Tower of London History
The Tower of London, built in 1078, was a royal residence and sanctuary. Moreover, it served as a fortress, armory, barracks, prison, and a place of torture and execution. Additionally, it held exotic animals, and it secured the Crown Jewels and the Royal Mint.
Tower of London Facts
The fortress offered its raven birds protection for hundreds of years. According to legend, if the ravens left the Tower, the White Tower would fall apart. Even today, as a result of this legend, selected staff nurture the birds in the Tower.
Some of the sovereign prisoners at the Tower of London, depending on their crime, had full run of the fortress. Furthermore, they enjoyed comfortable quarters and meals prepared to their liking.
Condemned Prisoners at the Tower of London
Edward I initially commissioned a waterway, later called Traitors’ Gate, to enable access to the Tower by the Thames. Eventually, prisoners arrived through this gate after passing the heads of the executed displayed on the spikes of London Bridge.
Ironically, if a prisoner was condemned, execution at the Tower of London was almost a privilege. This is because decapitation was usually quick. Besides, the convicted avoided the jeers of the crowd outside the walls.
Among the famous prisoners at the Tower was Anne Boleyn. When she couldn’t produce an heir for Henry VIII, she was accused of infidelity. Consequently, she faced beheading in 1536.
Another prisoner, Guy Fawkes, had not only planned to assassinate King James I but also blow up the House of Lords. His captors found him in the basement of Westminster Palace, below Parliament. They caught him guarding a door to a room filled with gunpowder.
Tortured and ultimately found guilty of high treason, Guy Fawkes was sentenced to death by hanging and then drawn and quartered. He avoided this horrible death by jumping off the gallows and breaking his neck.
Princes in the Tower
In 1483, two young princes aged twelve and ten years old arrived at the Tower. Their father King Edward IV had died, and the twelve-year-old was to become the rightful king.
The princes’ uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, had removed their titles. Furthermore, he imprisoned them after finding them illegitimate. Without titles and declared illegitimate, the prince lost his right to the throne. This enabled the Duke of Gloucester to become King Richard III.
Eventually, the princes disappeared. Years later, two children’s skeletons were found in the Tower, but their identity remained unconfirmed.
The White Tower was not only built as a royal residence, but it was also a symbol to intimidate England’s enemies. Today, it houses the Royal Armour as well as replica torture tools. These tools include several devices like the rack, manacles, and the scavenger’s daughter.
The torturers used the rack to stretch a prisoner and manacles to hang the accused by the arms. Plus the scavenger’s daughter compressed the victim. Additionally, an executioners block and ax that may have been used in the last beheading in the 1700s is still on display.
Tower of London Royal Beasts
Collecting exotic animals began in the 1200s and continued for 600 years. The kings and queens had gathered and received creatures as gifts. Examples included bears, lions, monkeys, zebras, and alligators. Not only did these animals provide entertainment and status, but they instilled fear.
Jewel House and Crown Jewels
The Royal Collection of Crown Jewels holds substantial cultural and religious significance for the British Monarchy. Guards protect the Royal Collection of Crown Jewels that consist of 23,578 gemstones.
Most importantly, the gemstones are still used today for coronations. These crowning ceremonies have been held at Westminster Abbey since 1066.
Moreover, The Queen wears the Crown Jewels at the State Opening of Parliament. Most noteworthy, her crown alone weighs about three pounds, and she practices wearing it in the privacy of her residence.
Tower of London Ravens
Ravens have resided at the Tower for centuries because legend states: “Should the ravens ever leave, the White Tower would crumble.” With clipped wings and a diet of carcasses and blood, most of them stay.
The Beefeaters or Yeomen Warders
The Tower of London is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a dominant symbol of England’s monarchy. If the fortress walls could talk, they would tell harrowing stories about torture and executions of the innocent and guilty. But, they could also tell tales of majesty and honor.
The Yeomen Warders, or the Beefeaters, who have guarded the Tower since 1509, will transport you back to earlier times. They will bring the fortress to life through their narratives and tours. If you like a good story, you won’t be disappointed.
Tower of London Tour
Whether you tour with the Yeomen Warders or explore on your own, delve into the Tower of London history. Visit the royal residence, The Crown Jewels, the prison, and barracks. Also, don’t miss Traitors’ Gate. To sum up, the Tower of London can teach you a lot about England’s past.
Have you ever toured the Tower of London with the Yeomen Warders or on your own? What is your favorite or least favorite part?