Originally built of wood, the castle was designed to allow easy passage for troops who might be needed to defend England’s borders. It was also occasionally used as a hunting lodge during the 1200’s. Over the centuries, the role of the building alternated between residence and battlement. During the 16th century, Henry VIII spent a considerable amount of time at Windsor Castle and redeveloped parts of it. Every year he held the Garter Feast at the castle, a tradition that had been started by his father and that he made ever more extravagant. It wasn’t until the 19th century however, that Windsor Castle firmly established itself as a permanent Royal residence under the rule of Queen Victoria.
Today, Windsor Castle serves primarily as a weekend home for Queen Elizabeth II and continues to be a center for entertainment and events. It is the world’s largest inhabited castle and is the longest-occupied castle in Europe, with a total of 500 people living and working inside.
St. George’s Chapel
The chapel at Windsor Castle was built in the 14th century by King Edward III and has been the site of many a royal celebration and ceremony. Several royal weddings have been conducted at St. George’s Chapel, starting with the wedding of King Edward VII to Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863. The most notable ceremony from recent years was the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles back in 2005. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be carrying on that grand tradition this weekend.
The Top Attractions
While the Royal Wedding will undoubtedly keep everyone busy throughout the weekend and perhaps even a few days after, there is so much more to see at Windsor Castle. Here are a few options to consider once the wedding fever dies down:
- Audio Tour with Prince Charles
What better way to learn more about the castle than with the help of one of the country’s most famous monarchs? Starting off in the castle courtyard, experience a complete walkthrough in the voice of the Prince of Wales with commentary on specific rooms including their history. Along the way, various staff members of the castle will also explain about the day-to-day running of the castle and the work involved.
The State Apartments are the residential rooms used by the royals who have lived in Windsor Castle, and each apartment has a distinct look to reflect the tastes of its occupant. Each beautiful room features opulent furnishings, rare examples of fine art and carvings by master sculptors. Today, they are mainly used as entertaining rooms.
- The China Museum
Queen Mary had an extensive collection of porcelain sculptures and pottery that used to be displayed during the 1920’s. Marvel at these beautiful historical artifacts, which include Chinese and Japanese works from the 17th and 18th centuries, plus an exclusive set that has Queen Victoria’s monograms on it.
One of the finest royal traditions, the Changing of the Guard is a magnificent ceremony that takes place most mornings at 11 am. Lasting 45 minutes, it is a brilliant display of sound and colour as the new guards march through the town to the Guard Room to accept their duties from the old shift, accompanied by the sounds of the Regimental Band. It is one of the most spectacular traditional ceremonies and one not to be missed.