Windsor Castle has been on our short list of places to see. We didn’t pass up the chance when a sunny Saturday presented itself a few weeks ago, and headed out on the train with some friends. Lynn stayed back with Cade, who was recuperating from bronchitis and an ear infection. We made sure to get our passes stamped so we can return at leisure throughout the year for them join us.
Our friends, the Hintze’s invited us to join them along with a classmate from school. I expected it to be further away, but in less than an hour we arrived in the quaint, adorable town of Windsor. Before cars, it would take a day’s march from the Tower of London to get to. The streets are lined with inviting little European shops and cafes.
The grandness of the castle is apparent right as you enter the town and trek up the hill to its entrance. We all got audio guides to teach us the unique history of this oldest working castle in the world. It was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1066 and has been inhabited, renovated and altered ever since by subsequent heirs, beginning with Henry I. Today, more than 500 people live and work within its walls.
The grounds were lush and beautiful with hints of spring blossoming. I’ve never seen such perfect grass in the courtyard area, which is closed to the public since it is inhabited regularly. The flag atop the Round Tower indicated Her Majesty, the Queen was inside, which we learned was a regular occurrence on the weekends. I can see why she loves it here compared to Buckingham Palace.
We started at Queen Mary’s dollhouse exhibit. This interested me after spending many hours with my own beloved dollhouse as a girl. However, mine was nothing like this one! This was a gift given to the queen, wife of King George V in the 1920s and was never played with. It was fashioned after an aristocratic family’s home with real silver plates, a vault with real miniature jewels, running water, electricity, a flushing toilet, working lifts, real wine in cellars and a working vacuum. No detail was forgotten. Even the tiny books are written by real authors and the paintings done by real artists. All four sides are filled with intricate, detailed furnishings with cars in the garage underneath and a garden out back. They don’t allow photography, but I found a few pictures on the internet someone took which really doesn’t do it justice, but gives you a small idea of it.
The rest of our time was spent winding through the castle looking at all the fascinating weapons displayed, collections of china, armor, artifacts and artwork. This is the first castle that we’ve been through that uses some of the very rooms the public is allowed to view. St. George’s hall has space for an enormous table that seats 162 people. They showed how they use a ruler to set each place setting exactly uniform. We saw all sorts of King’s and Queen’s drawing rooms, King’s bedchamber, dressing rooms, audience chambers and other grand reception rooms filled with priceless art, painted ceilings and royal collections. We weren’t able to photograph anything inside, but it was impressive and lovely. Here is a picture courtesy of the web that shows what a dinner in the St. George’s Grand Hall would look like.
We learned that Queen Victoria’s family spent most of their time there and her husband Albert died in the castle of typhoid. During WWII, the royal family secretly stayed there, blacking out all the windows and reinforcing their rooms. It wasn’t destroyed due to Hitler’s plans to own it for himself. The boys were hoping they’d see the Queen peeking out her window, but had no such luck. However, they did get to see the guards march in to protect the royal residences.
A massive fire in 1992 destroyed much of castle, but it has been restored to its original beauty. I’m amazed how many fires have engulfed this country.
The boys loved finding all the cannons and seeing the castle walls built with sharp flint to keep enemies from scaling them.
Of course we had to get a picture with the guard on duty. I’m not sure how he’s able to see with that hat on.
Though we didn’t go inside St. George’s Chapel, we walked all around it marveling at its architecture. Started by Edward IV in 1475, it took fifty years to construct. It is the Chapel of the Order of the Garter, Britain’s highest order of chivalry founded by Edward III in 1348. We’ll have time to go back and take a look inside since it’s full of rich history and the burial site of 10 monarchs, including Henry the VIII.
A quick trip inside the gift shop for treats and souvenirs, and we were ready for lunch.
Trusting the guards’ recommendation for lunch, we dined at The Carpenter’s Arms. Tyler was thrilled to be eating at a restaurant from 1518. They seated us downstairs right next to a dungeon looking space that was once used to smuggle things back and forth from the castle. All the boys thought this was the coolest thing ever, until I shined my phone’s light inside and they were completely creeped out by all the spiders and questionable slime on the stone above them. That was the end of that.
However, the food was great. Tyler scarfed down his royal double burger and we shared the sampler platter of British food, which was surprisingly good.
With a few minutes to spare, we strolled around the town looking at all the quaint shops and signs. We spotted the Crooked House built over 400 years ago that reminded us of the nursery rhyme. It is now a cute little restaurant. We finished off with gelato (which happened to be the worst we’ve ever tasted) before boarding the train back home.
I will never forget this day. Though it was lovely and memorable, it was also the day I received the news that my dad had a brain tumor. The original news was bleak and terrifying. Not being able to talk to him immediately because of the time difference was agonizing. The rest of the weekend was indescribably difficult waiting for more results and praying for a miracle. It also happened to be the weekend our family was asked to speak in church. Oh how I wish our talks had been written before this news. Cade, Tyler, Lynn and I spoke about the blessings of obedience to the prophet’s counsel. While it was so hard to even concentrate, I actually felt a peace and calmness that I may not have experienced by going through that process of study.
My dad is amazing. He was the one to calm our fears, along with my mom, that all would work out. It wasn’t until later the next week that we learned it wasn’t cancerous and he would undergo immediate surgery to remove the tumor. Nearly all my life I have lived a short distance from my parents and have been so blessed by their support, help and love. Being this far away during their time of need was, and continues to be, one of the hardest experiences of my life. I can’t express the gratitude in my heart for the outpouring of love, service, prayers, well wishes and friendship that has been extended to our family at this time. I can feel it even though I’m thousands of miles away, so thank you dear friends!