What do you think of when you hear “The Tower of London?” Here’s an overview of this place with its structures dating back for centuries. Contrary to what you may picture, the Tower of London is actually a complex of different towers, a palace, and an exhibition of the official Crown Jewels.
William the Conqueror built the White Tower after his military victory in 1066. He chose this spot on the Thames River as ideal for a fortress. The Tower Bridge spans the river right outside the gates.
The most famous of all who lost their heads in the courtyard is Anne Boleyn, one of the wives of Henry VIII. We heard the gruesome story of her beheading, which was of course attended by a few hundred onlookers. The blade came down so fast that her eyes still moved after the detachment. When the executioner held up her bloody head, the crowd gasped as she appeared to look around at them. Entertaining, indeed.
This story and so many others are told by the Beefeaters on a tour of the Tower of London. These legendary guards / tour guides are required to serve in the military for years before applying to become a Beefeater. They are then required to live on the grounds in this area, guarded in style.
Our guide had us laughing through the entire tour. If you go, be sure to join one of these tours to get a rounded picture of the history of the Tower.
One of the fascinating historical oddities to see are the ravens. The belief passed down the ages is that if the 6 ravens who live on the grounds die, the kingdom will fall. Charles II wrote a law that the ravens cannot be harmed. The birds’ wings are clipped and they reside in luxury here. Currently seven ravens live in the Tower grounds—six plus one spare, just in case. You can make a game of trying to spot all seven while you visit.
Today the Tower of London sits surrounded by modern glass skyscrapers in the heart of the city.
Open 9:30 to 4:30 Tuesday through Saturday; 10:00 to 4:30 Sunday and Monday
Adult tickets are 25 pounds; children 5 through 15 are 12 pounds; under 5 free
Underground station: Tower Hill
Visit Historic Royal Palaces for more information.