At around 11:30 a.m. on 20 November 1992, a fire broke out in the Queen's Private Chapel at Windsor Castle. From there it spread to over 100 rooms, including St. George's Hall and Brunswick Tower.
The fire took fifteen hours and more than 220 firefighters to put out. Staff and soldiers, along with Prince Andrew, Duke of York, worked to remove valuable works of art from the castle as the fire spread. Ultimately, the fire destroyed only a handful of pieces from the castle's valuable art collection, although several firefighters were injured.
The castle was restored as close as possible to its original state, and the renovation work was completed on the fifth anniversary of the fire, in 1997.
Windsor Castle, overlooking the River Thames near London, was first built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. It has served as a royal residence for nearly 1,000 years, encompassing 39 monarchs, and is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world.
The fire at Windsor Castle occurred near the end of a year in which the royal family struggled with its public image. Speaking a few days after the fire, Queen Elizabeth acknowledged that 1992 “turned out to be an 'annus horribilis,” or horrible year. Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne have announced the end of their respective marriages.
In addition to these royal scandals, the damage to Windsor Castle raised questions about the cost of the British monarchy. Prime Minister John Major suggested that parliament pay for the restoration of the castle, but this caused a public outcry.
Windsor Castle and its contents were too expensive to insure, so the Crown had to pay for repairs without the help of insurance or funds from Parliament.
Queen Elizabeth decided to open Buckingham Palace to visitors for the first time in history, and used admission fees to pay for most of Windsor Castle's restorations. The price of the work amounted to almost 36.5 million pounds over five years.
As a result of increased scrutiny from the Crown and its mysterious finances, Queen Elizabeth announced that she would start paying taxes on her personal income, even though the sovereign is not legally required to do so. King Carlos III has confirmed that he will do the same.