have you ever…

been to windsor to visit the queen?

recently we had the pleasure of escorting my inlaws to the wondrous windsor castle… the longest-occupied palace in europe, it is also said to be the place her majesty fondly refers to as her ‘real’ home and where, i have it on good authority, she favours as her weekend residence…

sure enough, on the day we visited the familiar red, gold & blue of the royal standard was unfurled atop the round tower, proclaiming her majesty’s presence {the union jack is hoisted to signal when she’s away}…

& i can see why one might favour this sprawling estate… nestled in the leafy county of berkshire, about thirty minutes by train from paddington, the castle itself rests on a hillside overlooking the thames valley and an expanse of lush parklands, the combination of which imbue this idyll with a sense of calm & tranquility {no doubt a pleasant departure from its earlier days as a defence post}…

immediately upon leaving what has to be one of the most up-market railway stations i have ever stepped foot in, you’re welcomed {albeit somewhat ominously} by the commanding figure of britain’s longest-serving monarch, queen victoria herself…

in case you were still in any doubt of this township’s royal connections, shop fronts resplendent with fresh coats of red, white & blue paintwork compete for attention with the metres-upon-metres of union jack bunting which line the cobbled walkways…

there’s even some his n’ hers corgis to continue the regal theme…

as we arrived for our outing a little after lunchtime, we restricted our visit to the cobbled streets immediately surrounding the castle & a quick promenade along the long walk {a 5km path flanked by deer park, once the castle’s private hunting ground}…

but of course the real highlight, & purpose of our trip, was the castle itself…

they say to allow up to two hours to really take in all that there is to see: queen mary’s doll house, the state apartments & st george’s chapel {we took nearly three}…

it was unanimous: the queue to see queen mary’s doll house was beyond worth the wait for what was an undisputed highlight of our day… completed in 1924, this five foot tall elaborately-furnished time capsule was built as a gift from the people and showcased the best there was to be had in interiors for the time {it is truly so awe-inspiring i’ll cover it more fully in a separate post}…

from the doll house we moved swiftly next door to take a quick look at the commemorative exhibition: the queen: 60 photographs for 60 years… sadly this display felt a little too much like a hastily-conceived afterthought to me: poorly housed in a badly laid-out room, the composition lacked any real insight into the less public face of the queen to be of much interest…

onwards & upwards…

built as the public rooms of the palace {where guests are received & entertained}, the state rooms represent the belly of the beast… & given their function, it’s no surprise that these spaces are so lavishly appointed: each apartment in its own right is like a glistening glory box housing it’s own little piece of history…

having been home to 39 monarchs, the state apartments’ furnishings are understandably varied & reflect the tastes of their numerous occupants: masterpieces by the likes of rubens, rembrandt, canaletto & van dyke line the elaborately-papered walls, whilst four poster beds adorned in ostrich plumes & ornately-carved furnishings {including striking pieces formed from solid silver} fill the rooms…

but, without doubt, it was the spectacular wood carvings of master craftsman {the king’s carver} grinling gibbons which ultimately won my affections…

prior to my visit to windsor castle i’d only ever observed evidence of his skill through photographs… i can now attest to the fact that such photos do the intricacies of his craftmanship a complete disservice…. the depth & sense of movement achieved in these elaborate carvings belie the material from which they are formed… festoons of intertwined foliage, heavily laden with voluptuous fruits ripe for the picking, cascade their way down panelled walls: the skill & dedication with which these artforms were created is immediately evident & they truly are stunning to behold in person…

once i could tear myself away, we made our final & most poignant stop for the day with a saunter through st george’s chapel: not only a place of worship & weddings, this 15th century prayer house also serves as a place of internment for members of the monarchy… as is typical for such establishments, the floors are lined with plaques dedicated to names long since relegated to the pages of our history books, making it somewhat easy to form a sense of detachment from the fact that you’re literally walking over somebody’s grave…

but there among the kings & queens of old, two plaques in particular stood out: a little fresher than the others & not yet worn with the patina of age, the dedications to the queen mother and her daughter, princess margaret lay housed in a tranquil chapel off to one side of the nave alongside their respective husband & father, king george vi…  as the day’s last rays of light strained to reach within the royal vault, it filled me with more than a little melancholy to see these familiar names etched in stone… their stories now just another interwoven layer of the rich tapestry of history that makes this castle so magical to visit…

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8 thoughts on “have you ever…

  1. I have indeed been to Windsor to see the Queen! I went in early 93, just after the fire. I remember it being fairytale-like and formidable in the same breadth. Unfortunately, Lizzie wasn’t in when I was there. I would love to visit again some day. They’ve just recently put to air in Oz a TV series called “the Queen’s Castles” and during the Windsor program they covered Queen Mary’s doll house – I was in awe – wasn’t it just magnificent!

    • how super cool! i really enjoyed windsor castle, but I LOVED that darned doll’s house… i could live there… strangely, i really was drawn to all the domestic spaces like the linen room (divine) and the kitchen… & i wanted to reach in and flush a loo just to check they weren’t lying about the plumbing actually working! hahaha… brilliant… 😉

  2. ooh that bit about Princess Margaret and the Queen Mum just gave me goosepimples. I haven’t been in years and must go back. Would love to see the dolls house.

  3. I LOVE the dolls house and do want to get back. Maybe we can all take a trip together?

    I’ve been to the Dolls House Exhibition in Kensington Town Hall and I’m telling you you would freak out at what amazing stuff they offer. There are silversmith who do miniature things that make you gasp for air. A whole world on its own.

    Great post x

    • i never had a doll’s house as a little girl… maybe that’s my fascination… but probably the fact that everything inside was commissioned bespoke down to artworks & hand-written books! magical… oh, & the fact that if you were to magically shrink yourself one day you could actually live there… running water & electricity to boot!

  4. Great photos Sue…..certainly brought back happy memories for my husband and I as we met there in 1983.He was a soldier guarding the Castle and I was a waitress/chambermaid in St Georges House and had accomodation in the grounds of the Castle opposite the Theatre.

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