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Windsor Castle
Chivalric Splendour under King Edward III

In 1312 was born at Windsor, one who was to do much for the castle, King Edward III. During all his long reign, Windsor was the scene of man displays of pomp and vanity, of tournaments, feasts, processions, besides councils, chapters and great assemblies. The Upper Ward was entirely rebuilt, William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester - from whom the Winchester Tower derived its name - being the architect. It is said that the words "Hoc fecit Wykeham" were placed upon it and that the wily prelate translated them to Edward as meaning, not "Wykeham made this," but "This was the making of Wykeham."

Another story is told which points to the want of refined manners and delicate feeling of the Middle Ages. King Edward was conducting his Royal prisoners, King John of France and King David of Scots, round the Lower Ward, when one of them pointed out that the Upper Ward lay on higher ground and commanded a finer view. The King "approved their sayings, adding pleasantly that it should so be, and that he would bring his castle thither, that is to say, enlarge it so far with two other wards, the charges whereof should be borne with their two ransoms," as afterwards happened. The story of King Arthur and the Round Table fired Edward with the idea of founding the institution of the Most Noble Order of the Garter; and carpenters and masons were soon busy erecting the Round Tower to receive a new Round Table. The table, made of fifty-two oaks, seems to have been in the shape of a horse shoe rather than a perfect circle, so that the attendants could stand in the middle to serve the guests. In this tower, assembled the flower of English knighthood: Warwick, celebrated in the French wars, who, when he died of the plague in 1369, left "not behind him his equal; the young Earl of Salisbury, whose beautiful fiancée is said to have given rise to the motto of the Order, "Honi soit qui mal y pense;" and many others besides, whose names are well known for their prowess and valour.

It was at Windsor that good Queen Philippa passed away, universally lamented. Froissart touchingly describes her death: "There fell in England a heavy case and common, howbeit it was right piteous for the King, his children and all the realm. For the good Queen of England, that so many good deeds had done in her time, and so many knights succoured, and ladies and damsels comforted, and had so largely departed of her goods to her people, and naturally loved always the nation of Hainault, the country where she was born; she fell sick in the castle of Windsor, the which sickness continued on her so long that there was no remedy but death. And the good lady, when she knew and perceived that there was with her no remedy but death, she desired to speak with the King, her husband. And when he was before her she put out of her bed her right hand, and took the King by his right hand, who was right sorrowful at heart. Then she said, "Sir, we have in peace, joy and great prosperity used all our time together. Sir, now I pray you, at our departing, that ye will grant me three desires."" Her requests related to her debts, her promises to churches and to her husband's "sepulchre when so ever it shall please God to call you out of this transitory life," beside her in Westminster. "Then the good lady and Queen made on her the sign of the cross, and recommended the King, her husband, to God, and her youngest son, Thomas, who was beside her. And anon after, she yielded up the spirit, the which I believe surely the holy angels received with great joy up to heaven, for in all her life she did neither in thought or deed thing whereby to lese her soul, as far as any creature could know."

Part 4: Late Medieval Fall & Rise

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

    © Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.