Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

'Flat White' at Costa

This coffee with smooth, velvety milk lingered in my thoughts for the day,
thanks to smart ordering by Rona of Flowerona

Besides introducing me to this new cozy beverage,
Rona turned me on to a new BBC three-part series about Queen Elizabeth II, The Diamond Queen,
during our recent coffee date

I learned so much as I watched it with the kiddos...

The Queen & Prince Philip at the Royal Ascot

Queen Elizabeth II became queen at age 25(!) after the sudden death of her father, George VI,
and is the second longest reigning monarch of the United Kingdom
(Queen Victoria the longest, reigning 63 years and 7 months)

Sixty years ago Queen Elizabeth II was crowned 
when Dwight D Eisenhower was US President
In fact, current UK Prime Minister David Cameron wasn't born yet!

And in all this time, Queen Elizabeth II has not been a controversial figure 
(although the idea of a monarchy has)

Her sixty year reign has provided stability and continuity to this country
in contrast to UK Prime Ministers (and US Presidents) which seem to be a blip in history

Queen Elizabeth II belongs to the Windsor family
But did you know 'Windsor' is a fabricated name by her grandfather King George V
to sound more English than 'Saxe-Coburg and Gotha'
during a time of anti-German public sentiment in 1917?

Last week I toured Windsor Castle,
Queen Elizabeth's home and principal weekend retreat in Windsor, Berkshire

Have you been there before?
It is a quaint town with the impressive castle in view

The original castle was built by William The Conquer in the 11th Century
and today is the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world

Historically, the castle only has been attacked in 2 sieges during the time of that unpopular King John
You know, the infamous 'baddie' in Robin Hood

I had forgotten that in 1992 a major fire occurred in a portion of the castle which lasted 15 hours

Queen Elizabeth termed that year her 'annus horribilis' ('horrible year') for besides the fire in her 'home',
Charles and Andrew separated from their wives and Anne divorced
(Yep, that sounds like a pretty sucky year to me too, sister!)

Due to a halogen light too close to a curtain that caught fire,
the blaze quickly spread through the old, dry castle

And once the roof burned away, there was a chimney-like draft whipping the fire through nine state rooms
Over a hundred rooms more were damaged by smoke, flames, and water

Fortunately no one was badly injured and artwork was untouched, 
for it had been moved earlier due to a renovation in that part of the castle

Today they have smoke alarms, but still no fire sprinkler systems
thinking that a little smoke or fire would set off the sprinklers causing severe water damage everywhere
Whereas a flame could quickly be contained and extinguished, minimizing castle damage (hopefully)

Anyhoo, like other state buildings, Windsor Castle had no insurance 
So who was to pay for the repairs? The crown or the government?
That was a great debate at the time

The solution was to fund it by opening Buckingham Palace to the public for tours
(which I did and would highly recommend)
and charging for public access to parkland surrounding Windsor

The silver lining?
- Queen Elizabeth II has made her mark on this ancient castle, 
reflecting her style through the renovations (which took 5 years to complete)

- Archaeologists have been very excited about discovering hidden windows, doors, 
and even a 150 ft deep water well revealed during the demolition/ restoration process

The sections of the castle I visited were very old, grand, and ornate as you would expect

And for real,
I saw doors to hidden passageways (used for mistresses and servants)
and I inquired about the whereabouts of a moat

No moat.
Water would have seeped into limestone leaving the moat, dragons, and crocodiles very parched

After spending two hours touring the castle and grounds (self-guided)
I scooted to the guided kitchen tour

Although the kitchen tour was brief (there's only so much to see in a kitchen)
it held some interesting facts and it was fun to see where all the action happens

Since interior photography was prohibited,
just picture a healthy mix of old and new

I spied blackness on beams from the '92 fire

I spied a large kitchen with wooden beams, retired copper pots, and an old spit
juxtaposed with modern industrial kitchen equipment

Although no one was working in the kitchen at the time of our visit,
the guide told us the chefs bring their own copper pots and pans by the lorry-load

While I only saw the kitchen and cold food prep area,
there was a patisserie and a wine cellar just around the corner

All royal kitchen clocks are set 5 minutes fast
(mine is 12 minutes fast; are you more royal-like?)

Apparently there are traffic lights at the top of the kitchen lift (elevator) 
near the doors to the main dining area
This allows footman to enter from both sides of the dining room at the same time on cue
- Clever royals -

The Queen is involved in selecting the menu two months in advance for state dinners
The menu tends to be quite simple

Visitors can tour the State Apartments, Queen Mary's Doll House, and St George's Chapel
And with advance planning, you can tour the royal kitchen too
But be sure to check ahead of time, for the castle is closed when the Queen is home

This year marks the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (sixtieth year reigning)
which will be celebrated June 2nd - 5th by a national holiday, street parties,
loads of concerts, and other activities around the country

To check out planned events, view the official website here

I've already celebrated a little with this recent Emma Bridgewater tea towel purchase :)



- all photos by me -

Watch The Diamond Queen series on BBC iPlayer 
Diamond Jubilee Events here
Public Windsor Castle Tour info: Windsor Castle