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Windsor Castle

  • House & Family History: Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world and the oldest in continuous occupation. The enormous castle was begun by William the Conqueror on a typical Norman motte and bailey plan. William chose a commanding spot for his fortress, on a 100-foot, cliff overlooking the River Thames. He built up a mound of earth and erected a wooden palisade atop the mound, or motte. Though the castle has been expanded and enlarged numerous times over the subsequent centuries, the basic layout of William's plan can still be seen. Henry I replaced the wooden structure with a keep of stone, using stone quarried at Totternhoe in Bedfordshire. Henry II rebuilt the defenses and added a second bailey in 1175, and at the same time provided for more comfortable accommodation. Henry was fond of Windsor, and planted an herb garden and a vineyard here. It was also Henry who built the first royal apartments, the foundations of which can still be seen in the basement of the current apartments. The castle withstood two sieges in the early Medieval period. Prince John attempted to take the throne in 1194, when his brother, King Richard I, was out of the country; nobles who remained loyal to the king tried and failed to wrest control of the castle from John. Later, when John was legitimately king, Windsor was unsuccessfully besieged again by the nobles as part of the hostilities which culminated in the signing of Magna Carta. Though Henry III contributed some minor building, the next major builder was Edward III. In the years following the Black Death in 1349 Edward lavished over £50,000 on Windsor Castle, making it the single largest crown building project of the Middle Ages. Edward was driven by a desire to match the French crown in architectural splendor. From that time on Windsor has stood as one of the principle residences of the monarch. Later monarchs added to the complex of buildings we now know as Windsor Castle. Henry VIII built the great entry gate which bears his name. The last major building took place under George IV, when the tower was raised—at the cost of £1 million—to make it the highest of any castle tower in the country and Sir Jeffry Wyatville, circa 1800 to 1830, rebuilt the interiors. The ceiling and chimneypiece designed by Robert Adam for Buckingham House now stand in the Queen's Presence Chamber at Windsor. Windsor Castle, along with Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, are used as the official lodgings of the monarch. The monarch uses these buildings as both home and office. When the king is in residence the royal standard flies atop the Round Tower. At other times the Union Jack is flown. (This history kindly provided by Britain Express, The UK travel and heritage guide).

    Collections: A full-size bronze replica of the Warwick Vase (one of two copies produced) by the firm of Rundell, Bridge and Rundell was purchased by George IV in 1821 and is today at Windsor Castle. The Borghese-Windsor Cabinet (circa 1620), originally made for Pope Paul V and later acquired by George IV (it was sold from the Royal Collection in 1959), set a new record for a piece of Roman furniture when it was sold by Sotheby's in 2016 for €2.5 million. The 17th century Italian cabinet, decorated with gilded bronze and silver statuettes and pietre dure, was acquired by the Getty Museum.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: The castle sits within the 5,000-acre Windsor Great Park. Virginia Water Lake, in the south of Windsor Great Park, is an 18th century (circa 1740) man-made lake. Around the lake is a 100-foot-high Canadian totem pole commemorating the centenary of British Columbia and a collection of ornamental Roman ruins installed at Virginia Water in 1826. Many of the stones that were used to create the ruins came from the site of Leptis Magna, a Roman city on the shores of the Mediterranean near Tripoli, in present day Libya (see 19th century engraving in "Images" section).

    Chapel & Church: The grounds contain St. George's Chapel, one of the most beautiful examples of Medieval church architecture in England and home of the Order of the Garter. Every June an official gathering of the order is held at Windsor Castle (at that time any vacancies are filled with new members). The monarch and royal members of the order attend an official luncheon at the Waterloo Chamber, after which they walk in procession to a service at the chapel. St. George's Chapel was begun in 1475 by Edward IV and finished 50 years later. Within the chapel are the tombs of 11 monarchs, including Edward IV, Charles I, George V and Queen Mary, George VI, and Elizabeth II. Also buried here is Henry VIII, who lies beside his favorite wife, Jane Seymour. Behind St George's Chapel is the 13th century Albert Chapel, rebuilt by Queen Victoria between 1863 and 1873 by George Gilbert Scott in memory of her husband and consort, Prince Albert. The Prince Consort is represented by a cenotaph (he is interred at Frogmore Mausoleum, though his body was interred here until Frogmore was completed). The main focus of the chapel today is the tomb of the Duke of Clarence (eldest son of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII), who reposes in state on a sarcophagus of Mexican onyx. His head and hands are carved in white marble, his uniform in bronze with brass facings. The lining of his garter cloak is aluminum. At his head an angel holds aloft the crown of eternal glory, while at his feet a little angel weeps over a broken wedding wreath (the duke died two months after becoming engaged to Mary of Teck, who later became the wife of the duke's brother, the Duke of York, later George V). Queen Victoria did not follow the tradition of British monarchs in the subject of her final resting place, almost all of whom are interred in ancient churches and cathedrals with royal associations. Victoria chose to build a tomb-house in a private garden, an idea that came from Germany, the land of Victoria's mother and husband. The first member of the family to build a mausoleum was Victoria's uncle, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who erected a small Gothic mausoleum at Claremont to the memory of his wife, Princess Charlotte. It was while visiting Claremont tin 1843 that Victoria and Albert first considered the idea of building a mausoleum for themselves. The Frogmore Mausoleum resembles the Coburg Mausoleum, built in 1844 by Prince Albert for his father, Duke Ernest I of Saxe-Coburg. Victoria chose a design based on 13th century Italian precedents with interior sculpture and painting in the style of Raphael, who Prince Albert regarded as the greatest artist of all time. The Chapel Royal at Windsor was created by Charles II. At the Restoration he created one of the most spectacular Restoration interiors in Britain, with paintings by Antonio Verrio adorning the walls, including his Last Supper. The Chapel Royal did not survive the remodeling of Windsor that occurred in the early 19th century.

  • Architect: Hugh May

    Date: 1675-85
    Designed: New State Rooms

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    Architect: Jeffry Wyatville (Wyattville) (Wyatt)

    Date: 1824-40
    Designed: Remodeled exterior and interiors for George IV and William IV

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    Architect: Edward Blore

    Date: 1840-47
    Designed: Lodgings for Military Knights, Lower and Upper Wards.

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  • Title: Warwick Vase, The
    Author: Marks, Richard; Blench, Brian J.R.
    Year Published: 1979
    Reference: pg. 21
    Publisher: Glasgow: Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries
    ISBN: 0902752073
    Book Type: Light Softback

    Title: V&A Guide to Period Styles: 400 Years of British Art and Design, The
    Author: Jackson, Anna; Hinton, Morna
    Year Published: 2002
    Reference: pg. 30
    Publisher: London: V&A Publications
    ISBN: 0810965909
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade I

  • "Theater of Blood" (1973 - exteriors in Windsor Great Park). "King Ralph" (1991 - exterior view of the Long Walk). "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004 - scenes in Windsor Great Park). "The Queen's Castle" (2005 - TV documentary series, a year in the life of the Castle up to April 2005, showing state and private rooms and behind the scenes). "Snow White and the Huntsman" (2012 - filmed in the Great Park). "The Legend of Tarzan" (2016 - filming in Windsor Great Park). "The Huntsman: Winter's War" (2016 - the lake scene was filmed in the Great Park). "Victoria" (2016 - TV series, CGI exteriors). "Dolittle" (2020 - Windsor Great Park was used for the duck shoot scenes). "Come Away" (2020). "The Crown" (2020 - TV series, as exterior of Windsor Castle in the episode "Favourites"). "Bridgerton" (2022 - TV series, hunting and horseback riding scenes were filmed in Windsor Great Park).
  • Current Seat / Home of: King Charles III

    Past Seat / Home of: King George I, 1714-27; King George II, 1727-60; King George III, 1760-1820; King George IV, 1820-30; King William IV, 1830-37; Hanover family here from 1714 until 1837. Queen Victoria, 1837-1901; King Edward VII, 1901-10; King George V, 1910-17; Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family here from 1837 until 1917, when George V changed the family name to Windsor. King George V, 1917-36; King Edward VIII, 1936; King George VI, 1936-52; Queen Elizabeth II, 1952-2022.

    Current Ownership Type: The Crown / Royal Family

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Other

    Ownership Details: Crown property. The king uses the castle as both home and office.

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01753-869-898

    Fax: 01753-832-290

    Email: [email protected]

    Website: https://www.rct.uk/

    Awards: The firm of A.G. Joy & Son were the recipients of the National Humber Salver Prize for excellence in solid plastering for their work at Windsor Castle in 1993 and again in 1998.

    Historic Houses Member: No