Windsor Castle

windsor castle, berkshireWindsor Castle was constructed by William the Conqueror and it is one of the largest castles as well as the oldest continuously occupied castle in the world.

William chose this site because it was a day's march from the Tower of London and it would make a good fortress to guard the western approaches to the capital. It was Henry II in the last third of the 12th century who rebuilt the round Tower in stone instead of the wood in which it had formerly been constructed. 

He also rebuilt the royal apartments on the Upper Ward.  Edward III also extended the castle creating the immense St George's Hall which would be used by the Knights of the Order of the Garter.  

Edward IV began and Henry VIII completed St George's Chapel which is probably one of the finest examples of late mediaeval architecture in Western Europe. Charles I, after his capture by Cromwell was held captive at the castle before being put on trial and executed in London and after his execution, his body was returned for burial in St George's Chapel.

It is also said to be the present Queen's favourite residence and interestingly enough one of the ghosts said to haunt Windsor Castle is that of her namesake Elizabeth 1st.  Apparently she glides through the library wall into a locked up room and also on occasions her presence is felt or perhaps her footsteps heard in other areas of the castle.

The aforementioned King Charles I is said to have on occasion haunted the Canons house in the area of the castle's St George's Chapel where Cromwell imprisoned him and nearby in the deanery of the chapel, there is a ghost of a small boy who is said to regularly shout "I don't want to go riding today" and following this, his footsteps can be heard moving away.

In the castle grounds in 1906 one of the sentries from the Coldstream Guards was on patrol in the East Terrace when he saw a group of men.  Naturally he challenged them but he received no answer and he opened fire only to see his bullets passed straight through them!  Apparently he then charged the group but they just disappeared. However, possibly the most famous ghost associated with Windsor Castle may be found in the depths of Windsor Forest.  His name is Herne the Hunter and he is even referred to in Shakespeare's 'Merry Wives of Windsor'.  The story goes that Herne was Richard IIs favourite huntsman who had at one time saved the King's life whilst unfortunately being wounded at the same time. 

Eventually, Herne made a complete recovery and as the King had promised him, he was made head huntsman.  Sadly however he was soon dismissed from his post because he appeared to have lost all his skills and in a deep depression he hanged himself from the branch of an oak tree in Windsor Forest. 

It is said that on certain dark stormy nights, a ghostly band of hunters led by Herne himself are to be seen galloping wildly through Windsor great Park along with a pack of equally ghostly hounds.  Any sighting of this band of spectres is always thought to be a portent of some kind of national disaster soon to occur!