French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral following the devastating fire that destroyed the Paris landmark’s spire and roof on Monday – and people around the world can look to the U.K. for hope and inspiration.
Charles, 70, also recalled the 1992 fire that ravaged parts of Windsor Castle, which recently hosted the weddings of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, as well as Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank. Charles himself wed Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, at the royal residence’s St. George’s Chapel in 2005.
“Cher Monsieur le Président, our hearts go out to you and the people of France more than you can ever know, especially in view of our experience with the devastating fire at Windsor Castle twenty-seven years ago,” he wrote. “We send you our most profound sympathy, however inadequate that may be.”
On the morning of Nov. 20, 1992, the Windsor Castle fire started in Queen Victoria’s Private Chapel when a spotlight ignited a curtain. The blaze quickly spread to the Brunswick Tower, St. George’s Hall and the private apartments in the eastern wing of the building.
Queen Elizabeth was informed about the fire in a phone call from son Prince Andrew, who was at the castle when the fire broke out.
Two hundred and twenty-five firemen worked to put the blaze out for 15 hours, at the peak using 36 pumps to spray 1½ million gallons of water.
Others worked to rescue the valuable furniture, art and antiquities from the flames. Fortunately, many paintings and other important items had already been removed due to a rewiring project that was underway. In the end, only two works of art were lost in the fire: a rosewood sideboard and a large oil painting by Sir William Beechey, “George III and the Prince of Wales Reviewing Troops,” which was too difficult to dismount in time.
Nine principal state rooms were destroyed, with over 100 more being severely damaged – around one-fifth of the castle’s area. The roof of St. George’s Hall had collapsed, as did the floors of the Brunswick Tower.
After coming by Windsor Castle on Friday afternoon for about an hour during the blaze, the Queen returned the day after the fire was put out to survey the damage.
There was a debate as to who should pay for repairs to the royal residence. Although it is technically owned by the state and not the monarch herself, some called for Queen Elizabeth to foot the bill.
In response, the Queen agreed to open up parts of Buckingham Palace to the public for the first time, with money from the entry fee going towards Windsor’s restoration. This covered most of the repair bill, while the Queen donated $2.6 million of her personal wealth to the project.
The final cost was about $47.5 million (equivalent to about $86 million in today’s money).
The official completion date for the restoration project was November 20, 1997, five years to the day after the outbreak of the fire and the 50th wedding anniversary of the Queen and Prince Philip.
The royal couple was seen showing the refurbished St. George’s Hall to President George W. Bush and his wife, First Lady Laura Bush, during their 2008 visit.
As of Tuesday evening local time, around $790 million has been raised for what is sure to be a massive rebuilding project at the Notre Dame. Much of that money is coming from some wealthy French citizens, including Salma Hayek’s husband François-Henri Pinault, who heads Kering SA, the fashion company behind Gucci and Alexander McQueen among other luxury designers. Pinault pledged a donation of €100 million ($113 million).
Bernard Arnault, who heads Kering’s rival company LVMH, which is the parent company of Louis Vuitton, Moët and Hennessy pledged that he and his company would donate €200 million ($226 million) to the reconstruction.