On this day 28 years ago, a devastating fire broke out at Windsor Castle, causing $47.5 million worth of damage to the royal residence.
The blaze started on November 20, 1992, when a faulty spotlight set fire to a curtain in Queen Victoria’s chapel and quickly spread to the Brunswick Tower, St. George’s Hall and the surrounding private apartments.
While Queen Elizabeth was not inside the castle at the time, her son Prince Andrew was and he personally telephoned his mother to tell her the tragic news. According to BBC reports at the time, he also told reporters how horrified he was at the speed at which the fire spread.
“I heard the fire alarm and some two or three minutes later when I came out of the room I was in, you could see the smoke,” he said. Andrew later joined a human chain of employees to remove many priceless pieces of art from the burning castle. Together they managed to save all but two pieces of art; a rosewood sideboard and a large painting by Sir William Beechey that couldn’t be taken down in time.
More than 220 firemen worked to put the blaze out for 15 hours, using 36 pumps to spray 1.5 million gallons of water. The blaze damaged 115 rooms in the castle, including nine official state rooms. The Queen not only went to see the fire as it raged, collapsing the roof of St.George's Hall completely, but she also returned the following day to assess the damage.
The incident sparked a public debate about whether the taxpayer should foot the repair bill, but in the end, the Queen agreed to meet 70% of the costs. Donating $2.6 million of her personal wealth, she agreed to open her London residence, Buckingham Palace to the public in order to generate the additional funds needed.
The rebuild took five years to complete and cost about $47.5 million. The Queen and Prince Philip were seen showing the refurbished St. George’s Hall to President George W. Bush and his wife First Lady Laura Bush during their 2008 visit.
A decade later, it was a venue for several royal weddings, including Prince Harry and Princess Eugenie.
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