indsor castle dates back to 1075 when William the Conqueror first built a castle on an existing chalk mound over looking the river Thames. This river was very important in medieval times and was a difficult river to cross. The few places that had crossing points were of strategic importance and so castles were built beside them to control who passed by. Wallingford and Oxford are good examples. Windsor was built where it is because of its commanding position overlooking the river below. Unlike Wallingford and Oxford, which were older Saxon settlements, William chose to build this castle on a new site a couple of miles north of Old Windsor, the existing nearby Saxon settlement.

Early Norman castles were built from wood, but it seems that at Windsor, because the base of the mound was so strong, a stone castle was used early in its development. The castle that William built consisted of a wooden shell keep built around the mound, and two baileys, one to the east of the mound, and one to the west. Arundel is an example of another castle that has two baileys. The western bailey at Windsor is lower than the eastern one.

Henry I made improvements to Windsor Castle so that it could be used for the first time as a royal residence. He held court there in 1110 and married his second wife Adeliza of Louvain in its chapel. During his reign the wooden keep on the motte was replaced by stone. Between 1173 and 1179 Henry II spent time and money improving the keep again. The height of the keep was raised and the walls around the baileys were rebuilt.

During the reign of John, the castle was besieged twice, first in around 1193 when a minor siege occurred. In 1216 Prince Louis and a French army invaded the south of England. The French had been invited to England by rebels who were opposing King John's rule and were needed to help overthrow the King. Windsor castle along with Dover and Lincoln held out against the French, but Windsor was left badly damaged by the attack. After John died his son Henry III became king of England. Henry repaired the damage that had been inflicted during his father's reign.

Edward III is famous for making Windsor Castle the home of the Order of the Garter and the Round Table. This order of knights was created in 1344 based on the legendary stories of King Arthur and revolved around great feasts and tournaments. A huge wooden circular building was constructed in the eastern bailey to celebrate the Order's creation. After the death of Edward in 1377 the castle remained unchanged for almost a hundred years.

In 1400 the castle again came under attack. This time from the enemies of King Henry IV. Henry had deposed Richard II and not everyone was happy with this. The attackers managed to enter the castle through a postern gate in January of 1400 while the King celebrated Christmas. But the King had been warned of the attack and escaped to London. The rebels were caught a few days later and killed.


Windsor Castle Key Facts
CountyBerkshire (2 castles)
CategoriesMotte & Bailey / Stone / Shell Keep
Originally constructed in the time of William the Conqueror. This motte and bailey castle with two baileys has seen a huge number of improvements over the centuries. The wooden keep being replaced by a stone shell keep. Extensive living quarters being built in both the upper and lower baileys. A magnificent chapel built by Edward IV.
OwnershipRoyal castle
Windsor Castle became a royal residence in the reign of Henry I who built accommodation suitable for this role. The castle has been an important residence of medieval kings and queens. Windsor castle still plays an important role for the current Royal family.
RemainsExcellent remains
Access to siteOnly open at certain times
TimeRef Rating
TimeRef Comments
Plan to spend at least half a day at Windsor castle. Lots of see and if you are lucky the Royal family may be in residence. As this is a working castle some areas may be off limits at certain times so it's best to check before visiting.


YearMonthEvent
1075   Construction of Windsor Castle
 Construction of Windsor castle started by William the Conqueror.

Episode: Norman Conquest  
1110   Windsor Castle becomes a royal residence
 Henry I had improvements made to Windsor Castle, including a chapel, so that he could use the castle as his formal residence.[1] 
1121 Jan 24  Henry I marries Adeliza
 Henry I married Adeliza of Louvain at Windsor Castle. Adeliza was his second wife. They did not have any children.[2] 
1173 - 1179 Remodelling of Windsor Castle
 Henry II carried out major rebuilding work at Windsor Castle, including raising the height of the keep and improved the walls around the bailey. He added towers to the walls and built himself a house, the basement of which survives. 
1175 Oct 6  Treaty of Windsor
 A treaty signed by Henry II and Rory O'Connor allowing O'Connor control of the areas of Ireland other than Leinster, Meath, Waterford and Dublin which were controlled by the English King. O'Connor agreed to pay Henry an annual sum of money and to provide one hide from each ten animals slaughtered every year.[3]

Episode: Conquest of Ireland  
1185 Apr  John is knighted
 John is knighted by his father at Windsor Castle before travelling to Ireland. 
1210 Jun 10  John lands in Ireland
 John landed at Waterford looking for the rebel baron William de Braose who had fled to Ireland. John took the opportunity to visit his lands in Ireland receiving homage from the Irish Chieftains. de Braose fled but his wife and son were captured, taken back to England and starved to death in Windsor Castle. 
1216 Jun  Prince Louis advances across England
 Prince Louis advanced on Winchester and captured the city and its castle. Elsewhere, Windsor Castle and Dover Castle were besieged by the rebel barons. Both castles were defended and held out against the sieges. King John used Corfe Castle in the south-west as his base of operations while he planned his campaign against the rebel barons and Prince Louis.

Episode: The First Barons' War  
1255 Oct  Edward and Eleanor return to England
 After the marriage at a Cistercian convent in Castile, Edward and Eleanor returned via Dover to England. Eleanor lived initially at Windsor Castle. 
1311 Christmas  Edward and Gaveston at Windsor
 Gaveston appeared openly at Windsor where the King celebrated Christmas.[4]

Episode: Edward II and Piers Gaveston  
1312 Nov  Future Edward III is born
 Edward the future king of England was born at Windsor Castle and was known as Edward Windsor. 
1340   Building work at Windsor Castle
 The Round Tower was rebuilt at Windsor Castle. 
1344 Jan 19  First Round Table at Windsor
 A jousting tournament at Windsor castle may have been the time of the creation of the Order of the Garter based on the King Arthur's knights of the Round Table. A huge circular hall was built within the grounds of the castle just for the event. The hall is supposed to have been 200 feet in diameter. The formal creation of the Order occurred later in 1348. [2] 
1348 Apr 23  Creation of the Order of the Garter
 On St. George's Day at Windsor Castle, the Order of the Garter was created. The initial Knights of the Order were: The King (Edward III); the Prince of Wales (The Black Prince); Henry, Earl (afterwards Duke) of Lancaster; Thomas Beauchamp, 3rd Earl of Warwick; the Captal of Buch; Ralph, Lord Stafford; Motacute, Earl of Salisbury; Sir Roger Mortimer; Sir John (afterward Lord) Lisle; Sir Bartholomew (afterwards Lord) Burghershe; Sir John Beauchamp; Lord Mohun; Sir Hugh Courtenay; Sir Thomas Holland; Lord Grey; Sir Richard FitzSimon; Sir Myles Stapleton; Sir Thomas Wales; Sir Hugh Wrottesley; Sir Neel Loryng; Sir John Chandos; Sir James Audley; Sir Otho Holland; Sir Henry Eam; Sir Sanchete d'Ambrichecourt; and Sir Walter Paveley.[2] 
1358 Apr 23  A Splendid Tournament at Windsor
 To celebrate St. George's day Edward III held a large tournament at Windsor Castle. Edward, the Black Prince, oversaw the proceedings in which kings and nobles from all over Europe were given safe passage to take part in. 
1362 Jul  The Black Prince is given Gascony
 Edward III transferred control of Gascony to his eldest son, the Black Prince. Edward the Black Prince had just married Joan of Kent at Windsor and together they created a magnificent court in Bordeaux.

Episode: Edward III - The Hundred Years War  
1400 Jan  A plot to kill the new King
 Supporters of Richard II planned to attack King Henry during a tournament held over Christmas at Windsor Castle. The plot was betrayed by Edward, Earl of Rutland, son of the Duke of York. Henry and his family escaped to London, and by the time the king returned to Windsor with an army, the rebels had been dealt with by local people.[5] 
1438 Qtr 1  Owen Tudor escapes
 Somehow Owen escaped from the Newgate prison along with his priest and servant but was soon recaptured and sent to Windsor Castle. 
1439 Jul  Owen Tudor is pardoned
 Owen Tudor was pardoned for all crimes he had been accused of and released from Windsor Castle. He was taken in by the King and given a regular income. Owen and his sons proved to be faithful Lancastrian supporters. 
1477   Work starts on St. George's Chapel
 The construction of the massive church at Windsor Castle was begun by Edward IV. The church was not completed until 1528 in the reign of Henry VIII some fifty years later. 
Early Modern Period (1500-1800)
1537 Oct 24  Jane Seymour dies
 Jane Seymour died after complications with the birth of Edward VI. She was buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Episode: Henry VIII and his Six Wives  
1642 Nov 4  Prince Rupert attacks Windsor Castle
 In early November Charles took Reading while Prince Rupert was attacking Windsor Castle. Prince Rupert's efforts failed so he turned his attention south to Brentford dealing the Parliamentary forces a heavy blow. Charles' next objective was to take London but the Londoners put an army together. When the Londoners' army was reinforced with the army of the Earl of Essex there was a standoff. The Royalist and Parliamentary armies faced each other at Turnham Green but Charles was outnumbered and chose to withdraw. 

Motte and Bailey Castles

Virtual reconstruction

The Norman Conquerors built their castles in locations where they could keep control of the local populations of Saxons or at important locations such as river crossings or on key roads. Many motte and bailey castles were built on the border with Wales to try and keep the Welsh at bay. The advantage of this type of castle was that it was quick to construct. Making a fortification from wood was much easier than making one of stone.

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