Windsor Castle is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire.
It is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and has been the family home of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years.
The original castle was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror.
Since the time of Henry I (1068 – 1135), it has been used by all monarchs, and is the longest-occupied palace in Europe.
From the 1350s to the 1370s, Edward III transformed Windsor from a military fortification to a gothic palace.
Edward’s core design lasted through the Tudor period, during which Henry VIII and Elizabeth I made increasing use of the castle as a royal court and centre for diplomatic entertainment.
During English Civil War (1642–1651) castle was used as a prison for Charles I and a military headquarters for Parliamentary forces.
At the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II rebuilt much of Windsor Castle with the help of the architect Hugh May, creating a set of extravagant Baroque interiors that are still admired.
After a period of neglect during the 18th century, George III and George IV renovated and rebuilt Charles II’s palace at colossal expense, producing the current design of the State Apartments, full of Rococo, Gothic and Baroque furnishings.
Queen Victoria made a few minor changes to the castle, which became the centre for royal entertainment for much of her reign.
During WW2, castle was used as home to entire royal family during German bombing campaigns.
The Great Fire at Windsor started on 20 November 1992. The fire damaged or destroyed 20% of the Castle area. The castle was fully repaired within the next few years at a cost of £36.5 million.
The Castle grounds cover 52,609 square meters (13 acres). After centuries of alterations it contains about 1,000 rooms.
It is in essence a Georgian and Victorian design based on a medieval structure, with Gothic features reinvented in a modern style.
The Upper Ward of Windsor Castle comprises a number of major buildings enclosed by the upper bailey wall, forming a central quadrangle.
The Upper Ward includes the Private Royal Apartments and grand State Apartments including the ballroom. The interior is lavishly decorated with magnificent works of art by Rubens, Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Van Dyck among others. [Photo: The Grand Reception Room – State Apartments]
At the heart of Windsor Castle is the Middle Ward, a bailey formed around the motte or artificial hill in the centre of the ward. The motte is 15 meters (50 feet) high and is made from chalk originally excavated from the surrounding ditch. Within the Round Tower are the Guard Chamber, Bed Chamber, Dressing Rooms and the Dining Room.
The Lower Ward lies below and to the west of the Round Tower, reached through the Norman Gate. Originally largely of medieval design, most of the Lower Ward was renovated or reconstructed during the mid-Victorian period by Anthony Salvin and Edward Blore, to form a “consistently Gothic composition”.
On the north side of the Lower Ward is St George’s Chapel. The chapel is the architectural highlight of any visit to Windsor Castle. This huge building is the spiritual home of the Order of the Knights of the Garter and dates from the late 15th and early 16th century, designed in the Perpendicular Gothic style. It is the burial place of ten monarchs including Henry VIII and Charles I.
Windsor Castle’s position on top of steep ground has meant that the castle’s gardens are limited in scale. The castle gardens stretch east from the Upper Ward across a 20th-century terrace.
Windsor Castle is surrounded by extensive parkland.
40 monarchs, including Her Majesty The Queen, have called the Castle home.
Today, more than 500 people live and work in Windsor Castle.
The Royal Standard is flown at royal residences only when the sovereign is present. If the Union Flag flies above Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle or Sandringham House it signals that the Queen is not in residence.
A royal librarian oversees a priceless collection of 300,000 books, prints and drawings.
The castle has 300 fireplaces which are tended by a full-time fendersmith, whose family have been doing the job for generations.
The Windsor Castle estate (including Windsor Great Park) has over 450 clocks. When British Summer Time (BST) begins, it takes The Queen’s clock maker 16 hours to move every clock forward by one hour. At the end of BST it takes him 18 hours to adjust them back one hour (as he actually has to move them forward 11 hours!)
The Great Kitchen is the oldest working kitchen in the country and has served 32 monarchs, including Her Majesty The Queen.
At Queen Elizabeth’s state dinners, each pat of butter is individually hand rolled and stamped with a royal crown.
Visitors can see the Changing of the Guard at the castle representing one of the highlights of any visit to the castle.
Windsor Castle is a popular tourist attraction, a venue for hosting state visits, and the preferred weekend home of Elizabeth II.
More than million tourists visit Windsor Castle each year.