With the funeral today of England’s Queen Elizabeth II, I thought it might be interesting to take a brief look at the history of Windsor Castle.
Windsor Castle is one of the oldest castles of the Norman era. Built by William the Conqueror in the first years after the Conquest, it is one of a series of motte and bailey structures around London, built for defensives measures. This ring of castles formed something of a huge circle; they were erected about twenty miles apart. Or, as one source said, about a day’s march from each other.
It was of extreme value to the defense because it was on the Thames River and along a main land route out of London. The first few years, it served mainly as a defensive structure until William’s son, Henry I, came along. As a reigning monarch, he began the tradition of using it as a royal residence. It is reported to be one of the “longest occupied palaces in Europe.”
It was built on a fifty foot high motte made of chalk, taken from the rock the castle stands on. It has three wards or baileys. Like the original motte and bailey wooden castles, Windsor was ultimately replaced with stone. In the 1800s, some thirty feet in height was added to the original keep, or Round Tower—ostensibly to make it more visually impressive.
The castle and grounds have been added to and remodeled a great deal over the centuries and incorporate various architectural styles. The State Apartments are said to retain some medieval features.
The Upper Ward now contains the Quadrangle around which is located, among others, the State Apartments and Private Apartments.
The Middle Ward contains the Round Tower, reportedly based on the original one built in the 12th Century.
The Lower Ward contains, among a variety of other buildings, St. George’s Chapel, constructed during the later 1400s and early 1500s in a style described as “Perpendicular Gothic.” St. George’s Chapel is also where several historical royals are buried. Among them: Charles I, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, and Edward IV.
This Ward also contains many structures built by English monarchs over the centuries.
Of course, the castle has played a big part in English military history as well as serving as a main Royal residence. Perhaps one that most people will remember studying in school: It withstood attacks during the First Baron’s War in the early 13th Century. In fact, historians say, King John used Windsor Castle as a central location in his negotiations with the barons before he signed the Magna Carta. Runnymede, the location of the signing of the Magna Carta, is not far from Windsor.
The story of Windsor Castle is long, varied, and fascinating. While several sources contain relevant facts, a good general overview can be found at Wikipedia. All photos used here are taken from that source.
And below is the plan of the castle, just for fun. Again, image and description taken from Wikipedia.
- Plan of Windsor Castle. Key:
- A: The Round Tower
- B: The Upper Ward, The Quadrangle
- C: The State Apartments
- D: Private Apartments
- E: South Wing
- F: Lower Ward
- G: St George’s Chapel
- H: Horseshoe Cloister
- K: King Henry VIII Gate
- L: The Long Walk
- M: Norman Gate
- N: North Terrace
- O: Edward III Tower
- T: The Curfew Tower
NOTE: Be sure to visit my fellow Medieval Monday Roses (The Wild Rose Press) Mary Morgan and Anastasia Abboud . They always have something interesting planned. You can find them here: