On Day Three I got up and had a very good Full English breakfast in the hotel restaurant: poached eggs, Cumberland sausages, bacon, tomatoes, beans and mushrooms. Also toast and jam.
It was a sunny morning as I walked (well, sort of stumbled after that breakfast) the ten minutes to the Windsor Castle gates and joined the relatively small queue. I had already purchased my ticket so when the gates opened I went straight through.
Windsor Castle began as a Norman fortress and then over the centuries became a royal palace. It is the Queen’s favourite residence and she spends most weekends here as well as most of June. It is the castle from which the Royal House of Windsor derives its name. Many of the grand state rooms were destroyed in fire in 1992 but they have all been wonderfully restored. Windsor Castle is a working Royal palace and some 160 people permanently reside there. It’s more like a small town within walls than just a castle.
This is the Round Tower.
Appropriately above St George’s Gate is a stone relief of St George slaying the dragon.
The central structure is surrounded by a moat, though it was never filled with water.
Archers could aim their arrows through these narrow holes.
As you enter the State rooms the first exhibit is Queen Mary’s Doll’s House. It is the most amazing construction. The doll’s house is about the size of a small car and every item within it has been made by the same craftsmen who created the full size items in real life – furniture, silverware, paintings, tapestries – all made in minute expert detail. It was never a child’s toy though and was always meant to show off the best in British craftsmanship. It took three years to build and 1500 craftsmen contributed. It has electric lighting, hot and cold running water and flushing toilets. You can see more pictures here.
You then go on a self-guided audio tour of the grand rooms filled with beautiful paintings and drawings (da Vinci, Rembrandt, Rubens, Canaletto and Gainsborough) and gorgeous furnishings. The armoury displays are also amazing as are some of the gifts from foreign countries on display – there’s even an Aztec royal crown sitting unassumingly in a corner cabinet. The most amazing room is St George’s Hall with its medieval oak framed ceiling – it all was completely rebuilt in the 1990s and the timbers are only now starting to warp and crack as they dry out fully. This is intentional as the carpenters can only work with the softer ‘green’ oak. This explains all of those wonky Tudor buildings – and it gives me a further insight I can use when I guide around Speke Hall.
Windsor Castle also contains the 15th century St George’s Chapel.
I saw the tombs of many monarchs – Henry VIII who is buried with his favourite wife Jane Seymour, Edward IV and his Queen Elizabeth Woodville, King Henry VI, King Charles I, George V and Queen Mary, George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. That’s not chronological by the way.
They recently held Garter Day at St George’s Chapel and I didn’t realise until I went through the Castle just how significant the Order of the Garter is. It is the oldest and most important chivalric title in the United Kingdom and was founded in 1348 by King Edward III. Each Knight (or Lady) of the Garter has their own stall in the Choir at St George’s Chapel – there are only ever 24 Companions of the Garter.
On most days at 11am there is the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard, with all the pomp and circumstance you would expect.
These are not ‘chocolate box’ soldiers only for display – those guns are real.
Also it’s far less crowded that the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace as it can only be seen within the castle walls.
It was all jolly good fun!
I will post about my afternoon next time. Those of you who really know me will know where I went in Windsor next. Try to guess.