By Royal Appointment
March 29, 2018
The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will take place on Saturday, 19th May at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, a stone’s throw from Great Fosters. Established in the 14th century, St George’s Chapel has been the setting for baptisms, marriages and funerals of members of the Royal Family and is the burial place for 10 monarchs, including Henry VIII.
Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest, inhabited castle in the world and is still very much a working royal palace. It was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and has been home to British Kings and Queens for almost 1000 years many of whom have made their mark on it during their reign. Henry VIII held legendary extravagant feasts during his time there in addition to using it as a secure base to direct his military forces during the huge uprising, the Pilgrimage of Grace, in 1536. Henry VIII, along with his third wife Jane Seymour, who died following childbirth, are buried in a vault in St George's Chapel at Windsor.
Queen Victoria spent the majority of her reign from 1837 until 1901 at Windsor and our current Monarch spends most of her private weekends at Windsor in addition to residing there for a month over Easter.
Great Fosters, 15 minutes drive from London Heathrow, was used as a royal hunting lodge in the 1500s by Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth whose original royal crest, with the date 1598, can be seen above the main porch. There is more evidence of our royal connections in the Anne Boleyn room, now used as a drawing room, where the ornate ceiling depicts Anne Boleyn's personal royal insignia. More recently, and once the house became a hotel, Queen Mary visited in May 1931 and in June the same year the Ascot Ball was held at Great Fosters in the presence of the Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of York. The full history of Great Fosters may be read here.
The largest bedroom in the hotel is the Tapestry which was originally the Drawing Room to the house with double aspect views over the gardens and drive. The walls are hung with Flemish tapestries dating back to the beginning of the 17th century. A carved Jacobean chimneypiece with a remarkable carved mantel telling the story of Adam and Eve is the focal point of the room. The room has a large Emperor bed over which hangs a chandelier and two rich red velvet “thrones” sit either side of the fireplace. The bathroom has a claw foot bath with double wash basins, a separate walk-in shower and views over the gardens.
A stunning pair of carved painted Quatrocento doors leads into the Italian room (above) where the walls are covered in a deep pink and gold damask. Gilt furniture adorns the room and two cherubs guard the bottom of the bed as you sleep.
Panel II is one of two four poster rooms with spectacular oak panelling and a large fireplace. Mullioned windows offer views over the front of the hotel.
The Queen Anne suite (above)has a cosy sitting room leading through to a spacious four poster bedroom with walnut door and window boards. The bathroom has a breath taking, free standing, silver roll top bath and separate walk in shower.
And finally, there is the Nursery suite (above). Located on the top floor of the hotel, it offers dual aspect views with windows over the drive and formal parterre gardens and Saxon moat. There is a large, panelled sitting room with space for two extra beds and a comfortable, tasteful bedroom with a super king bed. In addition to the main bathroom there is a separate shower room.
Back to the royal couple...Prince Harry and Megan met in May 2016. One year later, in May 2017, their first public kiss was caught on camera and later that month Megan was Harry’s “plus one” at Pippa Middleton’s wedding reception. September marked their first public appearance together at an official royal event and in November 2017 the couple’s engagement was announced by the Royal Household.
Great Fosters is the ideal base to check out the location for the Royal Wedding. The journey from the hotel to Windsor takes you along the River Thames past Runnymede, the site where the Magna Carta was sealed by King John in 1215. As you approach Windsor the road crosses the Long Walk, a tree-lined avenue stretching almost three miles from the Castle to the Copper Horse statue in Windsor Great Park.
Tickets for Windsor Castle include entrance to St George’s Chapel giving you access to the setting for the Royal nuptials, although unfortunately not on the day of the wedding! Take in one of the greatest examples of Gothic architecture in England as you tread in the footsteps of Royals before you. The State Apartments and Semi-State Rooms are well worth a visit too! Furnished with fine works of art from the Royal Collection these rooms provide the centrepiece for the Castle. Queen Mary’s Dolls House provides a fascinating window into modern life in the 1920s…albeit in miniature…including a fully stocked wine cellar and comes equipped with hot and cold running water. No trip to Windsor Castle would be complete without witnessing the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard but check out times and dates before planning your visit.
Why not combine a visit to Windsor Castle with an open top bus tour of "London's Country Escape". With 11 stops along the way hop on and hop off to explore Windsor and Eton or have a light refreshment at one of many pubs. Details of the route are available here.
And, just a short walk across the Thames is Eton and the location of Harry’s school days at Eton College. Heritage tours are held on Friday afternoons from May until September and can be booked online.
Please be aware that St George’s Chapel is closed on Sundays for worship.