One of the last big sightseeing trips before I start at Uni!
Johnny, Gillian and I drove to Windsor. Actually, on the way, we drove through Eton, which is the neighboring town and home to Eton College, the most expensive/prestigious prep school in England. (It’s basically middle and high school level.) I didn’t take any pictures, but their uniforms are SO fancy, and we caught them at a passing time so both professors and 12 year old boys alike were walking down the streets in them!
I just thought this piece of culture was so crazy, coming from a school where boys can wear basketball shorts, baseball hats, t-shirts, jeans, beanies, bro-tanks, button ups, anything! School uniforms are such a normal thing here and so foreign to me. There are definitely aspects of the uniform-wearing idea that I really like, honestly… but a lot of the girls have to wear ties, so that’s a no-go for me. But as far as Eton’s uniforms go, they’re even pretty over the top for people used to wearing tweed and blazers. It was really interesting to see overall. This was totally a tangent, so now I’ll move on to Windsor which was real attraction of the day.
Windsor itself was a really nice city; obviously very touristy, but with cute little shops and a view of the huge castle from everywhere. Windsor Castle is built on the hill, with natural defences such as a 30 meter cliff face overlooking the Thames and the city that, in the old days, would provide a view of approaching soldiers two days before they reached the walls. The layout of the grounds was also designed for its protection; after entering the first gate, we were directed in a wide circle around the center of the grounds in a spiral upwards to the next gate, so if someone had breached the first gate’s protection, they wouldn’t be able to immediately enter farther in but would be have distance to travel before reaching the next gate. Obviously this was not very effective now when all they would have to do is pay 20 pounds and have a leisurely walk up.
The main attractions inside the castle, other than the beautiful buildings themselves, were the State Apartments and Queen Mary’s Dolls’ house. There was quite a queue so we got ice cream to wait with.
Unfortunately, there were no pictures allowed inside the State rooms or of the doll house. I highly encourage looking up the dollhouse, though- built by the leading British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1921-1924 as a gift for Queen Mary, the house is a 1:12 scale of a beautiful aristocrat’s house. There were many, many rooms, all SO beautiful and intricate. The house’s four sides had probably 5-10 rooms accessible from each; in each room, such as the ballroom, the King’s and Queen’s bathrooms, bedrooms, and closets, the maid’s rooms, the dining room, the saloon, no detail was forgotten. The hundreds of tiny books lining the shelves were actually filled with writing from all the best authors and poets of the day, commissioned for the dollhouse. There was real art, by famous artists, covering the walls, and even fully functioning electricity and plumbing systems for the tiny little lamps and the toilets and sinks! Truly an incredible piece of art.
Next, we went into the state rooms. I don’t remember what all of them were, but I was honestly just overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. I can’t think of the adequate adjectives to describe it! I did take a few pictures in the very first room before seeing the sign that said no photography. Also I snuck one of the King’s room because it was just too dang cool.
One of the other rooms had hundreds of ancient swords and guns… Many were labeled with the monarch who used them in particular battles. In that moment, I definitely wish I knew more about the applicable history to understand the significance of them. Even without that knowledge, though, the way they were all displayed was quite artful and incredible as well.
Every room had the most amazing ceilings. If I could’ve taken pictures throughout the tour, I would’ve taken one of the ceiling of every room we were in. They were all so ornate and detailed, and so unique. They were just magnificent.
I know I’ve said this before, but pictures cannot fully capture the splendor displayed in this castle! For me, it was just incredible imagining that people actually used these rooms as functioning places to live. The King would have woken up in that bed, opened the four poster curtains, and looked out into this room. Wow!
I was quite blown away by all the rooms (if you hadn’t already gathered that). The art inside it was special enough to have filled a museum, the detailed gold and carved wood everywhere was worth fortunes, and the level of majesty and splendor was truly spectacular. We spent hours looking at everything, and I could’ve spent days.
There was also a special exhibition of Queen Elizabeth’s clothes, celebrating her 90th birthday; while that sounds mundane, and like something only overenthusiastic Brits would enjoy, it was also quite special to see. Everything from simple costumes worn as just a young Princess in the 1930’s to current day Queen evening gowns and elegant event outfits were on display. Can you even imagine living a life where the clothes you wear are considered historical artifacts and saved for 80 years?
After we toured the State Apartments and the grounds a little more, we went into St. George’s Chapel. This is now the sixth chapel/cathedral I’ve seen over the last week, and although I don’t necessarily have an eye for architecture, this one in particular did stand out to me as unique from the others. It had a much more gothic style, with huge ornate pillars, and a very open, bright atmosphere. The stained glass, instead of being in wide scenes, instead had lots of individual panes making up the huge windows, each of a special saint or monarch. It was, just like the others, quite incredible and beautiful. I can’t imagine getting to go there for actual church services! What an honor! I was so struck by the glory of it all, even just surrounded by other tourists. It would be hard not to believe in God and want to worship in a place like that.
Another astounding part of this chapel was the number of tombs. To me, having lots of people buried literally inside a church seems a little dark, but it is a huge honor and a very special thing apparently. Lots of people I didn’t know were buried there, a total of ten sovereigns, but there were a few I’ve recognized from the little I do know about British history. In fact, King Henry VI, originally buried somewhere else with little recognition because of his reputation as a very weak king, was reburied in a tomb on the ground of this cathedral as a higher honor. The tomb that stood out to me the most, though, was King Henry VIII; smack dab in the middle of the chapel was a big black engraved stone slab that meant I could walk right on top of his remains, buried along with Jane Seymour (his third wife) and her infant son. Like I said, I think that’s kind of sombre, and it felt almost sacrilegious to walk on it somehow. It also kind of surprised me, though, because King Henry VIII didn’t seem like a great king to celebrate, but I guess if you’re king it’s pretty important no matter what you do.
Overall, this was one of my favorite things I’ve gotten to see this whole trip. It was truly incredible and so rich with history and culture. Many people could vouch that I am NOT a history person (there’s no logic! no pattern! no math!), but I was inspired by this castle and would genuinely love to learn more about the history of this place and of England.
Lastly, here is a picture I took of the Thames right in front of our car park before we left. I thought it was nice.
God’s love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks.
Psalm 36:5-6 msg