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IntroductionWelcome to our Windsor Castle history section. You can skip to subsequent pages using the links below or simply continue reading to start at the beginning.
"Edward, on his return to England, resolved to rebuild and embellish the great castle at Windsor. He further resolved to institute an order of knighthood, to be denominated the Knights of the Blue Garter; the knights were to be, according to report and estimation, the bravest men in Christendom; at this time also he founded Windsor Chapel, and appointed canons there to serve God" - Froissart's Chronicle.
In the Tower of London we have a castle that was primarily a fortress and a State depot; above London, at Windsor, one that was less a stronghold than a castle-palace associated with chivalry and the courtly side of sovereignty.
For eight centuries and more Windsor Castle has been a residence of the English monarchs, a continuity of royal association unapproached by the record of any other royal dwelling in England. From Windsor the royal line appropriately takes name.
Like the Tower of London, Windsor Castle seems to have been built originally by William the Conqueror, merely as a keep or tower.
Various additions were made by his successors, notably Henry III, who built a chapel, a Great Hall, and other new edifices. Edward III (reigned 1327 - 77) carried out a great scheme of reconstruction and the plan and arrangement of the castle of today date from this period.
The old castle was remodelled by Edward as two sections - the Lower Ward and the Middle Ward - of a much larger castle, the new portion of which comprised a third ward, called the Upper Ward.
Each of these three wards had, as will be seen, its own particular purpose in a scheme that was characteristic of a period when chivalry was at its height.
Many additions and alterations were made by later sovereigns, chief among them being the improvements made by Wren for Charles II and those carried out by Sir Jeffrey Wyatt (called Wyattville) for George IV and William IV.
It was Wyatt who made the Round Tower - which, as built by Edward III was a low, squat structure - the dominating feature of the castle, by greatly increasing the height and adding the turret.
The three towers that abut on Thames Street are, respectively, the Curfew, the Garter, and the Salisbury towers of the Lower Ward. Although obviously much restored, they formed part of the old castle, and were built originally by Henry III. The Curfew Tower is the oldest of all the buildings.
There are two public entrances to the castle precincts, one by Henry VIII.'s Gateway on Castle Hill (a statue of Queen Victoria stands here), and the other by the Hundred Steps (the present steps, 122 in number, date from about 1860), which lead up to the Canons' Cloisters. Normally the public can enter the castle precincts by either way daily, from 9 a.m. till dusk.
Next page: The Lower Ward: Religion
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