Windsor Castle: take a look at the historic building the Queen will spend Christmas in

The monarch has seen out a lot of the year at this royal residence...

Windsor Castle
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This Christmas - as it will for all of us - will look a little different for the Queen and her husband Prince Philip, as they will now be spending the festive season at Windsor Castle, rather than their usual Sandringham.

Queen and Prince Philip

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Windsor Castle is one of four homes the Queen uses (the others being Sandringham House in Norfolk, Balmoral in Scotland, and of course, Buckingham Palace). The castle is the oldest and largest in the world, covering 26 acres of land.

Windsor is arugably where the monarch spends most of her time, using it as her base at the weekend and as a home near London. She also conducts official duties there too, often hosting guests in the many reception rooms.

But this year, she has spent more time at the Berkshire castle than ever, and she was also isolating there during the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown, after being pulled out of royal duties. It was also the place where the Queen and Prince Philip celebrated his 99th birthday too this year. 

And Windsor is also where the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh have chosen to spend the Christmas period 'quietly' alone this year. They would typically return to Sandringham for the festive season, where they would host their entire family - but given the ongoing coronavirus, have decided to take a different course in 2020. 

Windsor Castle

So what is the royal home where the Queen and Prince Philip have spent most of their year (and where the likes of Prince Harry and Princess Eugenie got married), like inside? How many rooms does it have, and why does the Queen like it so much?

When was Windsor Castle built?

Windsor Castle has been in the hands of successive monarchs for over 1,000 years, and lived in continuously throughout that time.

But it was William the Conquerer who first took up residence there, choosing the site for his castle because it sat high up above the River Thames and next to a Saxon hunting ground.

The castle was later extended by Edward III, and it was even used as the headquarters for various Parliamentarian commanders in 1642, during the Civil War.

Windsor Castle

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in the 1840s, were said to love Windsor, and spent much of their time. Before them, the castle was simply a private home, but during Victoria's reign, they opened up the State Apartments for public visits.

Windsor is also where the current Queen and her sister, Princess Margaret, were sent during the Second World War as children, whilst their parents remained in London.

Windsor Castle is also the site where ten former monarchs are buried, given the vast expansive grounds.

Who lives at Windsor Castle now?

Currently the Queen and Prince Philip live at Windsor Castle, but in normal years, they only reside there part-time. For the rest of the year, they split their time between the castle, Buckingham Palace, Balmoral and Sandringham.

It's also thought that multiple members of staff live with the royal couple in the castle.

Windsor Castle inside: what is it like in the Queen's home?

The royal Berkshire residence is made up of private rooms for the Queen, Prince Philip, and their family's use, but it also includes public rooms where she conducts royal duties.

And due to the public use of these rooms, glimpses inside the castle are possible through various videos and pictures.On the royal.uk website, you can also take a virtual tour of three rooms - the Waterloo Chamber, Drawing Room, and State Banquet Hall, where many royal events have been held - find them here.

The rooms are elaborately decorated, in deep reds, wood and golds.

The Queen has also recently addressed the nation twice - once on VE Day - in light of the coronavirus pandemic, straight from Windsor Castle, giving us a look into the lavish home.

A photo posted by on

A video on the 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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUDDsZ2I_gk

 

Visit Windsor Castle - is it open to the public?

The castle and all other royal residences were closed for months at the beginning of the year, due to the coronavirus crisis, but the Royal Collection Trust confirmed that Windsor Castle had reopened to the public from 23rd July.

The RCT also told royal fans that visitors will be able to visit the picturesque East Terrace Garden for the first time in decades. Normally, the garden is for the family's private use only, but this year the public could visit every Saturday and Sunday until 27th September.

However, in the later part of 2020, Windsor Castle closed again due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. It is yet to reopen.

In a normal year, amongst the tour of the State Apartments and drawing rooms, visitors will also get a chance to see inside St. George's Chapel, which is still a functioning place of worship to this day. For that reason, the chapel is closed to visitors on Sunday, which is when services take place. It is where famous monarchs including Henry VIII are buried, as well as Charles I.

Who owns Windsor Castle?

Windsor Castle is owned by the Crown Estate, meaning its ownership will pass from monarch to monarch.

This means that the current Queen Elizabeth II doesn't technically own the residence herself.

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, privately owned by the royal family. Home Park is made up of extensive green space, as well as two working farms. It's also where the private school, St. George's, is located, as well as where some private royal residences are - including Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan's UK home - Frogmore Cottage.

Home Park also houses the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore, which is the final resting place of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Windsor Great Park

The famous, 2-mile Long Walk - which Meghan Markle travelled up on her wedding day - is also set within the lush grounds of the castle. The royal family famously travel in a procession to Royal Ascot via this route every year.

Windsor Castle

Adjoining the Home Park is Windsor Great Park - which encompasses 5,000 acres of land. These grounds are free for the public to explore, and are full of ancient woodland and award-winning gardens. Prince Philip is actually the Ranger of Windsor Great Park!

How much is Windsor Castle worth?

As a castle smack bang in one of the most expensive areas in the UK, Windsor is probably just as eye-wateringly expensive as you may think.

Although it'll likely never be up for sale, a 2017 report states that Windsor Castle is worth around £236 million.