Imagining life as a royal: Exploring Windsor Castle

Sometimes I like to imagine that I’m someone else. I daydream that I’m living a different life in someone else’s shoes and I think ‘If I was them, imagine my life!’

Sometimes I idolise people. For example – ‘If I was Jessica Ennis, imagine all the glory I’d feel after the Olympics!’

Sometimes I despise celebrities. ‘Imagine if I was Kim Kardashian and wanted to name my unborn baby Khrist. What the hell?!’

Double-Barrelled Travel Windsor Castle

Hmmm… what would it feel like to be part of the Queen’s Guard?

But sometimes I struggle to imagine what life might be like for someone famous, and I’m stumped when it comes to the Queen. Imagine never ever having gone to the supermarket in your life. Or picture what it would be like to own one of the largest collections of diamonds in the world. Think about what it’d be like to have the media follow you since birth.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to imagine it.

My recent trip to Windsor castle, with Mind the Gap tours, reinforced how far away I am from ever being able to imagine living that kind of lifestyle. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. The royal family has lived in the castle, in some form or another, for nearly 1,000 years. Currently more than 150 staff members live inside its grounds and more than 300 people work there each day. But before you get swept away into envisioning what it’d be like to work for the Queen, consider that in the past the Queen has come under criticism for paying her staff lower than the minimum wage. Not so attractive now, is it?

Double-Barrelled Travel Windsor Castle

One of the residences where the Queen’s staff live. I’m sure you’d impress your friends if you told them you lived in a tower!

High salary or not, Windsor castle would be an impressive place to work. It’s so beautiful that Hitler himself gave orders not to bomb Windsor because he wanted to keep the castle as his country residence if he won the war.

There certainly is something magical about Windsor castle. As you walk up the path to its entrance, the main tower is grand and imposing. When I went the walk was made all the more impressive by the Royal Standard flag flapping on the mast on top of the tower – a sign that the Queen was in residence.

I counted more than three walls we had to pass through to get inside the grounds, and some of these dated from medieval times and were more than four metres thick. No wonder no army in history has been able to successfully penetrate and conquer Windsor castle.

There used to be a moat that went round the castle but these days it’s been turned into a pretty garden that has been landscaped to perfection.

Double-Barrelled Travel Windsor Castle

Me with my friend Dom in front of Windsor Castle’s tower and its garden

Perfection is also the word I’d use to describe St George’s Chapel, the church housed in the castle’s grounds. It’s called a chapel but it’s more like a cathedral and was designed and built in late Gothic architecture style – my favourite period of historical architecture.

Many royals, most notably Queen Victoria, have been married in the chapel. Prince Charles and Camilla received a blessing there but because they were divorcees they weren’t allowed to wed in the religious space!

Even more significant than the number of royal weddings is the number of royals buried there. Right in the heart of the chapel are Henry VIII and Jane Seymour’s graves.

Double-Barrelled Travel Windsor Castle

St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor castle. The outside is impressive but the inside is even more so.

Something a little less sombre is Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House which sits inside Windsor Castle itself. As a little girl I would’ve been in seventh heaven having something so exquisite to play with, but the dollhouse was actually gifted to Queen Mary when she was an adult because she liked ‘miniatures’.

It is magnificent. Everything is to scale and made out of real materials. The jewels in the safe are real diamonds, the silverware on the tables is real silver and the wine in the bottles in the cellar… well, I can’t vouch for that but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was real too!

Queen Mary's Dolls' House is very impressive - it comes complete with miniature jewels!

Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is very impressive – it comes complete with miniature jewels!

Leading off the dollhouse are the royal chambers and you can explore a number of the castle’s rooms. After visiting Buckingham Palace and Hampton Court Palace, I felt as though once you’ve seen one royal chamber, you’ve seen them all, but there were some impressive pieces inside Windsor castle.

Double-Barrelled Travel Windsor Castle

The Stately Rooms are impressive and include King Henry VIII’s armour.

The State Dining room is magnificent, although it’s rather new. This part of the castle burnt down in 1992 and underwent a major refurbishment to get it back up to scratch. Even so, the dining room can seat up to 160 people on a very long table. The Queen’s staff go to a great effort to lay the table too – it takes more than a day to set it, with 2,000 pieces of silver and more than 960 glasses. And it all has to be exactly aligned!

But my favourite part of the rooms was seeing the bullet that killed Lord Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar. What an amazing token of history.

Double-Barrelled Travel Windsor Castle

The bullet that killed Lord Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar – fascinating!

I was one of the last people to leave the castle that afternoon and as I did I thought to myself that it was the best castle I’d yet to visit in England. It had more splendour than Hampton Court and it was without the crowds of Buckingham Palace.

Yet I was still unable to imagine myself as Queen. They say Windsor Castle is the Queen’s favourite residence. I may not be able to picture myself in the Queen’s shoes, but I can certainly imagine why she favours Windsor castle as her preferable residence.

Double-Barrelled Travel Windsor Castle

It was a bit cold for ice cream but I couldn’t help but take a photo of this cute ice cream van!

What you need to know:

Cost: It costs £17.75 for an adult ticket into the Castle. I can highly recommend doing the Mind the Gap tour of Windsor because the price of entry into the Castle is included in the tour. The best part is that you can skip the queue – when we went the line of people wrapped around the Castle wall so I’m glad we could enter without waiting!

When to go: Check on the Windsor Castle website before you visit, as on some days the Castle is closed. The Queen has the right to close it at last minute if she feels like it, but I believe she only did this once last year, so you should be safe!

How to get there: The easiest way to get to Windsor Castle is by train, and it takes roughly 45 minutes. If you go on the Mind the Gap tour, your train travel is included too.

Mind the Gap tours paid kindly provided us with a complimentary Windsor tour, which included the castle’s entry, but as always, our views are our own. 

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About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

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