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Nov. 20: Ancient Windsor Castle burned on this day in 1992

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The queen with a fireman the day after the blaze.

On this day 21 years ago -- Nov. 20, 1992 -- Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British royal family spent some of their Friday afternoon in a "human chain" rescuing precious artworks from the worst fire to strike Windsor Castle in its 900 years. The castle, her official residence and the place where she usually spends her weekends, is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world.

"The heat of a single spotlight left too close to a curtain in the monarch’s private chapel was all it took to bring the iconic fortress to its knees," the Mirror reported. Windsor Castle, Queen Elzabeth's favorite residence, is about 30 miles outside London.

The restoration took five years and cost 40 million pounds (almost $65 million at today's exchange rates, not adjusted for inflation). Click here or on the before-and-after image above to see a slideshow of the fire and the restoration, including some stunning interior shots.

Just four days after the fire, in a previously scheduled speech marking the 40th anniversary of her accession, she said: "1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an 'Annus Horribilis'" -- a Latin phrase meaning horrible year that her speech helped make famous.

Today is also Queen Elizabeth's 66th wedding anniversary. She married Prince Philip in 1947.

(Related on Yahoo Homes: Details and many photos of the 1950s gut renovation of the White House)



On This Day, previously:

Nov. 14: On Monet's 173rd birthday, we visit his Giverny home in pictures
Oct. 24: On Chartres Cathedral anniversary, a Colorado home with a labyrinth replica
Oct. 14: The real-life House at Pooh Corner

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