With all the focus on the recent royal wedding between Prince Harry and Megan Markle, it’s a perfect time to take a virtual tour of some of Britain’s amazing castles. There’s Windsor, where Harry and Megan were married, and Buckingham in London, but there are many more castles all throughout Great Britain that can take your breath away.
Windsor Castle, located outside London, is the largest inhabited castle in the world, with a permanent staff in residence since the queen and her entourage stay there most weekends. It was built by William the Conqueror, and has continually been inhabited by aristocracy and royalty since then, making it the longest-inhabited castle in Europe.
It has a classic fortification encompassing 13 acres, complete with a small town, a church, a motte and bailey design, and a keep in the center of the castle grounds.
The King Henry VIII Gate is a prominent and attractive entrance to the lower ward of the castle grounds.
St. George’s Chapel has recently gained international fame as the venue for the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Marke in May 2018. The Gothic structure can hold about 800 people for such events. It is the resting place of many kings, queens and other royalty, including Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, George V and George VI and their wives, and it is the planned resting place of the current queen, Queen Elizabeth II and her immediate family members.
Easily the most famous castle in Great Britain, Buckingham Palace is located in Westminister, a small city within London. It has been the main royal residence since Queen Victoria, and now serves as the administrative center for Queen Elizabeth II.
Buckingham Palace itself is an iconic part of the royal image. Tourists from around the world gather to view the royal residence, hoping to catch a glimpse of Prince William or Harry, and have a little fun thinking about what it’s like to be royalty.
Visitors love to see the changing of the guard, a ritual as famous as the palace itself. The Queen’s Guard, in their iconic red jackets and tall bearskin hats, march back and forth in front of the main gate, keeping the queen safe and tradition in tact.
Warwick Castle is an ancient castle originally built at the time of William the Conqueror and reinforced over the next few hundred years as it played vital roles in several wars throughout England’s history. It played a crucial role in the coming to power of the first major royal dynasty, the Plantagenet family.
The castle has iconic medieval features including large towers, the motte and bailey design, and a dungeon complete with torture devices. The castle has daily showcases of castle life including jousting and tournament events. Additionally, exciting amateur but accurate battle reenactments often take place outside and around the castle.
Anyone who has seen Braveheart or is familiar with Scottish history will know how important Stirling Castle is. Stirling Castle is built on a large hill that has been home to fortifications and settlements since at least the third century CE. Some even believe it is where King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table met.
The first castle was constructed around 1110, and was a major center of Scottish government by 1200. Most of the castle structures and fortifications were built in the 1400s and 1500s. Several battles between England and Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence were fought here, including the famed Battle of Stirling Bridge where the outnumbered Scots routed the English. However, success was fleeting and the war continued for several more decades. England and Scotland continued to fight one another until their eventual unification in 1707.
William Wallace, the hero of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, was so famed for his bravery and merciless efforts for Scottish independence that when he was captured by English forces, the King ordered him hanged, drawn and quartered. Wallace is now a Scottish national hero, and the Wallace Monument in Stirling honors his memory.
Hever Castle in Kent, England, has been around since the 1200s and was enlarged and enhanced in the 1400s, with a distinct Tudor influence on the design. The strong Tudor influence can be felt throughout the castle and the grounds, including a Tudor style garden maze.
However, it later fell into disrepair and it wasn’t until American millionaire William Waldorf Astor purchased it that it was renovated for use as his private residence. It was eventually sold and is now open to the public.
It was particularly important in Tudor England, as it is the childhood home of Ann Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII. It was later given to Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of Henry VIII.
British history is much older and broader than even these castles can show, but they are am important and famous part of the history and country. Anyone who wants to really get a feel for the island’s history must make sure to stop at at least one castle!