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Guidebook: the Castle


Charles Rex
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Windsor Castle

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Autumn was a glorious time to be at Windsor. In the early mornings, the calls of the male deer challenging their rivals echoed over the grass fields, as the mists rolled in from the Thames, their tendrils touching everything and leaving it wet until the sun rose and chased it all away. On a cloudless day, the view from the Castle stretched for miles, an explosion of bright leaves in reds and yellows.

Built by William the Conqueror as one of his earliest castles to defend his newly gained country, Windsor Castle had been rebuilt and expanded time and time again since the Middle Ages. Rising high above the Thames, its white cliffs provide an easily defensible position and help make it one of the safest royal residences in the kingdom. Used as a prison for King Charles I during the English Civil War, the interior has seen remarkable renovations since the Restoration, though a sense of great history and permanence pervades.

The Castle is comprised of three Wards surrounded by a series of courtyards enclosed by strong walls with turrets and towers. The high point of the Castle is the Middle Ward, which consists of the Round Tower, or keep, atop a man-made hill. To the east is the Upper Ward, where the Royal Apartments and public areas are located. To the west is the Lower Ward, which is the site of St. George’s Chapel and the buildings associated with the Order of the Garter.

Though the Castle boasts several Gates, it is the Henry VII Castle Gate in the Lower Ward that sees the most traffic. The wood of the drawbridge was slippery in the morning but the guards were used to far worse, and travelled its length, seemingly without effort, time and time again as they marched up and down, greeting each other and returning to their place. With the proliferation of cannons and siege engines, the medieval moat that stood beyond the Gate had become obsolete and was now a grassy field, dotted with puddles and bushes with yellowing leaves and damp bark. Plastered against the moat stood the elegant shops and houses of Windsor Town, many now adorned with wreaths of flowers in celebration of the Royal Wedding, which would bring some much-needed capital to the community..

Surrounding the Castle was an expansive landscape of park lands, including the Great Park to the south and the Home Park to the north and east, which provided for a multitude of activities to occupy the season’s golden afternoons.

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NORTHERN TERRACE

The Northern Terrace lay in the shadow of the Castle along the north side, partially sheltered by over-hanging galleries. Like a great stone balcony, it sat perched upon the steep cliffs and afforded an unsurpassed view of the River Thames. It is one of the locations favoured by King Charles for his early morning walks, at which time large coal braziers are strategically placed along its length to combat the autumn chill. It also sometimes the site of parades and military exercises, should they be needed.

THAMES LANDING PLATFORM

A large, Spartan-looking grey stone quay ran parallel to the river bank, and was used mostly for unloading supplies for the castle. There were railings consisting of rope and wooden posts, with sturdy bollards at the riverside for mooring. It was from here that all courtiers travelling to the Castle from the river would arrive, being able to see Windsor in all its glory when disembarking. At one end, away from the hasty commotion of the trade vessels, are tied a half dozen small row boats. The owner of the vessels stands nearby, an old man with long grey hair, his leathery skin and the fine wrinkles around his eyes denoting a lifetime spent squinting at the glare on the water. For a nominal fee, you can rent one of the rowboats for the afternoon.

EASTERN TERRACE GARDEN

Unlike the Northern Terrace, the enclosure known as the Eastern Terrace was not merely an expanse of stone. It was instead a more gentle garden, with the familiar geometric shapes in almost perfect symmetry that allowed for a protected stroll without getting lost. Its structure was reassuring and quite different from the wild park beyond the walls of the Castle proper. With its lush greens and neatly trimmed edges and hardly a flower in sight it was perhaps most suited for those in need of contemplation.

The terrace was enclosed by a half way wall, inviting people to lean across it while enjoying the farther view over the Little Park.

ORANGERY

The great glass windows supported in their metal frames let in the weak winter sun whilst keeping out the brisk breezes, lending a luxurious warmth to the outdoor-indoor space that was the orangery. The air was moist as well as warm, the great orange trees in their large pots carefully tended so that they would produce their treasure-trove of exotic fruit in the summer, unhindered by lack of water or blight of frost. A few orange flowers lent an exotic citrus scent to the air.

Between the great pots, stone benches were set so that courtiers might come and enjoy the sunshine without the need to brave the outdoors, and in the centre was a statue of a nymph and two sets of wrought iron tables, painted white, with matching chairs, that one might sit and take tea and enjoy the ambiance of the orangery.

SOUTHERN TERRACE

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The Upper Ward

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The Upper Ward is a spacious quadrangle, formed on the west side by the Keep or Round Tower; on the north by the Royal Apartments, St. George's Hall, and the Chapel Royal; and on the East and South sides by the apartments of the King and Queen, and the Great Officers of State.

Nearly in the centre of this square, is an equestrian statue in bronze of King Charles II in a Roman habit, and placed on a marble pedestal, on the south side of which are represented, in basso relievo, a variety of figures expressive of navigation. On the west side is the royal cypher, surrounded with the garter, and crowned with other ornaments. On the north side are a variety of fruits, and on the east a shield, on which is a Latin inscription to this effect:

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"Tobias Rustat humbly gave and dedicated this statue to his most gracious master, Charles II, the best of Kings, in the year of Our Lord MDCLXX. [1670]"

Underneath is a curious water engine, originally invented by Sir Samuel Morland to supply the place with water.

St. George's Hall

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Part of the public areas of the Upper Ward, St. George's Hall was the headquarters of the Order of the Garter. This of course was reflected in its lavish decorations. The upper windows were circles, with painted garters as their framers.

In a large oval, in the centre of the ceiling, King Charles II is represented in the habit of the Order of the Garter, with his right foot on a lion's head, attended by England, Scotland, and Ireland; religion and plenty, holding the crown of these kingdoms over his head; on each side of the monarch, are Mars and Mercury, with the emblems of war and peace. In the same oval, is regal government, supported by religion and eternity; justice, attended by fortitude, temperance, and prudence, beating down rebellion and faction; and among the evil genii, the painter is said to have introduced the Earl of Shaftesbury, dispersing libels. Nearer the throne is an octagon, in which is St. George's Cross, encircled with the Garter, within a star or glory, supported by Cupids, with the motto: Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense *, the Muses attending in full concert, and other embellishments, expressive of the grandeur of the order.

The Hall walls were painted by Verrio with feigned columns and grand historical setpieces.

In the lower compartments of the ceiling, over the music gallery, is the collar of the order of the Garter, supported by cupids, and encompassed with a variety of characters, emblematic of this most illustrious order of knighthood.

On the north side of the chamber, extending 108 feet in length, is elegantly painted the triumph of Edward, the Black Prince, son of Edward III, founder of the Order of the Garter, who is seated at the upper end, receiving John, King, of France, and David, King of Scotland, prisoners, under a canopy of green velvet. The Prince, crowned with laurels, is seated in a triumphal car, in the midst of the procession, supported by slaves, preceded by captives, and attended by the emblems of Liberty, Victory, and other ensigns of the Romans, with the banners of France and Scotland displayed. The procession close with the Countess of Salisbury, in the person of a fine lady, making garlands for the Prince, and a representation of Shakespeare's 'The Merry Wives of Windsor'. In this last part of the group, King Charles as a young prince can be seen in a black hood and a scarlet cloak.

At the lower end of the hall is a noble music gallery, finely carved and gilt, supported by four slaves, beautifully carved in wood, bending, as it were, beneath their burden, representing a father and his three sons, whom the brave Edward, the Black Prince, is said to have made Captives in his wars. Over the music gallery is the following inscription:

 

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ANTONIUS VERIO, Neapolitanus,

Non Ignobili, Stirpe Natus.

Augustissimi REGIS CAROLI Secundi

SANCTI et GEORGII

Molem Hanc Foelicissima Manu

Decoravit **

 

The floor was paved with black and white marble, and at one end, on a dias, was a glorious baroque throne, richly gilded and supported by carved figures of slaves.

* = "Shame on he who thinks evil of it"

** = Anthony Verrio, a Neapolitan, born of a noble race, ornamented with a most happy hand, this large pile of' building, of the most noble King Charles II and St. George.

 

The Royal Library

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The Royal Library was located in the Upper Ward, on the first floor.

The joy of a Baroque Library is in its white plaster decorations and delicate carvings in corners, grand trompe l'oeuil designs, as well as the books that fill shelves right up to the ceiling. The newly decorated library had been expanded from its Elizabethan design, incorporating part of the old hall. It looked out over the Horn Court on one side, accessible from the same hallways as the Kings apartment.

Even at night this was a busy place. The many spirits, ghosts and apparitions that an ancient place like Windsor Castle contained by virtue of all that had passed, took particular pleasure in this dome of spiritual wellness, called perhaps by happier memories. The form of the old Queen Elisabeth, dressed in black, her stomacher stiff, her collar wide, and her white face wrinkled, was often seen moving about, in particular from the hearth to the old dark wooden table that nobody dared move. It was said many a meeting of the Privy Council had taken place here, rather than in the Queen's Closet. Another more recent visitation was seen behind the windows of the library, looking out with worry and a great sadness. It was Charles I whose grave was down in the Lower Ward, resting next to Henry VIII and Jane Seymour in St. George's Chapel. Before his untimely demise he had spend some time as prisoner in Windsor Castle.

The Crimson Drawing Room

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This spacious room lies in the heart of the Upper Ward, and serves as a much-needed refuge from the sometimes inclement weather. The floor is laid with sumptuous carpets of taupe, cream, and gold, while the walls are papered in deep crimson and trimmed with gilded cornice. Several large mirrors, dressed artfully with heavy velvet drapes, are hung about the room to reflect and maximize the candlelight, since there are no windows. There is also an intricate tapestry depicting the four seasons. The ceiling is painted with an assembly of gods and goddesses, intermixed with delightfully cherubic Cupids. Throughout the room there are small groupings of comfortable chairs, all luxuriously upholstered in crimson, often surrounding elegant little tables. There is also a marble fireplace, flanked by Grecian columns, in which a fire may be laid to bring light and warmth to the room.

Music Room

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Like the Drawing Room, this space is a perfect place to escape the autumn weather and find some welcome diversion. This room is richly appointed in hues of emerald, a reflection of the verdant landscape beyond its two velvet-draped windows. The walls are papered with a pastoral block pattern in green on a cream ground, while the ceiling is painted to depict Apollo playing his lyre for Zeus and the divinities of Olympus. The gleaming oak floor is laid with a plush green carpet, trimmed with gold thread. The space is dominated by an expertly crafted harpsichord, and a scattering of elegant wooden chairs, softened with emerald cushions.

The Van Dyck Room

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Named for the many paintings by or after the Artist, this room is also known as the Queens Ballroom.

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Offices

Windsor was by now the monarchs residence. Work was eternal in government. Even during all the entertainments, politics was always there. Several government officials has been granted temporary offices in the castle, as ornate as the rest of the building. The walls held fine realistic carvings of fruit, fowl, game, fish and shellfish together with masterful strokes of trompe l'oeil drawing in the eye and tricking it into seeing alcoves, friezes and pillars, reaching up to the ceiling, where dramatic allegoric scenes were painted amidst cherubs.

They were located on the third level, just above the State Rooms and within easy distance of the Royal Library on the first floor, only two stairs down.

 

LORD TREASURER

The office of the Lord Fosbury was composed of three rooms. One for himself, one for his Deputy Lord Basodon and three clerks and a receiving room for guests. The set of rooms carried a theme of fish food and might possibly once be used as a minor dining room. The office of the Earl not only held a desk but also a sitting group of chairs and a small table near the hearth, as well as small cabinet of liquor.

LORD CHAMBERLAIN

The office of the Earl of Arlington was composed of two rooms. One for the earl, the other for his clear, also servicing as receiving room. The set of rooms carried a theme hunting, its former purpose unclear though it may have been a withdrawing room for after dinner conversation. The office of the Earl not only held a desk but also a sitting group of chairs and a small table near the hearth, as well as small cabinet of liquor.

SECRETARIES OF STATE

The secretaries of state officially shared a set of two rooms with one clerk, but the Secretary of the South had not arrived at Windsor and so Earl Sunderland and his various agents had the full run of the apartment, working till late in the night. Lavishly decorated with cherubs and scenes of flighty nymphs whispers held that this was once a ladies boudoir.

LORD CHANCELLOR

The single room of the Lord Chancellor Finch was not frequented often, and so he hardly noticed the indignity of having to share it with clerk. The room held no particular theme but was dressed in burgundy and brown colours with a touch of gold.

LIFE GUARDS OFFICE

The room of Major Charles Whitehurst, Earl Langdon, was a simple affair, without the use of additional clerks. It consisted merely of a pair of chairs and a desk, and of course a warming hearth. The window was small but provided a look over the North Terrace and the Thames. The room carried no particular theme but was set in blue and silver colors.

STEWARD OF THE ROOMS

A small room for Lord Beverley, Steward of the Rooms, in which he kept stacks and stacks of papers, keeping careful logs of who came and parted, what rooms required cleaning, how much damage was done and thus repairs that needed to be made. 

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Windsor Map
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A: The Round Tower - At the top is planted a large piece of cannon, leveled at the entrance.
B: The Upper Ward - Underneath is a curious water engine, originally invented by Sir Samuel Morland, in that Prince's reign, to supply the place with water.
😄 The State Apartments – In our game time it was not this obviously. It was however used as 'housing' for Courtiers that were eligible to have rooms there.
D; Private Apartments –  The apartments of the King and Queen were adjoining.
E: South Wing - Overlooking the Long overlooking the Long Walk
F: Lower Ward - Far more spacious than the Upper and is divided into two parts, by the Collegiate Church, or Chapel of St. George.
G: St. George’s Chapel – This Royal Chapel is situated on the same site as the Chapel erected by King Henry I and dedicated to Edward the Confessor.
K: King Henry VIII Gate (principle entrance) – Created in 1511. The gate is created by two towers connected by an arch.
L: The Long Walk - the view north along The Long Walk towards Windsor Castle and the George IV gateway.
M: Norman Gate - The eastern exit from the ward is guarded by the Norman Gatehouse.
N: North Terrace - Part of the new defenses of the Castle following the siege of Windsor during the reign of King John.
O: Edward III Tower -
T: The Curfew Tower - Part of the new defenses of the Castle following the siege of Windsor during the reign of King John. 

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