Windsor Castle: Inside St George’s Chapel

Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world.  It has been home to the British Royal family for nearly 1,000 years.  When in residence the Royal family worship at St George’s Chapel.  It has been the venue for Royal Weddings and Funerals and the annual Garter service for centuries as well as being a parish church than anyone can attend.

Visiting St George’s Chapel

Whenever I have visited the chapel I have done so as part of a visit to Windsor Castle as entry is included in the ticket price.  You get an audio guide with your ticket and as you amble from the ticket office up toward the famous round tower the Prince of Wales welcomes you to his family home.  He points out that it is more like a small fortified village than anything else, as it is home to 150 people.  As the  Prince finishes his welcome you arrive at St Georges Gate and can peek through the gates, across a wide lush lawn to the Royal Residence and can choose to to head to the Castle or the Chapel.  The great thing about a ticket to Windsor Castle is that it lasts a whole year meaning you can visit as often as you want in a year and don’t need to rush to see everything in one day.

Windsor

History of St George’s Chapel

Edward IV started to build St George’s Chapel in 1475, fifty years later when Henry VIII was king it was completed.  At the time the wide vaulted stone roof was revolutionary, it remains extraordinary today and is considered one of the finest examples of Perpendicular Gothic.  

Sir Reginald Bray was one of the original benefactors of the chapel and is commemorated throughout the chapel with the frequent appearance of his badge.  Look up to bosses in the roof and you will see what looks like a cut throat razor.  This is actually a Hemp Brake or Bray and Sir Reginald’s badge, it appears 175 times in the chapel.  How many times can you find it?

Roof bosses of St Georges Chapel Windsor
©The Dean & Canons of Windsor

Garter Chapel at Windsor

St George’s Chapel is home to the Order the Garter, the most noble order of chivalry in England founded by Edward III.  At only one time there are 24 knights appointed by the monarch, plus Royal Knights and Stranger Knights.  Stranger Knights tend to be foreign royalty.  Each knight (or lady) has their own choir stall marked with their badge and flag.  When a member dies the flag and insignia are removed awaiting the next appointment.  Take a look up to the Oriel window over looking the Garter Chapel, Henry VIII had this made so that Catherine of Aragon could watch the services.  

Flags and shields in the Garter Chapel St Georges Chapel Windsor Castle
©The Dean & Canons of Windsor
How Many Monarchs are buried in St George’s Chapel

Ten, is the short answer.  Henry VI has a simple tomb that was focus of pilgrimage back when the Chapel was new.  Henry VIII and Charles I are beneath the Quire.  Henry has his Queen Jane Seymour by his side. George III, George IV and William IV are in Royal vault which was built in 1804 by George III.   Edward VII is down there too but he also has a very fancy memorial in chapel. Prince Philip interred in the Royal vault but only until the Queen dies.  George VI and Queen Elizabeth are in a side chapel, along with the ashes of Princess Margaret.  When the current Queen dies she will be interred here and Prince Philip will come to join her.

Royal Weddings at St George’s Chapel

Imagine you are Royal and you don’t fancy inviting 2,000 guests to fill Westminster Abbey then more intimate 800 seater St George’s Chapel is for you.  Several of Queen Victoria’s children chose the chapel and more recently it has been the venue for the nuptials of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank and of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie Rhys-Jones.  Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall has their marriage blessed in the Chapel.

Do you need a ticket to Windsor Castle to visit St George’s Chapel?

It depends.  If you just want to gaze in wonder at the building then yes you do need a ticket.  Anybody can attend one of the three daily services.  

Visiting Windsor Castle need to know

  • Admission: Adult  £23.50 concessions and family tickets available
  • Open: Reopen 17 May 2020
  • March – October: Thursday – Monday 10am – 5.15pm
  • December – February: Thursday – Monday 10am – 4.15m
  • Remember to have your ticket stamped as you leave to turn it into a one year pass.
  • Tickets can be pre-booked on the Royal Collection Trust Website
  • Getting to Windsor Castle: Windsor has two train stations Windsor & Eton Central and Windsor & Eton Riverside which take an hour from either London Paddington or Waterloo.  You can catch the Greenline bus 702 from Victoria Bus Station. If you are driving Windsor is just off the M4 you will need to park in one of the public car parks in Windsor (my favoured one is the Edward VII shopping centre car park)
  • Check the website for opening times as State occasions sometimes mean that the castle will be close

London and Windsor have no shortage of Royal palaces to visit check out my posts about Visiting Buckingham Palace State Rooms and Gardens,the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace or how about taking a tour of Queen Victoria’s London? Further down the river in Greenwich you can have a Royal day out at the Queen’s House and see London’s Sistine chapel the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College.

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