Tuesday, May 20, 2008

St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle

St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. (c) The Dean and Canons of Windsor/Elizabeth Vickers.
By Hugo Vickers

On 23 April there was a huge and splendid service of thanksgiving
at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. This marked several things — the 660th anniversary of the founding of the Order of the Garter by King Edward III in 1348, and of the College of St George in the same year. It was also the 60th anniversary of the re-introduction of the annual Garter Service with installation, a ceremony that had lapsed since 1805.

On St George’s Day 1948, King George VI summoned the Knights of the Garter and installed his daughter, Princess Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh into the Order. It was therefore uniquely special that both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were again present in the Chapel for this special service, on the same day sixty years on. The Duke read the second lesson. It happened to be the first public appearance of the Duke of Edinburgh, since his recent stay in hospital in Windsor.
The Nave of St George's Chapel. (c) The Dean and Canons of Windsor/Elizabeth Vickers.
The Quire of St George's Chapel with the banners of the Knights of the Garter - during Sunday Mattins. (c) The Dean and Canons of Windsor/Elizabeth Vickers. Major General Sir Michael Hobbs leading the Military Knights of Windsor out of the chapel after Sunday mattins. (c) The Dean and Canons of Windsor/Elizabeth Vickers.
Also at the service were the Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex, the Princess Royal, the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra (all of whom are members of the Order). Many Knights and Ladies of the Order were present, including the former Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher, but none of the three new appointees to the Order of the Garter, announced that day – Lord Luce (former Lord Chamberlain), HRH Prince William of Wales (who will one day be a future Sovereign of the Order and is the 1,000th Knight of the Garter since the foundation), and Sir Thomas Dunne (long-serving Lord Lieutenant of Hereford).

St George’s Chapel, like so many ancient buildings, is in constant need of restoration. Between 1920 and 1930 a massive programme of restoration took place. More recently many generous benefactors raised large sums for more vital work to take place. Besides members of the Royal Family and holders of the Order of the Garter (including the Queen of the Netherlands and Grand Duke John of Luxembourg), the chapel records a number of private benefactors, in particular Mrs Walter H. Annenberg, Eric and Patricia Hotung, Mr and Mrs John Whittaker of the Parthenon Trust. Generous support has also come from the Hon William and Mrs Farish (he being a former American Ambassador to Britain), the Hon Robert and Mrs Tuttle (he being the present American Ambassador, and present at the service), Dame Jillian Sackler, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Hon Mrs Hilary M Weston, and others. This phase of fundraising which achieved over £20 million ($39 million), was masterminded by Sir Claude Hankes.
L. to r.: The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in an Ascot landau after the Garter ceremony in June 2007; The Garter procession in 2006. (c) Elizabeth Vickers.
For me 23 April was a special day, since it marked the publication of my new history of the chapel – St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. In his foreword to the book, the Duke of Edinburgh generously wrote: ‘The author tells a fascinating story, and his wife has added a wonderful store of images to go with it. Together they have provided a vivid account of this unique building, and of the community which it has served for so many centuries.’

In writing the book, I concentrated on the people who had made St George’s Chapel what it is – the Kings and Queens, the Deans and Canons, the organists and architects, the Military Knights and other figures. St George’s Chapel has witnessed numerous significant royal occasions over the centuries, it is the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter, the burial place of Edward IV, Henry V, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour (his 3rd wife), Charles I, George III and Queen Charlotte, George IV, William IV and Queen Adelaide, Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, George V and Queen Mary, and George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), not to mention the exiled, blind King George V of Hanover, laid in the Royal Vault in 1878, as a direct descendant of George III.
The Queen in the Garter procession 2005. (c) Elizabeth Vickers.
A bust of The Queen by Angela Conner in St George's Chapel. A gift from the Knights of the Garter to mark her 80th birthday in 2006. (c) The Dean and Canons of Windsor/Elizabeth Vickers.
Not all royal funerals have run smoothly. When the Duke of York, brother of George IV, died in 1827, the service was such a fiasco that George Canning turned to Sir Robert Peel on the way out and said: ‘Such a procession and such a ceremony, if offered at the theatre, would be hissed as contemptible.’

More recently, the chapel was the place where the Duke of Windsor lay in state after his death in Paris in 1972.

And in 1986, the Queen and many members of the Royal Family attended the funeral of the Duchess of Windsor, before she was buried beside the Duke in the private royal burial ground at Frogmore.

Prince Edward (Earl of Wessex) chose to be married in the chapel in 1999, and the Prince of Wales had the Service of Blessing there, following his civil marriage to the divorced Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are especially fond of St George’s Chapel, and both celebrated their 80th birthdays there with services for their family and friends.

Copies of 'St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle' can be obtained from St
George's Chapel Shop at £19.99 plus shipping charges (£5 within the UK and
£13 outside the UK). The shop accepts credit cards (excluding American
Express) or £ Sterling cheques payable to "St George's Chapel Bookshop Ltd".

The Retail Manager, St George's Chapel Shop, 1A The Cloisters, Windsor
Castle, Berkshire, SL4 2AD, UK.
Tel +44 (0)1753 848729

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