Private royal garden where Queen grew veg in WWII opens to public for first time in 40 years

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·4-min read

A royal garden kept private for 40 years will be reopening as Windsor Castle welcomes visitors back to the palace.

The castle’s East Terrace garden was created by King George IV between 1824 and 1826 to give him a view from the new royal apartments.

Though it now has 3,500 roses, it was once where then Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret grew tomatoes, sweetcorn and dwarf beans as the space was repurposed into allotments during the Second World War.

After the war, the planting was simplified into the series of rose beds seen today.

Prince Philip also had his own say in the garden design in 1971 when he redesigned the flowerbeds and commissioned a new bronze lotus fountain based on his own design for the centre of garden.

Windsor Castle's East Terrace Garden which will be open to the public for the first time in decades from Saturday. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Windsor Castle's East Terrace Garden which will be open to the public for the first time in decades from Saturday. (PA Images)
Final preparations are made ahead of Windsor Castle's East Terrace Garden opening to the public for the first time in decades from Saturday. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Final preparations are made ahead of Windsor Castle's East Terrace Garden opening to the public. (PA Images)
Windsor Castle's East Terrace Garden which will be open to the public for the first time in decades from Saturday. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
The garden used to be allotments for Elizabeth and Margaret. (PA Images)

The garden has also been used for some official portraits, including one of the Queen taken by Annie Leibovitz in 2016.

Richard Williams, Windsor Castle’s learning curator said about the gardens: “Well, it’s been a great favourite for members of the royal family for just coming up to 200 years which is when it was first laid out by George IV.”

Mr Williams told BBC Breakfast: “Queen Victoria had a great affection for it because her husband Prince Albert took part in laying out the design for it.

“And it also has a significance for Her Majesty the Queen, because during the war years the whole garden was dug up in order to grow vegetables, and the then young Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret had their own individual plots to grow vegetables for the war effort.

“And I suppose the other significance for the Queen is that in 1971 it was the Duke of Edinburgh who effectively designed the garden as we see it today, with the flower beds and the beautiful fountain at the centre.”

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WINDSOR, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05:  Visitors look around Windsor Castle's East Terrace Garden as it prepares to open to the public at Windsor Castle on August 05, 2020 in Windsor, England. This is the first time in over forty years the gardens have been open to the public.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
The fountain was designed by Prince Philip in 1971. (Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05:  Visitors look around Windsor Castle's East Terrace Garden as it prepares to open to the public at Windsor Castle on August 05, 2020 in Windsor, England. This is the first time in over forty years the gardens have been open to the public.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Visitors will get to see the garden as designed by Prince Philip. (Getty Images)
Windsor Castle's East Terrace Garden which will be open to the public for the first time in decades from Saturday. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
The East Terrace Garden has been open off and on over the years. (PA Images)
Final preparations are made ahead of Windsor Castle's East Terrace Garden opening to the public for the first time in decades from Saturday. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Access will be included in castle tickets for weekend visits. (PA Images)

Queen Victoria wrote in her diary about the garden, saying: “Albert is daily occupied…in superintending the planting of the garden in the inside of the Terrace. The plots were before so scrubby & scraggy, but are now being very nicely arranged with laurustinus, bays.”

The garden has been open to the public off and on over the decades, with George IV keeping it totally private, but his brother William IV opening it up.

King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra held large garden parties there each summer.

Visitors will children will also be given special access to the Moat Garden on Thursdays and Fridays in August.

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Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh with their children, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Princess Anne, the Princess Royal,at the top of the East Terrace Garden Steps at Windsor Castle, Berkshire.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh with Prince Charles and Princess Anne, at the top of the East Terrace Garden Steps. (PA Images)

The secluded informal garden is believed to date from Edward III and is thought to be the setting for Geoffrey Chaucer’s A Knight’s Tale.

There will be guided walks for families, and art activities, as well as an opportunity to have picnics and climb the motte.

The Queen and her husband Prince Philip travelled to Balmoral in Scotland this week, after spending four and a half months in Windsor Castle, one of the longest spells there for some years.

Balmoral is where they usually spend their summer breaks.

The East Terrace Garden is included with admission to Windsor Castle on weekends in August and September, starting Saturday, 8 August 2020.

The Moat Garden is included with admission to Windsor Castle on Thursdays and Fridays in August, starting Thursday, 6 August 2020

Windsor Castle is open five days a week, Thursday to Monday, and tickets must be booked in advance.