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History of Windsor Castle, Part 6
by Evelyn Ingleby


Parliamentary Stronghold

In 1642, the Parliamentary army occupied Windsor and, in the following year, fifty-five political prisoners were lodged here under the command of Colonel Venn, who despoiled the chapel and destroyed the deer in the Great Park. In 1647, Charles I was a prisoner in the palace of his ancestors. After escaping from Hampton Court and being confined in Carisbrooke, he was brought back to Windsor in close custody of Colonel Whichcott. The Governor was allowed 20 a day for his expenses. A month later, in January 1649, he was removed to London. After his execution at Whitehall, there ensued much discussion as to his place of burial, Windsor finally being chosen. A hearse, driven by the King's old coachman and attended by four servants, conveyed the body to Windsor. The Governor refused to allow the use of the burial service in the Book of Common Prayer. With much difficulty, the vault of Henry VIII and Jane, his wife, was discovered. The Duke of Richmond scratched on a piece of lead, "King Charles, 1648," the year being then reckoned to end on the 25th March. The following day, the King's coffin was brought out when, presently, it began to snow and the snow fell so fast that, by the time the corpse came to the west end of the Royal Chapel, the black velvet pall was all white, the colour of innocence, being thick covered with snow." The coffin was placed on two trestles in the vault and the velvet pall thrown in upon it. "Thus went the White King to his grave in the 48th year of his age," without ceremony or religious service. Around the same time, the castle itself was very nearly pulled down. The relevant bill in parliament was defeated by just one vote!

In Charles Il's reign, the State apartments were remodelled, the architect being Sir Hugh May, who probably only carried out the designs of Sir Christopher Wren. Verrio painted the walls and ceilings and Gibbons carved the fittings. The 70,000 voted for a tomb to the memory of Charles I was probably spent in these new buildings. Samuel Pepys visited Windsor in 1666 and was conducted to "where the late King is buried, and King Henry and my Lady Seymour. This being, done, to the King's house and to observe the neatness and contrivance of the house and gates. It is the most romantic castle that is in the World. But Lord! The prospect that is in the balcony that is in the Queen's lodgings, and the terrace and walk, are strange things to consider, being the best in the World, sure; and so, giving a great deal of money to this and that man and woman, we to our tavern and there dined."

James II lived much at Windsor. He alienated his subjects by committing the fatal error of receiving the Papal Nuncio and it was here that the Prince William of Orange held the consultation which resulted in the former's flight. William's sister-in-law, Queen Anne, here gave birth to a child, baptised Anne Sophia, who, dying soon after, was buried in Henry VIII's vault. In 1700, the Duke of Gloucester, the longest lived of all Anne's nineteen children, died at Windsor, to the great grief of the nation. It was in one of the rooms now forming part of the Royal Library of this castle that Queen Anne was sitting, with the Duchess of Marlborough, when the news of the great victory of Blenheim arrived.

Part 7: Georgian Phoenix

Edited from PH Ditchfield's "Bygone Berkshire" (1896)

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