I’m here for one reason, the Tower of London, officially, Her Majesty’s Royal Palace. I’m being spoiled on this trip, I’m staying at The Tower – a Guoman Hotel, which is right next door. You cannot get any closer or have better views of the Tower Bridge.
We had a view of the harbor and it was perfect for us. It’s a beautiful hotel and our room was only £130 per night. Of course, translated into USD is a shocker, but oh so worth it! *avoid the hotels overpriced parking, there is a parking garage just a 5-minute walk away. I think we only paid £17 for 28 hours.
It’s a massive property, where you will disappear for hours. Start your tour at opening, it took me over six hours to cover and I sped up my viewing process the last two hours, because closing time was 5pm.
The royal crows, yep there is such a thing. These crows are tagged and taken care of. They are huge and like people. I swear they pose for you. Their wings are clipped so they can’t fly too far away. Their keeper locks them up at night.
The crows are the only animals kept anymore. King Henry III received an elephant as a gift from King Louise IX of France.
The Royal menagerie was started by King John in the early 1200’s and kept going by kings and queens for 600 years. The royal beast included lions, tigers, bears, alligators, zebra, kangaroos, ostrich, monkeys and even a polar bear. There were 60 animal species. Sadly, they were not treated kindly and there was often no thought about whose cage was next to who. The cages were close to each other and every now and then, an ostrich would lose his head to the tiger next door.
The White Tower, originally built from timber, was erected by William the Conqueror between 1078-1097; it’s use has been for a multitude of reasons; awe and intimidate Londoners (it’s 90 feet high), provide a base for armed men, food and horses, provide a retreat for the royal family, prison and a place of torture.
To protect the keep from being overtaken, entrance is believed to be on the second floor (first floor for non-Americans) via wooden stairs. This was normal for Norman castles. If needed, the stairs could be easily removed in threat of danger.
After the death of their father, King Edward IV, twelve-year-old Edward V, King of England and his nine-year-old brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York; were imprisoned in what is now known as The Bloody Tower, for “their own protection” by their uncle, then he had them declared as illegitimate bastards. One day the two boys vanished. No one knows what actually happened to them; many speculate that their uncle had the two murdered so he could be crowned king (King Richard III). It’s a sad mystery with many twist, even the theory that young Richard escaped.
The bodies of “The Princes of the Tower” were discovered, just on the other side of the wall in a stairwell in the White Tower, during some maintenance in 1674.
The Keeps dungeon, the Little Ease, measured a mere 4 square feet. The unfortunate occupant could not lie, stand straight nor sit. He was reduced to remaining in a crouched position. The most memorable prisoner was Guy Fawkes, whom was tried as a traitor for plotting against King James I, was shackled hand and foot while being in this small hell hole, before he was sentenced to be hung, drawn then quartered. On his day of execution, Guy escaped his fate when he jumped from the gallows. unfortunately for him, he broke his neck upon landing and died. Nowadays, there is a Guy Fawkes day where residents are legally able to build bon fires.
In 1255 some Jewish men allegedly murdered Hugh of Lincoln, many were imprisoned in White Tower, eighteen were hung. For the next fifteen years, tension grew and in 1270, King Edward I declared Jews a threat to the country and had them identified by wearing a gold star. The heads of Jewish households were arrested, many taken to the tower for execution.
The Jewish have been screwed over more times than school teachers care to tell. Finding out what has not been taught in school is one reason why I love visiting these historic sites.
Apparently, It was an honor to be executed within the Tower of London. It meant that you were of importance, not some everyday Joe or Jane that got the noose in town.
Famous executions taken place here:
William Wallace (if I need to explain who he was, remind me to knock you upside your head if we ever meet) *John Frith: considered the first protestant martyr *Anne Boleyn: second wife to King Henry VIII on high treason, adultery, incest and witchcraft *Thomas Cromwell: lawyer, statesman and chief minister to King Henry VIII *Catherine Howard: fifth wife to King Henry VIII *Lady Jane Grey: named successor to Edward VI in his will. She awaited coronation for nine days before being uncrowned, imprisoned for high treason, then was spared of execution. But, Queen Mary changed her mind and said Jane was a threat and had her and her husband killed *Sir Walter Raleigh: during his thirteen years of imprisonment he wrote “The History of the World” *Guy Fawkes: for his part of the Gunpowder Plot I
told you his story up above *William Penn: while the Quaker who founded Pennsylvania wasn’t executed, he did spend some time locked up for pamphleteers *Josef Jakobs: a German spy *Rudolf Hess: deputy leader of the Nazi Party.
The list goes on and on. The names listed are the ones I thought you might have heard of or are notable.
Today, the White Tower houses life-size kings sitting upon life-size horses, both dressed in armor. These wooden beast and their burden have been viewed over the centuries.
King Henry VIII, started his reign as a fit, handsome, respected king. Then, due to his queen not producing an heir (the baby boy died before a month old), he went against the Catholic Church; cancelling his membership and destroyed all abbeys, divorced his wife of twenty years and married his mistress (Anne Boleyn); who also didn’t give him a living male heir. Off with her head (literally) and married a few others over the years (Catherine Howard, see above list). After a horse riding accident, that caused an affection in his leg that remained until death, the king turned bitter (I guess having red-hot pokers put into your leg, year after year, to stop infection would make you an angry person) and his waistline grew. Food was his only comfort, he weighed 300 lbs when he died.
You can see by his armor he was a
big, large, huge, oh I give up, umm, you can see he had a weight problem and overcompensated his armor a wee bit to make him seem more powerful.
The crown jewels are housed within the walls of the Tower of London. Guarded by Beefeaters, who do not allow you to take photos. Centuries of crowns are put on display, and this will have you standing in line. I imagine on busy days, you’ll be awhile waiting your turn, but it is totally worth it.
Outside the building, you can watch the changing of the guard. I want to say, it took place at 3pm.
The Royal Mint was housed here. They have a fun interactive learning experience going on in the building, off to the left, as you enter. In the White Tower there is a coin press and other information. By the time I got to the Royal Mint building, it was minutes away from closing time. I rushed through it. I would give it a proper 15-20 minutes, unless you want to read everything.
“The Great London Fire of 1666,” started on Pudding Lane and ended on Pye Corner (ha, that’s funny). The fire started at the bakery and quickly spread through the wood and thatched roof houses that made up London. Due to the fire, thatched roofs were banned inside the city limits, with the exception of the Globe Theatre, a modern-day replica of Shakespear’s Globe Theatre, that received special permission in 1997 to be built.
The previous 10 months, London suffered from drought and the day the fire broke out, the city had a wind storm, causing perfect conditions for the fire to blaze rampant for 3 days (Sept 2-5), gutting the medieval city.
The most famous building destroyed was St Paul’s Cathedral, it was rebuilt in 1675.
*There is a 202 feett high monument that has 311 steps inside, allowing you a panoramic view of the city. I haven’t been to it yet. If you’re interested, take the tube to the site and get off at “monument.”
*When you enter, go into the shop to your right and rent an audio guide device £3. It will tell you a whole lot more than reading the information cards. You choose which tour you’d like to start with first and location to begin.
*Start at your day seeing the crowns. They’re in the upstairs in the Martin Tower (#19 on map). Beating the masses later in the day. Then go to #3, Waterloo Block, where you’ll be dazzled by things you can’t afford. Then follow your audio guide tours.
Okay, your turn….
What else do I need to go back to London and see?