Queen Elizabeth II Joined a Human Chain to Save Irreplaceable Valuables From the Windsor Fire in 1992
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When a devastating fire destroyed part of Windsor Castle in 1992, Queen Elizabeth II joined emergency responders and castle staff in forming a human chain to retrieve invaluable artwork from inside. She later said the catastrophic blaze, which caused about 37 million pounds in damages to the centuries-old castle, was just one part of the worst year of her reign — her “annus horribilis,” or horrible year.
Windsor Castle: a brief history of the world’s oldest, largest inhabited castle
According to the Royal Collection Trust, Windsor Castle is the world’s oldest and largest inhabited castle. William the Conqueror started the construction in 1070, and the palace was completed 16 years later. More than 40 monarchs, including Elizabeth, have lived in the castle since then.
Notably, that’s where the late queen self-isolated with staff during the pandemic. She hunkered down in the palace with 22 royal staff members to keep safe.
Queen Elizabeth joined a human chain to save valuables from the devastating fire at Windsor Castle
In 1992, a fire in Queen Victoria’s Private Chapel engulfed the ceilings of St George’s Hall and other parts of Windsor Castle.
Along with rumored favorite son Prince Andrew, Elizabeth arrived on the fire scene and joined efforts to save valuables in a human chain. Andrew was in another part of the castle while Elizabeth traveled from Buckingham Palace after the fire broke out.
“She is helping to take stuff out of the castle — works of art. She has been in there for 30 minutes,” Andrew told reporters at the time (per The Washington Post). He added, “The queen is devastated, absolutely devastated.”
Notably, the flames were so intense that firefighters had to retreat at times while trying to subdue the blaze. Eight people ended up in the hospital. But the efforts to save priceless artworks and heirlooms seemingly paid off. “I think it was as few as six paintings [were lost],” Andrew offered. “Of course, there is also water damage.”
Still, the queen’s response to the fire was “probably the same reaction as yours if you saw your home burning down,” Dickie Arbiter, assistant press officer at Buckingham Palace, said. “She appeared very upset.”
What caused the fire at Windsor Castle?
The Royal Collection Trust reported that a faulty spotlight ignited a curtain in Queen Victoria’s Private Chapel. In minutes, the fire grew out of control. It took firefighters from seven counties 1.5 million gallons of water to contain the blaze, which burned from 11:30 am on Nov. 20, 1992, until it was extinguished at 2:30 am on November 21.
After 15 hours, 115 rooms, including nine State Rooms, were damaged. The repairs cost approximately 37 million pounds and took five years to complete. They were primarily paid for by ticket sales to royal estates, including those for the queen’s family home at Buckingham Palace after it opened for public tours in 1993.
RELATED: Here’s What Happened to the Royal Family During the ‘Annus Horribilis’, Queen Elizabeth’s Worst Year