Windsor Castle spans hundreds of years, starting with the original structure from the 11th century.
From royal weddings to christenings, deaths (sadly including Prince Philip who died at Windsor Castle in April 2021) and, recently, the pandemic-era ‘HMS Bubble’ quarantine location for the Queen the cherished castle has been part of both ancient and modern royal history.
Here’s our guide:
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The historic market town perches on the banks of the River Thames, blending outward to encompass the Royal Berkshire countryside.
It’s the defining focal point of the Occupied Royal Palaces Estate, serving as a frequent residence for Queen Elizabeth II and home of the world-famous Ascot Races.
Across the river is Eton, probably the best known public school of England, where the Princes William and Harry were educated.
Though it’s the quintessential essence of a British castle, the original structure came from a devastating defeat to William the Conqueror after the Normans invaded England.
The resulting monarchy, which survives to this day, quickly set about making England one of the most revered and protected kingdoms of the world. After extensive renovations from one ruler to the next, Windsor Castle has now been occupied longer than any palace in Europe.
With the initial purpose of utilizing and protecting the significant importance of the River Thames, the castle came to life as a motte-and-bailey construction with an enormous mound topped by a fortified tower.
The bailey courtyard area beneath contained three wards. It was all fortified by stone in subsequent generations, but it still suffered a long siege in the 1200’s during what’s now known as the First Baron’s War.
Windsor Castle’s History
It also harboured strife and tribulations during the English Civil War of the mid-17th century, when Parliamentary forces established armed headquarters and imprisoned King Charles I within the compound.
More recently, the royal family took refuge within its walls during World War II bombings by the Luftwaffe, and it even endured a fiery blaze in 1992.
Regardless of its storied past, Windsor Castle remains an architectural wonder with striking nods to English Gothic design and remnants of lavish Baroque and Victorian interiors.
Queen Elizabeth II owns the castle “in right of the crown” and is under the ongoing care of the Royal Household.
Hundreds of people live within the castle grounds at any given time, servicing the Queen and royal family during weekend and extended residencies, as well as hosting official state visits.
Windsor Castle Highlights
St George’s Hall
Lovely refurbished after a fire in 1992, St George’s Hall is the scene for most State Banquets given by the Queen in honour of visiting foreign Heads of State.
St George’s Chapel
The site for the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle.
Henry VIII’s Grave
Also buried there is Charles I and (sadly) a stillborn baby of Queen Anne.
Many official ceremonies take place at Windsor, including a daily Guard Mounting ceremony when the queen is on the grounds, the yearly Waterloo ceremony, and the annual Royal Ascot procession.
A special treat to visitors is the year-round Changing of the Guard, a grand tradition that has endured since 1660.
The sombre-faced guards tromp in unison through the town of Windsor and into the castle, where they are replaced by a new armed group ready to defend the monarchy, come what may.
Visiting Windsor Castle
Visiting the town and viewing the outside of the castle is, of course, free.
But if you want to go into the grounds, there is a fee to be paid.
The current guide prices are below:
As you can see it isn’t cheap: there’s approx 1.4 US dollars to 1 UK pound and so an adult ticket costs nearly $40. But worth it if it’s within your budget.
Tickets need to be purchased in advance. see https://www.rct.uk/visit/windsor-castle/practical-information#/ for more.
Windsor Castle is open to the public five days a week, remaining closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.