Edward III’s Round Table

Richard Barber describes the discoveries he made when Channel Four’s Time Team uncovered Edward III’s huge circular building at the heart of Windsor Castle.

A mediaeval miniature of Edward III of England. The king is wearing a blue garter, of the Order of the Garter, over his plate armour.When Channel Four’s ‘Time Team’ obtained permission to dig simultaneously at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Holyrood House on the bank holiday weekend of 2006, to mark the Queen’s 80th birthday, there were high hopes that these sites, largely unexplored by archaeologists, might produce valuable new information about the royal palaces. On the advice of Oxford Archaeology, Time Team chose one of Windsor’s most mysterious structures, for their investigation. It was a building that was probably never completed, and was generally believed to have been abandoned when it was only partly built, because it was hopelessly over-ambitious. No trace of it remained, and there had been various theories as to where it had been sited. This was the House of the Round Table, which Edward III was supposed to have built in 1344. The only physical description of it was so extraordinary that it was difficult to believe: Thomas Walsingham, a usually reliable chronicler, tells us that it was 200 feet in diameter, larger than any circular medieval building, and larger than such wonders of the world as the Pantheon at Rome, and other sources indicated that it was to seat the 300 knights of Edward’s proposed Order of the Round Table. There was evidence, in the royal accounts, that work on this remarkable project had been undertaken on a massive scale, but what and where it was were unknown.

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