Queen Elizabeth is allowing visitors to explore the grand East Terrace Garden and turn full medieval knight inside the ancient Moat Garden

By Phil Boucher
August 06, 2020 12:27 PM
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Queen Elizabeth
TOBY MELVILLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth is opening up some of the most private areas of Windsor Castle.

Beginning on Saturday, visitors to the 950-year-old castle, which was the location of Prince Harry's 2018 wedding to Meghan Markle, will be able to enjoy the magnificent flowerbeds and water features of the grand East Terrace Garden for the first time in decades.

Created by George IV as a secluded retreat in the 1820s, the large formal garden is overlooked by the castle's historic east façade and features such things as "clipped domes of yew and flowerbeds containing 3,500 rose bushes planted in a geometric pattern around a central fountain," says a release from the Royal Collections Trust, the charity that runs the opening of the palaces and their accompanying stores.

At its center also lies a bronze lotus fountain based on a design created by Prince Philip in 1971.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in Windsor Castle's East Terrace Garden
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020

The royal history of the terrace goes even deeper. Originally the site of a bowling green made for Charles II in the 1670s, it was extensively replanted by Prince Albert in the 19th century and became the site of large garden parties thrown by Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in the early 20th century.

During the Second World War, a young Princess Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, were each given a small plot to grow tomatoes, sweetcorn, and dwarf beans in the garden and it has since served as a dramatic backdrop to several official portraits of the Queen, including a portrait by Annie Leibovitz in 2016.

Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020

While the East Terrace has grandeur like nowhere else, it's likely that another newly-opened section of the castle — founded by William The Conqueror in the year 1070 — will generate the most fun.

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On Thursdays and Fridays throughout August, visitors with young children will be given special access to the Castle’s Moat Garden, which is hidden beneath the iconic Round Tower.

Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020

The secluded garden dates from the reign of Edward III and is believed to be the setting of  The Knight’s Tale, written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the year 1400.

More importantly, it will give children the opportunity to join guided walks, take part in art activities, enjoy a picnic on the lawn or — best of all — climb the Castle motte (mound) like a real-life knight in shining armor.

There's just one catch: visitors won't be able to catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth herself. While the royal great-grandmother, 94, has spent most of the year self-isolating at Windsor with Prince Philip, 99, who attended the secret wedding of Princess Beatrice and Eduardo Mapell in July, the Queen flew to Scotland on Tuesday for her annual summer retreat at Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire.