I have to say that it has been a busy two weeks with classes and life in general. I was hoping to get a post up earlier, however it just wasn’t to be. But! To make up for it, I have a post of royal proportions for you! So settle yourselves in – maybe prepare a nice cup of tea or grab a warm blanket – and get ready for a couple of tales about the Tower of London…
First, as a Sherlock fan, this scene continues to run through my head as I write this (I’m sure any fellow Sherlockians out there know exactly where this is going). So I share with you a clip of a criminal mastermind running (dancing?) loose in the Tower of London, just to set the mood.
Standing tall and unmoving near the banks of the Thames on Tower Hill in London, is the infamous structure known as ‘Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress’, or more commonly, the Tower of London. ”The Tower” is nicknamed after the White Tower, which serves as the keep of the structure where the King or equivalent representative would stay. White Tower is located in the very center of the fortress. The castle’s history begins with the Norman King, William the I (Conqueror). After defeating the English King, Harold II, in the Battle of Hastings during the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, William had the Tower constructed to keep his hold of control on London.
Today the Tower stirs up ideas of torture, prisoners, and gruesome deaths. Yet the Tower was used primarily as a royal residence in the first couple centuries after its construction. This lasted up until about the 15th century. During the 16th and 17th centuries the Tudors came to power and began the tradition of using the Tower first and foremost as a prison.
Figures such as William Wallace, Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Elizabeth I, even William Penn have been held in the Tower! However, in the history of the Tower of London, only seven people have been executed (officially) within the Tower. Tower Hill itself has been the site for 112 executions – which sounds like a lot, but these have occurred over a 400 year period of time.
Now I say ‘officially’ in that previous statement in reference to one of the more famous and tragic mysteries the Tower of London has to offer; “The Princes in the Tower”. In 1483, King Edward IV passed away leaving behind his wife and two sons. Twelve year old Edward V and nine year old Richard were sent to the Tower as Edward awaited coronation.
In the meantime, their uncle Richard III was busy passing a law in Parliament decreeing both sons to be illegitimate, effectively making Richard III the new King of England. Edward V and his younger brother Richard were never seen again after their move to the Tower. General speculation is that the children were murdered upon the orders of Richard III, who never denied speculations of this nature.
Aside from mysteries, prisoners, and royal successions, the Tower of London has also been used for other purposes. It once held over 200 animals as part of the Royal Menagerie.
The Royal Mint was located in the Tower, as well as the treasury. Today the largest attraction at the Tower is the exhibit of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. The armory and a museum dedicated to the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers can also be explored at the Tower. Of course, if you do find yourself at the Tower of London (hopefully of your own will!) you should keep an eye out for ravens.
Legend has it that 6 ravens must always reside within the Tower of London, as they protect the crown. Should the ravens be lost or fly away, Crown and country will fall. Seven ravens are kept in captivity in the Tower, one as a reserve, just in case. These birds are treated extremely well by the Yeomen Warders. Amazingly, the ravens living at the Tower have been known to live up to 40 years or more – the one we came across was 27!
I have now been to the Tower of London twice, and I would go back again in a heart beat. It is a must see site if you are visiting London. The history, stories, the castle structure itself, not to mention the armory and Crown Jewels are very worth the price of a visitor’s ticket. If you do go, be sure to stick around for the Yeomen tour as you will learn a lot more about the Tower of London. These tours are fun, free, and maybe an hour long, giving you plenty of time to explore on your own.
My first visit to the Tower of London had a very unique twist to it. It was a family vacation about 8 years ago, and we happened to be on one of the Yeomen tours when helicopters started flying overhead with increasing frequency. The Yeomen leading our tour said not to worry, assuring any Americans that it wasn’t a terrorist attack.
Well, it wasn’t until after we left the Tower an hour or two later that my dad learned the true story. Four bombs had gone off in the London Underground, and the city had shut down. It was eerie to watch the streets and shops empty out in the following hour as we trekked back to our hotel (buses, taxi, and all modes of public transportation had shut down for the day).
I’m very happy to report that my second visit included no such tragedies. It was fascinating to explore the castle once again, and more in depth. Having grown up a bit (sort of!) since my previous experience at the Tower, I can appreciate and understand more of its history and offerings.
The Crown Jewels will literally leave you in a state of awe, with a matching dropped jaw to boot. The collection of jewels goes well beyond crowns and ceremonial garb, too. I was especially impressed by the Exeter Salt (you will see this and think, “seriously, this is a salt container?”) and the creative nautilus chalices and the large nautilus shaped punch bowl ladle. No matter who you are, you will probably find something to your own fancy and imagination when viewing the Crown Jewels.
Beyond the Jewels the Tower of London boasts a very cool armory exhibit. You won’t want to miss out on wandering through this section of the castle. Riddled with historical pieces of armor, weaponry, replicas, and even art, the armory is another source within the Tower for admiration and awe.
Finally, the Royal Fusiliers Regimental Museum is a must see for anyone interested in military history. This is not an area I study in particular, but still found this exhibit to be fairly interesting and worth a look around. Uniforms, journals, guns, badges, flags, insignia and more are separated into different rooms based on the time period and wars fought. You will definitely walk out having learned a thing or two about the English regiments and battlefield history.
The bottom line? If you are visiting London, or have just never been, do not miss out on the Tower of London. The unique history and amazing exhibits of the Crown Jewels, armory, and museum of the Tower are sure to impress. A trip to this landmark would definitely go on my “Top 5″ list of things to do in London, so be sure to check it out next time you find yourself in this great city!
I’ll end it here readers, with the hope that I’ve fulfilled that promise of a good tale for the day. Do keep in mind that reading about the Tower of London is one thing, walking through it is another! Now I admit that I also hope this post makes up for my lack of recent posts. School projects are reaching their peaks in terms of work load, and job searching has a top priority spot on my ‘to-do’ list. I’m sure you know how it goes (life).
A big thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…