WINDSOR CASTLECategory: Land + People
Of the many Royal Palaces in Europe none can trace its origin to so early a period as does Windsor Castle or is so closely connected with national history. For over 800 years Windsor has been the residence of the Kings and Queens of England. The building on the present site is undoubtedly of Norman origin, and the site itself was originally chosen for strategic purposes. Interesting and attractive stories attributing the origin of the Castle to Roman and Saxon times are probably legendary, although it is known that Edward the Confessor had a palace at Old Windsor, some three miles away.
It is at any rate certain that in the year 1086 entry is found in the Domesday Book referring to a Fortress on the present site. During the reign of the Norman Kings the Castle grew in importance, and the buildings had attained the proportions of a Royal Palace.
The Round Tower has been the central feature of the Castle since its original conception. The early Norman structure w’as probably some form of fortification erected on a natural mound, protected by a moat, probably also by a strong palisade. This was replaced by a masonry ring wall, late in the 12th century. The first substantial building erected on the mound was known as the Rose Tower, which was built by .Edward III, and in which the King convened a “Round Table” after the manner of themythical King Arthur. Knights and Squires from every country in Christendom, as well as those of England, were invited to attend, and the meeting took place within the Tower. In 1344 the order now known as the Order of the Garter was established within its walls, when 26 Knights were elected members, including Edward III and the Black Prince. Persons of importance have been held captive in the Tower from its earliest times. The Tower is the official headquarters of the Governor of the Castle, an office which dates back to the reign of William the Conqueror.
The Tower was raised to its present elevation by Wyatville during the extensive renovations carried out early in the nineteenth century. The.present Tower is considerably higher than any previous building, and is crowned with a flag tower, from which the Royal Standard is flown when the King is in residence, the Union-Jack being displayed on other occasions. An ornamental old-time garden now takes the place of the original moat.
In the centre of the Tower is’ a well, 164 feet in depth.
For varied picturesque scenery and for historic associations, few parks can rival Windsor Great Park, access to which is via the celebrated Long Walk, which is entered from Park Street.
(From Official Guide to Windsor Castle, the Town .and Neighbourhood of Windsor)