A day at the Tower of London

Tower of London a must see

There were a number of things in London on my “must see” list. One of them, and probably at the top of that list, was the Tower of London. My fascination with it was based mainly on the role it played in England’s history.  With stories of those that died there, lived and ruled, it has fascinated me for years. By being able to finally visit, I felt like I found my very own Disney.

The Tower of London can’t claim to be the happiest place on earth. However, the experience of being there after reading so much about it, definitely made me the happiest person that day. I spent few hours touring around and soaking up as much as I possibly could.

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Main entrance to the Tower

The Tower experience

My experience started with a guided tour by one of the Yeoman Warders named John. He provided us with a colourful and insightful tale of the tower’s history.  The Yeoman Warders are commonly known as ‘Beefeaters.’ They have been a staple here since the 16th century.  As Royal Bodyguards, the men were compensated for their services  with an unlimited access to king’s table. In those days, that meant lots of meat. Apparently, today there are a couple of vegetarian Beefeaters, a thought that would be unthinkable centuries ago.

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Welcome sign
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John our tour guide
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Couldn’t resist a pic

A little bit of a background

So the Tower of Lodon actually consist of a number of buildings, surrounded by a fortified wall. The oldest structure is the White Tower. It dates back to the 12th century and the days of William the Conqueror. In those days, it was an imposing structure meant to awe and put fear in Londoners and enemies alike. It also has played an important role in the history of England.

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The White Tower

In addition to being the centre of royal power, it was also known for its bloody and torturous past. This includes the tragic story of Edward IV’s sons. The two boys disappeared from the Bloody Tower while in the care of their uncle. The same uncle who eventually became Richard III.

Four of Britain’s queens have entered the gates as prisoners – Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard (both wives of Henry VIII), Jayne Gray and young Elizabeth Tudor. Only one of them managed to walk out alive. In case you’re not a history buff, it was Elizabeth, Henry’s daughter with Anne Boleyn. She went on to rule England for 44 years!

There were also many other important prisoners who lost their lives at the tower. They all arrived here the same way – down the river Thames and through the Traitor’s Gate. Upon arrival, the Yeoman Warders took them to await their fate. This almost always meant death.

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Bloody Tower and the line to the torture exhibit

The Tower today

Today, there are many visitors at the tower. They are laughing, taking pictures and having a great time. Nobody is imprisoned, tortured or killed. To me, there is something profound about walking in the footsteps of those that lived and died here. I was in awe and I don’t think I can fully articulate why that was such an important place for me to visit. I studied English history, including the reign of Henry VIII in quite detail. Being here made it all come alive.

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Behind me is the Tower Green, an execution spot for the more important prisoners like Anne Boleyn.
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Guard outside one of the buildings that houses the royal jewels
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Traitors’ Gate
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Today the Tower has great views of the Tower Bridge

Little bit of torture and death

I found it interesting that there are people actually live at the Tower today.  The tower of London is also the residence of the Beefeaters. There is also a doctor on the premises and a chaplain  who looks after the chapel. As the story goes, when Queen Victoria decided to restore the chapel, a number of headless corpses were discovered buried beneath the floor. Apparently, traitors didn’t get a proper burial. As their heads were hung on display at the London Bridge, their corpses ended up beneath the church’s floor.

Now imagine that you are sitting in one of the chairs in that church as the guide is telling this story. Kinda makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up a little. I wasn’t sure if I was sitting on top of headless corpses or just the former cemetery.

To complete my tour, I saw the exhibition about prisoners and torture at the Tower, the Royal Armouries Collection, the Medieval Palace exhibit and the crown jewels. All in all it was a very informative place.

The Tower of London was one of the place of historical importance that I had an opportunity to visit over the years. Now I can check this off my bucket list and go on to the next one.

What types of things do you like to see when you go to new places? Any favourites? Let me know.


You might also enjoy: Where does your wanderlust come from?, London in a day and Kensigton Palace and Diana’s Garden


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