First established by William the Conqueror around 1080, Windsor Castle is the oldest inhabited castle in the world and one of Britain’s most iconic buildings. It is also a residence of the Queen. In 1992 the castle was devastated by a fire which took fifteen hours to extinguish. But now, one million visitors a year are enjoying the stunning castle following an incredible restoration project.
2017 marks the 25thanniversary of the fire and so the 15th February Royal Mail special stamp issue celebrates Windsor Castle. Six stamps explore the spectacular interior and world-famous exterior of this amazing building.
A British Institution
Windsor Castle is instantly recognisable. It is a British institution which you may think that you are familiar with. But the castle is full of surprises. For instance, did you know that it has 1,000 rooms? The Queen may not always be in residence but 150 staff members are required just to cope with its upkeep. In total, more than 500 people live and work at the castle. There are 300 fireplaces which are tended by a full-time fendersmith and his family have been doing the job for several generations.
A Question of Time
The estate, including Windsor Great Park, also boasts over 450 clocks. When British Summer Time begins, it takes The Queen’s clock maker as long as 16 hours to move every timepiece forward by one hour. At the end of British Summer Time, it takes him 18 hours to put them back one hour because he actually has to move them all forward by 11 hours!
Down in the castle’s cellar there is a world-class collection of wines and champagnes from the most highly regarded vineyards. But now there is a new wine in the cellar and it is a vintage from much closer to home because sparkling wine is being produced on the Windsor Estate. The Queen has turned winemaker and the first 3,000 bottles were recently released. These quickly sold out in spite of the fact that the wine was never for sale in high street wine merchants.
Wine making may sound like an unlikely activity for Windsor but the Queen is not the first monarch to produce wines on the estate. Henry II first cultivated grapes at Windsor Castle in the 12th Century. If you didn’t manage to get your hands on a bottle of the latest vintage, you may have missed a significant financial opportunity because wines from rare vintages can eventually be worth a fortune.
The Family Name
Until 1917, the dynastic name of the British Royal Family was Saxe-Coburg and Gotha but during World War II King George V felt that the family name was bad for the nation’s morale and so he took inspiration from the castle and adopted the name still used by the royals today – Windsor.
There is much more to learn about Windsor Castle and the best way to discover the splendour of this incredible place is to visit the castle and grounds. You can tour the castle year round, except the first two weeks of February when it receives it annual “high clean”. As you admire the décor do spare a thought for the army of cleaners that have to tackle that job!