Thursday, March 10, 2011

WINDSOR CASTLE


Diarist Samuel Pepys called it "The Most Romantic Castle in the World". Windsor Castle indeed continues to fascinate people with its unique charm and magic. Beautifully carved on the chalk cliff above the placid Thames River in Berkshire, England, Windsor Castle covers 13 acres of home parks, working farm, labyrinth, state apartments, gardens and barracks.

It is one of the favorite royal residences of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II because of many wonderful childhood memories she had with this ancient fortress. When Great Britain declared war against Germany in 1939 King George VI decided that his children would be brought to Windsor Castle for their safety. So Princess Elizabeth and her only sibling, Princess Margaret, lived there during the duration of World War II their parents stayed at Buckingham Palace in London to monitor the progress of the war.

It is the oldest inhabited castle in the world dating back from the 11th century when William the Conqueror  successfully invaded England. He chose the site as his official seat of court and residence. Since the Norman conquest, the castle undergone several renovations reflecting the lifestyle and tastes of monarchs in residence.

The castle houses most of the royal family collections of priceless paintings, fine tapestries, porcelains and sculptures. Within the castle, visitors are allowed to wander in many galleries, extensive suites, beautiful garden, orchards and state apartments. There is a place for worship within the cobbled stone wall, the 14th century St. George’s chapel, where the royal family attended Sunday mass when staying at Windsor. The chapel is used also for intimate royal weddings. It is also the burial place of ten British Kings (Edward IV, Henry VI, Charles I, George III, George IV, William IV, Edward VII, George V and George VI).

The Long Walk

The Round Tower of the castle, which stood imposingly for many centuries, was rebuilt during the reign of King Henry II, great grandson of William the Conqueror and the founder of the Plantagenet royal house. The exterior of the wall, though renovated and remodeled by many monarchs, retained its original feature.  King Charles II commissioned an Architect to design the "Long Walk" similar to the ground of the Palace of Versailles in France, this beautiful avenue south of the castle is 75 meters wide. It was during the reign of King George VI that the castle achieved its majestic appeal to what it is today. The Hanoverian monarch who adored arts and decorations, ordered the total renovation of the ancient fortress adding turrets, towers and elegant apartments. One of its fantastic feature is Waterloo Chamber filled with portraits commemorating the defeat of the former French general, Napoleon Bonaparte, during the Battle of Waterloo.

In 1992 the castle was almost destroyed by fire and the world saw Her Majesty and her second son, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, joined workers forming a human chain to save some of the royal family's most valuable art collections. The castle is open to the public except on Christmas day, New Year's day, Holy Week, Easter Sunday and Ascot Party in June. According to several travel guide books, getting to Windsor Castle only takes one hour and thirty minutes from London.

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