I told Mom and Dad how they changed the guard with a “…pipe band marching up the road and even a man leading a wolf hound,” and closed with, “It’s wonderful the way the castle dominates the town high upon its hill. A sunny day, too. What could be better?”
The castle’s roots extend back nearly 1000 years to William the Conqueror, who began building fortifications there a few years after he invaded England. Kings and queens have been adding to, tearing down and rebuilding the castle ever since, and Windsor remains a royal residence to this day.
Windsor has also been attracting visitors for centuries. The first tourists turned up in the 1740s when the castle’s keeper was only too happy to throw open the doors to well-heeled ladies and gentlemen who could afford to pay an admission fee. Savvy printers produced the first guidebooks by the 1750s, and have continued updating them for 250 years (the example on the right dates from 1926).
Tourism went on hiatus when King George III decided he preferred Windsor to Hampton Court Palace and moved in, restricting public access. But by the 1800s, the castle was back on the day trippers’ map.
I am drawn to antique souvenirs because I feel a kinship with travelers who wanted to hold on to the magic of their journeys by bringing home tokens from each trip. That’s led me to build a small collection of Windsor Castle memorabilia, such as guidebooks, stereoptic views and — my favorite — an 1848 (or ’46) admission ticket to tour the State Apartments.
Whoever wrote that note rode in horse-drawn carriages, snuffed out candles and lamps before bedtime and wouldn’t have dreamed of technology that threw a picture of the list on a screen for strangers to read. And yet, saving a ticket and using it to jot down a reminder mirrors my own do-lists on scraps of paper, a tangible connection across the years.
Despite all of our differences, and I should definitely add corsets to that list, we share the same curiosity about the rarified lives of royalty and so queued up in our respective centuries for a walk through Windsor.