A Royal Tour of Berkshire

Berkshire is a country with many ties to the Royal Family, not least because it’s the home of Windsor Castle, the Queen’s weekend residence and the largest working castle. In honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we take a look at some of the royal connections in the Royal County of Berkshire.

Windsor Castle

The largest occupied castle in the world and the longest-occupied palace in Europe, Windsor Castle was initially built in the 11th Century by William the Conqueror just after 1066. It was part of a ring of fortifications he built around London to act as nearby reinforcements in case of a crisis in the capital. It was a wooden castle at this point, with the first stone keep built in the 12th Century. 

The first monarch to use the castle as a residence was Henry I and it has played an important role in Royal life ever since, with its size and grandeur growing over the centuries as successive Kings added elements like the famous Norman Gate and St George’s Chapel. It was often used as a safe haven during times of trouble, though the English Civil War saw Windsor Castle captured and looted. Charles I was held under arrest there and buried without ceremony in the vault beneath the Chapel after his execution.

After squatters lived in it during the Interregnum it was restored under the reign of Charles II and it remained a significant residence for the Royal Family thereafter. It has always held an important place in Queen Elizabeth II’s heart, which was evident after the fire in 1992 that did major damage to the Upper Ward, one of the events that led her to describe that year as her ‘Annus Horribilis’. 

Windsor Castle has seen several major Royal events over the last few years, including the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh, which has cemented its place as one of the biggest Royal tourist attractions along with Buckingham Palace.

You can visit Windsor Castle and see the State Apartments, St George’s Chapel, witness the Changing of the Guards and see some of the many famous paintings and artworks on display.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Great Park

Formerly the private hunting ground for Kings while in residence at Windsor Castle, the Great Park was handed over for public usage during the reign of George III. One of its most famous aspects is the road and avenue of trees known as The Long Walk, which leads to the Castle from The Copper Horse, a statue of George III dating back to 1829.

In the early 20th century, it was often used as an airfield, including by the Duke of Edinburgh who made his first solo flight from there in 1952, while it was used for housing troops and farming land during the World Wars. The park opened properly to the public for recreational usage in the 1950s and has hosted Scout and Girlguiding camps as well as being used as a filming location for Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Windsor Great Park

Ascot Racecourse

Best known for hosting Royal Ascot, which is the centrepiece of the British summer social calendar, Ascot Racecourse, (located close to our Sunningdale Park development) has a long history of association with the Royals, having been founded by Queen Anne in 1711. Apparently, she came across the land while out riding from Windsor Castle and identified it as a prime location for horse racing. She attended the first ever meeting there on 11th August 1711.

Her role in its creation is marked every year with the Queen Anne Stakes acting as the opening race for Royal Ascot. Queen Elizabeth first attended Ascot in 1945 when she was 19 and hasn’t missed a Royal meeting there since becoming queen. Traditionally she presents the trophies for The Gold Cup and The Diamond Jubilee Stakes and in 2013 her filly Estimate actually won The Gold Cup, which was the first time a reigning monarch had won the race.

Royal Ascot is of course about more than horses, with the centrepiece being the Royal Procession at 2pm every day, a tradition started by George IV that sees the monarch and Royal Family arrive down the straight mile to the sound of the national anthem. With a strict dress code for the Royal Enclosure and Queen Anne Enclosure, Royal Ascot is a real society event with particular attention given to hats worn by the ladies.

Ascot Racecourse

More royal connections in Berkshire

Eton College - A world-famous public school that has been attended by several Royals, including Princes William and Harry, as well as many British Prime Ministers.

Reading Abbey - Founded by Henry I in 1121, this abbey was one of the largest monasteries in Europe and was often visited by Royals until it was mostly destroyed in 1538 by Henry VIII. The ruins are able to be visited, having been restored in recent years.

So, there you have it, a roundup of Berkshire royal connections to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee and the longest reigning monarch in British history. 

If you’re interested in making this royal county your new home, take a look at our current developments in Berkshire