Queen Elizabeth II was passionate about the countryside. During her lifetime, Windsor had a major influence on this passion, becoming the place that she called ‘home’. Queen Elizabeth II had a significant impact on Windsor Great Park and the wider Estate as we know it today; supporting initiatives and projects that ensured it can be enjoyed by millions of visitors every year whilst maintaining it as a haven for wildlife and securing its future for generations to come.
Queen Elizabeth II’s love of the countryside began at Windsor. She first experienced Windsor Great Park when she was five years old, when her parents, The Duke and Duchess of York, used Royal Lodge as a country residence.
Left to right: Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret Rose, Princess Elizabeth and George VI at Royal Lodge.
It was here that the then Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were able to enjoy the outdoors, honing their gardening skills in their own little gardens and practising their Girl Guide skills. It is also where they learned to ride horses, and this remained a lifelong tradition for Queen Elizabeth II, riding through Home Park and Windsor Great Park whenever she could and gaining particular enjoyment from the Royal Windsor Horse Show and Royal Ascot each year.
Left to right: Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose on horseback in the ground of Royal Lodge.
During the Second World War, Windsor was home to Princess Elizabeth and in 1940, at the age of just 14, she made her first radio broadcast from Windsor to boost the morale of children who had been evacuated from Britain to keep them safe. She was photographed in the grounds of Windsor Castle digging up vegetables to support the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign and it was from here that she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, to play her part in the war effort.
Left to right: The Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose inspect tomatoes which they grew in their garden. Sept. 8 1943.
But Windsor wasn’t only a place for leisure and refuge for Queen Elizabeth II. One of her very first acts following her accession was to make The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Ranger of Windsor Great Park in 1952. Together, for nearly 70 years, they played a role in protecting and preserving Windsor Great Park and wider Estate, advising and overseeing the Deputy Ranger to ensure it is both protected and improved for generations to come.
During Queen Elizabeth’s reign many new landmarks were added across Windsor Great Park, which today provide further reminders to visitors of its continued Royal patronage and of Queen Elizabeth’s connection to it. This includes:
- The Totem Pole, a gift from the people of Canada
- The Rose Garden within The Savill Garden which Queen Elizabeth opened in 2010
- Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Plantation of oak trees. Planted in 1953 by Queen Elizabeth II and The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, deputises for Queen Elizabeth II to unveil the commemorative plaque at the base of the 100-foot Totem Pole.
Queen Elizabeth II planting a tree in Coronation Grove, 1953 Windsor Great Park.
In 2002, the Golden Jubilee Statue took pride of place at the southern end of Queen Anne’s Ride. The statue – which is the only statue of Queen Elizabeth II on horseback to have been commissioned to date – was a Golden Jubilee gift from The Crown Estate and will serve as a long-lasting reminder of the invaluable connection Queen Elizabeth II had to this great landscape.
The Golden Jubilee Statue.
Queen Elizabeth II and The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh also championed innovation and sustainability across Windsor Great Park. On the Estate’s farms, they supported the introduction of the latest technologies to improve standards and ensure livestock are of the highest quality; Windsor Castle itself uses renewable energy generated by a hydro power plant in the Park; and in 2011 they supported the reinstatement of a vineyard on the estate, bringing back a tradition last seen at Windsor in the reign of King Henry II, and at the same time helping to raise the profile of the English wine industry.
Windsor Great Park and wider Estate has benefitted from the careful stewardship of Kings and Queens for nearly a thousand years. Today, thanks to the passion Queen Elizabeth II had for this great landscape and thanks to the commitment of The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh over nearly 70 years as Ranger, it remains a jewel in the nation’s crown, open to everyone and offering people and wildlife a rich sanctuary for generations to come.
This is a legacy of immeasurable value to the environment, wildlife, the rural economy and many millions of visitors from across the globe now, and long into the future.
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