Windsor Castle has been home for the royal family for 908 years, it has housed 40 monarchs and is where the reigning Queen spends most of her private weekends. On Saturday, thousands will gather outside the royal walls hoping to catch a glimpse of the sixth-in-line to the throne, Prince Harry and his bride-to-be Meghan Markle on their wedding day. Ahead of the special event Corazon Miller takes a walk inside the castle grounds to see where the couple will tie the knot and talks through their plans for the day.

The first glimpse of Windsor Castle comes from the Great Western Railway train's window, as it pulls up to Windsor and Eton Riverside station.

The royal residence, said to be Queen Elizabeth II's favourite, looms grandiosely out of green fields and the leafy surrounds. The absence of a flying Royal Standard signals Her Majesty is not home today.

Even if she had been home, a chance encounter is unlikely given the castle's sheer size and security measures in place keeping members of the public away from private quarters.


The castle is open most days of the year, teaching visitors about its history and its modern day royal role, but the Queen's private quarters always remain off limits to all but the invited few.

A self-guided tour through the residence takes a little more than two hours, though the official Windsor Castle website suggests three.

A view of St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will have their wedding service. Photo / Getty Images
A view of St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will have their wedding service. Photo / Getty Images

The Royal Collection Trust which manages the public openings of the Queen's residences said the castle grounds cover 52,609sq m – though not all of this is accessible by the general public.

Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, is still a working palace and is regularly used for ceremonial and state occasions.

Its site high above the river Thames, situated on the edge of what was once a Saxon hunting ground, was chosen by William the Conqueror.

Building began in 1070 and was completed 16 years later, with numerous redevelopments and additions in the years since.

On the day of the Herald visit it was business as usual with hundreds of tourists clutching audio guides to their ears, as they traipsed through the palace.

Visitors are first greeted at the entrance with a large life-like portrait of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip smiling out from the red-brick wall.


Nearby is another life-like painting of the Queen surrounded by her grandchildren – minus the latest addition to the royal family, 3-week-old Prince Louis.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will tie the knot at the Queen's favourite residence, Windsor Castle. Photo / AP
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will tie the knot at the Queen's favourite residence, Windsor Castle. Photo / AP

Days from now this image of tourists meandering past the royal portraits will be replaced by the many guests invited to the wedding celebrations.

Six hundred guests will attend the ceremony to be held at St George's Chapel, on castle grounds – the same place where Prince Harry was christened in 1984.

The chapel has been a central part of many a royal occasion since it was first built in the early 13th century and has been used to celebrate both life and death.

It's home to tombs of 10 monarchs, including Henry VIII who is best known for his six marriages.

His third wife Jane Seymour, the mother of his long-awaited son and heir, is buried next to him.

The Queen's parents, King George and Queen Elizabeth, are also buried there and it's expected that when her time comes it could also be the Queen's final resting place.

This weekend's more celebratory affair will kick off at midday (local time) though invited guests will begin arriving from 9.30am by coach.

Outside the chapel 2640 members have also been invited to wait, giving them front-row seats of the new bride and groom and their guests' comings and goings.

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Photo / AP
Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Photo / AP

The wedding ceremony will be conducted by the Dean of Windsor Reverend David Conner, and will be officiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Director of music at St George's Chapel James Vivian will be in charge of the music; the Duke of Cambridge will be the best man and Prince George and Princess Charlotte the page boy and flower girl.

At 1pm, the newlyweds will do a round of the village, in an Ascot Landau horse-drawn carriage, before attending the reception at St George's Hall.

The 55m long room, traditionally used for state banquets, typically seats up to 162 people, but reports indicate the reception is going to be a standing affair for the 600 attendees.

On the menu will be food made in the Great Kitchen from locally sourced ingredients, under the guidance of royal head chef Mark Flanagan.

Claire Ptak, an east London pastry chef at Violet Bakery in Hackney, will make the organic lemon and elderflower wedding cake.

Later in the evening a second celebration will take place at Frogmore House for just 200 of the couple's close family and friends.

Meanwhile as the royals feast behind closed doors, locals in Windsor Village, London and surrounding towns, are expected to celebrate well into the night.

About Windsor Castle

Built in 1070 to 1086
Royal residence from as early as 1110
Home to 40 monarchs – including the reigning Queen
Great Kitchen at Windsor Castle is the oldest working kitchen in the country

About the wedding

Starts at midday on Saturday (11pm NZT)
Will be held at St George's Chapel
600 guests have been invited to the wedding
2640 have been invited into the castle grounds