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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Sir Jeffry Wyatville (1766-1840)

Windsor Castle: The south front of the Upper Ward before and after the proposed remodelling 1824

RCIN 918431

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Windsor Castle was one of the official royal residences George IV inherited with the throne in 1820. Finding it cold and inconvenient, the King launched a programme of improvements, for which he was granted funds by Parliament. Jeffry Wyatt (later to be knighted for his work for the King with an elaboration of his surname – as Sir Jeffry Wyatville) was appointed architect and drew up a series of drawings showing the Castle in its existing state, and his plans for improvements.

The improvements were intended both to modernise the Castle, and to transform the appearance of the ancient medieval building into a magnificent residence, a worthy seat for the sovereign of the country that had defeated Napoleon. This drawing shows the south front of the Upper Ward of the Castle, at the northern end of the Long Walk, the ceremonial route from the south. Wyatville’s design, seen at the top, clearly aims to transform the existing medieval façade (shown at the bottom) by the creation of a grand central entrance. This gateway, known as the George IV gateway, was the first area to be rebuilt – the King laid the first stone on his 62nd birthday in 1824. However, the most dramatic change introduced by Wyatville can be seen to the far left of the drawing. The famous Round Tower was raised by 30 feet to create the dominant feature by which the Castle has become instantly recognisable to modern visitors.

George IV’s proposals for Windsor were administered (and his extravagance supposed to be kept in check) by a group of Commissioners, who were to approve the architect’s plans. Wyatville requested that a set of the approved designs be signed as a record of the Commissioners’ agreement to his proposals. This drawing is one of the signed set, and includes, alongside the signature of the King, the names of the second Earl of Liverpool (Prime Minister 1812–27) and the Duke of Wellington (who was to become Prime Minister in 1828). It is part of the large collection of architectural plans kept in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle.