Antiqua Print Gallery Windsor Castle
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Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle, in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, is the largest inhabited castle in the world and, dating back to the time of William the Conqueror, is the oldest in continuous occupation. The castle's floor area is approximately 484,000 square feet (44,965 square metres).
Together with Buckingham Palace in London and Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, it is one of the principal official residences of the British monarch. Queen Elizabeth II spends many weekends of the year at the castle, using it for both state and private entertaining. Her other two residences, Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle, are the Royal Family's private homes.
Most of the Kings and Queens of England, later Kings and Queens of Great Britain, and later still kings and queens of the Commonwealth realms, have had a direct influence on the construction and evolution of the castle, which has been their garrison fortress, home, official palace, and sometimes their prison. Chronologically the history of the castle can be traced through the reigns of the monarchs who have occupied it. When the country has been at peace, the castle has been expanded by the additions of large and grand apartments; when the country has been at war, the castle has been more heavily fortified. This pattern has continued to the present day.
It was during the reign of King George IV between 1820–1830 that the castle was to undergo the greatest single transformation in its history. George IV, known for his extravagant building at both Carlton House and the Royal Pavilion during his regency, now persuaded Parliament to vote him £300,000 for restoration. The architect Jeffry Wyatville was selected, and work commenced in 1824.
The work took twelve years to complete and included a complete remodelling of the Upper Ward ("B"), private apartments ("D"), Round Tower ("A"), and the exterior facade of the South Wing ("E") which gave the castle its near symmetrical facade seen from the Long Walk.
Wyatville was the first architect to view the castle as one composition, rather than a collection of buildings of various ages and in differing styles. As an architect he had a preference for imposing symmetry, whereas the castle which had evolved piecemeal over the previous centuries had no symmetry at all. Wyatville imposed a symmetry of sorts on the existing buildings of the Upper Ward, by raising the heights of certain towers to match others, and refacing the Upper Ward in a Gothic style complete with castelated battlements to match the mediæval buildings, including St George's Chapel in the Lower Ward. The Round Tower had always been a squat structure, and now this was further accentuated by the new height of the buildings in the Upper Ward. Wyatville surmounted this problem by building on top of the Round Tower a hollow stone crown, basically a false upper storey. Some 33 feet (10 m) high, this crown gives the entire castle its dramatic silhouette from many miles away.
Much of the interior of the Castle was given the same makeover treatment as the exterior. Many of the Charles II state rooms which remained after George III's redecorations were redesigned in the Gothic style, most notably St George's Hall (see illustration right), which was doubled in length. Wyatville also roofed over a courtyard to create the Waterloo Chamber. This vast hall lit by a clerestory was designed to celebrate the victors of the Battle of Waterloo and was hung with portraits of the allied sovereigns and commanders who vanquished Napoleon. The large dining table at the centre of the chamber seats 150 people.
The work was unfinished at the time of George IV's death in 1830, but was virtually completed by Wyatville's death in 1840.

The Victorian era

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made Windsor Castle their principal royal residence. Many of their changes were to the surrounding parklands rather than the buildings. In particular, the "Windsor Castle and Town Approaches Act", passed by Parliament in 1848, permitted the closing and re-routing of the old roads which previously ran through the park from Windsor to Datchet and Old Windsor. These changes allowed the Royal Family to undertake the enclosure of a large area of parkland to form the private "Home Park" with no public roads passing through it.
Queen Victoria had retreated to the castle for privacy following the death in 1861 of Prince Albert, who had in fact died at the castle. Albert was buried in a Mausoleum built at Frogmore, within the Home Park of the Castle (and eventually Victoria was buried beside him).
From Albert's death until her own death in 1901, Windsor Castle was Victoria's principal home, and she seldom visited Buckingham Palace again. The prince's rooms were maintained exactly as they had been at the moment of his death, and although an air of melancholy was allowed to settle on the castle for the remainder of the 19th century, this did not prevent improvements and restoration from taking place. In 1866 Anthony Salvin created the Grand Staircase in the State Apartments ("C"). This great stone staircase in the Gothic style rises to a double height hall lit by a vaulted lantern tower. The hall is decorated with arms and armour, including the suit of armour worn by King Henry VIII, made in 1540. The top of the stairs are flanked by life-size equestrian statues mounted by knights in armour. This theme of decoration continues into the Queen's Guard Chamber and the Grand Vestibule. Salvin also added the château-style conical roof to the Curfew Tower ("T") at this time.

(Source Wikipedia)