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The Long Walk at Windsor Castle

Release date: Friday, 4 November 2016

One of the major changes that Future Programme will introduce at Windsor is the reinstatement of the Inner Hall and the sequence of spaces that link the north and south sides of the Castle.  The State Entrance, where Heads of State and official guests of The Queen enter the Castle, will become part of the visitor route.  From here, all will be able to enjoy the spectacular view of the Long Walk, created by Charles II.  It is a view that perfectly encapsulates the grandeur of the Castle and the beauty of its setting within the Great Park.

The view of the Long Walk from the State Entrance at Windsor Castle

The view of the Long Walk from the State Entrance at Windsor Castle ©

A dramatic first impression is exactly what Charles II intended when he created the Long Walk between 1683 and 1685. As part of a major programme of improvements to the Castle, the King restored Windsor's Great Park, which had been divided and sold off by Parliamentarians during the Civil War. By planting trees, taking land out of arable use and bringing in over 500 deer from Germany and Richmond Park, he turned the land south of the Castle back into a great royal hunting forest. To connect the Castle and the Great Park, he ordered a ruler-straight avenue of four rows of elms stretching for two and a half miles.

This hand-coloured aquatint from 1862 shows the view down the Long Walk towards the Castle much as it would have been during Charles II's reign.

This hand-coloured aquatint dating from 1862 shows the view down the Long Walk towards the Castle much as it would have been during Charles II's reign. ©

During the following century, a small brick house known as the Queen's Lodge was built directly across the Long Walk, blocking the view from the Castle. Occasionally used by Queen Anne as a lodge for stag-hunting, it was rebuilt on a larger scale by George III and Queen Charlotte, but subsequently demolished by their son George IV to make way for grander plans.

In 1824 George IV's artistic advisor, Charles Long, sent a memo to the Prime Minister, stating:

It is almost obvious that the principal Approach to the Castle should be by continuing a direct Line from the magnificent Avenue called the Long Walk to the Court of the Castle itself. It would then be desirable that the Court should be entered through a Gothic Arch, and the continuance of the same line would lead directly to the doors of Entrance to the State Apartments…This…should be considered as the Approach only of the Royal Family or such Visitors as had special permission.

A watercolour by George IV’s architect Jeffry Wyatville showing his planned improvements to the exterior of the Castle (above), including the grand new central gateway. It bears the King's signature.

A watercolour by George IV’s architect Jeffry Wyatville showing his planned improvements to the exterior of the Castle (above), including the grand new central gateway. It bears the King's signature. ©

Working with the architect Jeffry Wyatville, the King extended the Long Walk right up to the Castle walls and built a grand new gateway, now known as the George IV Gate. The State Entrance tower was built across the Quadrangle to continue the ceremonial route to the State Apartments. The land to the south and east of the Castle, which had been open to the public, was closed off to create a private approach. The King completed his improvements by commissioning a huge bronze statue of his father on horseback to stand at the southern end of the Long Walk.

An illustration from 1857 depicting the statue of George III, commissioned by George IV for the southern end of the Long Walk.

An illustration from 1857 depicting the statue of George III, commissioned by George IV for the southern end of the Long Walk. ©

Few changes have been made to the Long Walk since the reign of George IV. In the 1850s Prince Albert initiated a programme to replace decayed or stunted elms with new trees, and a hundred years later all the old trees were replaced after they had succumbed to elm disease. Nonetheless, the view from the Castle down the Long Walk remains much the same as it would have looked during Charles II's reign.

Today The Queen and visiting Heads of State travel by carriage to the Castle up the Long Walk on the first day of a State Visit. They arrive at the State Entrance through the George IV Gate, just as the King intended nearly two centuries ago.

The Queen and the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, process up the Long Walk at Windsor Castle.

The Queen and the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, process up the Long Walk at Windsor Castle. Picture by: Steve Parsons / PA Archive/Press Association Images