In February 2017 Royal Mail brought out a suite of stamps celebrating Windsor Castle, one of the Queen’s official residences.
Windsor Castle is located to the west of London, in the county of Berkshire. It has been in existence for nearly 1,000 years and is the biggest inhabited castle in the world. The Queen spends most of her weekends there and it is where she and her younger sister, Margaret, were brought up during the Second World War. Perhaps for that reason, Windsor is believed to be the Queen’s favourite home.
Unlike Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle, both of which are owned outright by the Queen, Windsor Castle is managed for the reigning monarch by the Crown Estate (a company created by an Act of Parliament to look after land and property owned by the United Kingdom). Buckingham Palace, Hillsborough Castle, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse are other examples of Crown Estate properties, all official residences of the Queen but not her personal assets.
The Windsor Castle stamp collection includes stamps of various different values, but I only have the first class stamps, of which there are three designs.
It was William the Conqueror who first had the idea of establishing a castle at Windsor. Building began around 1070 and the oldest remaining part of his construction is the mound beneath the castle’s round tower. Despite its name, the tower is not, in fact, round; on the south side it is squared off, although you wouldn’t know that from the picture on the stamp. Over the centuries various monarchs made changes and additions to the castle and the round tower was built during the reign of King Henry II (1133-1189).
During the reign of King George IV (1762-1830) a number of alterations were made to the building to make it look more impressive. These included adding battlements and raising the height of the round tower by 30 feet.
Windsor Castle is surrounded by a large area of parkland known as Windsor Great Park. Leading up to the castle is a broad, tree-lined avenue, 3 miles long, known as the Long Walk. This impressively long approach was the brainchild of King Charles II (1630-1685), who developed it in the 1680s. The stamp depicting the Long Walk doesn’t give an idea of the length of the avenue but it does show the abundance of trees lining the walkway.
The third stamp in my trio features the Norman Gate, originally built during the reign of King Edward III (1312-1377), with alterations made in the 19th Century. Edward III spent enormous sums of money on developing Windsor Castle (apparently the most expensive secular building project of the Middle Ages in England) and the architectural style seen at Windsor today is largely a result of his vision.
Windsor Castle has housed forty monarchs since its initial construction and although it has survived numerous wars and battles, it suffered extensive damage during a terrible fire in 1992. The restoration took five years and cost £37 million. The work was paid for by opening Buckingham Palace to the public and charging people to access parts of Windsor Great Park. The castle employs around 500 staff and receives in the region of a million visitors a year.