Despite going to London a fair bit, I’d never been to the Tower of London and on this most recent trip I thought I would remedy that. As a pretty iconic place, I’m not sure I can add much to what’s already been written about it, but I can post pictures.
One of the most famous buildings is the White Tower.
Finished around 1100 the White Tower was a fortress, somewhere for the king to use on ceremonial occasions, and a sign of the king’s authority. From the 14th century though its main purpose was as a military storehouse, and it is now used as a museum of arms and armour. Objects to be found include Henry VIII’s armour, as shown below, and gifts presented to monarchs throughout the centuries.
Then there are of course the Crown Jewels, which you are not allowed to photograph, that are kept in the Waterloo Barracks and are just as impressive as you imagine them to be.
The sculpture pictured below is a memorial to the ten people beheaded on Tower Green including Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey, who at just 16 was the youngest person to be executed there. The memorial lists all those who were executed close to the site and holds the following inscription: “Gentle visitor pause awhile, where you stand death cut away the light of many days, here jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life, may they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage, under these restless skies”. (Brian Catling, creator of the memorial).
And you can even see one of the chopping blocks and axes on display…
…which is believed to have been used at the last beheading on Tower Hill in 1747. It used to be labelled as the block where Anne Boleyn lost her head, but she was actually executed by a swordsman from France that Henry VIII (thoughtfully!) provided for her.
Above and below you can see a re-created Medieval interior. The rooms themselves would have had many functions, with furniture moved around as and when needed and modern ideas of privacy would have been completely alien to those who used them.
The Tower of London is a fascinating place to spend an afternoon, or even all day if you truly take your time. You can find out more at the website of Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that looks after the Tower, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace (all places I intend to visit in the future). Also worth noting is that the charity receives no funding from the Government or the Crown for their upkeep, so your visit does make a difference.