Windsor Castle is truly magnificent. Dominating the Windsor skyline it is easy to see how it has been impressing visitors to Windsor since being built over 900 years ago.
Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle, being home not only to Her Majesty the Queen, but also to over 500 other residents who live and work in the Castle.
The Castle site covers a staggering 26 acres and includes the beautiful 15th Century St. Georges Chapel.
The History of Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a medieval castle built by William the Conqueror after the Norman invasion in 1066. Originally designed to strategically defend Norman dominance around the outskirts of London and an important stretch of the River Thames, it later became a favourite home and royal court for future monarchs.
The Castle was built as a motte and bailey, with three wards surrounding a central mound. This was gradually replaced with stone fortifications to provide protection to its inhabitants. Most famously the Castle withstood a prolonged siege during the First Barons’ War at the start of the 13th Century, and later parliamentary forces used the Castle as a military headquarters and prison for Charles I during the English Civil War.
Norden’s ‘View of Windsor Castle in the Reign of James I’ shows a section of the castle wall facing Eton and the river as ‘breached’.
Today the breach is no more and the external structure of the Castle exudes a sense of strength and power. By contrast, the interior is a showcase for royal opulence. Henry III was the first to turn his attention to creating a palace fit for a King and built a luxurious royal palace within the castle during the middle of the 13th Century. Edward III took rebuilding the Castle a stage further and produced even grander buildings that gained the reputation of the most expensive secular building project of the entire English Middle Ages.
Edward’s designs lasted through the reign of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, during which time they made increasing use of the Castle as a Royal court and venue for conducting diplomatic entertaining.
Charles II rebuilt much of Windsor Castle during the Restoration introducing Baroque designs into the interiors. Then during the 18th Century George III and George IV rebuilt Charles II’s palace to give us the grand State Apartments that we see today, full of Rococo, Gothic and Baroque influences.
The architect was Geoffrey Wyatt, but after a few years of working closely with the Royal court he decided that his name made him sound too much like a commoner (which he was) so he asked the King whether it would be alright if he added ‘ville’ to his surname. The King allegedly replied “veal, mutton, call yourself what you will, its all the same to me.”
Despite the kings indifference, if you look into the history books today you will see that the architect is indeed recorded as Geoffrey Wyattville.
Since then the interior of the Castle has remained pretty much unchanged with the Georgian splendour still being on display today.
During the 20th Century, Windsor Castle returned to it’s roots as a protective palace when the royal family used it as a refuge from the bombing campaigns of the Second World War. It survived a fire in 1992 and is now one of the UK’s most popular tourist attractions, the Queen’s preferred weekend home and a venue for hosting state visits.
The State Apartments
The great State Apartments at Windsor Castle, ornately decorated with paintings by Holbein, Rubens and Van Dyck may be visited by the general public on almost every day of the year. An impressive armour collection plus fine tapestries and porcelain are housed in the astounding setting of this most noble of castles.
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House at one twelfth scale is another highlight not to be missed. This is the sort of toy children today can only dream of. An entire 1920’s mansion complete with period dolls, cars and all manner of intriguing details is a delight for adults and children alike.
The Dolls House was first exhibited at Wembley in 1924 at the Empire Exhibition.
All the goods were made to 1/12th scale by their original manufacturers. The electricity and plumbing are both fully functional and even the tiny bottles in the cellar contain real wine. Queen Mary’s Dolls House is a brilliant attraction.
St. George’s Chapel
St. George’s Chapel remains a place of worship at Windsor Castle and is both a royal peculiar ( a place of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of the British monarch) and the chapel of the Order of the Garter.
Built in the 14th Century, St. George’s is the burial place of ten British monarchs, including King Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour.
Be sure to make this inspiring church part of your visit to the castle, as you’ll an atmosphere heavy with history of past monarchs.
Changing of the Guards
The changing of the Guards at Windsor Castle takes place every day except Sunday from April to June and each alternate day From July to March. The ancient ceremony of the Changing of the Guard takes place at 11am in Windsor High Street. This is a totally free spectacle of British military pomp and the best views are to be had from near the Statue of Queen Victoria outside the entrance to Windsor Castle on Windsor High Street.
The View at Windsor Castle
There is a magnificent view north from the ramparts, across the Thames and beyond over the playing fields of Eton College. Here are just a few of the photos of Windsor Castle we have taken over the years.
The Royal Family at Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle remains a working palace today. Banquets for visiting heads of state and other dignitaries take place here and above all that, this is still the place the royal family refer to as ‘home’. You always know when the queen is in, because the Royal Standard is flown over the Round Tower of Windsor Castle. – at other times, the Union Jack flies in its place.
Find out more about The Royal Family at Windsor Castle.
How to find Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a) very very big and b) in the middle of town, so you cannot miss it. Windsor itself is at junction 6 of the M4 motorway, just half an hour’s drive from London and 15 minutes from Heathrow airport.
We’ve created information to help you plan your trip to Windsor and your visit to the Castle itself. Please take a look at our guide to visiting Windsor Castle including opening times, admission prices and getting to the Castle.
Should you wish to extend your stay in Windsor, we have also prepared information on local Windsor hotels to help you find somewhere suitable for your stay.
Guided Tour of Windsor
Would you like your own private guided tour of Windsor? We can arrange private walking tours of Windsor that will entertain you with tales of naughty Normans, terrible Tudors, sexy Stuarts and vile Victorians.
From the moment you arrive in Windsor, we will take you on a fun filled journey through more than a thousand years of British history.
You will get to hear stories of the ordinary people as well as the fascinating history of the British Monarchy.
Click here for more information about your walking tour of Windsor.