The History of Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle Timeline of Important Dates
Windsor Castle is one of the most famous Castles in the World. Windsor is the oldest and largest castle which can boast continuous occupation for over 900 years. Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family regard Windsor Castle as their home. Windsor Castle has a chequered history which moves from its construction as a Wooden Motte and Bailey castle by William the Conqueror to a massive stone fortress. Surviving siege warfare to the Age of Medieval Knights and Chivalry and the English Civil War. In 1649 a bill, in the English parliament, to demolish Windsor Castle was defeated by just one vote! Windsor Castle has been neglected and declared inhabitable and then transformed into a luxurious palace. Windsor Castle has survived two World Wars and was then nearly destroyed by an accidental fire! Is it any wonder that people are fascinated by the magnificent Windsor castle?
Description of Windsor Castle
The castle, after centuries of alterations, contains about 1,000 rooms and occupies 13 acres of land. William the Conqueror chose the site of Windsor Castle at 'New Windsor' - taking the name from the 'Old Windsor' which was used by the Saxon Kings of the Dark Ages. 'New Windsor' was 100 feet above the river Thames and on the edge of the Saxon hunting ground. Despite countless additions and alterations the outer walls and the central mound of the castle are still in the same position as those of the original castle built by William the Conqueror. It was a day's march from the Tower of London and intended to guard the western approaches to the capital of England.
Windsor Castle consists of three “wards” - the upper ward , the middle ward and the lower ward.
- The lower ward houses St. George's Chapel
- The upper ward contains the royal apartments and grand state rooms
- The Middle Ward is actually the round tower which is built in the form of an amphitheatre, on the highest part of the mount
- The Round Tower consists of the Guard Chamber, the Dining Room, the Dressing Room and the Bed Chamber
- The Upper Ward consists of the Royal Apartments, Queen's Guard Chamber, Queen's Presence Chamber, Queen's Audience Chamber, Ball Room, Queen's Drawing Room, Queen's Bed Chamber
Room of Beauties, The Queen's Dressing Room, Queen Elizabeth's Gallery (The Picture Gallery), China Closet, King's Closet, the King's Dressing Room, the King's Bed Chamber, the King's Drawing Room, the King's Public Dining Room, the King's Audience Chamber, the King's Presence Chamber, the King's Guard Chamber, St . George's Hall and St George's or the King's Chapel
Interesting Facts about Windsor Castle
The castle itself is not just the only link with history. There are a dozen ancient oak trees which date back to the Norman Conquest. The Queen is often in residence at Windsor Castle and this is indicated by the Royal Standard flying over the Round Tower. When the Queen is not in residence the Union Jack flag flies in its place. There are seventeen pieces of cannon mounted on the curtain wall of the Tower. When the disastrous fire burned Windsor castle approximately one-and-a-half million gallons of water was used to put out the blaze.
The Purpose & Function of Windsor Castle
The original functions of Windsor Castle were to:
- To act as a royal power base
- To overawe and frighten the indigenous population
- To provide a retreat for the Royal family in times of civil disorder
Windsor Castle was therefore first built as a fortress with a central Keep, the first of its towers was called the "Great Tower." Windsor Castle assumed its form with successive lines of fortification, only after hundreds of years and several different reigns. There are many different towers which form the Windsor Castle castle complex which covers 13 acres. The expansion of Windsor Castle to additional functions as:
- A Royal residence
- A Prison housing some very important state prisoners
- A Royal Burial Place
The Prisoners of Windsor Castle
Windsor castle contains many dungeons which were occupied by many famous prisoners. Some of the famous prisoners of Windsor Castle are as follows:
- 1265 - The Lord Mayor, called FitzThomas was imprisoned and never seen again
- 1346 - King John II of France and King David II of Scotland were imprisoned in luxury in the Upper Ward until they were ransomed
- King Edward III often used Windsor Castle as a prison. Prisoners were kept in the Devil's Tower or in the dungeons of the Curfew Tower. When executed, their bodies were hung from the Curfew Tower as a warning to others
- 1413 - The Earl of March and Prince James (later James I) of Scotland were imprisoned at Windsor
- 1546 - The poet, the Earl of Surrey, was imprisoned at Windsor Castle
- 1647 - King Charles I was imprisoned at Windsor Castle
The Fire at Windsor Castle
The fire at Windsor Castle started in the Private Chapel on November 20th 1992. The fire was ignited when a spotlight came into continuous contact with a curtain. The fire raged for nearly fifteen hours to the horror of the British nation. Members of the Royal family were present and made every effort to help the fire fighters and keep the Public informed of the changing situation. The devastation caused by the Windsor fire was truly horrendous. Over 100 rooms over an area were damaged or destroyed by the fire, approximately one-fifth of
the Castle area including a vast part of the upper ward of Windsor Castle, including St. George's hall. During 1992 - 1997 a significant amount of repair work was conducted following the Windsor Castle Fire at a cost of £37 million. The money was raised at no cost to the taxpayer
Windsor castle is steeped in English history - the Timeline detailing the dates of the most important facts and information about Windsor Castle will provide even more fascinating and comprehensive details about this magnificent building.