Windsor Castle. History. Today. Photo
Windsor Castle is located near London, not far from Heathrow Airport.
Today’s seat of the British Crown, (Windsor Castle – derived from the word Wyndleshora, meaning “winding shores”), was laid out by William the Conqueror over 900 years ago on the site of royal hunting grounds. Today these grounds have become Great Windsor Park, and of course the castle itself is not the same as it was under King William. It has been improved, rebuilt and modernized to suit the tastes and finances of subsequent British monarchs – from Henry II to the current reign of Elizabeth II.
History of Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle, an ancient, irregularly shaped but large building. By architectural additions and extensions it has been rather successfully corrected and brought into harmony.
Windsor Castle was originally a small town of 14 thousand inhabitants on the right bank of the Thames. The history of the castle goes back to the XI century – since the reign of William the Conqueror, who bought this area and built here a wooden fortress so that he could watch the west road to London.
The fortress was rebuilt in stone under Henry I. Windsor is built on top of a hill, which at this point dominates the Thames valley. With its terraces, turrets, bell towers, and especially its large quadrangular tower, it made quite an impressive impression.
And the true creator of the castle in its present form is King Edward III, born at Windsor. The south-west tower, named after him, dates from the time of Edward III, but now it is sometimes called “the Devil’s Tower”, which is a distortion of the name of the Frenchman Duval, who languished here in prison.
Subsequently, the castle underwent considerable transformations as well, and under King Charles II (1660-1685) it was thoroughly repaired. The external contours and main constructions of the castle have safely survived all the stages of transformation and to this day there is a round tower in the center which architect J. Whiteville superstructed in 1830.
Windsor Castle owes its present appearance mainly to the architect J. Whiteville, who in the 1820s reconstructed the castle on the orders of King George IV. The king wanted the castle to look like a medieval stronghold, which embodied the majesty and power of the English monarchy.
1992 – There was a terrible fire in the palace. The fire damaged many rooms of the castle and completely destroyed nine rooms, some of which had to be modified during the restoration, as it was impossible to restore their previous appearance and decorations. And after a few years all the repairs were completed and the castle remembers nothing of the fire.
Windsor Castle today
Today Windsor Castle is considered one of the largest and most beautiful residential castles in the whole world. It occupies a plot of land 165 m by 580 m. In order to keep order and organize the work of the tour rooms, as well as to maintain the royal chambers and gardens, the castle employs about 500 people, with some of them living there on a permanent basis. About a million tourists come to the tour per year.
The castle consists of 2 separate square structures, between which rises on a mound 45-meter tower, to which lead 220 steps, and from there unfolds an amazing view of the surroundings. This tower is famous because in the time of King Edward II the Knights of the Round Table used to meet there. King James I of Scotland, taken prisoner, was imprisoned here (1403-1423) and wrote his 200 poems.
The inner courtyards of the castle are bounded by rectangular fortress walls with towers. The east courtyard is called the Upper Courtyard, there are private chambers of Queen Elizabeth II of England, and visitors are not allowed here.
In the northern part of the castle are rooms for official receptions of honored guests and are therefore richly decorated with paintings, antique furniture and other historical and artistic treasures. The furniture of the most luxurious reception hall is made of precious wood and is reminiscent of the furnishings of the Palace of Versailles. The tapestry carpets in this room are said to have belonged to Marie Antoinette. The battle armor of Henry VIII can be seen here, as well as the bullet that cut short the life of the great naval commander Nelson. However, the halls of state receptions can only be visited when the queen is absent.
Not far from these halls stands Edwin Lutyen’s creation, the famous Doll’s House, which was presented to Queen Mary in 1924. It has 40 rooms, plumbing with cold and hot water, 15 bathrooms, elevators and electricity.
It is possible to enter the castle through one of the 4 gates. Visitors entering through Henry VIII Gateway will see one of the most beautiful English Gothic buildings in sight – St George’s Chapel, begun in 1474 by King Edward IV. It is the main attraction of the Lower Courtyard: the banners of England’s highest Knights, the Order of the Garter, hang over the altar.
The haunts of Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle, standing on a high hill above the Thames, is magnificent. Not for nothing did the writer S. Peeps call it “the most romantic.” But Windsor is also famous for some unpleasant features. Like all the little old castles and mansions in Britain, the castle has its own ghosts.
The undoubted presence of ghosts in the castle has been proven not by some quacks but by the respected Scottish Psychological Society! Winsor was examined by an authoritative commission which concluded that the more frequent and unceremonious guest was the murderous King Henry VII who had beheaded many people, including his two wives, accused of adultery. In reality, Henry VIII, who had six wives, simply wanted … to marry again! Henry VIII, just as in the last years of his unrighteous life, wanders through the enfilades of the castle, grimacing unmercifully with a walking aid once specially designed for his sore leg and obese body.
There’s enough noise from the ghost of the mad George III. This ghost likes to ambush and frighten members of the royal family in particular. Also annoying to one and all is the troublesome spirit of the Duke of Buckingham who appeared there, one might say, by accident: the court astrologer was able to summon him and then… forgot to bring him back!
Members of the royal family have been accustomed since childhood to the presence in their castles and residences of the spirits of those whose portraits can be seen in museums and palace halls. But the servants of the English monarchs cannot boast of such remarkable endurance: one or two meetings with ghosts – and maids and maids are asking for payment!
Good advice for tourists
A visit to Windsor Castle introduces visitors to important pages of British history, opening the world of luxury and grandeur of the British monarchs.
The Windsors are the English royal dynasty, which ruled since 1901 (before 1917 it was called Saxe-Coburg-Gotha)…
Tourist offices are open from March to October 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., in winter – until 4:15 p.m. Audioguide to the castle in Russian can be purchased along with the admission ticket at the castle ticket office. Photos inside the premises and St. George’s Chapel are not allowed, but tourists manage to shoot their favorite angles on the phone. In the courtyard is allowed to be photographed freely. The Queen arrives at the palace through a separate gate, and tours are planned so that it is almost impossible to cross paths with Elizabeth II.
From London to Windsor Castle (Berkshire) can be reached by cab, bus or train. And you can buy admission tickets directly on the train to Windsor station from Paddington station (with change in Slough) and Waterloo. It’s very convenient – you don’t have to queue at the gate.
In Windsor the bus stops right outside the castle.
By car – distance from London to Windsor – 38 km, travel time – 55 min. The bus stops by the bus stop at Windsor Castle. If you drive by car the distance from London to Windsor is 38 km and the journey time – 55 min.
Adults from £26.50; pensioners and students £17.50; children under 17 £14.50; family from £44.40; children under 5 are free.
The Semi-State Apartments are only open in winter and on days when the State Apartments are open .
Windsor Castle has been the current country residence of the British monarchs for nine centuries and is regarded as an unshakable symbol of British royalty. It is considered the oldest and largest residential castle in the world. Thirty-nine kings and queens lived there along with their families and court retinue. It was visited by representatives of eminent families, crowned heads of state and government, famous political figures.
Interesting Facts The name of Windsor Castle was acquired by the current royal dynasty in 1917 according to a proclamation issued by George V.
The grounds of Windsor Castle
The castle complex includes the royal palace, castle walls with towers and gates, several internal buildings and constructions. The area of more than 52 thousand square kilometers is divided into courtyards: the Upper, Lower and Central, marked by the Round Tower, rising on a hill. The castle is surrounded by terraces and parks and the nearby Windsor Forest, long used as hunting grounds. To the south of the castle runs The Long Walk, or Long Walk, which is 75 meters wide and over 4 kilometers long.
Interesting facts Today about half a thousand people work and live at Windsor Castle. Apart from short-term visits, the Queen traditionally visits here in March-April (a month) and in June (a week). The fact that Elizabeth II is at the palace is indicated by her personal standard flying over the Round Tower instead of the British flag.
Windsor Castle inside
On the east side, the Upper Courtyard, closed to tourists, is bounded by the Royal Apartments. The State Chambers adjoin it to the north, opposite which is the South Wing. The north-east wall of the castle is flanked by terraces with panoramic views of the River Thames and the Royal Gardens.
The twelfth-century Round Tower closes the Upper Courtyard on the east side. It once served as an observation post and meeting room for the knights. It was added to the structure in the 19th century. A statue of Charles II, King of England and Scotland, mounted on horseback and cast in 1679 was installed at the foot of the structure.
In the Lower Courtyard area of Windsor Castle there are several medieval buildings, the most important of which is St George’s Chapel, built in the 15th and 16th centuries. There is also the Chapel of Our Lady (XIII century), re-equipped in the second half of XIX century as Prince Albert Memorial Chapel, and Horseshoe Covered Gallery, built in the XV century and rebuilt in the XIX century. The oldest surviving structure in the Lower Courtyard is the 13th century Watchtower, with bells from the 15th century and a clock from the 17th century.
What to see at Windsor Castle
Normally, the introduction to the attraction begins with the State Chambers. Visitors are greeted by a multi-bay, vaulted-ceilinged Inner Hall, built by George IV in the 1820s. Then the State Vestibule, the State and Semi-State Apartments, and Queen Mary’s Doll’s House await visitors. It is prohibited to take photographs or videos in the rooms of Windsor Castle.
Several rooms are open to the public for official visits. Of particular note are the Great Reception Hall, the Throne Room where meetings are presided over by the Queen herself, the Waterloo Room where awards ceremonies are held, and the St George’s Hall with the coats of arms designed for diplomatic meetings. The rooms of Charles II and his wife Catherine of Braganza are decorated with painted ceilings and carved decor.
The private apartments of George IV were rebuilt after a fire in 1992 from surviving blueprints, but with modern materials. The Crimson and Green parlors, richly decorated, bursting with silk and splendor, are spectacular.
In the interiors there are tapestries, paintings, antique furniture, weapons and books collections, services, clothes, jewelry, etc.
A replica of Buckingham Palace, the dollhouse has a very impressive size – 2.5 × 1.5 meters. It was made for Queen Mary in the 1920s at a scale of 1:12, reproducing the exact interiors of the monarch’s house of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The layout is filled with miniature furniture, dishes, books, dolls, housewares, and textiles. There is a wine cellar, elevators, plumbing and garages. The space is lit by lamps.
Bronze models of Windsor Castle from 1080, 1216, 1377 are on display. They illustrate the process of its development and formation over several centuries.
Chapel of St. George
The main attraction of the Lower Court is the spiritual home of the Noble Order of the Knights of the Garter, whose members are members of the royal family (no more than 24 at a time). Inside you can see the knight’s standards collected over six centuries.
Interesting facts The chapel contains the remains of Henry VIII, his third wife Jane Seymour, Charles I, the Queen Mother, George VI, Queen Mary and other crowned heads. Royal weddings and ceremonies are held here.
Windsor Castle’s stores sell sweets, replicas of royal jewelry, toys, tea sets, the royal family’s favourite teas, cashmere items, kilts, gloves and more.
Changing of the Guard.
Many visitors try to arrive at Windsor Castle by 11:00. This is when the spectacular changing of the guard ceremony begins. Well-dressed Guardsmen in uniform and colorful fur hats march past the audience accompanied by a military band. The main action takes place inside the fortress walls and lasts about 45 minutes. It may be canceled or shortened due to bad weather.
History of Windsor Castle
After the Normans conquered England in 1066, William I set about building a ring of defences around London. He chose a site bounded by the Thames and a lush forest for Windsor Castle. The wooden fortress was erected on a 30-meter mound and surrounded by a stone wall. The area of the castle acquired its present borders by the end of the XI century.
By the first half of the XII century the artificial mound sagged, as a result of which the wooden construction began to fall apart. It was rebuilt in stone by Henry I, who made Windsor his residence. Henry II Plantagenet continued to fortify the castle in the second half of the 12th century.
Since then, Windsor Castle has been improved, rebuilt and restored many times. People of royal blood were born, married, and died within its walls. It was captured and plundered, but English monarchs returned here.
The 17th-century reconstruction of the palace took on Baroque features, though it did not keep the owners happy for long as their personal interest to the residence waned. It was accessible to almost everyone until George III came to the throne in 1760. The restoration work was then undertaken by the architect James Wyatt.
The next stage of Windsor Castle’s former glory was in 1824. King George IV chose the architect Geoffrey Wyattville, who spent the last 16 years of his life on the project.
Interesting facts Windsor Castle became the main residence of British monarchs under Queen Victoria (1819-1901).
In the early twentieth century the palace was equipped with electricity and central heating. A telephone and car garages appeared, and restoration work was periodically resumed.
The devastating fire which raged for 15 hours caused considerable damage to the Upper Courtyard buildings at Windsor Castle. Because they were uninsured, money had to be collected to rebuild the halls from the proceeds of tourists visiting Buckingham Palace and Windsor Park. One-third of the amount came from a reduction in government grant payments.
Interesting facts According to public sources, the investment amounted to £37 million. After the work was completed in 1997, Elizabeth II gave a thank-you reception.
The cost of admission to Windsor Castle:
- For adults, from £26.50;
- for students and visitors over 60 from £17.50;
- For children under 17 and disabled children from £14.50;
- Free for children under 5 and London Pass holders.
A family ticket for 2 adults and 3 children under 17 costs £60.50.
When the State Apartments are closed, tickets to the castle are sold at reduced rates.
To avoid long lines at the ticket office, it is recommended to purchase tickets in advance online.
Buy tickets for Windsor Castle
Operating hours 2022
Access to Windsor Castle is from 10:00 am. Closing times:
- March-October – 5:15 p.m;
- November-February – 4:15 pm.
The last access to the grounds is 75 minutes before closing time, to the State Apartments 45 minutes before closing time.
The Semi-State Apartments are open only during the winter.
Given that the castle is the current Royal Palace, visits by tourists are restricted on certain days. In particular, access is completely closed:
- March 31;
- April 14-15, April 17 until 13:00;
- April 24 after 1 p.m;
- June 12-13;
- Dec. 24-26.
Check with the official website before traveling for information.
St. George’s Chapel is open Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until 4:15 p.m. Sunday services are held according to the schedule:
- Communion – 08:30;
- Preaching – 10:45;
- Eucharist – 12:00;
- Evening Service (daily) – 17:15.
The changing of the guard process begins at 11:00, but not every day. The schedule is available on the website of the Royal Guard.
How to get to Windsor Castle
Windsor can be reached from London by public transport, tour groups and by car.
National Rail Enquiries trains depart from London Paddington railway station for Windsor & Eton Central and Windsor & Eton Riverside several times a day. Check the timetable and ticket prices on the official Rail Enquiries website.
Green Line 702 departs London from the bus station next to Victoria Station on schedule. Get off at the Theatre Royal (Stop G) or Barclays stop. Shuttles run between Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle from March to the end of October. You can find out the schedule here.
Leave London by car and travel west on the M4 freeway. Travel time from the city center is about an hour and the distance is 40 kilometers. There are no parking spaces for visitors at Windsor Castle, so the car will have to be left in one of Windsor’s public parking lots.
Calling a cab in London is convenient using mobile apps Uber, Gett, Minicabs, London Green, Taxiapp UK, Free Now, etc.