Was there a Windsor Castle fire, what really happened and who lives at the late Queen’s beloved Berkshire residence now?

The Crown season 5 opens with shocking scenes of a Windsor Castle fire in 1992, but did this really happen?

Windsor Castle fire explained, the castle is seen here during the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle
(Image credit: Photo by Noam Galai/GC Images via Getty)

A Windsor Castle fire appeared in The Crown season 5 trailer and it might well have left some fans confused about whether this really happened. 

The Crown season 5 is drawing ever nearer and has already attracted a certain amount of attention and controversy regarding potential plot points set to be explored as it continues its fictionalized depiction of the late Queen’s life and reign. Reports have claimed Prince William could be “furious” over Netflix’s decision to include a dramatization of the late Princess Diana’s Panorama interview. Whilst it’s also been suggested that season 5 could include a shocking storyline surrounding Prince Philip’s friend Penny Knatchbull. Since it first started in 2016, fans have often been left wondering how accurate The Crown really is

And some might be asking the same question after The Crown season 5 trailer was released. The trailer opened with scenes of Windsor Castle being engulfed in a fiery inferno. But was there a Windsor Castle fire in 1992, what really happened and who lives there now? We reveal what you need to know…

Was there a Windsor Castle fire in 1992?

Windsor Castle burning, followed by the Queen looking over the decimated palace covered in ashes was the first shocking sight that met the eyes of The Crown fans as they watched the season 5 trailer. And although the hit Netflix show has frequently added dramatic license to historical events, there really was a Windsor Castle fire in 1992.

Aerial view of Windsor Castle after the fire that occurred 3 days before

(Image credit: Photo by Mathieu Polak/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)

Although it’s not yet clear how exactly the show will present the events surrounding the fire, the blaze itself is true to life. It’s thought that this damage to one of her most beloved royal residences played a huge part in the Queen dubbing 1992 her “annus horribilis” or “horrible year”, alongside the breakdown of her children’s marriages.   

What really happened when Windsor Castle caught fire? 

On November 20 - the Queen and Prince Philip’s wedding anniversary - in 1992 a fire broke out at Windsor Castle. According to the Royal Family’s website, the fire started in the Private Chapel and was caused by a spotlight coming into contact with a curtain. From the initial ignition the Windsor Castle fire rapidly spread, with nine principle rooms and over 100 other rooms damaged or destroyed in the fire. This amounted to one-fifth of the area of the castle and an area of 9,000 square meters.  

Windsor Castle still smouldering early on November 21

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Some of the rooms damaged included the State Dining Room and Crimson Dining Room and the fire also destroyed the ceilings of St George’s Hall and the Grand Reception Room. Although the flames were eventually quenched, it took a staggering one-and-a-half million gallons of water over 15 hours to put out the Windsor Castle fire. 

Following this, it took five years for the palace to be restored and required the revival of many traditional crafts. The Duke of Edinburgh chaired the Restoration Committee who guided the process. 

Firemen fighting against fire at Windsor Castle

(Image credit: Photo by Mathieu Polak/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)

In November 1997, the restoration was finally completed - six months ahead of the original schedule. It came in at £3 million below the immense £37 million budget allowed for the project and a lot of the money was reportedly raised thanks to the Queen’s principle London residence, Buckingham Palace.  

Although it’s now hard to imagine a time when the State Rooms there weren’t open to the public, it was the decision to open them to visitors in August and September that helped raise 70% of the restoration revenue.

Flames lick the roof of the Queen's private and state apartments in Windsor Castle

(Image credit: Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

The remaining 30% was made up from savings made in the annual Grant-in-Aid funding from Parliament for maintaining and keeping up the occupied Royal Palaces, with no additional cost to taxpayers. 

Following the restoration being completed, the delighted Queen and Duke of Edinburgh hosted a “thank you” reception in the rooms that had been brought back to their former glory. 

This took place on November 14 and 1,500 contractors attended this unique occasion. A few days later on November 20, the royal couple enjoyed Windsor Castle to the full as they held a ball there to celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary.  

Who lives in Windsor Castle now? 

Currently no-one permanently lives at Windsor Castle, though the palace is owned by the Crown Estate, meaning that it now belongs to King Charles following Queen Elizabeth’s death as it is not privately owned but passes from monarch to monarch. The Queen had the right to live at Windsor Castle and in the past few years before her death in September 2022, she certainly spent much of her time at her beloved Berkshire home, which was widely considered to be one of her favorite residences. 

Horse chestnut and London plane trees lining the Long Walk in front of Windsor Castle

(Image credit: photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)

Earlier in her reign, Windsor Castle was a place the royals would spend Easter and where the Queen held her Easter Court. She hosted guests for events during her month there and she also used to go for a week in June for the Royal Ascot race meeting and Order of the Garter service. 

Now King Charles has the right to live at Windsor Castle, though he’s understood to have currently remained primarily living at Clarence House, where he and Camilla, Queen Consort lived when they were Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.  

Floral tributes are laid out in the grounds ahead of the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle

(Image credit: Photo by Hannah McKay/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Last year The Sunday Times claimed that King Charles isn’t as fond of Windsor Castle as his mother had been as he found living under the Heathrow flight path distracting. Meanwhile, it’s recently been reported that Kate Middleton and Prince William won’t permanently live at Adelaide Cottage but could apparently one day move into Windsor Castle, although this is reportedly quite some way off from happening.   

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use , Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!