Brief Histories of Great Britain’s Magnificent Castles

Elisabeth Miller is a student at Carroll College and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Reading, England.

There is no doubt that many monarchs in Europe lived in the grandest of residences. Ranging from resilient fortresses to elegant palaces, homes of noble families provided them space, comfort, and safety during their royal reigns. After a semester studying abroad and exploring the sites of England, I compiled a few of my favorite castles of Great Britain.

Warwick Castle can be traced back to 912 when Ethelfleda, the daughter of Alfred the Great, wanted to protect her settlement from Danish invaders. She ordered an earthen fortification to defend the community. In 1068, William the Conqueror built a motte, a flat-topped raised mound, and a bailey fort, a courtyard enclosed by a wooden wall. Stone replaced wood and additions were built over hundreds of years. The castle and its estates went through several families starting off with Henry de Beaumont in 1088 and ending with the Grevilles who owned Warwick Castle from 1604 to 1978.

The courtyard of Warwick Castle

Naturally, William the Conqueror in the 1070s picked the spot for Windsor Castle. In the 1170s, Henry II built the Round Tower, and in the 1360s, Edward III created the illustrious St. George’s Hall for his Knights of the Order of the Garter. After the Restoration, Charles II created new State Apartments in the 1670s. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were regular visitors to Winsor, and in 1845, Queen Victoria made the State Apartments open to the public. During WWII, Windsor Castle was home to Princess Elizabeth, the current queen, and Margaret Rose. The queen still enjoys spending her weekends at Windsor.

The beautiful gardens of Windsor Castle
The Royal Standard flag waves proudly at Windsor Castle. It shows that the queen is in residence!

About 340 million years ago, a volcano erupted and produced a large rock formation, now known as Castle Rock. Many years later, David I, the son of Saint Margaret of Scotland, built a castle on this rock in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1130. Edinburgh Castle was always under siege. Whoever held the castle would rule over all of Scotland, and the estate served as a center for tension between English and Scottish monarchies. In 1757, the castle was turned into a prison. It held captives from the Seven Years War, the American Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars. From 1999 to the present, Edinburgh Castle remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Scotland.

Edinburgh Castle solidly perched on Castle Rock

The Royal Pavilion is not a traditional castle, but it was a royal residence. In the 1780s, George IV had a lodge in Brighton, a nearby city to London. He often visited Brighton seeking the climate and ocean waters for his health. As a man who enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, George IV turned his lodging into the Marine Pavilion. He decorated his villa with Chinese decor giving the Pavilion an oriental style. In 1815 after swearing in as Prince Regent, George transformed the Marine Pavilion into the Royal Pavilion we know today. After George’s death in 1830, his younger brother William IV became king and visited the palace. Early in her reign, Queen Victoria sold the Royal Pavilion to the city of Brighton.

The Royal Pavilion’s entrance is artistically embellished with an oriental flare



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