Saturday, October 29, 2011

Travels: The Tower of London (London, England)

I took the Underground or Tube (London's version of the subway) to the Tower of London.  I went in the afternoon to hopefully miss the crowds.  The Tower of London is located right on the Thames River.  
The Tower is where many Englishmen and women in history lost their heads.  It's previously served as a palace, prison and a royal mint.  Most importantly, it's a symbol of Britain's history.  The Tower draws crowds for the legendary figures that were imprisoned and/or executed here.  Important prisoners include Sir Walter Raleigh, Robert Devereux, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Sir Thomas More and  Lady Jane Grey.   Stories are still told of the spirits that linger in the Tower.  Admission is 16 GBP for adults.

The Tower of London is actually comprised of 21 towers and numerous other structures.  Each building was built for a specific purpose.  The entire complex covers an area over 18 acres.    
The Bloody Tower perhaps holds the bloodiest tales of London's past.  It was here that according to Shakespeare, Richard III's henchmen murdered the two princes (the young sons of his brother, Edward IV).  Richard knew his position as king would never be secured as long as his nephews were alive.  Sir Walter Raleigh spent 13 years in the Bloody Tower before his execution.
Traitors' Gate is an oak and iron watergate in the outer wall where prisoners passed through.  These prisoners included figures such as Robert Devereux (the second Earl of Essex and a favorite of Elizabeth I).  
According to legend, the Tower of London will stand as long as the ravens remain.  To be on the safe side, one of the wings of each of the 6 resident ravens are clipped.  The Tower Green is an area within the complex that was the place of execution for nobility, including Lady Jane Grey (1554) and two of Henry VIII's wives, Katherine Howard (1542) and Anne Boleyn (1536).  
Located in the Jewel House, is the Tower's greatest attraction, the Crown Jewels.  The Crown Jewels are some of the world's most precious stones set into robes, swords, scepters and crowns.  The most famous crown on earth, the Imperial State Crown, is housed here.  It was made for Victoria in 1837 and later recreated for George VI in 1937 and worn today by Queen Elizabeth II when she opens Parliament.  The Imperial State Crown is studded with 3,000 jewels (2,800 diamonds), including the Black Prince's Ruby and Edward the Confessor's sapphire (in the cross).  Also here is the 530 carat Star of Africa, a cut diamond on the Royal Scepter with Cross.  
You'll be able to view all of these jewels from moving walkways.  If you're like me, you gawked twice through.  It really is amazing to behold.  Who can even imagine what a 530 carat diamond looks like??  And who can actually say they've seen the Star of Africa?  Me!!!  Of course, no photos are allowed.  If you google them under images, you'll get a peak of these famous jewels.

The White Tower is the oldest structure on Tower Hill.  It was started by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was completed in 1097.  Later rulers added other towers and buildings around it.  Until the reign of James I (in 1603), the White Tower was used as a royal residence.  
The White Tower is 90 feet tall with walls 15 feet thick.  In 1240, it was whitewashed inside and out, giving it it's name.  Today, the Royal Armoury has displays in the White Tower.     

The Tower of London
Tower Hill, EC 3
ph: 0870/751-5175


the red headed traveler said...

The Tower is such a neat spot, its history so incredible! Did you ever watch the Tudors? Very soap opera like but a decent enough foundation for Britain's most infamous monarch.