Compass

Nov. 20, 1992: Windsor Castle catches fire

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(Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

The flames that ripped through Windsor Castle, a British royal residence just outside London, did more than damage the oldest inhabited castle in Europe. In a roundabout way, the fire led the British Royal Family to grant more public access to its homes.

The Queen’s Private Chapel at Windsor Castle — a sprawling architectural masterpiece built in stages from the 11th to 19th centuries — ignited on the morning of Nov. 20, lighting a conflagration that would destroy some of its most beautiful rooms. Once the flames were out, a big question emerged: Who would pay for about $50 million in repairs?

While the Queen contributed to the restoration, the bulk of the money would come from charging visitor admission to Windsor and other royal buildings. Most significantly, the need for funds drove the royal family to open Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official residence in London, to the public for the first time. Since 1993, the palace’s State Rooms have been opened each July and August, the months when the royals are typically away at their summer residences.

The State Rooms are also opening to the public this winter. From Dec. 6-Feb. 2, a £75.00 ticket gets you a special guided tour, an official palace guidebook and a glass of champagne at the end of your visit.

The now-restored Windsor Castle, which was open to the public before the fire, is open to visitors most days of the year and easily accessible from the Windsor train station.

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