While Barry and Helen were visiting, we wanted to do some touring around to see the sights. One of these sights was to visit Windsor Castle – the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world!
We joined one of the free walking tours on offer at the castle (entry price includes an audio guide as well – bonus!) But first, we got to there in time to see the end of the Changing of the Guard ceremony.
Because the Queen was in residence, the ceremony was done in a less visible area of the castle, but the procession down the road (with full brass band!) was quite a sight to see. Was also weird to see modern weapons being held by such traditionally dressed guards…
There are 4 major buildings in the castle. First is the Round Tower. When the Queen’s standard is flying, it means the Queen is in residence. So she was in the day we were visiting! The tower was originally built in the 12th-century by Henry II, but then made taller by George IV in the 19th century to make a grander skyline for the whole castle.
The second major building is the South Wing Royal Apartments where the Queen lives when she’s in residence. So obviously, we can only look at them from the outside.I’m so nosy though, I’d love to see inside!
The third major building at Windsor Castle are the State Apartments, which you *are* allowed to go into, but aren’t allowed to take photos of! How frustrating! The stairway in there is *smothered* with artworks and swords and ornately painted trimmings and heavy beautiful curtains. The rooms themselves are all individually themed and are stunning. So much *wealth* accumulated over centuries. I was pretty impressed by *all* of it.
The other thing we learnt about Windsor Castle was the Order of the Garter. The Order is the most senior and the oldest British Order of Chivalry and was founded by Edward III in 1348. The 24 Knights of the Order of the Garter are chosen by the Queen for ‘outstanding public service and achievement’. There are always only 24 Knights at one time and they can only cease to be a knight when they pass away.
In 1995, Sir Edmund Hillary was made a Knight – the 981st Knight ever. A huge honour and something we felt a swell of pride about. There’s a special garb that the Knights wear at their formal ceremonies which are held at Windsor Castle. Here’s a photo of the Order from when Sir Edmund was still alive. He’s in the middle of the back row in this photo below.
The fourth main building at Windsor Castle, that again we couldn’t take photos in, was St George’s Chapel. We were very interested in seeing Henry VIII’s tombstone who was buried under the floor of the chapel with his favourite wife (the one who gave him a son and died during childbirth). It was quite lovely to see his tombstone, and to see where his story finished in stone. It was a beautiful and detailed chapel.
We all had a lovely sunny afternoon at Windsor castle and we saw everything we wanted to. There are some special tours you can take at the castle to see inside the Round Tower and explore the Royal archives, or to visit the Great Kitchens that provide for everyone’s daily meals at the castle, but also the big banquets. Tours like that will assure we will be back again for another visit. And maybe we’ll go see Eton College as well.