A short look at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle where the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex was held.
St. George’s castle chapel was established in the 14th century by King Edward III of England, Lord of Ireland and began extensive enlargement in the late 15th century. It has been the location of many royal ceremonies, weddings and burials. Windsor Castle is a principal residence for Queen Elizabeth II and St. George’s Chapel is the planned burial site for the Queen.
The day-to-day running of the Chapel is the responsibility Dean and Canons of Windsor who make up the religious College of St George, which is directed by a Chapter of the Dean and four Canons, assisted by a Clerk, Virger (traditional spelling of verger) and other staff. The Society of the Friends of St George’s and Descendants of the Knights of the Garter, a registered charity, was established in 1931 to assist the College in maintaining the Chapel.
St George’s Chapel became the Mother Church of the Order of the Garter, and a special service is still held in the chapel every June and is attended by the members of the order. Their heraldic banners hang above the upper stalls of the choir where they have a seat for life.
The period 1475–1528 saw a radical redevelopment of St George’s Chapel under the designs of King Henry VII’s most prized counsellor Sir Reginald Bray (later Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), set in motion by Edward IV and continued by Henry VII and Henry VIII. The thirteenth-century Chapel of St Edward the Confessor was expanded into a huge new Cathedral-like chapel under the supervision of Richard Beauchamp, Bishop of Salisbury, and the direction of the master mason Henry Janyns.
St George’s Chapel was a popular destination for pilgrims during the late medieval period. The chapel was purported to contain several important relics: the bodies of John Schorne and Henry VI of England and a fragment of the True Cross held in a reliquary called the Cross of Gneth. These relics all appear to have been displayed at the east end of the south choir aisle.
The Chapel suffered a great deal of destruction during the English Civil War. Parliamentary forces broke into and plundered the chapel and treasury on October 23, 1642. Further pillaging occurred in 1643 when the fifteenth-century chapter house was destroyed, lead was stripped off the chapel roofs, and elements of Henry VIII’s unfinished funeral monument were stolen. Following his execution in 1649, Charles I was buried in a small vault in the centre of the choir at St George’s Chapel which also contained the coffins of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. A programme of repair was undertaken at St George’s Chapel following the Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II.
The reign of Queen Victoria saw further changes made to the architecture of the chapel. The east end of the choir was reworked in devotion to Prince Albert; the Lady Chapel, which had been abandoned by Henry VII, was finally completed; a royal mausoleum was completed underneath the Lady Chapel; and a set of steps were built at the west end of the chapel to create a ceremonial entrance to the building. In the 21st century, St George’s accommodates approximately 800 persons for services and events.
The chapel has been the site of many royal weddings, particularly of the children of Queen Victoria. These weddings include:
* The Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863 (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra respectively)
* The Princess Helena and Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg in 1866
* The Princess Louise and the Marquess of Lorne (later Duke of Argyll) in 1871
* The Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia in 1879
* Princess Frederica of Hanover and Luitbert von Pawel Rammingen in 1880
* The Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany and Princess Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont in 1882
* Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein (daughter of Princess Christian) and Prince Aribert of Anhalt in 1891
* Princess Alice (daughter of the Duke of Albany) and Prince Alexander of Teck (later Earl of Athlone) in 1904
* Princess Margaret of Connaught (daughter of the Duke of Connaught) and Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden (later King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden) in 1905
* Lady Helena Cambridge (daughter of the Marquess of Cambridge, and niece of Queen Mary) and Major John Gibbs, Coldstream Guards in 1919 (non-royal)
* Anne Abel Smith (granddaughter of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone) and David Liddell-Grainger in 1957 (non-royal)
* Lady Helen Windsor (daughter of The Duke of Kent) and Timothy Taylor in 1992 (non-royal)
* The wedding of The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999
* The union of The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 received a blessing from The Archbishop of Canterbury
* Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly in 2008
* Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on 19 May 2018
* The forthcoming wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank on 12 October 2018