Buckingham Palace may be thought of as the home of the British Royal Family for many people around the world, but in fact, the kings and queens of England have historically enjoyed a number of palaces, castles and sumptuous homes scattered around their regal realm. 

While ‘Buck House’ may be the world-famous headquarters, another famous royal residence – Windsor Castle – is a family favourite for many of England’s royals. 

It’s well known that Queen Elizabeth II was the castle’s most famous residence in recent years. The late Queen of England used the royal palace as a home-from-home, often retreating to the rural charm of Windsor at weekends, after a week of official duties at Buckingham Palace in the nation’s vibrant capital city of London. 

Yet, it’s not just the royal residents who love this architectural jewel in England’s crown, Windsor Castle is a much-loved and popular location for both royals and tourists alike, with many castle-lovers and royal followers flocking to its ancient and historic site every year. And even more people are equally fascinated from afar, with searches for Windsor Castle Facts being a popular search term online. 

So, here are some interesting and surprising facts about Windsor Castle and its famous royal residents. 

Interesting Windsor Castle Facts

The Largest Occupied Castle In The World

Despite its age – the castle is almost 1000 old – Windsor castle is still a working palace and an official royal residence. It’s often used as the site for formal duties of the monarch, along with a base for members of the royal family. 

While the castle is still very much a home for England’s royals, the Windsor Estate has an enduring appeal for other members of the British Royal Family. 

The Prince and Princess of Wales have recently relocated to a home in the Windsor Estate, as their children are attending school nearby. 

The Prince of Wales’s brother, Prince Harry, and his family also have a residence in Windsor Estate – the famous 10-bedroomed Frogmoor Cottage that made headlines for its recent renovations. 

The grounds of Windsor have also been the location of other famous royals. The former Prince of Wales who would become king – Prince Edward, later King Edward VIII, spent a period of his bachelor years in a royal lodge called Fort Belvedere in Windsor Great Park. It was a location that featured in the former king’s courtship of the woman at the heart of the abdication scandal in 1936, Wallace Simpson. 

It’s also believed that the royal legacy of the home may enter a new chapter with rumours of the new Prince of Wales, Prince William, considering the quirky lodge as a potential home for his family. 

The historic ties and buildings of Royal Windsor go back centuries and it seems that the appeal of this charming corner of England is as strong for the modern royals as it has been for the kings and queens of the ages. 

The Original House Of Windsor

Perhaps the most historic claim to fame of this iconic royal residence is its legacy as the name of the current British Royal Family, which is now known as the House of Windsor. 

Before the outbreak of the First World War, the recent kings and queens of England were members of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, which was founded in 1826. 

Yet, in the period before the Great War, it was decided to change the name of England’s royals to something more English-sounding, as a way to divert attention away from the royal family’s ties with Germany amid the hostilities. 

The name chosen to represent the new family lineage of the great royals of Great Britain was Windsor – named after the ancient and beloved Windsor Castle. 

The Fire & Annus Horribilis

In her Christmas Speech in 1992, the famously stoic Queen Elizabeth made a rare foray into sharing her emotions in front of the global audience. 

She described her year as an ‘annus horribilis’ – meaning a year of disaster or misfortune – after a number of personal tragedies. 

While some of the late queen’s trials were related to the scandals and failing marriages of her children, there was another heartbreaking event for the queen that year: the fire at Windsor Castle. 

An 1848 lithograph of the Private Chapel by Joseph Nash, the location where the fire started – Joseph Nash (1809–78), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Watching a fire tear through a beloved home must be traumatic for everyone, but when that home is also the site of centuries of history, priceless artworks and historic architecture, it’s no wonder the queen was so devastated to witness the Windsor Castle fire. 

It’s been estimated that the repairs and loss of the fire amounted to over £36 million, yet it’s also clear that the royal family also felt a personal loss on an emotional level that could never be compensated. 

A Queen In Lockdown

Windsor Castle was the chosen royal bolt-hole when Queen Elizabeth retreated from London during the pandemic in 2020. 

Aside from the queen’s reported fondness for the castle, it’s likely that the location was a good solution for her duties during that challenging period. 

Windsor is located about a 90-minute drive from London, which means that should the need arise, any royal residents can be back within the capital relatively quickly. 

At the same time, Windsor is far enough away from the London metropolitan area, which saw some alarming infection rates during the peak of the pandemic. 

This geographical sweet spot may explain why the Queen chose Windsor as her Lockdown Lodgings, along with her clear enjoyment of this unique residential castle and its beautiful grounds.  

A Final Resting Place

After a lifetime of happy times and fond memories set against the backdrop of Windsor Castle, it’s a poignant fact that it was to become Queen Elizabeth II’s final resting place. 

When the late queen died in 2022, after her final travels through the country she loved, one that so clearly loved and revered their sovereign in return, Queen Elizabeth was laid to rest in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. 

The late queen shares her final resting place with her father and her mother, as well as her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh who died just a year before his wife. 

Queen Elizabeth’s sister, the late Princess Margaret died in 2002 and her ashes are also interred in the chapel at Windsor Castle. 

While these Windsor Castle Facts provide a fascinating glimpse into one of England’s great royal residences, there’s no substitute for visiting the place in person. Hopefully, these insights have inspired you to book your visit and join the many millions who have come to know and love this historic ancient castle.