Windsor Castle is over 900 years old and is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. Windsor has changed a great deal over that period of time, from a wooden Motte and Bailey castle, to a medieval fortress, to the world famous tourist attraction and home to the royal family that it is today. In this essay I will look at the ways in which Windsor Castle has developed and changed over the last 9 centuries. Historians believe that Windsor Castle was built around the year 1080, over 900 years ago, when William the conqueror was in power.
William was a French man, and won the throne and became King of England by wining the famous battle of Hastings. He built Windsor Castle originally as a Motte and Bailey castle. Motte and Bailey castles were very simple; wooden keeps built on an earth mounds that were surrounded at the base with an area that armies could live in. Source A shows a Motte and Bailey castle and its various parts. Motte and Bailey’s had advantages and disadvantages, on one side they were quick and easy to build and the materials used to build them were also cheap and widely available.
Very simple Motte and Baileys were constructed in as little as a week, depending on how many workers there were and the weather etc. On the other hand, they were lonely, smelly, cold place. They also were prone to collapse and rot. They were made from earth and wood, so when they got wet, they reeked, and as they were made of wood they burned easily. Windsor was an atypical castle in that it was built on a Motte (the mound) that was already there, naturally formed, it also had two baileys, (the part where armies lived at the base) which made it unusual .
The advantages of Windsor were the river Thames on the doorstep and the woodlands at the rear. Windsor was originally built so that the King could keep control of his people. As he had taken the throne by force, he was not very popular in England, so he built a ring of castles around London so as to watch over his subjects and make sure they didn’t revolt, and if they did, he would have an early warning from the soldiers based in the Motte and Baileys. One of which was Windsor. The castles were spread out in a formation very similar to the M25 today.
During the late Middle Ages warfare increased, so Windsor Castle had to be strengthened. This was done in many ways. Henry the second had the castle rebuilt in stone, to make it stronger in 1160. He added a stone curtain wall around the castle and also the first round stone tower of Windsor inside a reinforced shell wall on the original Motte. This took until approximately 1179. Next Henry III turned the rest of the rectangular towers to round ones as they were easier to defend and attacks ricocheted off their rounded sides more easily than rectangular towers. Edward III went on the build the Norman Gateway (source B)
He also built St Georges chapel, which is the place of worship at Windsor Castle which is now a memorial to King……………………………………… Henry VIII added ‘murder holes’ to the Norman Gateway during his reign. Murder holes are holes in the ceiling of a gateway or passage way (in this case a gateway) through which defenders could fire weapons, or pour dangerous substances, boiling oil was a favourite, onto their attackers. They could also throw rocks, shoot arrows, or pour heated sand/water down on their enemies’ heads. During the 17th Century civil war broke out in England between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists.
During the war Windsor Castle was used as a jail by the Parliamentarians. The castle was captured by Oliver Cromwell after the battle of Edgehill in 1642 and was the Parliamentarian Headquarters as well as a prison until the end of the war. After his father Charles I was executed following being held at Windsor Charles II decided to change the castle, by making it as lavish as possible. He changed it to a baroque palace; baroque is a style of art and music, a baroque palace is fantastically over decorated, ornate, using irregular shapes etc, it is also often described as ‘gothic’ style.
By the 19th Century and the reign of George IV there was no warfare at all. The king changed Windsor to a ‘fairytale’ castle. He raised the round tower, plus adding additional towers and battlements. He also added the George IV gateway and took his residence there in 1828. In 1863 the roof of the round tower was restored and its shape was changed to a cone. It was also used as a refuge by Queen Victoria after her beloved husband Albert died, she had a mausoleum constructed for Albert and herself, laying the first stone of the foundations herself, she spent the rest of her life making it as beautiful as she could for him.
After this, it was turned into a tourist attraction. It remains a working castle and is still one of the Queen’s residencies. In 1992 a fire destroyed 1/5 of the floor space – an area of about 9,000 mi??. The restoration of the castle was not complete for five years, and was completed in 1997, 70% of the money used to restore Windsor was raised by the idea to open it to the public for the first time. Some of the rooms damages by the fire were so damaged that they had to be completely redesigned, contributing more to the changes, they were decorated in a somewhat gothic style, similar to when Windsor was a baroque palace.
Windsor Castle has changed a lot over the almost 1000 years it has been in operation, but there are a few things which haven’t ever changed; Windsor has never changed sites, even when it was a small Motte & Bailey castle back in roughly 1080. It has also never fallen into disrepair, many castles over time were abandoned and left to crumble away, but over nearly 10 decades, the changes that Windsor has undergone can be separated into types. Political, Social and Technological.
The political changes are things such as Windsor being turned to stone, this was a decision made by the King, Henry II at the time, due to the increased warfare in England during the middle-ages, Windsor being used as a jail during the civil war in the 1600’s this was a political change because the war was between two political groups; the Parliamentarians and the Royalists, Windsor was changed twice more, to a baroque palace by Charles II then to a fairytale castle by George IV, these changes are political because as the Kings changed so did the castle as they wanted different things, some wanted a defensive castle while others wanted a lavish place to live , A social change is a change that happened to do with society / people and example of this is the reason why William built the castle in the first place; to stop them revolting, Windsor was also changed because Charles I was beheaded there, this still effects the castle today as there are many kings & queens buried there, adding to the things that people come to see. Finally some examples of technological changes are Windsor being changed to stone (as well as a political change) as it went from being wooden to stone, Henry VIII added murder holes to the Norman gateway, George IV added the cone shaped roof and the rectangular tower being changed to what it now. Windsor castle has undergone many changes over the nearly 1000 years since its construction, from a Motte & Bailey, to a stone keep from a prison to a fairytale castle as now a partial royal residency and world famous tourist attraction.