Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world. This is one of the official residences of Queen Elizabeth II. The history of this castle is particularly eventful: indeed, it was a fortress, then a mansion, a royal residence and a prison. Henry I was the first king to reside. It was Henri II who modernized the castle, ordering the replacement of wooden walls of the Norman fortress by a stone wall and a stone keep at the center of the site. In 1312, it saw the birth of Edward III, King of England, which will transform the castle into a royal residence. The famous St. George’s Chapel was built in 1475. It is also rather a small cathedral than a chapel! The castle gardens were designed at the request of Edward IV, who exclaimed one day “I think I’m in a prison. There are no galleries or gardens where you can walk”.
During the Victorian period, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg lived together in Windsor until the death of the Prince in 1861. Windsor remain the residence of Queen Victoria until her death in 1901. After the accession the power of Edward VII in 1901, the castle will often be empty, the king only staying there a week per year, at Easter to attend the horse races. It was at the time of the successor of Edward VII, George V (which ruled from 1910 to 1936) as his wife Queen Mary renovated the castle, abandoning the baroque style established for years. King George VI succeeded to the throne in 1936 after the abdication of his brother Edward VIII. King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth lived in Windsor until 1939 and the beginning of World War II. It was at this time that the castle resumed its role as royal fortress: princesses Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret lived there for their safety. In 1952, Elizabeth II ascended the throne and decided to settle in Windsor.
In 1992, a fire raged in the private chapel of the Queen, thus destroying nine principal rooms of state apartments. It was estimated that 20% of the castle was damaged in the fire. Once completely restored in 1997, Queen Elizabeth II uses Windsor Castle as a second home, having installed her headquarters at Buckingham Palace where she lives since. While visiting England, Windsor Castle is a historical place not to be missed, both its architecture and its history is rich and echo the history of the kingdom.