Although it dates back to time of William the Conqueror who arrived – uninvited – in 1066, most of Windsor Castle as we know it is the creation of George the Fourth. He ascended to the throne on the eventual death of his father in 1820 and reigned for just ten years, many of them hidden away at Windsor, enjoying little respect or affection from his people. I think of George as a lonely figure, very overweight, with few friends and no immediate family, his only daughter Charlotte having died in childbirth at the age of twenty one in 1817 together with her child. Her cousin Victoria, who was to become Queen in 1837, remembers meeting George as an old man out in his carriage who kissed her and smelled of make-up. His one consolation was watching his fantasy castle being rebuilt by his architect Jeffry Wyatville. It cost George a million pounds (not his own money).
Part of this process involved extending the Round Tower upwards so that it was not dwarfed by the new State Apartments It is actually an oval rather than a circle and it is where the Governor of the Tower lives, usually a retired military officer who is given the perk of living there and looking after the garden below. The current Governor is Sir James Perowne, who took on the job a few years ago after a career in the Royal Navy. He gave us a talk at the beginning of the Windsor course Leena and I did a couple of years ago and said that being Governor beat watching daytime television as a retirement occupation (a fairly low bar, in truth). He does not get a salary but lives rent free in the Round Tower, does plenty of entertaining and seems to have a nice enough life.
He can enjoy the garden which stands below the Round Tower and which I usually point out during my brief tour of the castle before taking the group to the entrance to the State Apartments. I point out St George’s Chapel which people pass and can usually go into on the way out through the Lower Ward. This is very popular, although they have trouble enforcing the no photography rule as everyone wants a selfie of where Harry and Meghan tied the know earlier this year.
Places you go to frequently often surprise you with unexpected angles when a usually closed area is open for visiting. Having been to the top of the Tower with my daughter earlier this year (http://diaryofatouristguide.blogspot.com/2017/09/up-on-roof.html) I took the opportunity to walk through the Moat Garden, where I have stood thousands of times but never been into. I paid my £1 (which goes to local charities) and strolled through before heading off for my morning coffee.
The garden was designed about 100 years ago by General Sir Dighton Probyn (I love that name) who lived in the Tower for over twenty years. Although it was always a dry ditch rather than a wet moat, he created watery features such as the fountain and a waterfall and a lily pond was added in 1993. Itt was pleasant to walk through the garden when it was open (only a few days in August when the Queen). I would, however, struggle to identify any but the most obvious plants.