Elder daughter and I slipped away from the family gathering to go shopping in Windsor.  Elder Daughter maintained it was a while since she had been shopping alone with me.  But Elder Daughter knows she is on to a good thing since my pockets are deeper than hers.  An hour later, duly satisfied, she skipped along like a toddler.  We came across people lining the streets, quiet with anticipation. 

“They’re changing the guard,” a woman told us, “and it’s worth waiting.”  So we waited, and it was.

Elder Daughter knew all about the changing of the guard from Christopher Robin.  Countless times, until she knew the words off by heart, she had been read the story of Christopher Robin being taken by his nanny to see the guard changing.  Now Elder Daughter is as tall as me and still enjoys watching the pageant.

The Blues and Royals Band of the Household Cavalry accompanies the new bear-skinned guards to Windsor Castle, leaving the barracks and marching through Windsor High Street at about 10.50am.  The guards change over inside the castle at 11 o’clock, and the retiring guards – accompanied by the Band – march back to barracks through the High Street at about 11.15am.  It is a far more intimate experience than watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, with far fewer spectators and a far more magnificent backdrop.  The palace website says that the guards change only on alternate days except in April, May, June and July.  I am not sure what happens on the other days, but we were there on a Monday, and there is no changing of the guard on Sundays.

Windsor is only a short train ride from London’s Waterloo or Paddington Stations, and there is much to see and do, unbothered by crowds.  Beside the Castle itself, there are the 2,000 acres of Windsor Great Park and the Savill Garden to wander in, and Queen Mary’s Dolls House to marvel at.  Windsor Great Park has some of the oldest trees in Britain, and the Savill Garden is reknowned for its autumn colour.  The walk down past the castle, over the river, and along Eton High Street to Eton College, is very pleasant.  Imagine how lovely it must have been for the Queen to look out of her window to Prince William and Prince Harry’s school below her.  I wonder if either the Queen or either Prince was allowed to take the direct route from the school to the palace to visit each other.

A tour round Eton College is guaranteed to bust all preconceptions and inspire awe if not envy.  I doubt anybody has ever turned down an invitation to visit the school.  The enviable facilities from a museum of Egyptian artefacts to a conveniently Olympic-size rowing lake are enhanced by inspiring visits from almost any speaker and world leader you can imagine, and an army of dedicated teachers. 

A year’s fees cost more than £25,000 net of tax, but there are scholarships and bursaries available. The school urges: “No parents with a talented boy should feel that Eton is necessarily beyond their means”. 

The school was originally founded in 1440 by King Henry VI for 70 scholars, and there are still 70 King’s Scholars at any one time.  There are additional Music scholarships, Junior Scholarships, Junior Music Scholarships, Sixth Form Scholarships, and American Scholarships, all of which may be supplemented by bursaries if appropriate.

A. A. Milne 1882-1956

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Alice is marrying one of the guard.
“A soldier’s life is terribly hard,”
Says Alice.
They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
We saw a guard in a sentry-box.
“One of the sergeants looks after their socks,”
Says Alice.

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
We looked for the King but he never came.
“Well, God take care of him, all the same,”
Says Alice.

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
They’ve great big parties inside the grounds.
“I wouldn’t be King for a hundred pounds,”
Says Alice.

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
A face looked out, but it wasn’t the King’s.
“He’s much too busy a-signing things,”
Says Alice.

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
“Do you think the King knows all about me?”
“Sure to, dear, but it’s time for tea,”
Says Alice

The Long Walk, Windsor Great Park

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