Windsor Castle
St. George's Chapel

The chapel of St. George was made a Chapel Royal by King Edward III in 1348. The office of Dean was, till the reign of Henry IV, held by a dignitary designated by the name of "Custos." John Arundel, in Henry IV's reign, being the first to bear the title of "Dean." At first, the chapel was dedicated to St. Edward the Confessor, but gradually, owing to its connection with the Order of the Garter, St. George superseded the former patron saint. Later on, Henry VII had intended to make this chapel the tomb of his race, and the work was actually commenced, when the King turned his attention to Westminster. Henry VIII presented the incomplete extension to Wolsey and, about 1524, the Cardinal employed Benedetto of Florence to build a sumptuous sarcophagus of black marble, decorated with figures of copper gilt for his own use. After his disgrace, Henry intended to convert it for himself, but the money ran out and the magnificent metalwork lay neglected till the governorships of Colonel Venn and Colonel Whichcott. These functionaries sold various figures and images as old brass, and realised a very handsome sum by the transaction. In 1805, the marble sarcophagus was removed to St. Paul's, to mark the grave of Lord Nelson.

In 1686, when King James II was misruling the land, he expended some 700 on repairing the chapel and in solemnizing high mass. In George III's reign, the chapel was made the Royal Mausoleum and Princess Amelia was the first to be interred in it. His wife, his sister and six of his children and grandchildren were buried in the vault before George himself. There is room for forty-nine coffins, and already twenty-one have been placed in it, the Duke of Clarence and Avondale having been the last. Although Prince Albert was buried at Frogmore, Wolsey's tomb-house was selected as the site for the magnificent memorial in his honour. The interior of the chapel is lined with marble and mosaic, the walls are covered with reliefs, the windows are of stained glass. The cenotaph stands in front of the magnificent altar and supports a recumbent statue, a personification of the Christian soldier described by St. Paul, of white marble, the face being a portrait of the Prince. A hound, a portrait of the Prince's favourite dog, Eos, sits at his feet. This chapel remains now as the Albert Memorial Chapel, one of the most splendid monuments of the Victorian age.

Part 9: Castle Treasures

Edited from PH Ditchfield's "Bygone Berkshire" (1896)


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