08 February 2012

Queen Elizabeth II & Windsor Castle Tour

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

'Flat White' at Costa

This coffee with smooth, velvety milk lingered in my thoughts for the day,
thanks to smart ordering by Rona of Flowerona

Besides introducing me to this new cozy beverage,
Rona turned me on to a new BBC three-part series about Queen Elizabeth II, The Diamond Queen,
during our recent coffee date

I learned so much as I watched it with the kiddos...

The Queen & Prince Philip at the Royal Ascot

Queen Elizabeth II became queen at age 25(!) after the sudden death of her father, George VI,
and is the second longest reigning monarch of the United Kingdom
(Queen Victoria the longest, reigning 63 years and 7 months)

Sixty years ago Queen Elizabeth II was crowned 
when Dwight D Eisenhower was US President
In fact, current UK Prime Minister David Cameron wasn't born yet!

And in all this time, Queen Elizabeth II has not been a controversial figure 
(although the idea of a monarchy has)

Her sixty year reign has provided stability and continuity to this country
in contrast to UK Prime Ministers (and US Presidents) which seem to be a blip in history

Queen Elizabeth II belongs to the Windsor family
But did you know 'Windsor' is a fabricated name by her grandfather King George V
to sound more English than 'Saxe-Coburg and Gotha'
during a time of anti-German public sentiment in 1917?

Last week I toured Windsor Castle,
Queen Elizabeth's home and principal weekend retreat in Windsor, Berkshire

Have you been there before?
It is a quaint town with the impressive castle in view

The original castle was built by William The Conquer in the 11th Century
and today is the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world

Historically, the castle only has been attacked in 2 sieges during the time of that unpopular King John
You know, the infamous 'baddie' in Robin Hood

I had forgotten that in 1992 a major fire occurred in a portion of the castle which lasted 15 hours

Queen Elizabeth termed that year her 'annus horribilis' ('horrible year') for besides the fire in her 'home',
Charles and Andrew separated from their wives and Anne divorced
(Yep, that sounds like a pretty sucky year to me too, sister!)

Due to a halogen light too close to a curtain that caught fire,
the blaze quickly spread through the old, dry castle

And once the roof burned away, there was a chimney-like draft whipping the fire through nine state rooms
Over a hundred rooms more were damaged by smoke, flames, and water

Fortunately no one was badly injured and artwork was untouched, 
for it had been moved earlier due to a renovation in that part of the castle

Today they have smoke alarms, but still no fire sprinkler systems
thinking that a little smoke or fire would set off the sprinklers causing severe water damage everywhere
Whereas a flame could quickly be contained and extinguished, minimizing castle damage (hopefully)

Anyhoo, like other state buildings, Windsor Castle had no insurance 
So who was to pay for the repairs? The crown or the government?
That was a great debate at the time

The solution was to fund it by opening Buckingham Palace to the public for tours
(which I did and would highly recommend)
and charging for public access to parkland surrounding Windsor

The silver lining?
- Queen Elizabeth II has made her mark on this ancient castle, 
reflecting her style through the renovations (which took 5 years to complete)

- Archaeologists have been very excited about discovering hidden windows, doors, 
and even a 150 ft deep water well revealed during the demolition/ restoration process

The sections of the castle I visited were very old, grand, and ornate as you would expect

And for real,
I saw doors to hidden passageways (used for mistresses and servants)
and I inquired about the whereabouts of a moat

No moat.
Water would have seeped into limestone leaving the moat, dragons, and crocodiles very parched

After spending two hours touring the castle and grounds (self-guided)
I scooted to the guided kitchen tour

Although the kitchen tour was brief (there's only so much to see in a kitchen)
it held some interesting facts and it was fun to see where all the action happens

Since interior photography was prohibited,
just picture a healthy mix of old and new

I spied blackness on beams from the '92 fire

I spied a large kitchen with wooden beams, retired copper pots, and an old spit
juxtaposed with modern industrial kitchen equipment

Although no one was working in the kitchen at the time of our visit,
the guide told us the chefs bring their own copper pots and pans by the lorry-load

While I only saw the kitchen and cold food prep area,
there was a patisserie and a wine cellar just around the corner

All royal kitchen clocks are set 5 minutes fast
(mine is 12 minutes fast; are you more royal-like?)

Apparently there are traffic lights at the top of the kitchen lift (elevator) 
near the doors to the main dining area
This allows footman to enter from both sides of the dining room at the same time on cue
- Clever royals -

The Queen is involved in selecting the menu two months in advance for state dinners
The menu tends to be quite simple

Visitors can tour the State Apartments, Queen Mary's Doll House, and St George's Chapel
And with advance planning, you can tour the royal kitchen too
But be sure to check ahead of time, for the castle is closed when the Queen is home

This year marks the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (sixtieth year reigning)
which will be celebrated June 2nd - 5th by a national holiday, street parties,
loads of concerts, and other activities around the country

To check out planned events, view the official website here

I've already celebrated a little with this recent Emma Bridgewater tea towel purchase :)

by EmmaBridgewater.co.uk


- all photos by me -

Watch The Diamond Queen series on BBC iPlayer 
Diamond Jubilee Events here
Public Windsor Castle Tour info: Windsor Castle


Ellie said...

What a very informative post this is. A lot of that I wasn't aware of.
I visited Windsor and the castle quite a few years ago and it is indeed a charming town.

Ariana said...

Oh, wow, what an interesting tour! Thank you for all of the extra, fascinating information too! We would love to tour the castle, and I will definitely have to check out the link you gave to find Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

katie said...

That was so interesting! Almost as good as going on the tour myself. Almost. :)

Felicity said...

As ever Laura an informative and interesting tour which has intrigued me to the point that I want to watch the BBC series now.

Loving the teatowel - what a classic and truly British commemorative memento.

Happy day Lovely!

Desire Empire said...

What a beautiful post. I have been to Windor castle but it was over 20 years ago and I'd love to go again. It was well before the fire. I do remember the Queen being devistated at that time. You have inspired me to go again.

I, like so many others think the Queen is marvellous. I have seen her in person quite a few times, when I was little and it was a real thrill.

My mum used to take me along when she visited Australia. I did a little piece of art to commomorate her diamond jubilee made from those fabulous stamps she graced in the 70's. What a beacon of style she was and contines to be.

I know it's not popular but I even think Charles is fabulous.

Carolyn xx

Jenny Woolf said...

I'm a big admirer of the Queen and I have wanted to go to Windsor Castle for years. But every time the.
opportunity arises, it seems to be so busy that. I don't have time to fit it in, Your tour is inspiring - I shall have another go at organising something!
Actually I am a big fan of Charles too. He can be a touch weird but he does a lot for young people and seems genuinely public spirited

Antiques And Teacups said...

Wonderful post. I saw a few weeks ago that the program would be broadcast in the UK but not yet here as far as I can find. I have toured Windsor too and isn't it fascinating! How neat to be there in a Jubilee year. I was there for the Silver in 1977 & the Golden in 2002 and it was so exciting to see all the decorations and special things going on. Thanks for the wonderful post and enjoy as much as you can! And keep posting phtos!

Razmataz said...

I love your tours of UK places. I have been there but not since I was about 12. I lived in Berkshire so it was close. I must say I do love the queen and all the history the Royal Family preserve.

Have you been to Hampton Court? The kitchens there are fabulous.

TexWisGirl said...

definitely a tour not too many of us get to take! :)

Kay G. said...

I set my clocks five minutes fast, I knew I was a princess.
Did you see the movie "The Young Victoria"? At the end of it, it said that Queen Victoria was the longest reigning monarch...SO FAR. I wondered how many people noticed that or if they did, understood the joke behind it since the present Queen could reign longer.

Sissym said...

To me that do not live in Europe I found this post very informative, with subjects that I dont know.
I wonder how wonderful it is to know a place with so much tradition and history.

God save the Queen. I admire her so much.

greenthumb said...

What great post, love the photo of the coffee and the tea towel.

Susan Kane said...

What an adventure! You wrote about so well, that it felt like I was perched on your shoulder.

That's a memory to hang on to!

Emily said...

Laura, you never disappoint! Seriously, I LOVE reading your posts! Entertainingly informative.
By the way, we've had a wonderful week watching the birds . . . just wish I had a Big Garden Birdwatch to participate in! ;)

Robyn said...

looks lovely. did you know, she was on holiday in Kenya, when her father died.

ann said...

Isn't the Queen amazing! I was 6 when she was crowned. We didn't have a TV, so mom and I watched the ceremony at a neighbor's across the road. Yes, I have been to Windsor Castle. Isn't it grand? I especially loved the gardens. Took lots of photos. Hard to believe that it was 2006. Will you attend any of the festivities? What fun. Thanks for sharing your photos and awaking good memories.

Pondside said...

What an interesting post this was. The Queen was Queen before I was born, but I remember when she came to Canada to open Parliament when I was about 5 or 6. Everyone was talking about HRH's gown and her Coronation gown. I heard 'Carnation Gown' and was so disappointed when it wasn't pink and flowery!

beetree said...

I love reading your posts! I hope I can see the secret passage doors at some point, too! So much fun- thanks for the tour!

Selena said...

I'm getting ready to post my Windsor trip... would you mind if I linked to your post? It's a great review!


Hines-Sight said...

Great post. Love the shot of your coffee. I'm pinning it. How do they do that?

Iota said...

I think Princess Margaret had a stroke in the annus horribilis too.

Now I'm going to blow your mind by telling you that some friends of ours LIVED inside Windsor Castle. He had a job as some kind of chaplain to the Royal Chapel there. I was friends with his daughter. I visited once, and it was incredible. The apartment was very dark (not much in the way of windows), but who cares about that? I remember there was a window seat, which was about 4 feet deep - those outer walls are about 4 feet thick. Maybe more - I can't recall the detail. This was 1980-seomthing. I'm still in touch with that friend, but she doesn't live in the Castle any longer.

There now. Aren't you impressed?

Barbara said...

I love this! I'm still kicking myself for not doing this while I lived in the UK. I guess I will have to make a return trip just to see Windsor!

Joyce said...

One of my favorite places. I lived not too far from there and I could give the tour : )

barefoot mama said...

Thanks for my own personal tour and tidbits of information..you rock! A pretty crappy year indeed..goodness!

Hope you had a great week!

Robynne's Nest said...

G'day from 'downunder'...great tour...must put that one on my list...love the crown on top of the coffee and the lovely red letterbox recessed into the wall (I'm collecting photos of letterboxes)...Hope you're keeping warm...had a sunbake today...nice and warm...but look a little like a lobster!! Robx

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I think 'eccentric' is the word they use to describe him - I think he secretly likes being different :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I have been to Hampton Court - I don't recall seeing the kitchens. I was smitten by the daffodils and World Record holding grapevine. I'll need to revisit!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I LOVED that movie!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I do now - they mentioned it in the film. Must have been quite a shock on so many levels.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

We are not sure if we will be here for the celebrations. We may take it as an opportunity to travel, since it is a two day holiday :) We will never forget the Royal wedding celebrations we enjoyed. It feels similar.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

So funny!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I would love that! I'll be by today to check out your post :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Cool,eh? They use a stencil :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Very cool! Impressed :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

G'day! We woke to snow today, hoping for a snow day (but not to be). Enjoy your visit home!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thank you Emily! What birds have you seen? I've never seen a bluebird before :)

lizzybradbury said...

Really enjoyed this - Thanks for all the historical facts and thoughts that went into it! I'm a massive fan of our Queen :-) What a great Lady!

Lizzy x

Jane said...

Oh Gorgeous You truly didn't disappoint with this post. Just splendid. As an Australian, I found it fascinating to see where our Head of State prefers to spend her time! J x

topchelseagirl said...

Great post as usual. Did you know there is a programme on BBC2 tomorrow (Sat) at 3.30pm called Birds Britannia about our interest in birds?

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Ooh, I didn't know. We'll try to record it :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thank you, Miss Jane ;)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Same to you, sweets :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

That sounds like a really cool art project

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I would think the series would be equally popular in the US - hopefully it will be coming soon

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thank you :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Mission accomplished :) Thank you!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

My pleasure, Miss Bee :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Next time :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I bet you'd have a great insiders tour to the area - I wish I knew it better

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thanks, B Mama!! You too :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thanks for dropping by, Lizzy :)

lisaroyhandbags said...

Great post! We drove to Windsor once when we took the ferry from Ireland to England. Unfortunately we couldn't tour the castle that day but were surprised by all the touristy souvenir shops all over that quaint little town! Thanks for taking me on the tour I missed! :)

Magali@TheLittleWhiteHouse said...

Your pictures reminded me great memories of the day I visited the castle. I did a lesson last Monday for my pupils about the Queen. They are so young they can't imagine the Queen has been young too, so I had brought pictures of her younger day and they had so many questions, it was amazing to see them so interested!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

My kids seriously doubt I was ever a kid, too :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Yes, but did you visit the cute cupcake shop?! Yum ;)

Donna said...

What a fabulous post. It was so interesting to see and read all of the details. Thank you for sharing. Enjoy your trip.

Camie said...

Windsor Castle is a beautiful castle. My husband and I are fortunate enough to live within 5 miles from Windsor. On a clear day, I can see the castle from Dorney (a couple miles from Windsor) where I walk the dogs and where the Olympic rowing events will take place. My husband and I venture to Windsor often and I am still amazed by the size and beauty of the castle. I could stare at it all day long. It is an incredible engineering feat.

I also love the mix of old and new in Windsor. A portion of the High Street is flanked by the extremely tall castle walls and the other side of the street sits a Pizza Hut, Starbucks, McDonald's, and a few other pubs and restaurants. The irony is hilarious.

I remember very vividly sitting in a pub across the street from Windsor Castle with my husband, staring at the tall castle wall and having a long debate on whether we were going to make the jump and move to the UK or stay in Texas. Well, we made the jump but we are still not sure if it was the right decision. And I don't think we'll know the answer to that for a few more years...

Pom Pom said...

Fascinating, Laura! Thank you!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thank you for reading!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Have you been to Savill Garden? I am dying to go there to see the daffodils.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thanks for visiting, Donna :)

Camie said...

Not yet, however, we plan to go this summer - using our awesome 2-for-1 Berkshire resident admission discount! Another fun fact... as residents of Berkshire, we get free, unlimited admission to the Windsor Castle.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

That is cool. We don't get anything free from our county.

Ross said...

Sounds like a pretty amazing castle to tour.I had forgotten about about the fire but as soon as you brought it up I remembered. I can't believe the design on top of the coffee!

julie said...

What a great post!
I just finished reading a secret garden to my daughter so castles with hidden doors and secrets are very much on my mind.
Did you get to visit the garden by chance?
A diamond Jubilee tea towel is definitely at the top of the list for my mother in law.
thank you so much for sharing such a fascinating day.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I didn't see the garden - hopefully will do in the next few months :)

Denise at Forest Manor said...

Hi Laura,

I really loved this post! You are very fortunate to have been able to tour Windsor Castle. My hubby and I saw a series broadcast on Public Television called "A Year at Windsor Castle". It was fascinating! They showed the castle during the different seasons and celebrations throughout a typical year. They showed the Order of the Garter, Ascot, Christmas, a state dinner, etc.

They also showed all the work it takes to keep the castle running. There is one man whose sole duty is to keep all the clocks in the castle wound and running properly (there are LOTS of clocks). :) Anyway, it really made me want to visit. Thanks for the extra information you shared in your post. I had completely forgotten about that fire.

I noticed in your Post of the Month that you mentioned something about getting ready to move locally(?). Anyway, I wanted to ask if you're staying in London or moving to the country. I've enjoyed participating in your Post of the Month Club; thank you for hosting.

Take care,


Happy Homemaker UK said...

Denise, thank you for your sweet note. Thank you for participating in POTMC! It has been a pleasure to have you there, and I look forward to announcing a change to it :) As far as our move, we will just be moving locally, from a suburban to rural location. Future posts will cover our move, I'm sure :)

Bluebells and Lavender said...

Hi Laura, lovely to see that you are so interested in our history and retold very well! I also watched the series. Seems like you enjoyed Windsor Castle and especially that lovely latte with the crown on it! Have a great weekend. Sharon

Kendra said...

We visited London and took a day trip out to Windsor in 2004. What a beautiful place. I wish we'd had more time to explore outdoors as well. I was intrigued by the Doll House, the collection of China and just the "oldness" of it all. We are anxious to come back!!

housewifedownunder said...

I used to walk up that road in your second photo every day when I lived in England. I lived just out past Eton Wick for quite a while. Brings back memories! Don't know if I will ever go back there. In all the time I lived there, I actually never took the castle tour, which I now regret.

EnglandTripTips said...

Great compilation of info about the queen! She's definitely a great woman of leadership, 60 years on the throne. Thanks much. englandtriptips.com