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Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle has been the home of 39 monarchs, and the appearance of the State Apartments today reflects the changing tastes of the Castle’s royal occupants, particularly Charles II (r.1660-85) and George IV (r.1820-30).

Charles II set out to rival the achievements of his cousin, Louis XIV, at Versailles in France.  He modernised the Castle’s interiors, which became the grandest State Apartments in England, with painted ceilings by Antonio Verrio and carvings by Grinling Gibbons.

With his architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville, George IV gave the State Apartments a new grand entrance and staircase, and he added the colossal Waterloo Chamber, celebrating the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, introduced in the short film below by Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of The Queen's Pictures.

The State Apartments

The State Apartments

The State Apartments are furnished with some of the finest works of art from the Royal Collection, including paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and Canaletto.  Many of the works of art are still in the historic settings for which they were first collected or commissioned by the Kings and Queens who have lived at Windsor.

On 20 November 1992 a fire destroyed or damaged more than 100 rooms at the Castle. Four thousand gallons of water a minute were used against the blaze at the fire’s height, the equivalent of the entire weight of Niagara Falls descending on the Castle for two seconds.  The restoration of the Castle, particularly St George’s Halland the Grand Reception Room, is a testament to the extraordinary skills of some of the finest craftsmen in Europe.

Today Windsor's State Apartments are frequently used by members of the Royal Family for events in support of organisations of which they are patrons.

Among the highlights of a visit to Windsor is Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, the largest, most beautiful and most famous dolls’ house in the world. Built for Queen Mary by the leading British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1924, this most magical of residences is a perfect replica in miniature of an aristocratic home.

Queen Mary's Dolls' House

Queen Mary's Dolls' House

The house is filled with thousands of objects made by leading artists, designers and craftsmen, nearly all on the tiny scale of 1:12.  From life below stairs to the high-society setting of the saloon and dining room, no detail was forgotten. Among the most striking features of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House are the library, bursting with original works by the top literary names of the day, a fully stocked wine cellar and a garden created by Gertrude Jekyll. The Dolls’ House even includes electricity, running hot and cold water, working lifts and flushing lavatories. Learn more about the House in our online trail.

In the adjoining display two remarkable French dolls, France and Marianne, are shown with part of their extensive wardrobe of clothes and accessories. They were presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth for their daughters, the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, by the French Government during the 1938 State Visit to France. The dolls’ clothes and accessories were designed and made by the leading Parisian fashion houses, including Worth, Lanvin, Cartier, Hermès and Vuitton.

One of the best times of the year to visit Windsor Castle is between September and March, when the spectacular private apartments created for George IV are open. These Semi-State Rooms are among the most richly decorated interiors in the Castle and are used by The Queen for official entertaining.  

The Semi-State Rooms

Building George IV's new private apartments
George IV had a well-developed love of fine objects and a taste for the theatrical.  With his architect, Sir Jeffry Wyatville, he completely remodelled the Castle’s exterior during the 1820s, giving it the romantic and picturesque appearance seen today. He also decided to create a new suite of private rooms on the sunnier east and south sides of the Castle, including the magnificent Crimson Drawing Room. This was George IV’s last and greatest commission, and one of the most lavish and costly interior

Completion in 1830
 Always over budget, the project was only just completed at the time of King’s death in 1830.  Among the many designers and craftsmen employed on the scheme was the 15-year-old AWN Pugin, who worked for the principal furniture suppliers, Morel and Seddon. The Semi-State Rooms also contain some of the finest surviving 18th-century English and French works of art from Carlton House, George IV’s former London residence.  

The Semi-State Rooms

Fire-damaged in 1992
 The Semi-State Rooms were severely damaged by the fire of 1992, although, by good fortune, their contents had been moved elsewhere at the time. They were completely restored to their 19th-century appearance using the original designs supplied to George IV.

St George's Chapel is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England and is particularly noted for its magnificent stone fan vaulting. It is the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter, the senior order of British Chivalry established in 1348 by Edward III.

Within the chapel are the tombs of ten sovereigns, including Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour, and Charles I. At least three services take place every day. The chapel is closed to visitors on Sundays, but all are welcome to attend any of the services.

St George's Chapel