5 facts about Windsor Castle

With all eyes on the royal wedding this weekend, we take a closer look at the venue’s fascinating history…


1. It was commissioned by William the Conqueror

A few years after the Normans invaded Britain, King William I chose the site of Windsor Castle: west of London and high above the Thames. It was originally built to help defend London, but its convenient proximity to both the capital and a large hunting forest made it a prime candidate for a royal residence.


2. It was used as a prison

During the English Civil War (1642-51), Oliver Cromwell often used Windsor Castle as a base of operations, and a prison for captured royalists. After the monarchy was restored in 1660, King Charles II transformed the castle from a military base into a palace.


3. It was devastated by a fire

On 20 November 1992, a faulty spotlight set fire to a nearby curtain in Queen Victoria’s Private Chapel. The blaze spread quickly, destroying 115 rooms. It took 225 firemen 15 hours and 1.5 million gallons of water to put the fire out. Following the disaster, the Duke of Edinburgh oversaw the restoration project, which was completed exactly five years to the day after the outbreak of the fire.


4. The clocks of the Great Kitchen are deliberately set fast

Windsor Castle has the oldest working kitchen in England, and has served 32 monarchs. Currently 20 chefs and sous chefs, 3 pastry chefs and 10 porters work in the Great Kitchen, and its clocks are always set 5 minutes early to make sure the Queen’s food is never late.

5. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be the 16th royals to marry at Windsor

In 1863, Prince Albert (the future King Edward VII) married Princess Alexandra of Denmark in St George’s Chapel. Since then, 14 other royal couples have married at the castle, the last being the Queen’s grandson, Peter Philips, and Autumn Kelly in 2008. This weekend, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will become the latest royal couple to wed at Windsor, joining a tradition going back over 150 years.


St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where this Saturday’s royal wedding will take place. Image by Aurelien Guichard, Rabanus Flavus


Main image: Diego Torres