Windsor. Wow. What an experience!
Living in the U.S. my whole life, I had never seen a castle before (they’re rather scarce in the Midwest) and I was not prepared for its immense size! I always assumed, in theory, that castles would be big. But this castle went on and on and on… covering several acres of land; and we did not even see the whole of it!
To gaze at walls built 600-700 years ago by ancient kings and queens that I’ve read and studied over the years—well, it was quite amazing. In so many ways, pictures can speak so much better than I can. But I will try to give you an idea of my feelings as I walked through this historic castle that is still home to the Queen of England.
Matthew and I walked for quite a ways outside the castle, listening to a self-guided audio tour that came with our admission. We learned that Windsor was originally built to be a fortress, which seems obvious when you look around! It is situated on the highest point of land and provides breath-taking views of the entire landscape. In the middle, there is a great, round tower that rises much higher than rest of the castle. When you look at it, you can imagine ancient soldiers defending King and country from any forces that may have come against it.
Of course, I took millions of pictures (or close to it!) outside of the castle. However, once we went inside, pictures were not allowed, so I purchased a guide book to help me remember all I had seen. But for any who may read this and for my own memory’s sake, I will try to describe what we saw.
We started with Queen Mary’s Doll House, a beautiful house that was never intended to be used by children, but was given to Queen Mary in 1924 by a relative. The house was about twice as tall as Matthew and I and I immediately thought how Tiffany would love to play with something like that. The details were exact, with linen closets, an ‘electric vacuum,’ (apparently the latest and greatest in the ‘20s), sewing machines, and of course, furniture, people, and much more. The house also has working electricity and plumbing! Wouldn’t you love a dollhouse where you could actually turn lights on and off and give your dolls a bath in?
My favorite part of the entire castle came shortly after we saw the Doll House and entered the Grand Staircase. You walk up a flight of red carpeted stairs, flanked on either side by statues of knights on glorious horses. The ceiling stretches at least 30 feet up and is covered by ornate carvings in the wood and stone as well as arrangements of swords and armor for decoration. It is magnificent to see and perhaps just as thrilling was the thought that the Queen herself climbs those stairs during State occasions to receive visitors… and many other monarchs before her have done the same.
After that came room after room of ornate furniture, beautiful old paintings and highly decorated ceilings. We saw the Guard Chamber, where the walls were adorned with old pistols, swords and other weapons in decorative fashions. There were several cases of ‘display’ swords, including one with a handle covered entirely by sapphires. The room also featured statues of several of Britain’s defenders, including Admiral Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill.
Then I entered St. George’s Hall. I had a hard time at first determining whether I preferred it or the Grand Staircase. Though I decided on the staircase in the end, it does not diminish the beauty of St. George’s Hall. The Hall seems to stretch forever and is where the Queen holds banquets, seating hundreds of people at one very long table. The Hall is covered in red and gold, which gives it a majestic appearance. Its walls and the ceiling are covered in small shields featuring the coat of arms for each Knight of the Order of the Garter. (I did not quite understand the Order, but it was certainly interesting to see how many knights must have belonged to it over the years)!
I could go on and on and on, about the room full of china sets used by the Royal Family over the years, one huge room dedicated to gifts given the Royal Families (including a solid gold tiger’s head with crystal eyes and teeth), the magnificent paintings of all the kings and queens, their families, important political figures and such, the room of intricate centerpieces and chandeliers covered in gold, the throne room (decorated completely in blue) and so much more. But the things I have mentioned were the highlights (at least for me!) and I want to ensure I have accurate descriptions with which to remember the experience by.
There are two other things that I want to describe in great detail; the Drawings Gallery and St. George’s Chapel, but they will have to wait for the next post!
(And pictures may be added to this post at a later time).