The Tower of London – Who knew?

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Information about the Tower

In the second of our articles talking about places to visit with Royal connections in this the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year here is some information about the Tower of London. One of the most iconic London buildings and a World Heritage site the Tower of London is bound to be included if you asked people to list 5 buildings in London. The bit that most people think is the Tower of London is actually the White Tower there are other buildings on the site too.

A bit of History.

Firstly, the Tower of London wins an award for longevity it has been in situ since the eleventh century, commissioned by William the Conqueror after he won the Battle of Hastings and completed in 1100. The Chapel of St John the Evangelist dates back to this time. It's renown as being a prison to the aristocrats also dates back to this time as it housed its first prisoner Ranulf Flambard as soon as it opened.  He had been William's chief tax collector and had made himself very popular so William's son Henry I had him chained and taken to the Tower where he stayed just six months before making a daring escape. The Tower continued to be extended throughout the medieval period and became an administrative centre as well as a fortress housing the Royal Mint and the Office of Records. It has played a part in some of the most famous events of British History it was besieged by King John whilst Richard the Lionheart was away fighting the Crusades. It was stormed and entered by some of Wat Tyler's Rebels,  it had some very famous prisoners during the War of the Roses through to Elizabeth I including the lady herself when she was a young girl. During the English Civil War it was seized and held by the Parliamentarians who melted down and sold all the Crown Jewels stored there for the good of the Commonwealth. Then in more modern times the Victorians decided to re-medievalise it. The architect Salvin was appointed to remove many of the outlying buildings including the army barracks, offices and store rooms. It was opened to the public and tours conducted and by the end of Queen Victoria's reign was attracting half a million visitors a year.

Things to See?

The  Tower continues to attract visitors from all over the world. These days it houses: An exhibition of five hundred years of Royal Armour dating back to Henry VIII, including a silvered suit of armour commissioned for his marriage to Katherine of Aragon which features their initials entwined within it. The Crown Jewels - 23,578 sparkling gems included in crowns, sceptres, gifts and jewellery  belonging to the Queen. The Royal Beasts Display - From as far back as King John there have been exotic animals kept at the Tower - these were moved out in the 1830s and formed the start of London Zoological Gardens. Read about their history, see how they were kept  and what happened when they escaped. The interactive displays even include evocative smells. The Yeoman Warders Tour- Take a tour led by one of the Yeoman Warders, formerly Royal Bodyguards. The Yeoman of today with their distinctive uniforms are all ex-serving men with exemplary records of more than 22 years service. Affectionately nicknamed "Beefeaters" get all the gossip about the history of the Tower. The Prisoners Exhibition - Hear the stories of all the prisoners kept in the Tower since it was first built including the Princes in the Tower, Queen Elizabeth 1, Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey. See displays of the conditions they had to bear. The Tower Ravens - In a tradition established by Charles II the ravens of the Tower are protected and have their wings clipped to prevent them escaping; although some still manage to. Rumour has it that if there are ever less than six ravens at the Tower then it will fall over. So today there are seven the required six plus one spare just in case. The Tower Green - This nice patch of green in the Tower grounds has a bloody history. It was the execution spot for those of high enough rank to be afforded the privilege of being executed in private; most executions were public spectacles. Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard two of Henry VIIIs wives were killed here and a memorial has now been erected to everyone who lost their lives there. The Medieval Palace - See what counted as the height of luxury in medieval times. The Tower often had Royal visitors and this is a replica of the apartments they would have stayed at, taken from pictures painted of the time. So if you fancy seeing all of the above the Tower makes a great place to visit. There are many interactive exhibits and there are also quizzes and games for children to participate as they go round. The Tower is open from 9:00 - 17:30 Tuesday to Saturday and 10:00- 17:30 Sunday - Monday. If you buy your tickets on-line in advance a family of two adults and up to six children can explore all this for only £47.00. There is so much to see and do it is well worth the money and part of your heritage.  

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