Throughout its long history, Windsor Castle has changed and evolved according to the whims, tastes, and requirements of its long list of royal inhabitants. It was originally built by William the Conqueror, who reigned from 1066 until his death in 1087.
Pocket History of Windsor Castle
William built a wooden castle with wooden walls. It was purely a military base, so why he did not build stone walls is a moot point. After all, the Romans built stone walls all over the place. There are no structural remains from this period.
The earliest surviving buildings at Windsor date from the reign of Henry II who came to the throne in 1154. He replaced the wooden walls and surrounded the old fortress with a stone wall interspersed with square towers, And so it continued over the centuries, with each incoming ruler making his own changes and additions to the castle.
Through wars and plagues the castle survived and in the 17th century King Charles the Second spruced up Windsor Castle, healing its battle scars by restoring and refurnishing it. Inspired by the fabulous Palace of Versailles, which was being built in Paris, he laid out the Long Walk in Windsor Park, an avenue that runs for three miles (five kilometres),
It was during the reign of King George the 4th, between 1820–1830, that the castle was to undergo the greatest changes in its entire history. He was an extravagant big spender and used thousands of public funds to transform practically everything in sight. His successor, Queen Victoria, was less extravagant but she did make some changes to the surrounding parkland, rather than to the buildings.
Windsor Castle Today
When World War Two broke out in 1939 Windsor Castle resumed its ancient role as a royal fortress. The king and queen and their two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, moved from Buckingham Palace to Windsor to avoid the bombs that rained down on London .
In February 1952, Princess Elizabeth, upon the death of her father, became Queen Elizabeth the Second. She decided to make Windsor Castle her principal weekend retreat and she, her husband Prince Philip, and their children took up residence.
Windsor Castle today is one of Britain’s top attractions. It is very easy to reach from London. Below are some interesting and fun things to see and do:
The State Apartments are a sequence of rooms created by King Charles the Second in the 17th century. They are furnished in the elaborate style of the time and contain world-famous paintings.
Queen Mary’s Dollhouse is a very large dollhouse that was given as a gift to Queen Mary with working electricity and plumbing, intricate furnishings, and even little paintings on the walls.
St.George’s Chapel is one of Britain’s finest examples of Gothic architecture. Work was begun in 1475 but was not completed until 1528,
Changing of the Guard takes place at 11:00 am daily from April until the end of July and on alternate days for the rest of the year, weather permitting.
Windsor Great Park covers four-and-a-half thousand acres and is great for cycling. There’s a circular ride which takes in excellent views of the River Thames and Windsor castle.
How to get to Windsor Castle
By rail: Direct from London Waterloo to Windsor and Eton Riverside, or London Paddington to Windsor Central via Slough. (National Rail Enquiries 0845 7484950 (UK)). By coach: Green Line. Daily services from London Victoria. (0870 608 7261). By road: M4 Exit 6, M3 Exit 3.