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Detailed History of Windsor Castle | Timeline, Events, and More

Windsor Castle is an incredible royal residence in Berkshire, England, steeped in history and architectural grandeur. It's actually the oldest and the biggest castle still lived in.

The architecture is a real mix of styles, like a medieval fort blended with some Gothic and Baroque touches. As a true time capsule of British history, no wonder it's been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. People from all over the world visit the castle to walk through the fancy State Apartments, get a peek into the beautiful St George's Chapel, and enjoy the gorgeous gardens here.




Windsor Castle tickets and tours

Windsor Castle Entry Tickets
2 hr. 30 min.
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Half-Day Tour to Windsor Castle from London
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5 hr. 30 min.
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Transfers Included
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From London: Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, Bath & Roman Baths Day Trip
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11 hr. - 11 hr. 30 min.
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Guided Tour
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Windsor Castle Guided Tour with Afternoon Tea from London
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Mobile Ticket
6 hr.
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From London: Stonehenge, Windsor Castle & Oxford Day Trip
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Mobile Ticket
10 hr. - 11 hr.
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From London: Stonehenge Inner Circle Access & Windsor Day Trip
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Mobile Ticket
11 hr.
Guided Tour
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Windsor Castle history explained

Windsor Castle History

1070: William the Conqueror

After William the Conqueror conquered England in 1066, he knew Windsor was a prime spot for defense and keeping the region under his control. So he picked this site on a hill overlooking the River Thames and built a wooden fort there. It wasn't much to look at then, but since then, it has become a symbol of the British Royal Family. 

Windsor Castle History

1165-1179: Henry II

The old wooden fort William the Conqueror built just wasn't strategic anymore. King Henry II decided it was time for an upgrade. He launched a huge project to swap the fort out for a strong stone castle with thick walls, towers, and battlements lining the top to keep intruders out and show off how powerful and authoritative the royals were. 

Windsor Castle History

1240-1263: Henry III

King Henry III took those already strong stone walls and reinforced them! But that wasn't all. This king was all about luxury – he built a luxurious palace for his queen and children. He even built the Lady Chapel, a grand chapel similar to the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris in size and extravagance, filled with religious overtones. Henry separated the castle into a private area for his family in the Upper Ward and a public face for everyone else in the Lower Ward. 

Windsor Castle History

1344-1377: Edward III

Edward III wasn't content with just a regular castle. He decided to turn Windsor Castle into a royal palace fit for a king (and queen). This expansion project encompassed adding new buildings and fancy architectural elements, including the now-famous State Apartments! These were luxurious living spaces with grand halls, fancy bedrooms, and private apartments for the royals and guests. 

Windsor Castle History

1475: Edward IV

During the reign of Edward IV, the visionary monarch decided Windsor Castle needed its very own chapel. So, in 1475, he commissioned the construction of St George's Chapel. It took them decades to finish, but the chapel embodied the craftsmanship of the late Gothic style, boasting impressive works of art, intricate stonework, soaring vaulted ceilings, and magnificent stained glass windows.

Windsor Castle History

1629-1642: Charles I

Charles I, unlike previous kings, was a bit of an art connoisseur. He wanted Windsor Castle to look stunning! The chapel gallery was improved in a Mannerist style and even added a baroque gold service to St George's Chapel. He replaced the old fountain in the Upper Ward with a new classical statue. These renovations came to a stop when John Venn took over the castle during the English Civil War and many of the valuables in the chapel and the castle were looted.

Windsor Castle History

1668: Charles II

Before the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, squatters had even moved in for a while. Luckily, when Charles II became king, he decided to bring the castle to its former glory. Looking to France for inspiration, he ordered repairs on the castle, imitating the Louis XIV style. He even made the castle bigger to fit a royal court, without a King’s Council chambers. This court set the precedent for the next 25 years! 

Windsor Castle History

1760: George III

By the 1740s, Windsor Castle was no longer the picture of royal grandeur. Sovereigns preferred other palaces and the apartments were given to privileged royals' guests. George III reversed this trend. The exteriors of the Upper Ward got a Gothic transformation, complete with new battlements and turrets. He even got new paintings, including nearly 200 paintings by Venetian artist Canaletto. He also brought over collections from other royal palaces: drawings by Raphael and Michelangelo, and the Albani collection in Rome which included works by Domenichino and the Carracci. 

Windsor Castle History

1824-1840: George IV

George IV loved luxury and reintroduced the French Rococo style to England. He even closed off terraces for more privacy. The outside of Upper Ward was remodeled to look like it does today. He even raised the Round Tower to make it appear dramatic. Many of the State Apartments were rebuilt. He wasn't shy about adding more towers, and King Charles II's statue was moved from the Upper Ward. Interestingly, some critics today dislike these drastic changes, expressing it as vandalism of May’s designs.

Windsor Castle History

1901: Edward VII

When Edward VII became the king, he was against the cluttered, old-fashioned aesthetic of the castle. So, he got to work modernizing Windsor Castle with electric lights, heating, telephone lines, and even garages for automobiles! He gave all the rooms a makeover, decluttering and redecorating everything. During his time, Windsor Castle was the starting point for the 1908 Olympics marathon.

Windsor Castle History

1910: George V

George V continued the modernization processes of his predecessor Edward VII. Queen Mary of Teck, his wife, tracked down furniture that used to belong there that was either lost or sold and reacquired them. She even built an incredible mini dollhouse, complete with working lights, running water, and a functional elevator! Over 1,500 artists and craftspeople helped create it. Fun fact: In 1917, George V changed the royal family name to the House of Windsor!  

Windsor Castle History

1992-1997: Elizabeth II

When Queen Elizabeth II became queen, Windsor Castle became her favorite weekend getaway spot. However, much of the castle had deteriorated. Then, disaster struck in 1992 with a massive fire that raged for 15 hours and destroyed much of the castle. They devised an idea to pay for the repairs: open up Buckingham Palace to tourists at selected times. They were able to completely restore Windsor Castle by 1997, making it more modern and discarding much of its previous appearances.

Windsor Castle today

Windsor Castle History

Frequently Asked Questions about Windsor Castle's history

Is Windsor Castle older than Buckingham Palace?

Buckingham Palace is just over 300 years old after it was built in 1703. Windsor Castle, on the other hand, is over 900 years old! The original wooden castle was built by William the Conqueror sometime in 1070 following the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Did the royal family get their name from Windsor Castle?

Yes, the British Royal family was originally named Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. However, fearing they would be associated with the Germans during World War I, King George V relinquished the German name and adopted the castle's name, and the House of Windsor came into being in 1917.

How many monarchs have lived at Windsor Castle?

Windsor Castle has been home to 39 monarchs since it was built in the 11th century. Today, it is the oldest and the largest occupied castle in the world. Windsor Castle was late Queen Elizabeth II's favorite weekend retreat for most of her reign and was her primary residence from 2011 until her death.

What important events have taken place at Windsor Castle recently?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot at the St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in 2018. Prince Philip passed away at Windsor Castle at age 99 in 2021, making him the longest-living male member of the British royal family. Elizabeth II was also laid to rest at St George's Chapel in 2022.

Where is Windsor Castle?

The official address of Windsor Castle is Windsor SL4 1NJ, United Kingdom. It is approximately 72 kilometers from London and easily accessible by train. Follow these directions on Maps. You can also book a day trip from London to Windsor Castle to save you the hassle of arranging your transport to and from the castle.

How much does it cost to visit Windsor Castle?

Standard Windsor Castle tickets start at £30. This includes entry to the castle, the State Apartments, St George's Chapel, Semi-State Rooms, and a multilingual multimedia guide. Though more expensive, a guided tour of Windsor Castle would ensure a more immersive experience with afternoon tea and British pasties. However, a day trip from London to Windsor Castle would cost you £79 to £159 depending on the attractions and facilities included with the ticket.