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Windsor Castle
Tudor Popularity

The poet Earl of Surrey was much at Windsor in his early life and was imprisoned there in 1546. In one of his poems, he gives a description of the large green courts, the stately seats, the secret groves, the wild forests and other delights of the place. He was beheaded in 1547 for denying King Henry VIII's supremacy in the church. Queen Jane Seymour was buried at Windsor Castle with much pomp, a life-sized figure of the deceased was upon the pall, with a rich crown of gold upon her head, the hair all loose, a sceptre of gold in her right hand and adorned with finger-rings and a necklace of gold and precious stones. In his will, Henry VIII commanded that his body should be laid beside that of his "true and loving wife, Queen Jane."

Queen Elizabeth was very fond of Windsor Castle, and sometimes remained all the autumn and over Christmas. Between 1569 and 1577, more than 1,000 a year was spent on improvements, which, remembering Elizabeth's parsimony, is very surprising. It is said that Elizabeth desired to see "Falstaff in love," and therefore it was that Shakespeare resurrected the Queen's favourite character from "Henry IV" and laid the scene of the "Merry Wives" at Windsor. As Elizabeth was very fond of riding, many a gay cavalcade of beautiful ladies and gallant gentlemen must have issued from the gates of Windsor, whilst many a magnificent pageant must have been held and many must have been the love scenes enacted here, during her long reign.

There are several old descriptions of the castle at this period still extant and, among the Harleian MSS, is one generally attributed to the London historian, Stowe. "Upon the north side and outer part of which [describing the Terrace] lodgings also, between the same and the brow or fall of the hill which is very steep and pitched, is an excellent walk or bay, running all along the said buildings and the side of the castle borne up and sustained with arches and buttresses of stone and timber railed breast high which is in length 360 paces, and in breadth 7, of such and excellent grace to the beholders and passers by lying open to the sight even afar off; that the state lines, pleasure, beauty, and the use thereof seemeth to contend one with another which of them should have the superiority."

Part 6: Parliamentary Stronghold

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


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