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8-08-2015, 14:25

Windsor Castle

Whether in ruins or pleasantly restored, castles today can still seem just as dream-like. Windsor Castle, as seen in an early photograph by the Scottish architectural photographer George Washington Wilson, presents a romantic image beside the river Thames (see Figure 2). Windsor Castle’s lofty tower and mighty walls make this stronghold a symbol of royal and feudal power. Within these walls stands the chapel of St. George, who remains patron saint of England even though the Catholic Church no longer recognizes George as a saint. Windsor Castle is the home of the English royal family. William the Conqueror built a timber castle beside the Thames after his victory over the Anglo-Saxons in 1066. Remodeling and modernizing have continued at the castle ever since. Henry II replaced the original wood and earthen structure with stone in the twelfth century, and Henry III finxl ished the stone walls and towers in the thirteenth century. In the next century Edward III added fine residential buildings and a chapel dedicated to St. George. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I sometimes lived in the castle, and Charles II ordered the architect Hugh May and the master sculptor Grinling Gibbons to modernize the living areas after the seventeenth-century civil war. In the eighteenth century James Wyatt and in the nineteenth century his nephew Sir Jeffry Wyatville modernized the castle yet again. They created the “Gothicized” buildings we see today. At the end of the twentieth century, a devastating fire engulfed St. George’s Hall, which has now been rebuilt. Were castles really as rough and rugged as their owners? The answer seems to be, “not necessarily.” Castles were indeed rough and rugged fortresses, the product of an essentially elite, masculine warrior society, what today we call a feudal society. But they were also among the finest buildings of their times—secure, well-built residences that supported the complex rituals of noble life. To understand how castle form came to meet castle function, we must look briefly at the castle’s social and economic underpinnings.