjoy modern comforts in spacious accommodation. Many of Windsor Castle’s older buildings can be clearly seen from the central section of the castle, which is known as Middle Ward.
From Middle Ward, guests can also look up at the Round Tower, which stands alone on a hill, surrounded by a moat garden. In the nineteenth century, the original structure of the tower was adapted to round off the shape of the building and add two stories to heighten its silhouette from afar. The Round Tower is currently home to the Royal Archives and is not open to the public.
On top of Windsor Castle’s Round Tower flies a flag. When the royals are not home, the flag flown from the mast is the Union flag. When the royals are in residence, the Royal Standard, bearing the royals arms and colours of the British monarchy, is flown from the mast.
Queen Mary’s Doll’s House and the North Terrace
Windsor Castle is famous for its spectacular views of Windsor Great Park. Guests entering Queen Mary’s doll’s house and the State Apartments are greeted by magnificent vistas of the park as they enjoy the scenery from the North Terrace. Lucky visitors may even spot the family of Red Kites that circle the sky above that side of the Castle!
Queen Mary’s dolls house is not to miss as it is a spectacular example of early twentieth century craftsmanship. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1924, the doll’s house was made for Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, the wife of King George V. The house has running water and electricity and is stocked with artefacts from over 1500 of the best manufacturers, authors and artists of the day. The library even includes an array of books by the most revered authors!
The State Apartments at Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle’s State Apartments contain some of the most splendid rooms in the world and were designed to rival the royal palace of Versailles in France. Bursting with history and teaming with exceptional treasures from the finest craftsmen, Windsor Castle’s State Apartments are a visual display of golden grandeur.
Guests to Windsor Castle can see extravagantly painted ceilings commissioned by Catherine of Braganza and Charles II in rooms such as the Dining Room. There are opportunities to stand only metres away from famous artworks, such as ‘The Three Heads of Charles I’ by Anthony Van Dyck, and ‘Massacre of the Innocents’ by Pieter Breughel the Elder. Surrounded by portraits of Charles I’s family by the renowned artist, Anthony Van Dyck, visitors can wander the length of the Queen’s Gallery under the rock crystal chandeliers and marvel at the beauty of their surroundings.
Destroyed by fire in 1992, the existing St George’s Hall was rebuilt to a new design, influenced by the late Prince Philip. The room is used for state banquets and events hosted at Windsor Castle. St George’s Hall overlooks Engine Court, which separates the building from the monarch’s apartments, which can be seen on the opposite side of the courtyard.
St George’s Hall is roofed with stunning carved wooden beams that were created and installed by exceedingly skilled carvers. As the Home of the Order of the Garter, St George’s Hall’s ceiling is embellished with the coats of arms of former Knights of the Garter. Guests can check the wooden panels and alcoves of the windows around the room, to see the names etched into the panels around the hall. Perhaps there are some famous names that you might recognise!
St George’s Chapel
Guests to Windsor Castle can enjoy the splendour of St George’s Chapel, which is located near to the exit from the Castle. Constructed in 1475, the extravagant Gothic building is the final resting place of many great Kings and Queens, including Charles I, who was reburied here following his execution in London in 1649.
The choir stalls near the altar are magnificent to behold, but don’t forget to examine the floor. Here, guests will see the tombstone marking the burial place of England’s most controversial King, Henry VIII, who is buried with his favourite wife, Jane Seymour. The crypt also contains the tombs of the late Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip.
St George’s Chapel is home to the Order of the Garter and hosts annual ceremonies for new initiations to the historic Order, that was founded in 1348 by King Edward III. The Chapel has also served as the backdrop for many recent royal weddings, such as the marriage of King Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The Changing of the Guard Ceremony
Lucky visitors might catch a glimpse of the changing of the guard ceremony by one of the many military regiments who protect Windsor Castle. When the guards change posts, a group of soldiers marches throughout the Castle, stopping to relieve guards of their duties. Guests who are especially fortunate might even catch the troops on a day where the brass bands march. Watch with amazement as the guards change, marching to famous soundtracks like those from Star Wars and Indiana Jones!
About Magna Carta
Magna Carta will take you on a slow, meandering journey along the prettiest stretches of the River Thames. Immerse yourself in the majesty of Windsor Castle, Royal Palaces and quaint riverside towns and villages – a captivating mixture of olde worlde England and the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside.
Magna Carta’s large saloon and dining area feature picture windows and stylish furnishings, and the sense of refined space continues in the four very generous, air-conditioned twin/double suites, with their combination of period furniture and contemporary en suite shower rooms.
Outside you can unwind in the heated spa pool, or enjoy a mouth-watering alfresco lunch prepared by your onboard master chef. With a seasoned Captain at the helm, and an attentive crew at your service, why not take a cruise through history aboard Magna Carta.
For more information on our classic England cruise, and the rest of our collection of luxury hotel barge cruises, why not order a free copy of our brochure or speak to a member of our team directly using our handy Contact Form.