Charles Rex Posted February 3, 2012 Share Posted February 3, 2012 Windsor Castle 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. 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. 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