Oxford Scholastica Spotlight: Windsor Castle
As the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, Windsor Castle is the perfect spot for local history enthusiasts and tourists alike. An iconic landmark in British history, known for its majestic architecture and royal significance, the castle is a must-visit spot in the south of England.
At the Oxford Scholastica Academy, our residential students have the opportunity to visit this historical site during our summer school programme, touring the castle, seeing the soldiers and strolling through the nearby market town.
History and Royal Significance
Windsor Castle was originally built in the eleventh century, after William the Conqueror’s invasion of England. Since the twelfth century, it’s been used as a place of residence by a long line of reigning monarchs, making it the longest-occupied palace in Europe!
The castle’s importance over the last millennium has given it a rich and significant history. In the Second World War the castle provided refuge for the royal family during the Luftwaffe bombing campaigns. Many royal weddings have also taken place at the castle, such as that of King Charles III and Camilla in 2005, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018.
Windsor Castle is also home to many architectural wonders that reflect various different periods and styles. The main design is essentially Georgian and Victorian, based on a medieval structure, but it also includes some reinvented Gothic features!
The castle is comprised of many marvels such as the impressive Round Tower. This is the centrepiece of the castle’s fortifications, and acts as the keep of the tower atop the central motte. It was originally built in the twelfth century, but was extended upwards by 30 feet (!) in the early 19th century for a more imposing effect.
Windsor Castle is also home to St. George’s Chapel. Taking more than 50 years to complete, the chapel’s construction began under the reign of Edward IV, and reached completion under Henry VIII. As well as hosting many royal weddings, the chapel is the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter, and serves as the final resting place of notable figures including Jane Seymour, King Charles I and Queen Elizabeth II.
State Apartments and Artworks
The majority of the Upper Ward of Windsor Castle is filled by the opulent State Apartments. These apartments are decorated with many exquisite furnishings and artworks, and are accessible to visitors at specific times. As early as the 16th century, visitors have toured the grand apartments, but the castle didn’t become a public tourist destination until the 18th century.
Some rooms, such as the Crimson Drawing Room, are particularly significant because of their remodel after a devastating fire in 1992. The Crimson, White and Green Drawing Rooms all feature ornate Rococo-style ceilings – recreated with modern materials after the fire – marking an aesthetic staple of the mid-18th century.
Other important rooms include the Queen’s Ballroom and the Waterloo Chamber. The Queen’s Ballroom is worth a visit to see its beautiful painted ceiling and historical range of artwork. The Waterloo Chamber is equally ornate, with its gold panelling and portraits of the royal family.
There are many artworks and treasures on display throughout the castle including masterpieces by renowned artists such as Van Dyck and Rubens.
Changing the Guard and Royal Traditions
There’s also a lot to see around the grounds! The popular ceremonial event, the “Changing of the Guard” takes place in the precincts of Windsor Castle, and captures the attention of visitors from all over the world.
The changing ceremony takes place outside the Guardroom in the Lower Ward of the Castle, and involves an impressive display of marching uniformed guards. This tradition involves pageantry and military precision, making it a unique process to witness.
There are also other royal traditions associated with Windsor Castle, including the Royal Ascot and the previously mentioned Order of the Garter.
Surrounding Attractions and Windsor Town
Aside from the castle itself, there’s a lot to see and do in the town of Windsor and the surrounding areas, making it the perfect location for a jam-packed day trip. The Deer Park perfectly captures Windsor’s grandeur, while the Long Walk, created by King Charles II in the 17th century, consists of a beautiful tree-lined avenue that stretches for almost two and a half miles!
The town of Windsor itself is full of charm. Its quaint streets, shops and traditional English buildings make it the perfect place to meander around, enjoy a nice lunch, or buy some souvenirs!
Windsor Castle is the perfect place to spend a day learning about the royal history of England. It’s the ideal location to enjoy a rich variety of artistic and architectural marvels, as well as a walk in the picturesque grounds.
By Jessica Mason
Jessica is currently studying a BA in English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, and has a particular interest in Early Modern theatre. She enjoys writing articles and has lots of experience in student journalism.
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