Through this documentary, the viewer is able to walk vicariously through the private rooms inside Windsor Castle and is able to meet some of the 300 people who work within its confines. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is featured prominently in the film, which is unusual as he rarely seeks to focus attention on himself. His knowledge of Windsor Castle and his ability to share it so articulately is one of the highlights of the documentary. Queen Elizabeth II named Prince Philip the Ranger of Windsor Castle over 50 years ago, and Philip takes his duties seriously. He surveys the grounds regularly and recommends improvements and upgrades to enrich the attractiveness of the green space surrounding the Castle. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, had this same duty during Victoria’s reign.
In 1992, the castle suffered serious damage in a fire which began in the Queen’s Private Chapel when a spotlight ignited a curtain. The fire burned for twelve hours. Several ceilings collapsed. A great many rooms were badly damaged, such as the State Dining Room, several Drawing rooms, St. George’s Hall, the Octagon dining rooms, as well as the Queen’s Private Chapel. Workmen had just completed an 18-month phase of rewiring the rooms that were destroyed. Repair of the damage took five years to complete, at a cost of over 36 million pounds. The Queen decided to open Buckingham Palace to the public for the first time in order to help with the cost of the restoration. Queen Elizabeth was back in residence two weeks after the fire.
William the Conqueror built Windsor Castle in the 12th century, and it has housed 40 monarchs on 13-acre grounds. It is Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite home and she and Philip are there each and every weekend. The film demonstrates the duties of the official Flagman, Tony Martin, who raises the flag the moment when the Queen arrives through the gate to signal her return home.
Winchester Tower at Windsor Castle
Major Alan Denman, the Castle Superintendent walks the entire visitors' route each morning. He is meticulous about neatness as well as security. Major Denman was in charge of the State occasion when President Jacques Chirac of France and his wife visited the Castle, reciprocating the very first visit of Queen Elizabeth to France the year before. The 41 members of the cast of the musical Les Miserables, which was playing in the West End at the time, performed the production following the State dinner.
We are shown the painstaking manner in which the dinner for 160 guests is prepared, from the Pol Roger wine to the Creme Brule dessert. The French president and his wife stayed in the principal guest suite, simply called Suite 240, which is shown in the film. The guests' suitcases are unpacked by the maids, and then repacked before the guest's departure. Footmen and butlers are always on hand to take care of the needs of the guests while they reside in the Castle.
One of the grandest occasions of the year is Garter Day on April 23rd, the feast of St. George. On this day, twenty-four prominent persons are initiated into the Knights of the Garter. A procession of present and past Knights transpires, beginning at Windsor Castle and ending at St. George's Chapel, followed by the Garter Day Lunch in one of the prominent chambers of the Castle. King Edward III founded the Order of the Garter. Former recipients of the honor include John Major, Sir Edmund Hillary, Margaret Thatcher and Prince William.
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth takes great interest in her horses, giving them each a name as soon as they are born. The entire family likes to ride, and they do so frequently. The term Windsor Grey is given to the gray horses used by the Royal Family to draw carriages and coaches in ceremonial processions. Their stable is situated in the Royal Mews. Queen Elizabeth loves the traditional races at Ascot where a five-day event occurs at which all the ladies wear stylish hats. In the film, the Queen's horse came in second in its race.
Timekeeper Steve Davidson changes the Castle clocks twice a year to coincide with British time changes according to Greenwich Mean Time. This particular task takes 16 hours to accomplish as there are so many clocks in the Castle. Two employees, known as Fendersmiths, take charge of 400 fireplaces which need tending throughout the castle. When visitors are present, they wear conventional dress. Otherwise, they wear overalls which are necessary when they tend to the fires.
In his duties as Ranger, Prince Philip is President of the Royal Windsor Horse Show which is held yearly in the Windsor Great Park. The Queen's entry pulls the carriage in which Prince Philip rides. The Prince is responsible for a new Deer Park at Windsor, one of his many innovations. He also converted an old airfield to a Polo grounds. In his younger days, Philip was a champion polo player.
The more recent Polo competitions, celebrated as Cartier International Day, often feature Prince Harry as a player. One of the highlights of the film was the wedding of Prince Charles and his bride Camilla in April of 2005. Camilla is now called Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall. The grounds were decorated with 35,000 daffodils for the occasion.
Crimson Dining Room in Windsor Castle
Fans of the Royal Family have this extraordinary opportunity to see the inside of the Castle which has never before been shown to the public. This one-time occurrence reveals the grace shown by the Royals to their employees and visitors alike.
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