The Architecture of Windsor Castle

We look at the long history and spectacular architecture of Windsor Castle.

Article By: Francesca Burke
Last Update: July 2019

Windsor Castle in Berkshire is the longest-occupied palace in Europe and, at almost 1,000 years old, is something of an icon of British architecture.

Early History

Windsor Castle was built in the 11th century following William the Conquerer’s invasion in 1066. Originally built using timber to a motte-and-bailey design, which was popular at the time, the castle’s location was chosen as it is fairly close to London. Furthermore, the castle is on steep ground which was useful for protection.

Windsor Castle from the ground

Use By Monarchs

Every reigning English, and then British, monarch, has used Windsor Castle as a residence since the reign of Henry I in the 12th century. Most of them have carried out building works! Henry I’s grandson, Henry II, made many additions and renovations to the castle, building a public residence (the Lower Ward) plus a smaller private residence (the Upper Ward) for himself. Moreover, he replaced most of the timber walls with stone and rebuilt the original Norman keep as the Round Tower. Today, the castle can be roughly split into three parts: the Lower Ward, the Middle Ward and Round Tower, and the Upper Ward.

Edward III converted the castle from a military fort into a spectacular Gothic palace, adding many internal apartments and cylindrical towers. Elizabeth I and Charles II both carried out renovations while George III added a Music Room and Dining Room to the Upper Ward at the end of 18th century.

George IV carried out extensive decorations, raising the height of the Round Tower and adding towers and battlements. He also added a huge 168-metre gallery to the Upper Ward and created the Waterloo Chamber, celebrating the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. Queen Victoria, for her part, added a private chapel!

For even more information about the building of Windsor Castle, we recommend visiting the Royal Collection’s website, which explains every change and update!

Windsor Castle 1644 drawing

1992 Fire and Restoration

A devastating fire broke out in Queen Victoria’s chapel in 1992, destroying most of the Upper Ward. The damage was extensive, with several collapsed ceilings and extensive smoke and water damage. To help pay for the very expensive restoration process, the Queen agreed to pay income tax and to open Buckingham Palace to tourists. Restorations took precisely five years, with renovators choosing to mostly restore the previous design, with the addition of a few modern updates in the Gothic style.

Today, Windsor Castle is a popular tourist attraction and the Queen’s preferred private residence. The largest occupied castle in the world, It is often the venue of state events, such as visits from President Barack Obama and both 2018 Royal Weddings.

Windsor Castle from the air

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