We never lived in Windsor, but the town, in the Royal County of Berkshire, was one of our favourite days out when we lived by Heathrow Airport. As the American tourist said ‘Why did they build a royal castle so close to the airport?’ – old joke. Along with many tourists and local families we enjoyed all it has to offer. ‘Long Walks in the Great Park’ – From the Castle gate to the foot of the statue of King George III (The Copper Horse) The Long Walk measures 2.64 miles in length. But the Windsor Great Park extends far beyond what you can see from the castle.
Windsor also has a theatre, a swimming pool, good shopping and the River Thames. A foot bridge takes you over the river to Eton where the famous school is spread out as part of the little town. You can also take a peaceful walk along the riverside very different from the bustle on the Windsor side.
You can go by train from Waterloo and arrive at Windsor and Eton Riverside station, or take the little line built for Queen Victoria, a one stop ride from Slough station ( direct line from Paddington ) which takes you into the heart of the designer shopping centre and exits opposite the castle.
Before the terrible castle fire in 1992 more of the castle grounds were free to the public to wander. We used to take our young children for a walk and show Australian visitors around. Under the archway, past the chapel, stroll up the hill. Our two year old once dashed into the guard room and was chased out by the guards. One side of the castle faces the town, but walk downhill to the river and the castle is high above you on a steep bank. When our daughter was a toddler she nearly gave a Japanese tourist a heart attack; he gasped in horror as she raced towards the turreted wall on the steep side of the grounds. She didn’t topple over, it was a safe height. Another time we peered through a gate and saw Princess Diana bring her two little boys out to watch the soldiers parading.
When we moved away from Heathrow we still visited Windsor on mini breaks to see our friends, usually staying at The Windsor Trooper, a great little old pub with bed and breakfast; bedrooms slightly crooked with sloping floors.
‘In 1917, the name of the royal house was changed from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor because of anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom during World War I. There have been four British monarchs of the House of Windsor since then: George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II.’
Windsor Castle made the perfect setting for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, especially for the many of us who know Windsor well. The Duke apparently did not want a fuss and got his wish as the long miles of procession and crowd lined streets had to be scaled down to a ceremony within the castle precincts; a dignified walk down the hill with socially distanced military bands lined up with precision on the immaculate green.
The Band of the Grenadier Guards led the funeral procession and family members followed, Princess Anne in a long black coat and the men in morning suits. Following a coffin on foot seems dignified and respectful and it’s always good to see men smartly dressed. The Queen followed in her limousine.
I get nervous when I see The Queen walking unsteadily by herself, especially that day as she stepped out of her car and I wondered why she could not have formed a new bubble. Any other very elderly lady with strapping sons and grandsons would surely have been offered a strong arm to lean on. The Duke was her bubble, but she still has HMS Bubble, the loyal staff who have been on duty three weeks on three weeks off at the castle looking after the royal couple. Dog lovers will be glad to hear that The Queen, despite deciding a while ago not to breed or acquire any more dogs, has done what lots of people have in covid lockdown and acquired two puppies, a corgi and a dorgie, which she enjoys walking.
Inside the chapel were the regulation thirty guests and the emptiness perhaps enhanced the beautiful singing of the choir of four and the playing of the trumpeters. The royal family stuck by all the current funeral rules; we cannot compare their splendidly choregraphed event with bleak funerals at the local crem., livestreamed from one camera, but like other grieving widows The Queen sat by herself. After the service the family all strolled up the hill in the sunshine, ignoring the unnecessary fleet of cars lined up for them, though of course The Queen returned in her limousine. I like to think that once back in the royal apartments they all ripped off their masks and didn’t bother with social distancing!
Whether you watched the funeral avidly live on television and followed the highlights in the news later, or avoided all mention of it, there was more to the Duke of Edinburgh than most of us realised. The
blanket comprehensive coverage of his life revealed a refugee from a broken home who saw real active service in the second world war. A life that did become privileged, but how many of us would want their whole life mapped out? Unlike lots of rich people he used his position to make a difference. He highlighted the plight of wildlife long before others were interested and created the Duke of Edinburgh Award to give ordinary teenagers the chance to take on all sorts of challenges. Those from a variety of countries who have spoken about meeting The Duke and how the award changed their lives will remember him and not the many politicians and world leaders who come and go.
Did you watch the funeral? Have you visited Windsor? Have you met any of the royal family?