Windsor Castle is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire. The castle is notable for its long association with the English and later British royal family and also for its architecture. The original castle was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror.
During the English Civil War (1642 – 1651) it was used by the Parliamentary forces as a military headquarters and was subsequently the place that Charles I (1625 – 1649) was imprisoned prior to his execution.
During the 18th century the castle suffered some neglect before being renovated by both George III (1760 – 1820) and George IV (1820 – 1830) who made substantial changes making it into how it is today. During the time of Victoria (1837-1901) it was used extensively for entertaining.
Commencing the Middle Ward a gateway leads onto the North Terrace. The eastern exit from the ward is guarded by the Norman Gatehouse which dates from the 14th century, this is vaulted and decorated with carvings of medieval lion masks and forms the entrance to the Upper Ward.
The existing building is laid on the medieval foundations constructed by Edward III. During the Restoration, Charles II rebuilt much of Windsor Castle with the help of architect Hugh May, creating a set of extravagant, Baroque interiors that are still admired.
After a period of neglect during the 18th century, George III and George IV renovated and rebuilt Charles II’s palace at colossal expense, producing the current design of the State Apartments, full of Rococo, Gothic and Baroque furnishings. Victoria made minor changes to the castle, which became the centre for royal entertainment for much of her reign.
The modern building follows the medieval foundations laid down by Edward III, with the ground floor comprising service chambers and cellars, and the much grander first floor forming the main part of the palace. With some alterations over the years, this concept continues to dominate the apartments.
Different rooms follow the Classical, Gothic and Rococo styles, together with an element of Jacobethan in places. Many of the rooms on the eastern end of the castle had to be restored following the 1992 fire, using “equivalent restoration” methods; the rooms were restored so as to appear similar to their original appearance, but using modern materials and concealing modern structural improvements.
Some parts of the State Apartments were completely destroyed in the 1992 fire and this area was rebuilt in a style called “Downesian Gothic”, named after the architect, Giles Downes. The style comprises “the rather stripped, cool and systematic coherence of modernism sewn into a reinterpretation of the Gothic tradition”.
Downes argues that the style avoids “florid decoration”, emphasizing an organic, flowing Gothic structure. Three new rooms were built or remodeled by Downes at Windsor.
As a working royal palace, the Castle is used frequently by The Queen for State ceremonies and official entertaining, and closures can occasionally occur at short notice. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and the Official Residence of Her Majesty the Queen.