The Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo is a military tattoo held in the private grounds of Windsor Castle by permission of Queen Elizabeth II. The tattoo was launched in 2008 with great success and so was held for the second time in 2009. The event's proceeds go to the Royal British Legion to help support recently returned troops from battle.
The Tattoo website describes it as:
A celebration of the capabilities of today's forces through music and action. It is a tri-service event and has a packed programme of international and British military acts, massed bands, pipes and drums, modern military re-enactments and a fantastic finale.....The Tattoo tells the story of modern life in each of the services (the Army, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy) and large screens show footage from each of the services in action in war zones, taking the audience to the current operational environment.
The Windsor Tattoo is very much like the Royal Tournament, the world's largest military tattoo which was axed by the British Government in 1999. In 2009 the Tattoo saw the return of the Royal Navy Field Gun Race 10 years after it was laid to rest along with the Royal Tournament.
The original meaning of military tattoo is a military drum performance, but nowadays it sometimes means army displays more generally. It dates from the seventeenth century when the British Army was fighting in the Low Countries (Belgium and The Netherlands). Drummers from the garrison were sent out into the towns at 21:30 hrs (9:30PM) each evening to inform the soldiers that it was time to return to barracks. The process was known as doe den tap toe (old-Dutch for "turn off the tap"), an instruction to innkeepers to stop serving beer and send the soldiers home for the night. The drummers continued to play until the curfew at 22:00 hrs (10:00PM). Tattoo, earlier tap-too resp. taptoo, is an alteration of the Dutch word taptoe which has the same meaning.
Over the years, the process became more of a show and often included the playing of the first post at 21:30 hrs and the last post at 22:00. Bands and displays were included and shows were often conducted by floodlight or searchlight. Tattoos were commonplace in the late 1800s with most military and garrison towns putting on some kind of show or entertainment during the summer months. Between the First World War and the Second World War elaborate tattoos were held in many towns, with the largest in Aldershot.
One of the best known Tattoos is held on the Esplanade in front of Edinburgh Castle each August and forms the centrepiece of the annual Edinburgh Festival. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo was first staged in 1950; it combines the traditional sounds of the bagpipes and drums with the modern aspects of the armed forces. Another leading UK Tattoo is the Birmingham Tattoo held annually at the National Indoor Arena in November which has been attracting audiences to Birmingham since 1989. In 2008, The Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo was launched, held in the private grounds of Windsor Castle by permission of HM The Queen. The event's proceeds went to Royal British Legion to help support recently returned troops from battle. The event was held again in 2009.
Windsor Castle, in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, is the largest inhabited castle in the world and, dating back to the time of William the Conqueror, is the oldest in continuous occupation. The castle's floor area is about 45,000 square metres (480,000 sq ft).
Together with Buckingham Palace in London and Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, it is one of the principal official residences of the British monarch. Queen Elizabeth II spends many weekends of the year at the castle, using it for both state and private entertaining. Her other two residences, Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle, are the Royal Family's private homes.
Most of the Kings and Queens of England, later Kings and Queens of the United Kingdom, have had a direct influence on the construction and evolution of the castle, which has been their garrison fortress, home, official palace, and sometimes their prison. Chronologically the history of the castle can be traced through the reigns of the monarchs who have occupied it. When the country has been at peace, the castle has been expanded by the additions of large and grand apartments; when the country has been at war, the castle has been more heavily fortified. This pattern has continued to the present day.