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Wonders Of The World:
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )[an error occurred while processing this directive]
A steep chalk bluff, starting from a river margin with the heave and dominance of a tidal wave is Castle Hill, now crowned and mantled by the Norman keep, the royal house, the chapel of St. George, and the depending gardens, terraces, and slopes.
Trees beard the slope and tuft the ridge. Live waters curl and murmur at the base. In front, low-lying meadows curtsey to the royal hill. Outward, on the flanks, to east and west, run screens of elm and oak, of beech and poplar; here, sinking into clough and dell: there mounting up to smiling sward and wooded knoll. Far in the rear lie forest glades, with walks and chases, losing themselves in distant heath and holt. By the edges of dripping wells, which bear the names of queen and saint, stand aged oaks, hoary with time and rich in legend: patriarchs of the forest, wedded to the readers of all nations by immortal verse.
A gentle eminence, the Castle Hill springs from the bosom of a typical English scene.
Crowning a verdant ridge, the Norman keep looks northward on a wide and wooded level, stretching over many shires, tawny with corn and rye, bright with abundant pasture, and the red and white of kine and sheep, while here again the landscape is embrowned with groves and parks. The stream curves softly past your feet, unconscious of the capital, unruffled by the tide. Beyond the river bank lie open meadows, out of which start up the pinnacles of Eton College, the Plantagenet school and cloister, whence for twenty-one reigns the youth of England have been trained for court and camp, the staff, the mitre, and the marble chair. Free from these pinnacles, the eye is caught by darksome clump, and antique tower, and distant height; each darksome clump a haunted wood, each antique tower an elegy in stone, each distant height a storied and romantic hill. That darksome clump is Burnham wood; this antique tower is Stoke; yon distant heights are Hampstead Heath and Richmond Park. Nearer to the eye stand Farnham Royal, Upton park, and Langley Marsh; the homes of famous men, the sceneries of great events.
Swing round to east or south, and still the eye falls lovingly on household spots. There, beyond Datchet ferry, stood the lodge of Edward the Confessor, and around his dwelling spread the hunting-grounds of Alfred and other Saxon kings. Yon islet in the Thames is Magna Charta Island; while the open field, below the reach, is Runnymede.
The heights all round the Norman keep are capped with fame-one hallowed by a saint, another crowned with song. Here is St. Leonard's hill; and yonder, rising over Runnymede, is Cooper's hill. Saints, poets, kings and queens, divide the royalties in almost equal shares. St. George is hardly more a presence in the place than Chaucer and Shakespeare. Sanctity and poetry are everywhere about us; in the royal chapel, by the river-side, among the forest oaks, and even in the tavern yards. Chaucer and Shakespeare have a part in Windsor hardly less pronounced than that of Edward and Victoria, that of St. Leonard and St. George.
Windsor was river born and river named. The stream is winding, serpentine; the bank by which it rolls was called the "winding shore." The fact, common to all countries, gives a name which is common to all languages. Snakes, dragons, serpentines, are names of winding rivers in every latitude. There is a Snake river in Utah, another Snake river in Oregon; there is a Drach river in France, another Drach river in Switzerland. The straits between Paria and Trinidad is the Dragon's Mouth; the outfall of Lake Chiriqui is also the Dragon's Mouth. In the Morea, in Majorca, in Ionia, there are Dragons. There is a Serpent islet off the Danube, and a Serpentaria in Sardinia. We have a modern Serpentine in Hyde Park!
Windsor, born of that winding shore-line, found in after days her natural patron in St. George.
With one exception, all the Castle builders were men and women of English birth and English taste; Henry Beauclerc, Henry of Winchester, Edward of Windsor, Edward of York, Henry the Seventh, Queen Elizabeth, George the Fourth, and Queen Victoria; and these English builders stamped an English spirit on every portion of the pile - excepting on the Norman keep.
Ages before the Norman's came to Windsor, a Saxon hunting-lodge had been erected in the forest; not on the bleak and isolated crest of hill, but by the river margin, on " the winding shore." This Saxon lodge lay hidden in the depths of ancient woods, away from any public road and bridge. The King's highway ran north, the Devil's Causeway to the south. The nearest ford was three miles up the stream, the nearest bridge was five miles down the stream. A bridle-path, such as may still be found in Spain or Sicily, led to that Saxon lodge; but here this path was lost among the ferns and underwoods. No track led on to other places. Free to the chase, yet severed from the world, that hunting-lodge was like a nest. Old oaks and elms grew round about as screens. Deep glades, with here and there a bubbling spring, extended league on league, as far as Chertsey bridge and Guildford down. This forest knew no tenants save the hart and boar, the chough and crow. An air of privacy, and poetry, and romance, hung about this ancient forest lodge.
Seeds of much legendary lore had been already sown. A builder of that Saxon lodge had been imagined in a mythical king-Arthur of the Round Table, Arthur of the blameless life - a legend which endures at Windsor to the present day. There, Godwin, sitting at the king's board, had met his death, choked with the lie in his wicked throat. There, Edward the Confessor had lisped his prayers, and cured the halt and blind. There, too, the Saxon princes, Tosti and Harold, were supposed to have fought in the king's presence, lugging out each other's locks, and hurling each other to the ground. Of later growth were other legends; ranging- from the romance of the Fitz-Warines, through the Romaunt of the Rose, down to the rhyme of King Edward and the Shepherd, the mystery of Herne the Hunter, and the humours of the Merry Wives.
William the Conqueror preserved his Saxon huntinglodge by the river-side, but built his Norman keep on the Castle Hill- perhaps on the ruins of a Celtic camp, certainly round the edges of a deep and copious well.
Henry Beauclerc removed his dwelling from the river margin to the crest of hill, building the First King's House. This pile extended from the Devil's tower to the Watch tower, now renamed Victoria tower. A part of Beauclerc's edifice remains in massive walls of the Devil's tower, and a cutting through the chalk, sustained by Norman masonry, leading from a shaft under the Queen's apartment to the southern ditch.
Henry of Winchester, a man of higher genius as an architect, built the Second King's House, sweeping into his lines the lower ground, which he covered by walls and towers, including Winchester tower, and the whole curtain by Curfew tower and Salisbury tower, round to the Lieutenant's lodgings, now called Henry the Third's tower. The Second King's House, long since ruined and removed, stood on the site of the present cloisters. Much of Henry of Winchester's work remains; in fact, the circuit of the lower ward is mainly his, both walls and towers, from the Devil's tower, touching the upper ward, round to Curfew tower in the north-west -angle of the lower ward.
Edward of Windsor built the Third King's House, fronting towards the north, and gave the upper ward its final shape. On introducing a new patron saint to Windsor, Edward removed his own lodging, and renounced the lower ward entirely to the service of St. George. First came the chapel of St. George; next came the College of St. George; then came the Canons of St. George; lastly, came the Poor Knights of St. George. The central ground was given up to the chapel, and the adjoining quarter to the college. From Curfew tower to the Lieutenant's lodgings, all the ground was consecrated to the saint. The first tower, reckoning from the south, became Garter House, the second Chancellor's tower, the third Garter tower, while the land within the walls was covered by residences for the military knights. An area equal to the upper baily was surrendered to his patron saint.
Edward of York rebuilt St. George's Chapel on a larger scale; for Edward of York had heavy sins to weigh him down, and pressing need for saintly help.
Henry of Richmond roofed that chapel, built a " new tower " in the King's House, and made a fair causeway from Windsor to London -the first road ever made between the castle and the capital.
Queen Elizabeth built the gallery which bears her name, and raised the great terraces above the Thames. Before her time the scarp was rough and steep: she built this solid wall, and laid this level road.
George the Fourth raised the Norman keep in height, flanked the park entrance with another tower, opened St. George's gate, buttressed the North-east tower, and called his new edifice Brunswick tower.
Like Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria has devoted her attention rather to the slopes and gardens than the structure; but the few additions of her reign have been effected with a proper reverence for the ancient pile. Her Majesty has cleared off slum and tenement from the slopes, and opened the southern terrace, just as Elizabeth opened the northern terrace. Work has been done in cloister and chapel. As Henry of Richmond made a road from Windsor to London, Queen Victoria has brought two railways to her castle gates.
Since the days of Edward of Windsor the Castle hill has kept the triple character-upper ward, middle ward, and lower ward - baily of the King, baily of the keep, and baily of St. George-the residence of our sovereign, the symbol of our power, the altar of our saint.