After Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle is the principle Royal Residence in England and is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. There has been a royal presence on the site since Anglo-Saxon times (9th c.). William the Conqueror developed the present site, constructing a mound and stockade around 1070 and it has been home to 39 monarchs since.
Windsor has been much altered over the years; Henry II replaced the 11th c. development with a stone tower and outer defences, extended by Henry III In the 13th c. Edward III made the royal chapel the seat of the Order of the Garter in 1348 and converted the upper ward to residential apartments for the monarchs, rebuilt by Charles II and again George IV. By the 17th c. Charles II had rebuilt much of Windsor, adding a set of extravagant Baroque interiors with ornate Rococo, Gothic and Baroque furnishings. During the late 18th c. George III and George IV renovated the Royal Palace and Queen Victoria made a few minor changes in the 19th c. to provide suitable environment for grand Victorian entertainment.
Despite being an obvious target, Windsor has survived three Wars. Its status as a military headquarters and a prison for Charles I (son of the last King of Scotland) meant it was well defended during the English Civil War and use as a refuge by the royal family during the blitz bombing campaigns of the Great War and Second World War.
Today, you can visit much of Windsor Castle’s two district areas, the upper and lower wards.
The Upper Ward
The upper ward includes the state apartments, the Waterloo Chamber, St. George’s Hall, and the grand reception. Tthe royal library contains a priceless collection of works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Hans Holbein the Younger and other Old Masters.
The Lower Ward
The lower ward includes Albert Memorial Chapel and St. George’s Chapel, one of the best example of Gothic-style architecture in the world. One of two royal mausoleums, it contains the bodies of Henry VI, Edward IV, Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Charles I, Edward VII, and George V. The Albert Memorial Chapel, built by Henry VII was restored by Queen Victoria and named in memory of her consort. George III, George IV, and William IV are buried here.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II spends most of her private weekends at Windsor. It attracts over 1.6 million visitors annually.
The long Walk
From Windsor Castle gate to the foot of the The Copper Horse (statue of King George III), The Long Walk is a This tree-lined avenue that measures 2.64 miles. It is one of the most iconic features of Windsor Great Park.
Legend has it that Snow Hill was where King Henry VIII waited for news of the execution of his second wife, Queen Anne Boleyn. The path we see today only came into existance during the reign of King Charles II who had taken inspiration from the grand gardens at Versailles near Paris.
Queen Anne had a road constructed down the avenue in 1710 so that coaches could travel through the park on a smooth surface. A little way down from the Castle, the Long Walk is crossed by the Albert Road where we will take in the view back towards Windsor Castle.
The original Tudor Hampton Court Palace was commissioned by Cardinal Wolsey in the early 16th century, but soon attracted the attention of Henry VIII who brought all his six wives to live at the palace.
When William and Mary took the throne in 1689, they commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build an elegant new palace. Later, Georgian kings and princes occupied the baroque interiors and lavish grounds. When the royals left in 1737 to take up residence in the Buckingham House (now Palace) aristocrats moved in.
Surrounded by opulent gardens, a maze and a Great Vine, the palace has been the setting for many nationally important events.
Queen Victoria opened the palace to the public in 1838, one of London’s original tourist attractions and It is still popular today as millions of visitors, drawn by the grandeur and art collection visit annually.