Read Windsor Castle of Stories and Legends of Travel and History‚ for Children , free online book, by Grace Greenwood, on


One of the pleasantest excursions which a traveller can make from London is to Windsor, with its parks and grounds so wonderfully luxuriant and beautiful, and so vast in extent, and its royal old castle certainly one of the noblest sights in all England.

This is finely situated on the Thames; it overlooks a rich and lovely country, and is seen from great distances a grand, crowning object in the landscape.

I visited Windsor with a party of Americans, some of whom I had never seen before, and have not met since; but I always think of them with kindly interest, because I shared with them so great a pleasure. I wonder if they remember it as well as I do!

’Twas on a bright, but not unpleasantly warm day in midsummer, when the parks and gardens were in all the glory of their greenness and bloom, when fountains sparkled in the sun and birds warbled in the shade, and the sky above was clear and blue enough to make up for all the clouds and fogs I had seen since I came to England.

We went directly from the station to the Castle, a grand mass of ancient and modern buildings, towers, and turrets, and parapets all solidly but elegantly built, of dark gray stone.

We entered through a lofty gateway, into the court-yard, from thence into a sort of guardroom, where we recorded our names in a book; and then were conducted up a great marble staircase, to the state apartments. These are somewhat jumbled up in my mind with the hosts of magnificent rooms which I have since seen in many other royal palaces; but I remember that they were all very handsome, richly furnished, and hung with fine pictures and gorgeous tapestry. I recollect most distinctly “The Vandyke Room,” called so because of its containing several great pictures by that famous painter principally portraits of Charles I. and his family. Then there is “The Waterloo Chamber,” hung round with portraits of heroes and great men, and “St. George’s Hall,” a grand banqueting room, two hundred feet in length, and the beautiful ball-room, as brilliant as rich carving and gilding and delicate painting can make it.

Our party had permission to see not only the state, but the private apartments of the palace. These are less splendid than those great show rooms, but more tasteful, beautiful, and comfortable. Yes, comfortable for the English, even in their grandest palaces, manage to have the dear, cosy home look and feeling about them. The Queen’s breakfast parlor, looking out on a pleasant terrace, simply though richly furnished, and hung with portraits of herself, Prince Albert, and the royal children, is a very charming apartment indeed. We came to this through a long, bright corridor, lined with beautiful pictures, bronzes, graceful statuettes, and elegant curiosities, so that one could but be charmed to linger by the way. Several of the pictures represented scenes in her Majesty’s life her first council her coronation her marriage the christening of the princess royal, etc.

Many palaces have such a vast, cold, awfully grand look that one fancies kings and queens must have very dull, stiff, dreary times, living in them, and must often long for a simple, snug little cottage-home, somewhere away from all their pomp and splendor. But it is not so at Windsor; I did not pity the Queen at all. I even fancied that I could be very comfortable myself, living at the palace, after getting a little used to it. Her Majesty never gave me an opportunity to test this, however.

Attached to the Castle is the beautiful chapel of St. George, in which the court, when at Windsor, attend service. Here, a place is partitioned off for the royal family, something like a box at the opera, only enclosed by a fine lattice work screen, to prevent the people, I suppose, from gazing at the Queen and Prince Albert, when they should be minding their devotions.

From the chapel we went to the royal stables, where we were shown some very fine horses and elegant équipages. There were the Queen’s carriages of all varieties, and little pony phaetons, and Canadian sleighs and Russian sledges; and there were her carriage and riding horses, and Prince Albert’s hunters, and the children’s ponies. The stables are handsome and comfortable buildings, and are kept with the utmost care, order, and neatness. Thousands of poor people might envy the high-blooded brutes such a home as this. Some of the horses were very beautiful and graceful animals, and all were groomed so carefully it seemed no one hair was longer than the others. In almost every stall was a sleek, lazy, high-bred looking cat, either perched upon the back of the horse, dozing and blinking, or curled up in the straw at his feet, fast asleep. The grooms told us that the horses were really very fond of their feline companions, and treated them tenderly and protectingly.

From the castle we drove to the delightful pleasure-grounds of Virginia Water. Passing up a magnificent avenue, more than three miles long, we came to a height, on which stands a large equestrian statue of George III., in the dress of an ancient Roman. This is the king we rebelled against, you know. He was a domineering, stubborn, crack-brained old gentleman, but, for all that, honest and good-humored. I should not think him particularly like an ancient Roman, except in his obstinacy.

Next we came to Virginia Water, which is just the loveliest place I ever saw. Here are luxuriant plantations and gardens, summer-houses, temples, fountains, cascades, woods, walks, and drives. Here is a shining, winding little lake, with fairy-like pleasure-boats upon it, and graceful swans slowly sailing over the clear, blue waves, and looking like the reflection of small white clouds, floating in the sky above.

Virginia Water is the play-ground of royalty. The celebrated Duke of Cumberland, George IV., and William IV., amused themselves here a great deal, at an enormous and very foolish expense, sometimes. The duke built an absurd Chinese temple and a useless clock-tower. George had ruins brought from Greece and Egypt, and set up in the wood; while William, who had been a sailor, had a little vessel of war built to defend the miniature sea.

The Duke of Cumberland’s clock-tower was sold to a rich country gentleman, who soon tired of it, and wished to sell it back to the crown. But King George objected to his price, and refused to buy. The owner, who was a shrewd fellow, a sort of English Barnum, said, “Very well,” but immediately took means to render himself a very uncomfortable neighbor, by mounting a large telescope on the top of the tower, and coolly watching the king in all his loyal recreations. This quite enraged his Majesty; but he bought the tower on the owner’s terms, who, I am sorry to say, was disloyal enough to make him pay dear for the telescope.

When Queen Victoria is at Windsor, the royal standard is seen floating from the highest tower, and strangers are not admitted to the castle. But the great park is always open to the people. Here they sometimes meet the Queen and Prince Albert walking or riding, without an escort, and so plainly dressed that those who expect to see sovereigns and princes always surrounded by pomp and show, might pass them by unnoticed. The little princes and princesses are often seen walking and playing in the grounds, also very simply dressed. They are fine, healthy, natural children, and are admirably governed and cared for. Their good mother sees that especial attention is paid to their health, and has established a wise and strict system of exercise and diet. She keeps them in the country and on the sea-shore as much as possible; she overlooks their studies, reading, and sports; she is very careful that they go early to bed, and rise in time to hear the good-morning song of the lark. As for their diet, many an American farmer’s or shopkeeper’s children would think it very hard if they were restricted to such simple food as these sons and daughters of a great queen are content with and thrive on; oatmeal porridge, butterless bread, a very little meat, no rich gravies, water, milk, a limited amount of fruit, and no sweetmeats.

The Prince of Wales, who, if he lives, will be the next king of England, is an amiable and gallant young lad, but is a little too apt, I heard it said, to take kingly airs upon himself before his time. I was told of an instance of this very natural fault, in which he was taught a good lesson.

It happened some two or three summers ago, that he invited one of the boys from Eton College, which is near Windsor, to spend a day with him at the castle. This boy, though the son of a nobleman, was untitled, I believe, but perhaps all the more sturdy and manly for that, and not to be put upon, even by a prince.

All went well for a time, but at last, the prince took offence at some bit of sport, and did not restrain his temper or his tongue. The Etonian resented the insult, I am sorry to say, in the usual school-boy fashion, by a resort to blows; and being stronger than the prince, soon got the advantage of him. The attendants raised an alarm, and Prince Albert himself came to the field of battle. The Etonian, having let the little prince up, stood bravely facing his royal father.

“Why, what is the matter, boys?” asked Prince Albert.

“The matter is, your royal highness, that I have beaten your son. It was because he insulted me, and I won’t stand an insult from any boy.”

The prince, after inquiring into the matter, reproved young Albert; and being a soldier, did not blame the Eton boy for his want of peace principles, as you or I would doubtless have done.

There are many stories in English history connected with Windsor Castle, but none I think so pretty as that of


About four hundred and fifty years ago, when Henry IV. was king of England, King Robert III., of Scotland, put his son James, the heir to his throne, a boy of nine years old, on board ship, to send him to France, to be educated. But the vessel was taken by some English cruisers, and the little prince carried captive to King Henry, who treacherously imprisoned him at Windsor Castle.

King Robert was a very loving father, and when the news of this capture was brought to him, as he sat at supper in his palace at Rothesay, he was so overcome with grief that he fainted and seemed about to die. His attendants carried him to his chamber and laid him on his bed, which he never left again; for when he came out of his swoon, he hid his face in the pillow, and wept, and wept, refusing to be comforted, sending all his food away untasted, and scarcely ever speaking, except to repeat the name of his son, over and over again, in a way to break one’s heart. So he took on for three days and nights, and then died.

But the prince, now King James, was not so badly off as he might have been. Though a prisoner, he was not confined in a gloomy dungeon, but had handsome and comfortable apartments, in a tower which overlooked a beautiful garden, where trees waved, and birds sang, and fountains sparkled, and flowers sent up sweet perfumes to his windows. The sun shone and the stars looked in upon him; and when a prisoner can see the sun and the stars, he cannot feel that God has quite forgotten him, or the angels ceased to watch over him. He was not left alone, or deprived of employments and amusements. King Henry commanded that he should have a right princely education. He had masters who taught him history, grammar, oratory, music, sword-exercise, jousting, singing, and dancing. He was handsome, graceful, and clever, but always most celebrated for his poetical talent. As he grew to manhood, he became one of the noblest poets of his day, and even now his verses, though quaint and old-fashioned, are very sweet, pure, and pleasant to read.

One fresh May morning, when James had been a captive in Windsor Castle nearly eighteen years, as he was looking down from his window, he saw a beautiful young lady walking in the garden. She was dressed all in white; a net of pearls and sapphires confined her golden hair, and a rich chain of gold was about her delicate throat. By her side sported a pretty little Italian greyhound, with a string of tinkling silver bells around his neck.

As she moved among the flowers, the violet looked up into her eyes, and thought their tender blue was her own reflection. The rose said to herself, “What a rich bloom I must have, if even my shadow makes her cheeks so red!” The lily had similar thoughts about her neck; while the golden laburnum thought it and the sunbeams had been the making of her hair.

This lovely dame was the Lady Jane Beaufort, daughter of the Earl of Somerset. Of course, King James, having little else to do, fell in love with her without delay, and in a very short time told her so, by means of tender rhymes, which he sent fluttering down into her path. The Lady Jane was charmed with his verses, and found it easy to go from admiring the poetry into loving the poet. To be frank, and tell him so, she wrote a little billet, and tied it under the wing of a white dove, directing him to carry it straight to the captive’s window, and he did so. But if he had suspected what was to have come of it, I don’t believe he would have gone; for it was little rest the poor bird got after that, between the two lovers, who kept him flying back and forth a dozen times a day with their fond messages under his wing.

At last, King Henry got wind of this romantic affair, and, instead of being angry; he was very glad, for he wanted King James to have an English wife. So he took him from prison, gave him Lady Jane in marriage, and restored him to his throne.

The poet-king and his noble queen were very kindly received in Scotland, and lived for some time very happily and peacefully, always dearly loving one another. But James found the kingdom in great confusion from misgovernment, and the common people very much oppressed. He bravely set himself to reform matters, trying to relieve and protect the poor, and restrain and humble the rich and powerful. His most difficult labor was to lessen the power of the great nobles, who were in fact almost kings themselves, on their own estates, and fought against each other, and even against the king, upon the slightest provocation, and often without any. They rebelled against this as being a spiteful action, and not, as it really was, a noble, kingly effort to benefit the whole kingdom. They took further offence at the levying of some taxes for the support of the throne and to carry on the government. The people being poor, and not used to paying such taxes, were easily led to believe that it was King James’s avarice, and not the necessities of the government, which caused them to be exacted. So, although he was so wise and good, and had the welfare of his people so much at heart, he came to be looked upon as unjust and tyrannical, by both the nobles and the common people; and this led to a conspiracy to bring about his death.

The leader in this conspiracy was one Sir Robert Graham, a bold, ambitious man, who was greatly embittered by having suffered an imprisonment at the command of the King. He also enticed into the plot the old Earl of Athole, by promising that his son, Sir Robert Stewart, should be made king in James’s place. Many others joined the plot, upon various grounds, bringing with them their followers, to whom they pretended that their object was to carry off a lady from the court. Graham went off into the far Highlands, to complete his plan, and from thence he formally recalled his allegiance to the king, bidding him defiance, and threatening to put him to death with his own hand. In reply to this, King James set a price upon the head of Graham, to be paid to any one who should capture and deliver him up to justice; but he managed to keep himself safely concealed in the mountains.

For the Christmas following this, the poor, doomed king had appointed a feast to be held at Perth. As he was about to cross a ferry on his way to attend this feast, he was stopped by a Highland woman, who professed to be a prophetess. She called out to him in a loud voice, “My lord, the king, if you pass this water, you will never return alive.” The king had read in some book of prophecy, that a king would be killed in Scotland during that year, and was much struck by this speech of the old woman.

Better would it have been for both himself and Scotland had he given heed to this warning, which the old woman doubtless had better authority than her claim to prophecy for making; but he turned jestingly to a knight of the court, to whom he had given the title of “the King of Love,” saying, “Sir Alexander, there is a prophecy that a king shall be killed in Scotland this year; now this must mean either you or me, since we are the only kings in Scotland.” Several other things occurred which, if attended to, might have saved the king; but they were all suffered to pass unheeded.

When the king arrived at Perth, there being no castle or palace convenient, he selected for his residence an abbey of Black Friars, which made it necessary, unfortunately, to distribute his guards among the citizens, and thus make comparatively easy the execution of the design of the conspirators.

On the night of the 20th of February, 1437, after some of the conspirators, selected for that purpose, had knocked to pieces the locks of the doors of the king’s apartment, carried away the bars which fastened the gates, and provided planks with which the ditch surrounding the monastery was to be crossed, Sir Robert Graham left his hiding-place in the mountains and entered the convent gardens, with about three hundred men.

The king had spent the evening with the ladies and gentlemen of the court, in singing, dancing, playing chess, and reading romances aloud. All the court had retired, and James was standing before the fire, in night-gown and slippers, talking with the queen and her ladies, when the same Highland prophetess that had warned him at the ferry, begged to speak with him, but was refused, because it was so late.

Suddenly there was heard without the clash of men in armor, and the glare of torches was seen in the gardens. The king at once thought of Sir Robert Graham and his threat, and called to the ladies who were still in the room to keep the doors fast, so as to give him time to make his escape. After vainly trying to break the bars of the windows, he suddenly remembered that there was a vault running beneath the apartment, which was used as a common sewer; whereupon he seized the tongs, raised a plank in the floor, and let himself down. This vault had formerly led out into the court of the convent; but, most unfortunately, he had only a few days before ordered this opening to be walled up, because, when playing ball, the ball had several times rolled into it.

In the mean time, the conspirators were hunting for him from room to room, and at last they reached the one beneath which he was hidden. The queen and her ladies kept the door shut as long as they could, but you will remember that the cowardly conspirators had broken the locks and carried off the bars; and this brings us to one of the most devoted and heroic acts in Scottish history. Catherine Douglas, one of the noblest (both by rank and nature) and loveliest of the queen’s ladies, when she found that the bar was gone, with that high spirit which has made her race wellnigh the most famous of Scotland, thrust her beautiful, naked arm through the staples, in the place of the bar, and thus kept the door closed till her arm was crushed and broken by the pressure of the brutal traitors on the other side. When this heroic defence was overcome, they burst headlong into the room, with swords and daggers drawn, beating down and trampling on the brave ladies who did their best to keep them back. One of them was in the act of killing the queen, but a son of Graham prevented it, by exclaiming, “What would you do with the queen? She is but a woman! Let us seek the king!”

After a careful, but unsuccessful search, they went away to look in other parts of the building. The king having heard their departure, and being very cold and uncomfortable, asked the ladies to help him out of the vault. But some of the conspirators had remembered this vault, and just at this moment they returned to search it. They tore up the plank, and there stood the poor, doomed king in his night-gown, and entirely unarmed; at which, one of them said, “Sirs, I have found the bride for whom we have been seeking all night.”

First, two brothers, named Hall, jumped into the vault, with drawn daggers; but the king was a very powerful and active man, and he at once threw them both down, and was trying to get a dagger from them, when Graham himself leaped down. Then James, finding that defence was useless, asked him for mercy, and for a little time to confess his sins. But Graham replied, “Thou never hadst mercy on any one, therefore thou shall receive no mercy; and thy confessor shall be only this good sword.” Whereupon he ran the king through the body. Then, possibly overcome with remorse, or fearing the consequences of the deed, he was for leaving the king to the chances of life and death; but the others fiercely called out that if he did not kill the king, he himself should die. At this, he and the two Halls dispatched the poor monarch with their daggers. After his death, sixteen wounds were found upon his breast alone.

And this was the end of the great and good James I. of Scotland, who, king though he was, died a martyr for the rights of the people.