Tower of London, detailed information

Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of Britain’s main attractions, a fortress with a history going back nearly 1,000 years.

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General Information.

For nine centuries, the royal Tower Castle has been a grim symbol of cruel justice, imprisonment, torture and execution. Apparently its grim reputation is what draws so many tourists here. Add to that the befitters in red uniforms, the legendary ravens and the glitter of the royal jewels and you begin to understand how enormously popular the Tower is.

www.hrp.org.uk Tel: 020-7709 0765 Admission paid Tower Hill Metro

Construction of the Tower of London was begun in 1078 by William the Conqueror to control the vital route from the sea to London. The White Tower was England’s first stone watchtower. Henry III founded a palace here in the early thirteenth century, and although no monarch has lived here since Henry VII, the Tower officially remains the Royal Palace.

At various times it housed an astronomical observatory, royal archives, a royal menagerie and a royal arsenal.

As a result of numerous reconstructions, the Tower became a fortress of irregular hexagonal shape, surrounded by a moat and double defensive walls with jagged towers. The narrow outer courtyard (patrolled space) is guarded by cylindrical towers.

Behind the wall there is an inner courtyard, a wide space closed from all sides. It was here that barracks for soldiers, houses, chapels and other buildings were built for centuries. In the center is the donjon, the ancient White Tower, topped with four onion domes on the corner turrets. It is one of the largest donjons in the medieval architecture of Western Europe.

The Tower is now famous primarily for housing the Crown Jewels. However, the great fame of the Tower came from its bloody history, as for centuries the Tower remained a prison where torture and execution took place.

Legends and stories

During the 900 years of the Tower’s existence, legends and historical facts have become inextricably intertwined. On the south side of the outer wall is the Tower of St. Thomas and in it is the “Traitor’s Gate” overlooking the Thames.

Those condemned at the Palace of Westminster for high treason were taken to this entrance to the Tower by boat, which was considered a great disgrace.

Immediately behind the “Traitor’s Gate” in the inner wall is the Bloody Tower, facing the courtyard. Here in 1483, just after King Edward IV died, Prince Edward, heir to the throne, and his younger brother Prince Richard were brought here on the orders of their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester. No one outside the Tower walls saw the boys again, and “Hunchback Dick” was crowned as Richard III that year. In 1674, the skeletons of the two boys were unearthed from the ground nearby, giving even more reason to speculate that the ambitious duke had ordered his nephews to be put to death. They were not the only royals murdered here. It may have been their father who ordered the murder of his predecessor, Henry VI, who suffered from mental illness. In 1471 Henry VI was deposed, sent to the Tower and executed, and the people were told that the king had died of sorrow.

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Torture and execution are an integral part of the Tower’s history. Traitors were executed publicly in Tower Hill, the square inside the fortress, but a “privileged” minority parted their heads on the Tower lawn in front of the White Tower. Among them were two of Henry VIII’s wives: the indomitable six-toed Anne Boleyn (second wife), mother of Queen Elizabeth I, beheaded with the sword of a French executioner, and the foolish Katherine Howard (fifth wife), whose head was also hacked off with an axe like most other traitors.

Beefeaters

Guarding the fortress and the 2.5 million annual visitors to the Tower are 42 Beefeaters, the Tower’s lieutenant guards. A key ceremony is held daily at 9:35 p.m. (If you want to attend the ceremony, write in advance to the Tower Constable, Tower, EUS) . One of them holds the title of overseer of the crows, and it is he who is responsible for them. According to legend, if the ravens fly out of the Tower, the kingdom will fall, and so they get their wings clipped!

Waterloo Barracks.

You have to wait in line to get into the Waterloo Barracks, where the crown jewels of England are on display, but they are worth it. Here you will see the crown of Elizabeth II with the famous Cochinor diamond and the crown made in 1837 for Queen Victoria. It is set with a Little Star of Africa diamond and a sapphire that belonged to Edward the Confessor.

The enigmatic and contrasting Tower of London – interesting facts about the castle’s history

The enigmatic Tower of London

On the left bank of the River Thames rises the Tower of London, a building that has made European history since its inception.

From the history of education

The word “Tower” translates from English as tower . It is London’s oldest structure and one of Britain’s symbols. In the history of the English nation, the Tower holds a special place. Built more than 900 years ago, the fortress has a gloomy appearance and no less gloomy rich history.

The appearance of the fortress dates back to the time of Duke William’s conquest of England. Fearing the vengeance of the inhabitants, the formidable conqueror ordered the construction of the fortress, which became the largest and most intimidating. The impregnable stronghold reliably protected the country’s new masters.

Architectural features

The Tower of London is made of stone and lime mortar in the form of a massive rectangular tower. It was supposed to serve as an impregnable royal residence, impressing the subjects. The southeast corner of this stronghold, being at the same time the wall of the chapel, protruded in a semicircle beyond the limits of the structure.

The Tower of London made of stone and lime mortar

The building was whitewashed and called the White Tower. Over time, the stone box was gradually expanded by towers and new additions. The length of the walls of the stone fortification is 32 and 36 meters, rising almost 30 meters in height.

King Richard the Lionheart made the Tower most formidable and impregnable. He ordered to complete additional towers, build two rows of walls, dig a defensive moat 7 meters wide and 4 meters deep, as well as earthen fortifications with wooden paling on top.

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All in all, the castle, which could never be taken by storm, was built for 200 years. The appearance of the Tower has changed a great deal since the 11th century, the time of its construction.

The Tower is an ominous place

Over its history the Tower of London has been and fortress, palace, repository of royal jewels, arsenal, mint, prison, observatory, zoo.

For centuries its walls have been witnesses to human grief and tragedy. The castle’s gloomy casemates were also drawn into the intrigues of power struggles by the rulers. Rivers of blood were shed by the prisoners who spent their last days in the dungeons.

The first prisoner in the castle, which had been turned into a prison, appeared in 1190. Since that time it has been the place of imprisonment of high-ranking members of noble families.

Traitor's Gate

In the troubled times of the Reformation many royals were tortured and executed within the walls of the gloomy prison – a threat to the peace of the English throne. The bodies were buried in the cellars of the castle chapel.

Prisoners of the Tower

King Henry the Eighth was particularly cruel to its inmates. Those who disagreed with his decision were summarily executed by beheading. The head was impaled on a stake that was attached to the bridge. The same fate befell the monarch’s wives who could not bear him a son.

Evil Museum Exhibit

A son was born to the madman and fully inherited all his qualities. His favorite pastime was the public executions that took place on the hill near the Tower. The heads of the unfortunates were left on a stake for horror, and the beheaded bodies were buried in one of cellars of the castle.

Modern archaeologists have found more than 1,500 headless skeletons in the dungeons. Excavations are still going on.

Prisoners of the Tower were the kings of France and Scotland. One of the castle’s death row inmates managed to escape on the eve of his execution. It was a Scottish earl who had disguised himself in a woman’s dress brought by his wife. The last prisoner of the fortress was Hitler’s personal secretary Rudolf Hess.

Prison in the Castle

The legends and ghosts of the Tower

This castle could be called a classic land of ghosts, many of them members of the royal family. The place, permeated with secrets and legends, is mesmerizing and intriguing. The spirits of kings and jesters, nobles, countesses, knights, wives of kings, princes, romantic lovers and them ladies stir the imagination of the English.

Many legends and historical facts make you wonder about the strangeness of the castle.

The most frightening event about the history of the ghost is the execution scene of 70-year-old Countess Margaret Paul . Her son, Cardinal Paul, had a disagreement with King Henry. When the king realized that he could not deal with the cardinal, he ordered the execution of his mother.

Inside the castle

During the execution, the countess broke free of the executioner’s hands and tried to escape. The executioner chased after her, striking her with an axe. The servants of the castle to this day assert that every year on the day of the countess’s execution the images of the victim and the executioner are distinctly seen and their wild cries can be heard.

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The guards still prefer not to talk about how in the corridors of the castle the ghosts of “little princes” periodically flicker. Heirs to the rightful King Edward were strangled asleep at the ages of 9 and 12 on the orders of their guardian, the Duke of Gloucester, who had illegally usurped the throne. The bodies of the Crown Princes were hidden away, never to be found.

Legends and Tradition

The traditional inhabitants of the Tower are the black crows. They are a famous symbol of the castle, also associated with its past. According to legend, crows are messengers of bad events. They have always appeared before the execution of those doomed to death.

Black Crow

Since the Tower began to serve as a royal prison, whole dynasties of crows have settled in the area. Their lives have been littered with many legends. One claims that the Tower and the entire British empire will fall as soon as the crows leave it.

Surprisingly, in the 17th century King Charles issued a decree that six black crows were to remain in the castle at all times. A special guard was to watch over it. Since then and until today, seven black crows – one spare – live in the spacious aviaries of the castle. For the fantastically free maintenance of the “guardians of the Tower” the state allocates a decent budget.

However, there was one unpleasant event in this story, which one tries to remember less often. In July 1941, after a massive bombing of the castle by German bombers, all but one of the crows died of stress. The British Empire itself, along with the castle, was on the brink of disaster at that very time.

Now crows are protected as much as possible, but every tourist can see them. They eagerly answer to their name – each one has its own name, as well as its original character.

The Castle Zoo

It was King John the Soothless who put an end to the bloody horrors of the Tower. He ordered that the castle be used for entertainment. The monarch gave part of his power to Parliament and turned the Tower into a zoo, which had been in the castle for centuries.

Memory of the zoo

The castle welcomed important guests, who often visited the monarch with gifts in the form of wildlife. It was for her that King Henry ordered to build the Lion’s Tower – a mini zoo, the menagerie was constantly replenished with new animals, where even leopards, donated by the French king, lived.

The menagerie was constantly replenished with new animals. The townspeople visited it for a nominal fee.

Mint

For almost 5 centuries there was a mint in the fortress where silver coins were minted. Silver for them was taken away by order of the king, destroying monasteries. Everything was used: crosses, frames from icons, decorative elements of temples.

Trusting the strong, impregnable walls of the Tower, weapons were made and kept there. The vaults of the castle hid documents of state importance.

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The Tower’s treasures

In the vaults of the castle a huge exposition of diamonds. Among them the main treasure is the royal crown with diamonds and the world’s biggest cut diamond, the Cullian. One of the symbols of royalty, the scepter decorated with precious stones, captivates the eye with its exuberance and uniqueness.

The armor of the brave knights also delights the eye with its decoration. Interestingly, in 1671 Colonel Bland made an unsuccessful attempt to steal the treasure. Not only did King Charles the Second not execute the impudent man, but he gave him a life pension for his audacity and bravery.

The Tower today

Today’s Tower bears little resemblance to the formidable fortress it went down in history.

Current state

In the mid-19th century, the defensive moat was filled in. Today the castle stands on a broad field of short-cut grass. The harsh, blood-soaked courtyard is now also verdant under the shade of beautiful trees. In the times of restorations, the windows were enlarged and all 43 towers of the castle were repainted.

Nowadays the castle is a museum, a historical monument and a symbol of London. Since 1988, the building is under the protection of UNESCO. High walls, casemates of blackened stone, filled up ditches.

The square towers look out on the Thames, and the barrels of the old cannons look down on it. Elegant skyscrapers of glass and concrete encircled closely the once impregnable Tower.

Today 200 people work here every day at the Castle Museum. Every morning guards open the palace doors to visitors.

Guards of the Tower.

The prisoners of the Tower and its valuables needed good guards. For this they kept specially trained palace guards.

The position of guards at the Tower of London still exists today. Dressed in the uniform of the Guards of Queen Victoria, they guard the castle and give tours to visitors.

Guards uniform

The medieval costume of the guards, in which they stay in our time, consists of a black round velvet hat framed with ribbons. A black cloth blouse with red patches, the coat of arms of England and the initials of the king on the chest arouse the interest and respect of visitors.

All the guards in the Tower are called Beefeaters, a literal translation of which means “meat-eater. This interesting nickname was attached in the 15th century. In times of widespread hunger among the common people, the guards of the Tower were always fed. Each of them received a huge piece of meat.

Even today the dead guards of the Tower are buried in the cellars of the castle chapel. To join the elite caste of servants and guards of the castle is very difficult. For this you need at least 22 years of service in the armed forces of England. Also requires a medal for length of service and the rank of master sergeant.

With a tour of the Tower.

Charming guards greet their visitors every morning at the main gate of the castle. You can take a walking tour of the fortress with them. Tourists are guided along the path of the prisoners who entered the Tower. They learn about the methods of defending the fortress during an attack by the enemy.

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A visit to the Tower Meadow is impressive. This eerie and at the same time beautiful place, where more than one thousand people of England parted with their lives.

Tower Castle from above

Now a memorial complex is built here. On the huge stone are carved the names of the executed monarchs and the dates of their deaths. The instruments for torturing prisoners make you shudder and remember what you saw for a long time.

Nearby is the cathedral church of St. Peter, which holds services for those executed on this site. During the day there is no shortage of people. Legends of ghosts haunt young people who try to catch a glimpse of the ghost on their camera lenses.

When it gets dark behind the windows of the fortress, the tourist service stops. It is at this time that ghosts become masters of the gloomy casemate. The chatty guides, once again transformed into impregnable sentinels, close the gates of the castle at a second, according to a tradition which is more than 7 centuries old.

A living tradition

Every day for 700 years an amazing ceremony called “The Queen’s Keys” has been performed in the Tower. A mesmerizing spectacle is before your eyes: massive walls, dimly lit lanterns, guards’ heels resounding in silence, red uniforms and bear hats.

Every evening at 10 p.m., the Keeper of the Keys, lantern in hand, dressed in Tudor robes, emerges from the Bloody Tower, the very place where King Edward’s young heirs were deprived of their lives. Toward him comes the Keeper of the Keys. The guards close the main gate and go under the arch of the Bloody Tower. The Keeper of the Keys removes his hat and utters: “God save Queen Elizabeth!” Everyone responds: “Amen!”.

The head custodian then carries the keys to the commandant’s room, where they are kept until morning. This solemn ceremony of handing over and keeping the keys to the castle has never been interrupted in 700 years. Only once was it delayed for half an hour in 1941 during a direct attack on the castle by German aircraft.

Admission to the ceremony is by invitation card. They can be obtained by anyone who writes a letter two months in advance. Absolutely free ticket will be kindly mailed to you.

Suspension Bridge

The Tower of London is visited by 2.5 million people a year, and each of them admire the grand building adjacent to the castle. It is a bridge of unique construction. Since its construction 125 years ago.

Tower Bridge

Bridge suspended with a swinging part, it connects the foot passages of the towers of the castle. Today it is a cultural center of the city: in the passages of the bridge are art exhibitions, a permanent exhibition of the rich history of the castle.

Video: tour of the castle

Time has no power over the symbol of Great Britain. Still majestic and unshakable, the Tower is the property of kings and one of the residences.

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