History of Windsor Castle:
William The Conqueror Builds A Castle:
After the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, King William had killed his Saxon rival King Harold and made his way through Kent and finally to London in December. It seems everywhere the William went he wasn’t recognised by the Saxons as a rightful King, as he was either chased out of the towns he rode through (like Dover) or couldn’t get past the gated city walls in London. Have you ever wondered why the Tower of London isn’t actually in The City of London? The answer is because King William wasn’t welcome, so he built a Motte and Bailey Castle right outside the city walls.
William would go on to build hundreds of castles all across England over the next 21 years, trying to maintain a castle approximately every days march; around 20 miles. This is the most likely reason why there was a castle built at Windsor, as it lies 1 days march west of London. At this stage, it was no more special than any of the other castles built by King William, but future Kings and Queens of England would reside here for its large open grounds for hunting, and perhaps more importantly its close proximity to The River Thames. The image (above) demonstrates these two natural features that have attracted a total of 39 monarchs to call Windsor Castle ‘home’.
A Stone Castle is Built:
The first King to use Windsor as a living quarter was William The Conqueror’s youngest son Henry I, but Windsor was still predominantly a wooden fortress at this point. Henry’s grandson (Henry II) was the first King to build a stone tower on top of the motte (hill), and this can still be seen today! King Henry was arguably the most powerful king in Europe at this time, owning over a third of France due to his ancestoral lands in Anjou and Normandy, as well as his newly gained territories in Aquitaine and Gascony. Due to the sticky nature of English Kings claiming land in France, it was only a matter of time before it led to war…
The Hundred Years War
As we mentioned in the previous section, there were lots of connections between the English and French monarchy, not just over fighting of land, but in succession over the French throne. 700 years ago, The Capetian Dynasty of France came to an end with the death of King Charles IV. Charles still had a sister who was married to The King of England, creating a claim that their son Edward III should become the new King of France. However, the French disputed this claim as it went through female blood, claiming that Isabella’s cousin Philip VI should become the new King of France. Confusing isnt it… check out the family tree to make sense of it all.
Saint George’s Chapel:
I’m sure by now a lot of you are thinking “…so I thought this was meant to be about Windsor Castle, not a lesson on the French Royal Succession!?’ Bear with us… we’re getting to that part now. You see.. the English King Edward III took his mothers bloodline as a reason to invade France, capture their King (John II), and ransom him back to France for an extornionate amount of money. This money was largely spent on rebuilding huge parts of Windsor Castle, including The Chapel of Saint George. In fact, this was even the first time Saint George was recognised as The Patron Saint of England. Today you can go inside the chapel and see 10 different monarchs that are buried there, including King Henry VIII, Charles I and Queen Elizabeth’s parents and grandparents.
The Order of The Garter:
If you ever have the pleasure of going inside Saint George’s Chapel, you’ll probably notice 26 colourful banners on either side. These flags represent knights of The Order of The Garter; the highest order of chivalry dating back to 1348. After great victories at the battles of Crecy and Poitiers (remember the capturing of King John?), King Edward III rewarded his best knights with this prestigious title alongside his son (The Black Prince) who also selected his best 12 knights. The Queen is the current head of The Order of The Garter, and selected King Philipe VI as the latest member of the order in June 2019.
Charles II Restoration:
After almost 11 years without a monarchy in the 1650’s, Charles II was invited back to become the King of Britain in 1660 and continue the Stuart Dynasty. Over the course of the Interregnum (time without a monarch), Oliver Cromwell destroyed many castles throughout the country, but luckily Windsor was spared by just 1 vote in Parliament. King Charles wanted to reignite the opulance of his predecessors by appointing an interior designer by the name of Hugh May to create a lavish set of Baroque State Appartments. These designs are still visible today, alongside Dutch gifts of paintings from Rembrandt, De Hooch and Van Dyke as a tacit apology for not actively supporting King Charles during the interregnum. Windsor Castle had been restored and saved, but for how long would this last?
A New German Monarchy:
In 1714 Queen Anne died, putting an end to the Scottish Dynasty of The Stuarts. Many Stuarts relatives still remained alive, but had been rendered illegitimate to succeed the throne based on their religion (they were all Catholic!). The newly appointed King George I came from Hanover in Germany, but wasn’t at all impressed by Windsor Castle. He much preferred a new royal residence by the name of Hampton Court Palace, which was closer to London and still had the attraction of The River Thames. For almost half a century, Windsor Castle ceased to be looked after or used as a residence, and was in desperate need of repair.
George IV Restoration:
The first Georgian King to prefer England to Germany was George III; often referred to as George The Mad. His latter years as King of Great Britain saw him too mentally ill to rule the country, so his eldest son George IV became ‘The Prince Regent’. It was during these regency years that George IV spent over £300,000 (almost £250 million in todays money!!) renovating both the exterior and interior of the castle, appointing Jeffry Wyatville to make the castle look a lot more symmetrical. This is where the appearance of Windsor Castle comes from today.
Windsor Castle Today:
Not much has changed since the 1820’s decor of Windsor, although the castle did suffer an disastrous fire in 1992. It took 5 years to repair the castle, resulting in the opening of Buckingham Palace as an attraction to pay for the renovation. Over the last 10 years, Windsor has become one of Britain’s top visited tourist attractions, made even more popular by the royal wedding in 2018 between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. For more details about their wedding, click here to see our blog.
If you’re a big fan of Italian cuisine and like to support local business when travelling, we’d definitely recommend paying a visit to Enzo’s on Peascod Street. We’ve always found the customer service to be outstanding, alongside tasty homecooked pasta dishes that are served quickly so that you can still enjoy more time sightseeing than waiting for your food to arrive.
The Flaming Cow:
It’s hard to find a better burger in Windsor & Eton than going to The Flaming Cow. They have a great selection of burgers, alongside mouth watering chicken wings, ribs and pizzas. Service is usually very quick, so you should be looking at approximately 15 minutees to be served.
If you want to check out their range of burgers click here.
The Crown and Cushion:
Ranked no.1 pub in Windsor & Eaton, you know the service and quality at The Crown & Cushion is bound to be good. They are also a hotel, so if you’re planning on staying overnight in Windsor this is a great option to consider.
As it’s located just on the other side of the River Thames, if you are looking for somewhere a bit closer to the castle for lunch, try The Queen Charlotte or Carpenters Arms. Both serve a good lunch and local beers.