England’s Most Visited Heroic Site
Standing at the very heart of the British national identity, Windsor is the oldest and largest castle in Britain and, with 1,000 rooms, the largest occupied castle in the world. The present queen, Elizabeth II, spent much of her childhood here, so it is not surprising that her public felt her pain when a devastating fire partially destroyed 100 rooms in the state and private apartments in 1992, her annus horribilis.
A magnificent $53 million restoration completed in 1997 employed a beehive of artisans using the same techniques as when the castle was begun under William the Conqueror, 900 years ago. It has been lived in by eight successive royal houses since then. In 1916, King George V assumed the name of the place out of fondness—and to disassociate the royal family from its Germanic origins.
Highlights of a trip to Windsor Castle include the Changing of the Guard, which takes place even when the queen is not in residence (although with less pomp and regalia); the Queen Mary’s Doll House, an exquisite gift in miniature designed in 1923 by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens; and the 16th-century architectural jewel of St. George’s Chapel which, together with Westminster Abbey, shares the distinction of being a pantheon of many English monarchs. The flat tomb in the center contains the vault of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour.