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Windsor Castle is the oldest royal residence to have remained in
continuous use by the monarchs of Britain and is in many ways an
architectural epitome of the history of the nation. Its skyline of
battlements, turrets and the great Round Tower is instantly recognised
throughout the world. The Castle covers an area of nearly thirteen
acres and contains, as well as a royal palace, a magnificent collegiate
church and the homes or workplaces of a large number of people
,including the Constable and Governor of the Castle, the Military
Knights of Windsor and their families, etc.

The Castle was founded by William the Conqueror c. 1080 and was
conceived as one of a chain of fortifications built as a defensive ring
round London.

Norman castles were built to a standard plan with an artificial
earthen mound supporting a tower or keep, the entrance to which was
protected by an outer fenced courtyard or baily. Windsor is the most
notable example of a particularly distinctive version of this basic plan
developed for use on a ridge site. It comprises a central mote with
a large bialy to either side of it rather than just on one side as was
more than usual.

As first built, the Castle was entirely defensive, constructed of earth
and timber, but easy access from London and the proximity of the Castle
to the old royal hunting forest to the south soon recommended it as a
royal residence. Henry I is known to have had domestic quarterswithin
the castle as early as 1110 and Henry converted the Castle into a
palace. He built two separate sets of royal apartments within the
fortified enclosure: a public or official state residence in the Lower
Ward, with a hall where he could entertain his court and the barons
on great occasions, and a smaller private residence on the North side of
the Upper Ward for the exclusive occupation of himself and his family.

Henry II was a great builder at all his residences. He began to replace
the old timber outer walls of the Upper Ward with a hard heath stone
found ten miles south of Windsor. The basic curtain wall round the Upper
Ward, much modified by later alterations and improvements, dates from
Henry II’s time, as does the old part of the stone keep, known as the
Round Tower , on top of William’s the Conqueror’s mote. The
reconstruction of the curtain wall round the Lower Ward was completed
over the next sixty years. The well-preserved section visible from the
High street with its three half-round towers was built by Henry III in
the 1220s.He took a keen personal interest in all his projects and
carried out extensive works at Windsor. In his time it became one of the
three principal royal palaces alongside those at Westminster and
Winchester. He rebuilt Henry II’s apartments in the Lower Ward and
added there a large new chapel, all forming a coherently planned
layout round a courtyard with a cloister; parts survive embedded in
later structures in the Lower Ward. He also further improved the
royal private apartments in the Upper Ward.

The outstanding medieval expansion of Windsor, however, took place in
the reign of Edward III. His huge building project at the Castle was
probably the most ambitious single architectural scheme in the whole
history of the English royal residences, and cost the astonishing
total of 50,772 pounds. Rebuilt with the proceeds of the King’s military
triumphs, the Castle was converted by Edward III into a fortified
palace redolent of chivalry The stone base was and military glory, as
the centre of his court and the seat of his newly founded Order of the
Garter .Even today, the massive Gothic architecture of Windsor reflects
Edward III’s medieval ideal of Christian, chivalric monarchy as clearly
as Louis XIY’s Versailles represents baroque absolutism.

The Lower Ward was reconstructed, the old royal lodgings being
transformed into the College of St George, and a new cloister, which
still survives, built with traceeried windows. In addition there were to
be twenty-six Poor Knights. Henry III’s chapel was made over for
their use, rebuilt and renamed St George’s Chapel.

The reconstruction of the Upper Ward was begun in 1357 with new royal
lodgings built of stone under the direction of William of Wykeham,
Bishop of Winchester. An inner gatehouse with cylindrical towers was
built at the entrance to the Upper Ward.Stone-vaulted undercrofts
supported extensive royal apartments on the first floor with separate
sets of rooms for the King and the Queen ( as was the tradition of the
English royal palaces),arranged round two inner courtyards later known
as Brick Court and Horn Court .Along the south side, facing the
quadrangle, were the Great Hall and Royal Chapel end to end. Edward IY
built the present larger St George’s Chapel to the west of Henry
III’s.Henry YII remodelled the old chapel ( now the Albert Memorial
Chapel) at its east end; he also added a new range to the west of the
State Apartments which Elizabeth I extended by a long gallery .

During the English Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, the
Castle was seized by Parliamentary forces who ill-treated the buildings
and used part of them as a prison for Royalists.

At the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 Charles II was determined to
reinstate the old glories of the Crown after the interval of the
Commonwealth. Windsor was his favourite non-metropolitan palace and it
was the only one which could be effectively garrisoned.

The architect Hugh May was appointed in 1673 to supervise the work and
over the next eleven years the Upper Ward and State Apartments were
reconstructed. The result was both ingenious and magnificent, making the
Upper Ward the most unusual palace in baroque Europe.

The interior was a rich contrast to the austerity of the exterior and
formed the first and grandest sequence of baroque State Apartments in
England.The ceilings were painted by Antonio Verrio, an Italian artist
brought from Paris by the Duke of Montagu, Charles II’s ambassador to
Louis XIY. The walls were wainscoted in oak and festooned with
brilliant virtuoso carvings by Grinling Gibbons and Henry Phillips of
fruit, flowers, fish and birds The climax of Charles II’s
reconstruction was St George’s Hall and the King’s Chapel with murals
by Verrio. In the former there were historical scenes of Edward III and
the Black Prince, as well as Charles II in Grater robes enthroned in
glory, and in the latter Christ’s miracles and the Last Supper. All
were destroyed by Wyatville inn 1829. The source of inspiration for
the new rooms at Windsor was the France of Louis XIY, but the use of
wood rather than coloured marbles gave Windsor a different character
and established a fashion which was copied in many English country

William III and the early Hanoverian kings spent more time at Hampton
Court than at Windsor. Windsor, however, came back into its own in the
reign of George III, who disliked Hampton Court, which had unhappy
memories for him

From 1777 George III reconstructed the Queen’s Lodge to the south of the
Castle. He also restored St George’s Chapel in the 1780s.At the same
time a new state entrance and Gothic staircase were constructed for
the State Apartments.

As well as his work in the Castle, George III modernised Frogmore in
the Home Park as a retreat for his wife, Queen Charlotte, and reclaimed
some of the Great Park for agriculture. The King designed a special
Windsor uniform of blue cloth with red and gold facings, a version of
which is still worn on occasions today. The King loved the Castle and
its romantic associations. In 1805 he revived the formal ceremonies of
installation of Knights of the Garter at Windsor.

When George IY inherited the throne, he shared his father’s romantic
architectural enthusiasm for Windsor and determined to continue the
Gothic transformation and the creation of convenient, comfortable and
splendid new royal apartments.

In many ways Windsor Castle enjoyed its apogee in the reign of
Queen Victoria.. She spent the largest portion of every year at
Windsor, and in her reign it enjoyed the position of principal palace of
the British monarchy and the focus of the British Empire as well as
nearly the whole of royal Europe. The Castle was visited by heads of
state from all over the world and was the scene of a series of splendid
state visits. On these occasions the state rooms were used for their
original purpose by royal guests. The visits of King Louis Philippe in
1844 and the Emperor Napoleon III inn 1855 were especially successful.
They were invested at Windsor with the Order of the Garter in formal
ceremonies, as on other occasions were King Victor Emanuel I of Italy
and the Emperor William I of Germany. For the most of the twentieth
century Windsor Castle survived as it was in the nineteenth century. The
Queen and her family spend most of their private weekends at the

A distinctive feature of hospitality at Windsor Castle are the
invitations to «dine and sleep» which go back to Queen Victoria’s time
and encompass people prominent in many walks of life including The
Queen’s ministers. On such occasions, The Queen shows her guests a
specially chosen exhibition of treasures from the Royal Collection.

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