But she’s not the only one taking day and weekend trips here from London. With Buckingham Palace open only in summer, Windsor offers both the British public and international visitors the chance to poke around a Royal home regardless of the season.
In any case, Windsor Castle is just as impressive as Buckingham Palace, and the presence of St George’s Chapel makes it a much more intimate experience. The chapel is the final resting place of 10 monarchs, with the Queen Mother the most recent Royal to be interned here when she was buried alongside King George IV in 2002.
Aside from its history, its grand state rooms and the art on its walls – Rubens and Rembrandts the envy of galleries the world over – it’s the rural setting that marks Windsor – and Sandringham and Balmoral – out from London-based Royal residences (see Holiday Homes).
The road from the castle’s southern entrance, appropriately named the Long Walk, provides the public with access to some of the Windsor Great Park’s 4800 pristine acres. Always speckled with a steady stream of people strolling or cycling, the road stretches out towards Ascot, and passes by Frogmore House, home to the mausoleum of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
From within the castle walls it’s possible to see part of the park. You can also see the adjoining town of Eton, home to the college famous for educating generations of prime ministers and Royals.
The town may be just a short stroll over the Thames from the castle, but its effort to retain its charm while at the same time protect the privacy of its students makes Eton feel a world away from Windsor.
Tailors, antiques shops and book stores line the main street. It’s conceded far less to the tourist pound than Windsor, where Starbucks and McDonald’s are the order of the day, and a shopping precinct harbours all the usual high street names.
Whether Willliam and Harry noticed this disparity as they made their way from Eton College to their grandma’s is unclear. What is clear is that Windsor and Eton will continue to play an important role in shaping England’s future. With Prince William, a future King of England, and the Conservative leader David Cameron both old Etonians, this corner of the country – like the castle itself – is set to cast its shadow over history for some time to come.
Many other Royal residences are open to the public, largely to fund their upkeep.
It’s a bit of a stretch to describe the Queen’s Christmas hideaway as a ‘house’, but that’s what it says on the gate.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Scotland
The Queen’s official residence in Scotland sits at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
Balmoral Castle has been the Scottish home of the Royals since 1852.
And in London
The Queen’s official residence. The State Rooms, the Royal Mews and The Queen’s Gallery open to the public at various times of the year.
The London home of the Queen Mother until her death in 2002, after which Prince Charles moved in.
Diana’s home until her death in 1997.