An Afternoon at Windsor Castle

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For a devoted royal watcher like yours truly, one of the best parts about living in London is the royal history around every corner.

Though there are tons of royal ‘hot spots’ in central London you need to take a 45 minute train ride from Waterloo to visit the grandmother of royal residences (and the place the Queen calls home): Windsor Castle.

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Originally built in the 11th century, Windsor Castle has been used by all monarchs since the time of Henry I and can claim the title of longest-occupied castle or palace in Europe (an impressive feat considering there are more than a thousand in the UK alone!) It’s the Queen’s home base (Buckingham Palace is considered ‘the office’) and a spot for many important royal occasions – from Garter Day (the members of the Order, wearing their garter insignia, gather and parade through the castle grounds before attending a service in St George’s Chapel on the Monday of Royal Ascot week each June) to Easter Sunday service when the majority of the royal family gather together.

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The castle is open year-round (even when the Queen is in residence – as she was for our visit…I waved at random windows just in case she was looking. That’s not weird, right?) but we found one of the best times to go is a weekday at the end of March. It’s still a bit cold and chances are you will definitely see a bit of rain but you’ll avoid the crowds and have the place almost entirely to yourselves.

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Beyond the State Apartments (which are as opulent as you’d expect) and Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House (the detail! Wow!) the real draw of Windsor Castle is the overwhelming sense of history and majesty.

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(And furry friends….I can find them anywhere! This is Carl.)

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One of the most amazing features of Windsor Castle is St George’s Chapel which is the resting place of historical figures like:

  • Henry VIII (who is buried with his favourite of his six wives, Jane Seymour – the only woman to give him his much-longed-for male heir)
  • Charles I (who became King after Elizabeth I passed away in 1603 and who united the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland under one monarch)
  • George VI , his wife Queen Elizabeth and daughter Princess Margaret (the family of Queen Elizabeth II)
  • Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk (played brilliantly by Henry Cavill in The Tudors – yes, he deserves special mention because of this fact alone!).

As someone who holds an MA in Early Modern British History (the Tudor period) standing amongst the ghosts of the people I studied in such great detail filled me with a sense of awe. Although photography isn’t allowed inside the Chapel for obvious (respectful) reasons, the outside is gorgeous and a photographer’s dream.

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It’s not hard to tell which part of the visit was my favourite!

When the sky opened up just after that last shot above we took it as a sign that it was time to bid the castle farewell and so headed across the road to The Tower Brasserie for a bite before wandering towards the Long Walk for one last view and then back through Windsor’s gorgeous alleys to catch the train home.

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As I said, it’s a bit of a journey outside of London but if you love castles, architecture, history, the British Royals or adorably quaint British pubs (and really, who doesn’t?!) then it’s absolutely worth putting Windsor Castle and Windsor on your list!

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