The massive complex of the ‘Windsor Castle’ has remained the silent witness of the major ups & downs of the British Royals since the 11th century. The castle, which is famous all across the globe as the royal residence of the British Queen & the largest & the oldest occupied castle in the world, boasts the glory & the opulence of the British monarchy.
The regal ‘Windsor Castle’ is located in the outskirts of London & is reckoned as the longest-occupied palace in ‘Europe’. The ‘Windsor Castle’ is the perfect illustration of the brilliance of ‘English Perpendicular Gothic architecture’ & is one of the most famous monuments in the world. Apart from the historic importance, the castle is famous for spectacular ‘State Apartments’, which house invaluable treasures from the ‘Royal Collection’. The ‘Windsor Castle’ is one of the most celebrated premium tourist attractions in UK & is visited by nearly one million tourists every year.
A Glance Through The History:
The Castle was first constructed in the 11th century by the Norman King William ‘the Conqueror’ after his successful invasion over England. The castle was erected to gain control over the strategically vital part of the River Thames.
The initial design of the castle, consisting of a motte & bailey was replaced by the stone ramparts in the later period. At the start of the 13th century, the castle was besieged during the First Baron’s War. A sumptuous palace was built by Henry III in the later part of the 13th century, but Edward III rebuilt the same palace giving it an even grandeur appearance.
Edward’s castle was the most expensive structure in the entire Europe during the ‘Middle Ages’. His stupendous palace remained unharmed through the Tudor reign during which, Henry VIII & Elizabeth I started using the castle as a royal court & a place for the royal retreat.
The ‘Windsor Castle’ became a military headquarters for Parliamentary platoons & a detention place for Charles I during the English Civil Wars. After the conclusion of the war, Charles II started an extensive project to refurbish the damaged castle & commissioned architect Hugh May to accomplish the feat. Spectacular job was done by the architect who adorned the interior of the castle by making brilliant use of Baroque elements, the beauty of which is still admired by the fans of architecture.
The castle was, however, left deserted during the 18th century until George III & George IV revamped Charles II’s palace & rebuilt some part of it on a grand scale. Opulent use of ‘Rococo’, ‘Baroque’ & ‘Gothic’ architectural elements gave rise to the today’s splendid appearance of the Windsor Castle’s ‘State Apartments’. Queen Victoria carried out minor modifications in the castle layout & during her reign, the castle became the center of the royal entertainment.
The ‘Windsor Castle’ was used as a shelter for the royalties during the World War II. The castle was severely damaged during the massive fire of 1992. It then went through the rigorous reconstruction regime, after which, it was transformed into one of the major tourist hotspots in Britain.
A Walk Through The Castle:
The magnificent ‘Windsor Castle’ complex flaunts an exotic combination of a Gregorian & Victorian style of architecture, which was prevalent during the medieval period. It also incorporates reinvented features of older traditions in the ‘Gothic’ designs along with some contemporary architectural elements. The castle complex includes a hefty fortification, a small town & an imposing palace & occupies nearly five hectares of land. The ‘Windsor Castle’ is often tagged as one of the greatest European palaces. The castle complex is roughly divided into three parts- the Middle Ward, the Upper Ward & the Lower Ward.
The Middle Ward:
Perched atop an artificial hill or motte, the middle ward forms the heart of the castle complex. The ‘Round Tower’, which was raised by 30ft in the early 19th century by architect Jeffrey Wyatville, is built atop a 50ft tall chalk-made motte. The ‘Round Tower’ houses the Royal archives.
The ward is guarded by the ‘Norman Gatehouse’ that dates back to the 14th century. The Gatehouse is renowned for its rich decorations that include traditional emblems of majesty, medieval lion busts & attractive motifs, which improves the aesthetic values of the entrance.
The Upper Ward:
A series of multitudes of buildings encompassed by the upper bailey wall forms the central quadrangle of the ‘Upper Ward’. The State Apartments flank the northern part of the word, the King George IV Gate & the private royal apartments occupy the southern flank whereas, the Edward III Tower is located along the south-west corner. The ‘Round Tower’ with an equestrian statue of ‘Charles II’ standing in front of it, fortifies the western side of the ward. The tall towers & artistic facades of the buildings in the ‘Upper Ward’ dramatically improve the beauty & bring the richness in the appearance of the castle’s interior.
The State Apartments: The ‘State Apartments’ make the most phenomenal part of the castle complex. The foundation of the building was laid in the period of ‘Edward III’ & the building includes the ground floor dedicated to the service chambers while richly ornate first floor that forms the main part of the palace, kept reserved for the royalties.
The ‘State Apartments’ flaunts the regal aspect & opulence from every corner. The striking interiors of different rooms exhibit the finest of the work in Classical, Gothic & Rococo style design. The Grand Reception Room is the most dazzling of all the rooms. It features highly ornate ‘Rococo’ design elements, which include a massive French Rococo ceiling adorned using the Tapestries from the Gobelins. The ‘Grand Reception Room’ is considered as one of the finest examples of Regency decoration.
The Lower Ward:
The ‘Lower Ward’ is situated on the west of the ‘Round Tower’ & can be approached by the Norman Gate. The major part of the ward was constructed during the medieval time, which was, later on redesigned during the mid-Victorian era for its seamless assimilation with the rest of the Gothic structure in the complex. St. George’s Chapel that houses the seat of the Order of the Knights of the Garter is the most significant building of the Lower Ward.
The 13th century built Lady Chapel is located at the east of ‘St. George’s chapel’ whereas the Horseshoe Cloister is located on the west flank of the Lower Ward. A Curfew Tower from the 13th century, 16th century built residences for the Military Knights & King Henry VIII’s gateway fills up the remaining portion of the Lower Ward.
Today, the castle is used by the Queen as a private weekend home as well as the ‘Royal Residence’ where all the formal duties are performed by the Queen. The Queen hosts an official ‘Dine & Sleeps’ events for guests during her Easter court, which is organized during the Queen’s month-long official residence over Easter.