Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are set to marry in ‘the most ro­man­tique cas­tle that is in the world’, ac­cord­ing to Sa­muel Pepys. Katie Rus­sell ex­plores Wind­sor’s his­tory

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Contents -

Wind­sor Cas­tle,

venue for the Royal nup­tials

Over a mil­lion tourists flock to the Cas­tle each year

Wind­sor is the per­fect set­ting for the wed­ding of the year on Satur­day 19 May. Thou­sands of well-wish­ers are ex­pected to flood the pretty mar­ket town to glimpse the roy­als and their guests, and Harry and Meghan have made it clear that they want as many mem­bers of the pub­lic as pos­si­ble to share their spe­cial day.

Wind­sor Cas­tle it­self is a stun­ning struc­ture with al­most a thou­sand years of his­tory, and its sit­u­a­tion, high on a hill above the

Thames in Berk­shire, en­hances its grace and ele­gance.

The mar­riage cer­e­mony will take place at mid­day in St Ge­orge’s Chapel, re­garded as one of the most beau­ti­ful church build­ings in Eng­land.

Royal ups and downs

The Queen’s love of Wind­sor Cas­tle is well known. Of­fi­cially her sec­ond res­i­dence af­ter Buck­ing­ham Palace, she spends most week­ends at the Cas­tle, as well as a month over Easter and a week in June for the Royal As­cot races. With over 1,000 rooms, the Cas­tle is ideal for host­ing im­por­tant guests on the Gov­ern­ment’s be­half. The Queen wel­comed then Pres­i­dent Barack Obama for lunch in 2016, to cel­e­brate her 90th birth­day.

Last year, as ev­ery year, over a mil­lion tourists flocked to the his­toric build­ing, con­tribut­ing £19 mil­lion in ticket sales.

As the old­est and largest oc­cu­pied cas­tle in the world, Wind­sor has been home to no less than 39 mon­archs since its found­ing by Wil­liam the Con­queror at the end of the 11th cen­tury.

Henry I – the Con­queror’s son – was the first royal to make the Cas­tle his home. Over 100 years later, Henry III built an in­door palace, which was added to by Ed­ward III.

Henry VIII trans­formed the Cas­tle from a home into a royal Court. He didn’t stint on ex­pense ei­ther, splash­ing out the mod­ern-day equiv­a­lent of £380 mil­lion! His daugh­ter El­iz­a­beth I beau­ti­fied the Cas­tle still fur­ther.

Scan­dal and shocks

Scan­dal fol­lowed with El­iz­a­beth I’s suc­ces­sor James I, who used the Cas­tle mainly for so­cial­is­ing with friends, in­clud­ing

Dan­ish King Chris­tian IV.

Their deca­dent drink­ing ses­sions and af­fairs with the ladies of the court made them in­fa­mous through­out Europe. But the English

Civil War saw Wind­sor used for more sin­is­ter pur­poses, with

Cromwell lock­ing up roy­al­ist pris­on­ers within the fortress – in­clud­ing King Charles I, who was held there in 1647 be­fore his be­head­ing in 1649.

In 1660, King Charles II in­her­ited the Cas­tle af­ter it had been looted of trea­sure. Later, Ge­orge I and Ge­orge II let the build­ing fall into dis­re­pair, and Ge­orge III spent the 2018 equiv­a­lent of £127 mil­lion re­fur­bish­ing it. His son spent a fur­ther £310 mil­lion on it.

Queen Vic­to­ria and Prince Al­bert made Wind­sor

Cas­tle their prin­ci­pal home – and the

Prince died there in 1861. Fol­low­ing his death, Vic­to­ria kept the build­ing in a state of mourn­ing, earn­ing her the ti­tle ‘the Widow of Wind­sor’. Ge­orge V lit­er­ally brought light back to the Cas­tle, in­stalling elec­tric light­ing, and it was the child­hood home of our Queen to­day.

Wind­sor was the back­drop to Ed­ward VIII’s ab­di­ca­tion speech, when he stepped down to marry Amer­i­can di­vorcee Wal­lis Simp­son. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, Ge­orge VI of­fi­cially lived at Buck­ing­ham Palace to boost pub­lic morale, but of­ten slept se­cretly at Wind­sor, where his chil­dren had been sent.

Per­haps the most dra­matic event was the fire of 1992 af­ter a lamp set a cur­tain alight. Prince

An­drew worked with staff to save fur­ni­ture and art­works, but it cost £36.5 mil­lion to re­pair the dam­age to the build­ing.

Nup­tials then and now

The first royal wed­ding at the Cas­tle was in 1121, when 53-year-old Henry I mar­ried 18-year-old Adela of Lou­vain.

Queen Vic­to­ria’s son Ed­ward wed Princess Alexan­dra of Den­mark there in 1863, and his sib­lings, Arthur, Leopold, He­lena and Louise fol­lowed suit.

More re­cently, Prince Ed­ward wed So­phie Rhys-Jones in St Ge­orge’s Chapel in June 1999 and, in 2005, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles had a civil cer­e­mony at Wind­sor.

The most re­cent royal wed­ding there was in 2008, when Prince Harry’s cousin Peter Phillips mar­ried Cana­dian Au­tumn Kelly. And later this year, on 12 Oc­to­ber, Princess Eu­ge­nie and Jack Brooks­bank will marry in St Ge­orge’s Chapel.

Harry and Meghan are in­clud­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic in their big day

St Ge­orge’s Chapel and, left, Prince Charles at his wed­ding to Camilla Parker Bowles

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