Among the business recorded at the Chapter meeting held by the Dean and Canons of Windsor on 5 March 1912 is a note that in consequence of information received from the police of possible danger from Suffragettes, the Chapel would be closed to all members of the public until further notice. An exception was made to allow people to attend Divine Service, but otherwise there would be none of the usual flow of public traffic.
In the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries women in the UK began to lobby government for the right to vote in public elections. This was known as the women’s suffrage movement and its supporters were known as Suffragists. From 1903 a radical wing of the movement, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, developed. This group became known as the Suffragettes and they believed that only radical and militant action would get the movement sufficient attention to secure women the vote.
The tactics used by the Suffragettes (formally the Women’s Social and Political Union) included damage to public buildings, arson and planting bombs. Clearly the police feared that as a prominent site of national importance, the likelihood of some demonstrative action taking place at St George’s was high enough to merit extreme caution.
There is no record stating when the Chapel was reopened to visitors, but all militant Suffragette activity ceased with the advent of the First World War in 1914. The Suffragettes did not begin to see their aims realised until 6 February 1918, when the Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed, granting the vote to women over the age of 30.
Kate McQuillian, Assistant Archivist