England’s most notorious castle and prison, made famous by King Henry VIII.
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When visiting London, make sure this fantastic Castle is at the top of your list as it truly is like stepping back in time! Once inside its walls, it would be easy to spend the whole day here as there is so much to see and do.
When the Normans successfully invaded England in 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned King, and to exert his dominance, he built the Tower of London. Through time it was expanded by several monarchs leaving us with the beautiful Castle we have today.
You may have heard the saying, “Send them to the Tower!” Well, this is that very place. The Castle at one time was used as a royal residence, but it is more well known as a notorious prison and was still used as such until the mid-20th century, with its last inmates being the Cray Twins. After the 1500s, it was mainly used for ceremonial occasions. Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, stayed here in the royal apartments on the eve of her coronation in 1533. Three years later she was back, but as a prisoner accused of treason by the King and subsequently beheaded.
The White Tower in the center of the Castle was the tallest building in London when it was constructed in 1067. It is still very impressive today with its white stone structure that now houses the Royal Armoury collection. Here you will find awesome suits of armour and weapons on display, and you will get a feel for what it would have been like preparing for battle through the ages. There is also a massive suit of armour here which once belonged to Henry VIII which is absolutely huge. If you have kids they will especially love this exhibition.
There are some ruined buildings near the Bloody Tower that I decided to go and explore. While looking around, a really eerie feeling came over me, and I felt like I was being watched. I turned around and found that I was the only person in the room, so I quickly left. It gave me the shivers! Consequently, I have never been back to this area and it would not surprise me if a few spirits were roaming around, due to how many people were executed here. There is also the famous story of the Princes in the Tower, who both disappeared in 1483. Allegedly, they were murdered by their uncle Richard III, though recent evidence will dispute this. I agree and believe it was more than likely either his wife Queen Ann or Margaret Beauford, mother of Henry VII.
Some of the Tower’s rooms have been restored to how they might have looked in the late 1200s during the reign of Edward I (Longshanks). The Kings Chamber has a large wooden carved bed, with a luxurious fireplace and painted flowers on the walls. Connected to the chamber is a small chapel with green tiled floors. It is so opulent that it is only viewable from the doorway in an attempt to preserve it.
There are artifacts on display, including coins from the reign of Edward I which were minted at the Tower, as the Royal Mint used to be housed here. Don’t miss the hilarious medieval health and safety poster, which you would have to see to believe. It shows a diagram of a man being stabbed and points out all of the vulnerable places a knife might cause injury. Now, I’ve never been stabbed before, but I am going to assume that a stab wound anywhere on the body would probably cause a person injury! I wonder if they hadn’t put the poster up back then, would they have been sued as they would today?
A real treat would have to be seeing the Crown Jewels, which are also kept here in the Jewel House. If you plan to visit the jewels and there is a long queue (and there will be), do yourself a favour and join it as soon as possible, because trust me, it won’t be getting any smaller. The Crown Jewels are absolutely stunning. Nothing sparkles like the Queen’s diamonds. Unfortunately, you can’t take photos, but don’t worry, you won’t ever be able to forget this moment. Even if you are not a blingy person, I am sure you will still be suitably impressed!
Now if you want your time here to be extra special, be sure to book a free tour with the Yeomen Warders of the Tower, otherwise know as Beefeaters. You may be wondering why they have such an odd name. Is it because they eat beef all day? Not even close! The Beefeaters actually live here full time and look after the running of the Castle. You need to have at least twenty years’ service in the armed forces as well as other stipulations before you can qualify for a job here!
They do a spectacular job of bringing the Castle to life by showing tourists around and revealing the history from past Kings and Queens who once lived here. They do this entertainingly and knowledgeable manner, and you can ask them any questions you may have.
One unfortunate sight I witnessed was that of a little boy who happened to be stood in the path of some marching Grenadier Guards. They barked at him for getting in their way, and I did feel sorry for him as he looked petrified. So be sure to keep out of their way!
The Castle is always busy, and rightly so, as it is one of the best tourist attractions in London. I wouldn’t be able to tell you the best time to avoid the crowds because every time I have visited it has been hectic, so I genuinely have no idea. But don’t let this put you off as I am sure you will love it.
St. Katherine’s & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB | http://www.hrp.org.uk
Thanks for reading my post today on the amazing Tower of London. I was so impressed with this castle, as there is so much to see and even more information to take in. You could easily spend half a day here. If you are not short on time, then I would highly suggest that you do so. There’s the crown jewels, the White Tower which houses all the armour from past Kings and you can also peruse all the old rooms, where royalty onced lived. It’s truly fascinating!
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