Windsor Castle is one of the official residences of the British Monarch along with Buckingham Palace in London and Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. It is located in the English county of Berkshire and is the largest inhabited castle in the world. Queen Elizabeth II spends many weekends at the castle, using it for both state and private entertaining. You can see the Royal Standard flying on the top of the Round Tower when the Queen is living in the castle; there are four quarters on it, three lions represent England and Wales, the single lion to Scotland and the harp to Ireland; when the Queen is not there, the Union Jack is flown.
Throughout history of the castle, Kings and Queens of England, Great Britain and even Commonwealth realms have had a direct influence on the construction and evolution of Windsor Castle which also is intricate linked to the British Monarchy. The pattern that continuous to the present day say while the country has been at peace, the castle has been expanded but when the country has been at war, the castle has been heavily fortified.
Today Windsor Castle remains a working palace and the Queen’s official residence. Some of the finest artwork, armour and paintings in the world are in the State Apartments. Also there are masterpieces by Rembrandt, Rubens, Holbein and Van Dyck as well as magnificent French and English furniture and porcelain. Those areas which were damaged by fire in November 1992 have been beautifully restored by some finest British craftsmen.
Originally the castle was made of wood; approximately 900 years ago it was built by William the Conqueror to guard the approach to London. On 13 November 1312, the King Edward III also called as “Edward of Windsor”, was born in the castle. At the beginning of 1350, he started a rebuilding program to demolish the existing castle. The chapel was enlarged although plans to build a new church were not executed due to the scarcity of manpower and resources following the Black Death.
King Edward III established the Order of the Garter. King Edward IV began the construction of the present chapel, a Perpendicular Gothic style which is more a miniature cathedral and royal mausoleum than a chapel. The construction marked a turning point the architecture of the castle. In this way the castle’s role changed from a royal bastion to a royal palace.
During the Civil War, the castle remained a military headquarters. Charles II did much to restore and refurnish the castle from damage suffered during the civil war, so the Long Walk was inspired in Versailles, France.
In 1685, the Castle fell slowly into a state of neglect, so the sovereigns themselves preferred to live elsewhere. During the reign of William and Mary, the Hampton Court Palace was enlarged and transformed into a huge modern palace. It was not until 1804, when King George III with his 13 children needed a larger residence, so the castle was once again fully inhabited.
During the Victorian era, the Queen Victoria and Principe Albert made of the castle their principal royal residence. Anthony Salvin created the Grand Staircase in 1866, which has a Gothic style and it rises to a double height hall lit by a vaulted lantern tower.
Queen Mary, the wife of George V, rearranged the fashion in which the castle was used, abandoning the baroque idea of a large suite of state rooms reserved just for important guests on the principal floor. In addition a large doll’s house was created for her, based on a large aristocratic mansion, designed by the architect Lutyens. Today it is one of the castle’s many tourist attractions.
In 1939, on the outbreak of World War II, the castle resumed its role as a royal fortress, and George VI, its wife Queen Elizabeth and their children lived, for safety in the castle. When Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, she decided to make Windsor castle her principal weekend retreat.
On 20 November 1992, one fifth of the floor space of the castle was damaged by fire; nine of the principal state rooms were destroyed. The restoration programme was not complete until 1997, so successful was the restoration and faithfulness to the original plans and decorations that the distinction between old and new is hard to detect. Redesigned in a modern interpretation, the “Downesian Gothic” is very organic and of the Gothic style. In this way she transforms it into a major British tourist attraction.
The oil was discovered on the grounds of the Castle in 1994, the Queen granted permission to sink and exploratory well to test the reserves. In this way any resulting profits would have been split between the oil company and the state.