Windsor has long been associated with the British monarchy. Old Windsor had royal connections dating back to the eighth century, and there was a royal manor there. Eton existed on the other side of the river as far back as Saxon times. New Windsor (as it was officially called until 1974) began to appear when William the Conqueror built a strategic fort on a mound high above the Thames around the year 1070.
The Castle did not become a royal residence until 1110, when Henry I held court here. As a result, the town of Windsor developed and today’s streets are in much the same format as when first constructed. On account of its proximity to the Castle, the town grew and prospered financially, especially in the 16th century. When King Richard III moved the bones of Henry VI to St George’s Chapel to attract pilgrims there in 1484, this gave a further great boost to the town’s well being.
There was then a period of gradual decline until George IV, that far-sighted and stylish Hanoverian monarch, began to remodel the Castle in 1824, the work lasting 15 years and requiring building and decorational work, giving great employ to the artisans of the town.
The arrival of the Great Western Railway in 1849, a line that still operates to this day, meant that Windsor became more accessible to London so that people could live in Windsor and be employed in the capital. Property developers such as James Bedborough (1787-1860) laid out fine Regency streets and the beautiful Georgian crescent, Clarence Crescent was one of his creations. Windsor Bridge was built in 1822, linking the town to Eton.
Most British monarchs have lived in Windsor Castle, which is now considered to be the oldest inhabited royal residence in the world. Amongst its great benefactors have been Edward III, who founded the Order of the Garter in 1348, Edward IV, who began the building of the present St George’s Chapel in 1475, Henry VIII who completed it, Charles I who commissioned so many works of art, notably from Van Dyk, Charles II who restored the Castle after the Cromwell inter-regnum, and George IV who remodelled so much of it, adding height to the Round Tower, and creating the Castle’s façade leading to the Long Walk.
George III was a long time resident of the Castle, and spent the long years of his illness in what is now the Print Room, overlooking the North Terrace. Queen Victoria was often at the Castle, Edward VII less so, whereas George V and Queen Mary occupied it a lot. As stated, George VI and Queen Elizabeth preferred to make their home at Royal Lodge, but since 1952, it has been home to The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, the Castle being more homely than Buckingham Palace, with its hotel-like corridors and its numerous offices.
Windsor has seen many great occasions, military parades, Garter processions, equestrian events and occasions of celebration and of sorrow. Above all, in the present reign, it has provided The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh with a home in which they could relax with their family, watch the younger generations grow up, entertain their friends as well as important State Visitors, all in a magnificent castle set in a huge and substantial park.
The Queen’s Walkway serves as a celebration of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, since 9 September the longest reign in British history. It seeks to further unite The Queen and the Royal Family with the town of Windsor, for the many who live there and the many who visit it are conscious and respectful of the monarch who has lived there for over 63 years. They are pleased to see the Royal Standard flying from the Round Tower, and by and large they relish the disruptions to traffic of the Changing of the Guard, or the occasional state procession.