Windsor is a town twenty miles west of London, on the River Thames. It is situated close to Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was sealed and Eton, home of the famous Eton College, which can be reached across the footbridge over the River Thames. Windsor is renowned the world over for its long history, splendour and association with the British Royal Family. Windsor Castle has been the family home to British kings and queens for over one thousand years and where Her Majesty, The Queen, chooses to spend most of her private weekends. The Royal Standard, flying from the Round Tower at the Castle, indicates that the Queen is in residence. Windsor is an attraction for tourists from all over the world. It has been the chosen venue for numerous Royal events, as well as state ceremonies and official entertaining of overseas heads of state.
Windsor Castle is the oldest of all the English Royal homes and the largest inhabited castle in the world, covering thirteen acres. William the Conqueror built a castle here 1,000 years ago and almost all succeeding monarchs have made alterations to the building, giving the castle the unforgettable skyline we see today. In November 1992, a disastrous fire destroyed large parts of the Castle, when one hundred rooms were damaged. The repair costs, totaling almost £40,000,000, were funded mostly by the Queen herself.
On 21st April, 2016, the Queen celebrated her 90th birthday in Windsor. Thousands of well-wishers watched her and the Duke of Edinburgh, her 94 year old husband, walk the 100 yards from the Castle to The Guildhall. There, she attended a reception with twenty other 90 year old residents who live in Windsor. Later, the Queen and the Duke toured the streets of Windsor in the royal car, waving to the crowds. On Castle Hill, the Queen unveiled “The Queen’s Walkway Route”, which is marked by sixty three plaques representing the Queen’s historic sixty three year reign. In 2015, she became the United Kingdom’s longest serving monarch, exceeding even Queen Victoria’s record. In the afternoon, on The Long Walk, the Royal Borough of Windsor fired the traditional 21 Gun Salute. This public event was launched by the Mayor, Eileen Quick, who fired the first of the Council’s mini cannons. Schoolchildren were invited to participate. As the sun went down, the Queen, with the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, lit a beacon in front of Cambridge Gate, at the start of The Long Walk. This beacon, on a twenty feet (six metres) high pole, was the first of a network of more than one thousand beacons spread throughout the country. In the evening, the Queen attended a private birthday dinner in the Castle.
On 19th May 2018, the eyes and ears of the World were focused on St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, when Prince Harry married Meghan Markle. Prince Harry is Prince Charles’s and Princess Diana’s youngest son. Meghan Markle is a U.S. citizen and actress. St. George’s Chapel is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England and seats approximately 800 people. It is the burial place of ten monarchs, including Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Charles I (after his execution) and The Queen Mother and her husband. It is open to the public, but closed when state ceremonies and official entertaining is taking place. The congregation for Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding, was made up of 600 world famous people. As well as members of the Royal Family, celebrities included, Amal and George Clooney, Sir Elton John, Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams and David and Victoria Beckham.
The Guildhall is a 17th century building on Windsor High Street, a short walk from Windsor Castle, which houses the Windsor and Royal Borough Museum. It took two years to complete and was finished in 1689, providing a meeting chamber on the first floor, with space for a covered corn market beneath. Although called The Guildhall, it was never actually a location where associations of local merchants met. Instead, it functioned as a town hall, providing a venue for civil ceremonies. The merchants met at The Three Tuns pub next door, which was then known as Trinity House. It dates from 1518. In 2018, it was renamed “The Prince Harry”. The Guildhall continues to provide an ideal venue for civil ceremonies, conferences and receptions. The Ascot Room here was chosen by Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles for their civil ceremony wedding on 9th April 2005. Also in 2005, Sir Elton John and David Furnish entered into a civil partnership in the Ascot Room in The Guildhall.
The Long Walk, almost three miles long, connects Windsor Castle with the 4,800 acres of Windsor Great Park. It provides a magnificent tree-lined approach and remarkable panorama of the entire length of the Castle. At the far end of this straight walk, is the Copper Horse, a statue of King George III on his horse, erected on Snow Hill in 1831. On 19th May 2018, the newly announced Duke and Duchess of Sussex, left the Castle after their marriage, in an open Ascot Landau carriage drawn by the famous Windsor Grey horses. They drove through the streets of Windsor and down the Long Walk, which was filled to capacity by cheering crowds of well-wishers and then back to the castle.
Charles II began work on the Long Walk in 1685, by planting a double avenue of 1,652 elm trees, thirty feet apart. In 1710, Queen Anne added the central carriage road. The soil proved to be unsuitable for elms and over the years, trees have been felled and replaced by a mixture of horse chestnut (conker trees) and London plane trees. The present trees date from 1946, when major replanting took place following an outbreak of elm disease.
Motor vehicles are banned from The Long Walk, apart from park ranger vehicles and the Queen herself, who is allowed to drive down it. The Queen is sometimes seen driving to or from church on a Sunday. The surrounding area provides superb opportunities for horse riding, an activity which is much enjoyed by members of the Royal Family.