Dennis Gilbert

Drive through the beautiful Berkshire countryside near Windsor at Easter and you’ll see the Union Flag flying from the Round Tower of Windsor Castle nearby. That’s because the Queen stays there at this time of the year, and also in June when she visits Royal Ascot and attends the Order of the Garter service. Because of its exotic beauty, this stunning location is also used as an alternative to Buckingham Palace for ceremonial visits by foreign heads of state. The Queen and her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh, also enjoy spending many private weekends here, too.


Royal Collection Trust

It’s the largest and the oldest inhabited castle in the world. It occupies 10.5 hectares of land, has 951 rooms and is split into three parts, called Wards. The Lower Ward is the area best known to the public, while the Middle Ward is ranged around the Norman Motte (or mound) which is topped by the Round Tower, in which you’ll find the Royal Archives and the historic photographs of the Royal Collection. The final Ward, the Upper Ward, contains the State Apartments, arranged around an open space called the Quadrangle.


Royal Collection Trust

Over two hundred people work there full time, including high ranking dignitaries who live within the precincts of the Castle – such as the Constable and the Governor, the Dean of Windsor and Canons of the College of St George as well as the Military Knights. There are maintenance staff, housekeepers, porters, a clockmaker, grooms, furniture restorers, a priest, Police and soldiers. You’ll also find librarians, bookbinders and even a flagman.


Mark Fiennes

The castle hosts a range of events throughout the year. St George’s Hall is often used for state banquets, where there’s a single table that seats 160 people – decorated with porcelain, and silver-gilt from the Royal Collection. Sometimes the Queen invites political leaders, ambassadors, High Commissioners or the heads of Commonwealth nations, to have dinner before showing them special items from the Royal Library. There’s also the annual Order of the Garter service held at St George’s Chapel – the oldest order of chivalry in the world, which dates back to 1348 – and a weekly religious service open to the general public. Indeed, various areas are open to visitors on most days of the year, including The State Apartments, Queen Mary’s Dolls House and The Royal Library, where regular themed exhibitions are held.


Royal Collection Trust

The building itself is the result of over a thousand years of development, and four monarchs played a particularly important part in this. First was William the Conqueror, who actually founded the Castle and outlined the plan of the building. Edward III rebuilt the Castle in a magnificent Gothic style and added the royal apartments in the Upper Ward. Then Charles II who changed the Upper Ward into a Baroque Palace and, finally, George IV who restored the exterior. 


Mark Fiennes

One change that was not planned was the great fire of 1992. On November 20th, fire broke out in Queen Victoria’s private chapel when, it is believed, a spotlight ignited a curtain above the altar. The fire spread rapidly through the roof, destroying the ceilings of St George’s Hall and the Grand Reception Room as well as gutting the chapel. It took two hundred firemen over fifteen hours to get the fire under control, but fortunately thousands of priceless works of art were rescued in time. In her annual TV broadcast on Christmas day, a miserable looking Queen Elizabeth II used a Latin phrase to describe the year – which had also seen the announcement of the separation of Prince Charles and Princess Diana – as an “annus horriblis” (a year of disaster). 


John Freeman

Surrounding Windsor Castle is the Great Park, which dates back to the eleventh century. It has 2,000 hectares, including 485 hectares of valuable arable land and stocks of red deer that frames the Castle. This prompted the famous English diarist Samuel Pepys to describe it in 1666 as, “the most romantic castle that is in the world.”


Royal Collection Trust