As the oldest and largest castle in the world still in use as an official residence, Windsor Castle’s almost 1,000-year history as a beloved home for the royal family since the 12th century was to be the final resting place of HM Queen Elizabeth II during her committal ceremony on Monday 19th September.
After a service watched by millions around the world, she was the eighth member of the royal family to be buried in King George VI Memorial Chapel (part of the larger St George’s Chapel) alongside her husband Prince Philip, her father King George VI, mother Queen Elizabeth and sister Princess Margaret.
These recent events highlight the significance of the castle as a special connection not only to the royal family themselves, but also to members of the public wanting to pay their respects or find out more about a monarchy and grand structure intrinsically woven into the fabric of the nation’s history.
Visiting Windsor Castle Today
With our Macdonald Windsor Hotel as a contemporary townhouse situated only a two-minute walk away from the castle, you can spend time exploring this historic town and its castle grounds from the comfort of your accommodation.
Now reopened to visitors for tours throughout the year, immerse yourself in the ultimate royal experience and the home of the British monarchy as you move through stunning ceremonial rooms – including the Grand Reception Room featuring golden chandeliers – regularly used by Queen Elizabeth II to entertain guests.
Our hotel setting is also a fantastic spot to witness the Changing of the Guard, which is a colourful ceremony generally taking place every other day, and sees the new guard take their place after pacing through the streets and into the castle itself.
When Was Windsor Castle Built?
Windsor Castle was originally constructed by William the Conqueror in 1086 after his invasion of England in 1066 - when he saw an opportunity to strike while King Harold moved north of the country to fend off an invading Norwegian army.
As the first Norman king of England, William set about fortifying the city of London from foreign attacks, with Windsor Castle a significant part of this strategic infrastructure due to its proximity to the capital and the Thames River.
It was William’s successor, Henry I, who decided to implement residential quarters inside the castle – with William’s grandson, Henry II, subsequently converting the castle into a version of the royal palace that we see today.
Windsor Castle Through The Ages
Since its construction, a total of 40 monarchs have called Windsor Castle their home, with each residency reflective of evolving tastes and attitudes of the time.
A striking example includes Edward III’s reign during the mid-1300s, which saw the castle transformed from military base into a dramatic gothic palace - spending more than any other medieval English king in the process!
Royal apartments with separate rooms for the King and his Queen were designed around a series of internal courts, with the desire that the palace would serve its purpose for both business and personal means.
Many of Edward’s amendments survived until the 17th century - a period which saw Charles II reclaim his throne and modernise the apartments with splendid, baroque-style interiors inclusive of lavish tapestries.
The Royal Vault at Windsor Castle
Poignant images towards the end of the committal ceremony saw the Queen’s coffin lowered into the Royal Vault, where past monarchs including King George III, IV and V have been laid to rest below St George’s Chapel.
However, the Queen’s final resting place was to be the King George VI Memorial Chapel after a private burial service involved the royal family - with Prince Phillip having since been relocated from his former resting place in the Royal Vault to be alongside the Queen.
With the Chapel open to the public once more, visitors are now able to pay their respects as part of a visit to the castle.