From home to the world’s largest dollhouse to a vast wine cellar, Musement shares six things you should know about Windsor Castle.
Windsor Castle, located about twenty miles from London, has always been a media darling—especially as the backdrop for the weddings of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank. Most recently, the estate’s Frogmore Cottage and the £2.4 million in taxpayer money that went into its refurbishment has stood front and center in the Megxit settlement.
Yet, this sprawling estate offers much more than what the gossip columns cover. The eponym of the Royal Family, Windsor Castle dates back to the late 11th century and bears vestiges from history and the architectural styles of the last millennium. Today, Windsor Castle holds bragging rights as the world’s largest and longest-occupied castle, having been continuously inhabited for 900 years. Here are six fascinating things you should know about Windsor Castle.
1. Close ties to Henry VIII
Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived. Once you’ve learned the rhyme recounting the fates of Henry VIII’s six wives, it’s impossible to forget this tyrannic king. He changed the course of history, breaking from the papacy and establishing the church of England so that he could divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn (who he eventually ordered executed). The ghost of the second Tudor king haunts the castle. Visitors have heard his footsteps and moans, and those who have seen him describe him as a large irate man. Henry VIII also rests in St. George’s Chapel alongside his third wife, Jane Seymour, along with several sovereigns and their consorts.
2. A haven during World War II
Rumor has it that Hitler intended to make Windsor Castle his England home, so it emerged from the Blitz unscathed. The Royal Family hid here during the war, blacking out the windows, removing the chandeliers, and reinforcing the bedrooms. In fact, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret even spent some nights in the dungeon.
3. A house for dolls
Crafted during the 1920s for Queen Mary, the Windsor dollhouse is the world’s largest (and undoubtedly the most intricate) dollhouse you’ll ever see, complete with running water, electricity, plumbing, and working elevators. It took more than 1500 artists and craftsmen to realize the wonder. Particularly of note are the cellar, which is fully stocked with real wine and beer, and the miniature library displaying stories handwritten by famous authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
4. A copious wine cellar
The castle’s wine cellar contains some 18,000 bottles! Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace host close to 300 events each year collectively which call for nearly 5,000 bottles of wine and these require storage. A close look reveals it’s not teeming with, say, several bottles of 2009 Chateaux Margeaux. Much of the wine falls on the cheaper side, averaging between £5 to £10 a bottle. Though we like to believe many of the racks do indeed cradle some treasures waiting patiently for their uncorking, getting better with age in the meantime.
5. An abundance of clocks and fireplaces
Windsor Castle has more than 300 fireplaces. A fulltime fendersmith, a role that his family has passed won for generations, tends to all of them. Also, the entire estate features more than 450 clocks. When it comes to daylight savings time, the Queen’s clockmaker takes 16 hours to move them forward then 18 hours to set them all back during the fall.
6. A fire nearly destroyed it
The Queen gave a speech on November 24, 1992, during which she referred to the year as an “annus horribilis.” 1992 brought several misfortunes upon the Royal Family including Princess Ann’s divorce, Fergie and Prince Andrew’s divorce then the subsequent publication of the former’s “toe-sucking” pics, and the release of Andrew Morton’s shocking Diana biography which revealed Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, among other woes. Just four days before this unforgettable speech, Windsor Castle caught on fire and suffered £36.5 million worth of damage, rendering the bad year horrible. But the bottom always gets deeper: Charles and Diana announced their separation in December.