Who lives at Windsor Castle now, what’s it like inside and when was the historic Berkshire home built?

Windsor Castle is close to several other royal residences and was the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II before her death

Visitors look around Windsor Castle's East Terrace Garden as it prepares to open to the public at Windsor Castle on August 05, 2020 in Windsor, England. This is the first time in over forty years the gardens have been open to the public.
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Queen Elizabeth II spent a huge amount of time at Windsor Castle in her final years including over her milestone Platinum Jubilee weekend.  

The Union flag is lowered on Windsor Castle as a rainbow covers the sky on September 08, 2022 in Windsor, England. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born in Bruton Street, Mayfair, London on 21 April 1926. She married Prince Philip in 1947 and acceded the throne of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth on 6 February 1952 after the death of her Father, King George VI. Queen Elizabeth II died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on September 8, 2022, and is survived by her four children, Charles, Prince of Wales, Anne, Princess Royal, Andrew, Duke Of York and Edward, Duke of Wessex.

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In recent years Windsor Castle has gone from being just one of many majestic royal residences to perhaps the one now most closely associated with the late Queen Elizabeth II. In her final years, the monarch continued to spend time at her Scottish home Balmoral and at Sandringham House in Norfolk, but in March 2021, it was announced that Windsor Castle would be her official main residence - instead of Buckingham Palace.

Windsor is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and one where she spent a huge amount of time since the pandemic and her husband Prince Philip's death. Her Majesty also lit the principal beacon for her Platinum Jubilee celebrations there before returning to London days later for a final Buckingham Palace balcony appearance to round off the historic weekend. 

So who lives at Windsor Castle now, what’s it like inside and who built this beautiful building? We reveal what you need to know about the Queen’s Berkshire home. 

Who lives at Windsor Castle now?

Queen Elizabeth II is joined by one of her dogs, a Dorgi called Candy, as she views a display of memorabilia from her Golden and Platinum Jubilees in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle on February 4, 2022 in Windsor, England. The Queen has since travelled to her Sandringham estate where she traditionally spends the anniversary of her accession to the throne - February 6 - a poignant day as it is the date her father King George VI died in 1952.

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Up until just a few years ago, no members of the extended Royal Family lived permanently at Windsor Castle - including the late Queen. Instead, she resided at her Berkshire home at only certain times such as Easter for her Easter Court. 

This saw Her Majesty host events for guests, including public figures and politicians as she took up official residence at Windsor Castle for a month. The late monarch also used to live there for a week in June for the Order of the Garter service and Royal Ascot race meeting.

This all changed after the Covid-19 pandemic, however, and since the UK's first lockdown began the Queen has primarily been living at Windsor Castle rather than her London home, Buckingham Palace. 

During the pandemic, she and the late Duke of Edinburgh were understood to have been joined at Windsor by multiple members of staff who came together to form what was dubbed the 'HMS Bubble.' 

It was at Windsor that Queen Elizabeth II spent where Prince Philip was laid to rest in April 2021 at St George's Chapel. After Queen Elizabeth II’s death aged 96 at Balmoral Castle on September 8, 2022, it was confirmed that she'll be buried alongside her late husband.

Queen Elizabeth II attends The Royal Windsor Horse Show at Home Park on May 13, 2022 in Windsor, England

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The Queen's children and adult grandchildren were frequently observed supporting her or representing her across the country and the world, and at Windsor Castle she was also close by to several of them. 

Prince Andrew and his former wife Sarah Ferguson live at the Royal Lodge on the Windsor Estate, and Her Majesty's youngest son Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex reside at Bagshot Park in nearby Surrey.

A aerial view of Windsor Castle and the surrounding area at Windsor Castle

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Meanwhile, royal author Hugo Vickers previously expressed his belief that when it the monarch having spent so much time in Berkshire, it, "makes sense."

“Windsor is the place she loves," he claimed. "She has her memories with Prince Philip there, she has her ponies there and family nearby. It makes sense."

What's it like inside Windsor Castle?

Queen Elizabeth II presents the George Cross to representatives of the National Health Service Mr Peter May, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health and Chief Executive of Health and Social care, and Sister Joanna Hogg, Royal Victoria Hospital Emergency Department, during an Audience at Windsor Castle on July 12, 2022 in Windsor, England.

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The royal Berkshire residence is made up of private rooms for the reigning monarch and the Royal Family to use when they're there, but it also includes public rooms where Britain's reigning monarch, formerly the Queen, conducted her royal duties. It is assumed that King Charles will use the rooms for the same purpose.

Due to the public use of these rooms, glimpses inside the castle are possible through various videos and pictures shared by the royals over the years.

On the Royal Family website, you can also take a virtual tour of three rooms - the Waterloo Chamber, Crimson Drawing Room, and State Banquet Hall - where many magnificent royal events have been held.

Each of these rooms are elaborately decorated with rich red tones, glittering golds and plenty of wood. Meanwhile, a video on the official Royal Family YouTube channel also shared a brilliantly detailed look inside the home, with a look at the incredibly grand State Apartments and St. George's Chapel where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot back in 2018. 

And it's clear just how much history the castle has from the number of meticulously-detailed portraits that line many of the palace walls. The Royal Collection Trust has revealed that the State Apartments also feature displays of both arms and armour as well as silver gilt and sculpture.

When was Windsor Castle built?

As a historic royal palace it's perhaps no surprise that Windsor Castle was built many centuries ago, but some might not have expected it to have been built by none other than William the Conqueror. He's understood to have chosen the site for his castle because of it's position high up above the River Thames and next to a Saxon hunting ground. Though the Norman Conquest leader and monarch reportedly never lived there himself according to the Royal Collection Trust

Instead King William used it as a defensive base at the time and the castle went on to be extended by various monarchs that succeeded him, including Edward III. He is said to have intended Windsor to be the center of his government and his court in the 14th-century.

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret sunbathing outside Windsor Castle

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In the 1840s, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were said to love the palace and reportedly spent the majority of their year at Windsor Castle. Throughout her reign, it was understood to be the principle palace of the British monarchy. 

Windsor is also where the former Queen, Elizabeth II, and her late sister, Princess Margaret, were sent during the Second World War as children, while their parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth remained in London. 

What are Windsor Castle grounds like?

The immediate gardens of Windsor Castle are perhaps not as extensive as you might think, but it's not too much of an issue, considering the vast private and public parkland the residence is surrounded by. Immediately next to the castle is Home Park, private to the Royal Family, which has extensive green space, as well as two working farms. 

It's here that an annual event, said to have been one of the late Queen's favorites, the Royal Windsor Horse Show, is held each year. Home Park also houses the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore, which is the final resting place of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

View of The Long Walk and Windsor Castle

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The famous Long Walk which Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex travelled up on her wedding day is also set within the lush grounds of the castle. And it's a route well-known to the wider Royal Family, who famously travel this way in a procession to Royal Ascot every year. Adjoining the Home Park is Windsor Great Park which encompasses 5,000 acres of land. 

These grounds are free for the public to explore to the full and include ancient woodland and award-winning gardens. During his lifetime Prince Philip was actually the Ranger of Windsor Great Park and oversaw developments including the re-introduction of Red Deer into the Deer Park in 1979. 

A red deer stag is pictured in front of Windsor Castle at sunrise on 17 September 2020

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Who owns Windsor Castle?

Windsor Castle is owned by the Crown Estate, meaning its ownership passes from monarch to monarch rather than being privately owned by the late Queen Elizabeth II. This means the Queen didn't technically own the residence herself, but she had the right to live there as the monarch until her death on September 8, 2022. This is when, as first in the royal line of succession, her son King Charles III became monarch.

Is Windsor Castle open to the public?

The castle is open to the public throughout the year, with tours available to give fans unique insights into the Queen's Berkshire home. These include tours of the State Apartments, Semi-State rooms, and St George's Chapel, where the late Duke of Edinburgh's deeply moving funeral was held in April 2021 and where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's wedding ceremony took place. 

Meghan Markle walks down the aisle in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle

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As explained by the Royal Collection Trust, different tours are available at different times in the year, with the Semi-State rooms only open from autumn to spring, and the castle is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

So anyone hoping to get a glimpse of a particular part of Windsor Castle can check ahead to plan their special visit around these timeframes.

How much is Windsor Castle worth?

The Crimson Drawing Ro0m, Windsor Castle, After Complete Restoration Following The Fire

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Given that Windsor Castle is located in one of the most expensive areas in the UK and is a building of huge historical significance, it's perhaps no surprise that the palace is understood to be worth a staggeringly huge amount. 

According to The National the current estimated market value of Windsor Castle could possibly be around £497.5 million which would reportedly be an increase of 719% between 1350 and 2021.

Although this figure isn't something that has been confirmed by the Crown Estate, given the splendor of the castle and grounds, it's easy to see how valuable it is. 

Amy Hunt

Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist specialising in homes, interiors and hobbies. She began her career working as the features assistant at woman&home magazine, before moving over to the digital side of the brand where she eventually became the Lifestyle Editor up until January 2022. Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards in 2019 for her work on womanandhome.com.