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My trip to Windsor Castle

Following the announcement in August that there would be a royal wedding exhibition at Windsor Castle, in which the Duchess of Sussex’s actual wedding dress would be on display, I made sure to note in my calendar that making a little trip to Windsor before the year’s end was a must – and yesterday was finally the day. I had never been inside of a Royal castle or palace before and although I expected it to be grand and beautiful, I wasn’t quite prepared for just how surreal the experience would be.

I deliberately chose to go on a weekday to avoid crowds, following the website’s advice to arrive after noon. It was overcast but lovely and quiet. I first made my way to St. George’s Chapel, beyond excited to see where Meghan and Harry said their vows (and walk down the aisle pretending to be a royal bride, duh). Right outside the entrance to the chapel is a big sign stating that no photography is allowed inside, which was a bummer. I love snapping photos and video of the places I visit, browsing through them later and remembering a good time. I was hoping that maybe they wouldn’t be super strict about it but the signs kept on appearing throughout the chapel and there is staff at every corner – very friendly staff though, who are, might I add, magnificently dressed. You can tell they take pride in their job and rightfully so. One lovely lady I spoke to, who had just given a tour to a group of excited school kids (shout out to Joe’s dad who apparently dresses like Prince Charles), told me that she has been a volunteer at the chapel for over 10 years and still appreciates the beauty of it every single day. It’s hard not to. Even the seemingly uninterested husbands, possibly dragged there by their missus (guilty), were taking their time looking up at the ceilings and the intricate marble carvings in awe.

After lighting a candle and leaving a prayer for a loved one, I made my way down to the other entrance, the one Meghan walked up the steps to with her adorable page boys. There was scaffolding and vans and cars parked in the way of it, and not a single other person, which made me wonder if I was even allowed to be there as I hadn’t noticed any people traffic prior. A workman appeared, pulling a metal chain across where I had just walked in from with the words “PRIVATE,” so I apologised and asked if I wasn’t supposed to be there, to which he replied that it was no problem (phew) and that he had to pull the chain across for health and safety reasons. After I snapped a few photos, he kindly let me out and pulled the chain back across again. I walked away feeling lucky and grateful that I had got there just in time. Again, the area was much smaller than it looked on TV.

There was one single guard standing outside, mumbling to himself as I walked past, walking in to The Lower Ward Shop opposite. Inside the wonderfully decorated little shop I went straight for the baby blue arrangement filled with H&M merchandise. I bought a mug, bookmark and some flashy looking gold pens, carefully and neatly placed in also gold Windsor Castle carrier bag, with a polite “Thank you” card inside. The staff were again gracious and friendly.

Making my way back up the hill to the state apartments and rooms, and the all-important wedding exhibition (where again you were not allowed to take photos), the sun finally started to peek out from behind the clouds and everything looked even more beautiful, especially with all the surrounding autumn colours. Walking up The Grand Staircase and in to the first few rooms is where it all started to get a bit surreal. Seeing The King’s Bed Chamber, the King’s Dressing Room, the King’s Closet and the King’s Dining Room…surreal. There is an actual throne, which my other half joked is probably “the dog’s bed.” Passing through the Crimson Drawing Room, I almost missed the historic Green Drawing Room, where Meghan and Harry had their official wedding portraits taken. It’s closed off but you can still see in, and placed in the room are two large prints showing the newlyweds, along with a plaque that reads “The official wedding photographs of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were taken here in the Green Drawing Room by Alexi Lubomirski.” In the middle of the Crimson Drawing Room is a large print of the black and white photo taken outside. Although it is a working castle, the rooms are set up in such a way that they were probably always meant to be walked through and admired.

A few rooms and many “wow” moments later is The Waterloo Chamber, which made me want to attend any type of gathering there just to experience having a good time in such an incredible setting – or perhaps a dinner, sitting at the huge mahogany table, asking the person at the other end to please pass the salt just to see how far we could slide it.

While in The Queen’s Guard Chamber we were asked to hurry along if we wanted to see “the dress” as each room was being closed up behind us and the castle would soon be closing. As you near the exhibition, walking through a round hallway and long walkway, huge photos from the wedding line the walls and there are even first sketches of the dress by Clare Waight Keller, and drawings of the Commonwealth flowers. Finally arriving at the exhibit in The Grand Reception Room (where the Queen also hosted their wedding reception) was nothing short of magical. It was very dimly lit with a spotlight on the outfits, making it the sole focus of the room. The dress was just as I imagined it: simple, elegant and classic. It looked more fitted on the mannequin and the waist is tiny. I could have spent longer admiring it all but there wasn’t enough time and at this point the staff seemed eager for people to go.

As I left, I imagined how Harry and Meghan had probably strolled slowly through each room hand in hand, Harry telling all the stories and Meghan listening intently, experiencing several pinch-me moments as she held on to her Prince.

“A Royal Wedding: The Duke And Duchess Of Sussex” opened for the public at Windsor Castle on 26 October, 2018, and will stay until 6 January, 2019. The exhibition will then go in display at Palace of Holyroodhouse from 14 June to 6 October, 2019.