Windsor Castle is the principal residence outside of
London of the British Royal Family. The castle stands in Windsor, 21 miles (34 kilometers) west of
Windsor Castle is located in the Home Park, a private royal park. The Home Park
joins another royal park, the Great Park, south of Windsor. Queen Victoria and her husband are
buried in the Home Park.
Early history of Windsor Castle
One of a series of castles that William I (1066–1087) established around London,
Windsor occupied the nearest strong point in the Thames Valley to the west of the city. From
William’s reign date the motte and also the distinctive elongated arrangement of lower, middle and
upper baileys that exploits the lie of the land at the top of a great chalk cliff south of the
By the reign of Henry I (1100–1135) the creation of a large hunting forest,
together with the proximity of London, made this a favoured royal residence as well as a fortress.
The Round Tower, the stone shell-keep on the motte, may date from this time. The
systematic replacement of timber defences by stone walls with rectangular interval towers was begun
by Henry II in 1165, but work on the lower bailey was unfinished at his death in 1189.
The completion and partial refashioning from 1221 to 1230 of the south and west
parts of the lower bailey were both a reparation of damage sustained during the French siege of
1216 and a political gesture substantiating the young Henry III’s authority. The interval
towers, among the earlier English examples of the standard 13th-century type, are
half-cylindrical to the outside and larger and more massive than Henry II’s towers.
After Henry III’s marriage in 1236, the modernization began of his grandfather’s
residential buildings, that is, the more accessible and ceremonially important apartments on the
north side of the lower bailey and the more private ones (the ‘King’s Houses’) against the north
wall of the upper bailey.
The building accounts suggest that the upper bailey works were as uncoordinated
in their layout and as luxurious in their decoration as Henry III’s other major houses at Clarendon
(Wilts) and Havering (Essex).
The most important work of his reign was a new set of apartments built in
1240–48 east of the hall and lodgings in the lower bailey: chambers for the King and Queen north of
a cloister and a large chapel of St Edward to the south.
The arcading on the north side of the wall separating chapel and cloister
preserves a number of French Gothic features new to England; and the lost windows of the chapel may
well have incorporated bar tracery some five years before the architect of the chapel, Henry of
Reyns (d 1253), employed it at Westminster Abbey. In overall design the chapel was not
French, for its plan was rectangular and it had a timber vault, which the King had ordered should
imitate masonry and resemble the vault over the ‘new work’.
The small west portal is closed by doors with splendid scrolled
ironwork signed Gilebertvs. Two heads from wall paintings of kings (in situ) in the cloister and
west porch and a fragment of a richly carved Purbeck marble font in the chapel are the only other
surviving decorative elements.
Edward III built more of Windsor than any other medieval king. From 1350 Henry
III’s chapel was refitted as the collegiate chapel of the Order of the Garter (founded in 1348) and
dedicated to St George.
The adjoining cloister and chambers were
rebuilt to accommodate the canons. The entrance porch (completed by 1352) to this complex has a
traceried vault of an ashlar-shell construction that comes closer to the classic form of fan vault
than any other example of this date.
The cloister tracery combines elements derived from the two
earliest Perpendicular buildings, the cloister and chapter house of Old St Paul’s
Cathedral and the south transept of Gloucester Abbey Church (now Cathedral). The
transferral of the lower bailey lodgings to the college of St George suggests the intention to
rebuild the ‘King’s Houses’ on the upper bailey as a self-contained palace, although this was not
actually carried out until 1357–1368.
Edward III’s new upper bailey lodgings were the most costly work of domestic
architecture undertaken by the English crown before the reign of Henry VII. The aim was to create a
fixed base for the royal household equal in capacity to the Privy Palace at
As most of Edward’s work was rebuilt in the late 17th century and the early
19th, the disposition and functions of all but a few of the rooms are unknown, as is the appearance
of all the main first-floor rooms save one.
Also unknown is the extent to which the retention of 12th- and 13th-century
masonry affected the layout round three courtyards, which, from east to west, were given over to
services, major public rooms and the private apartments of the royal family. Along with a degree of
coherent planning and consistent execution virtually unprecedented in English palace architecture,
the most important innovation was the extent to which the main south front was treated as a unified
and regular façade despite the disparate functions of the spaces behind.
This near-regularity was of hierarchical significance, for the rooms behind the
façade—the great hall, household chapel and king’s great chamber—were the most important in the
Other advanced features were the two-storey cloister-cum-corridor round the
central courtyard and the architecture of the hall roof, where the pierced Perpendicular screenwork
above the principals anticipated the great roof of Westminster Hall. Against the east and south
sides of the upper bailey were built long ranges of standardized lodgings for household officers.
These and the end-to-end arrangement of the hall and chapel in the palace block influenced New
College, Oxford, the founder of which, William of Wykeham, had been Clerk of Works at Windsor from
1356 to 1361. The master mason in 1350–68 was John Sponlee, and the carpentry was directed by the
King’s Chief Carpenter, William Herland.
In June 1475 work began on clearing a site for a new St George’s Chapel
immediately west of the old one. Integral to this scheme were lodgings and a cloister for the
vicars opposite the site of the future west front of the chapel. The horseshoe plan alludes to
Edward IV’s Yorkist fetterlock badge.
The curvilinear trusses anticipate 16th-century timber-framing. Edward’s concern
that the Order of the Garter be as splendid as the Order of the Golden Fleece, headed by his
brother-in-law Philip the Good, 3rd Duke of Burgundy, clearly influenced his decision to embark on
this project, and his new chapel was the most ambitious work of church architecture undertaken by
any western European monarch in the late 15th century. The aim was evidently to build a chapel in
the guise of a minster, like that which some Arthurian romances place at Camelot, seat of the
prototypical chivalric society.
Hence the basilican format, the consistent use of stone vaulting, the long choir
and nave, the square ambulatory linking up with the old chapel, the transepts and (unexecuted)
lantern-tower over the crossing, and the basing of the internal elevations on the two grandest
works of Perpendicular cathedral architecture of the previous century, the choir of Gloucester
Abbey (now Cathedral) and the nave of Canterbury Cathedral.
In its extreme flatness, the lierne vault prepared for but not executed by the
original architect Henry Janyns is comparable only to that planned at Eton College Chapel, where
Janyns had been apprenticed about1453–1454. The fan vaulting in the aisles has the flattened
profile and refined decoration characteristic of the many fan vaults built in Janyns’s native
Oxfordshire from the 1440s.
The chaste, polished architecture of Janyns’s choir was offset by the exuberant
yet controlled architectural fantasy of the choir-stalls (1478–1483). Although made by English
craftsmen and conceived within the distinctive English traditions of stall design, the detailing of
the tall, spired canopies is so heavily influenced by Netherlandish architecture and church
furnishings that Edward IV, who was in Holland and Flanders in 1471, may well have been
The King’s two-storey chantry-cum-oratory, integrated into the north side of the
chancel, seems to have no exact counterpart elsewhere. Henry VII’s contributions include most of
the choir aisle vaulting, the apsidal Lady chapel (c. 1494–1501) intended to house his tomb and the
shrine of Henry VI, and perhaps the apsidal and distinctly bay window-like transepts.
The bulk of the nave was built c.1503–6 with money bequeathed by Henry VII’s
confidant, Sir Reginald Bray. The design conforms closely to that of the choir, and although one
bay longer than first intended, the nave does not detract from the precocious near-symmetry that
the south front of the chapel displays towards the lower bailey.
The only important later medieval alteration to the palace block was the
addition at its north-west corner of a short range containing well-lit rooms on both first and
Work was complete by 1501, but since the starting date is not documented it
cannot be known whether its fantastic star-plan bay windows could have influenced those of Henry
VII’s Richmond Palace. Either Richmond or Windsor was the source of the similar bays on Henry VII’s
chapel (1503–1509) in Westminster Abbey. In the lower bailey Henry III’s gate-house was replaced
around 1510–1516. The broad proportioning of its towers was no doubt a piece of contextually
Later history of Windsor Castle
After the completion of St George’s Chapel, few major changes or additions were
made to Windsor Castle until 1675. The Restoration of the monarchy (1660) may be linked to the
restoration of Windsor Castle itself. Glorification of monarchy as well as the influence of the
château of Versailles explain the major rebuilding (1675–1683) undertaken for Charles II by Hugh
Edward III’s buildings in upper ward (formerly upper bailey), including St
George’s Hall, were demolished, and a new palace was created. Little survives of May’s austere
façades, which represented a stylistic compromise between contemporary classicism and the surviving
medieval structure. The Baroque interiors were far richer than the exteriors suggested.
The chief artists involved were Antonio Verrio, Grinling Gibbons and the gilder
René Cousin. Only three of Verrio’s twenty ceilings, the King’s Dining Room, the Queen’s Audience
Chamber and the Queen’s Presence Chamber, survive. Their iconography, glorifying Charles II and
Queen Catherine of Braganza (1638–1705), has been described as ‘fulsomely and unrealistically
propagandist in the manner accepted throughout Europe in the seventeenth century’.
By contrast, Gibbons’s carvings have always been admired, and many were recycled
during the next major rebuilding of 1824. Another important addition that directly emulated
Versailles is the Long Walk, a 5 km avenue, originally of elms, forming a southern approach from
Windsor Great Park.
Few further changes were made until the late 18th century. It was a reflection
of burgeoning Gothic Revivalism that James Wyatt ‘gothicized’ several of the state apartments. He
removed many of May’s round-topped windows and reconstructed the apartments, providing a new state
staircase and the surviving grand vestibule.
The latter’s attenuated proportions and fan vaulting resemble Wyatt’s work at
Fonthill Abbey, Wilts. George III’s insanity from 1811 and Wyatt’s death in 1813 delayed progress
until, in 1824, Parliament voted £150,000 for Jeffry Wyatville’s rebuilding programme, a sum
eventually exceeded seven times over.
George IV, like Charles II, saw the reconstruction of Windsor Castle in symbolic
terms—as an affirmation of the continuity of the monarchy. In accordance with fashionable,
picturesque Gothic Revivalism the intention was to revive the spirit of Edward III without
neglecting the comfort or elegance of a royal residence.
Wyatville’s rebuilding won Walter Scott’s admiration for evoking ‘much Gothic
feeling’. Important in this respect was the raising of the Round Tower by 10 m to give stronger
central emphasis and to offset the enlarged state and private apartments.
Rebuilding necessitated the destruction of much 17th-century work including
May’s Royal Chapel (1684–1686), possibly the finest Baroque interior in England. St George’s Hall,
with Verrio’s paintings of the Black Prince and the Apotheosis of Charles II, was replaced by an
arid Gothic hall lacking scale and grandeur.
Nevertheless, Wyatville’s stylistic consistency in the progression from the
great staircase, through the guard chamber to St George’s Hall itself must be recognized. An open
courtyard was transformed into the Waterloo Chamber, a picture gallery. The Grand Reception Room
(destr. 1992), furnished and decorated in French Rococo style, reflected George IV’s
The castle’s furnishings by Morel & Seddon fuse effectively with the
architecture and are comfortably eclectic in their Rococo, Louis XVI, Empire and Gothic Revival
styles. The last is apparent in the State Dining Room furniture, probably made in 1827 from the
designs of the 15-year-old A. W. N. Pugin.
While Wyatville’s Gothic soon became outmoded, his asymmetrical skyline
influenced Charles Barry in the Houses of Parliament. But Wyatville’s Windsor was not merely
picturesque; it reconciled ceremony with ease of circulation, comfort and privacy.
The only important Victorian addition was Anthony Salvin’s anticlimactic grand
staircase. In the 1980s restoration began on the Round Tower, and in 1992 the north-east corner of
the castle, including St George’s Hall, the private chapel and the State Dining Room, were badly
damaged by fire.
Windsor Castle Visits
Windsor Castle is one of the most popular tourist destinations in UK. It is the
Official Residence of Her Majesty The Queen. Rich in history, Windsor is the oldest
and also the largest occupied castle in the world.
For more information about tours, opening hours and tickets visit the
Windsor Castle Map&Location
Windsor Castle Castle adress: Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 1NJ. Get help with
directions using the map provided bellow:
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