Tales and History in the Tower of London

Good evening,

You must be celebrating the weekend right now! I was lucky enough to have a day off yesterday, on Thursday. Last Monday evening I met my uncle in London, at Waterloo station to be exact, because he was in London for business and it was good to catch up! We had a ‘gezellige’ evening, a word which doesn’t really have an English translation I’m afraid. He ended up sponsoring my future trip to the Tower of London (because I told him I hadn’t been there yet), and so I decided to go there yesterday! Since he made this happen, this post will be dedicated to my uncle Frank! Thanks again! :)

I have always wanted to go to the Tower. I’ve read so many books with events in it that took place in the tower. Not only Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, the Princes in the Tower, Jane Grey and the last Lancastrian King Henry VI were murdered there, and apart from the fact it has housed lots of important and infamous people, it was also a very important royal palace.

I took the District line direct from Wimbledon to Tower Hill. From there it’s just a short walk to the Tower.

I got inside and found out that there would be a guided tour in 10 minutes.  Yeoman Warders, also known as ‘beefeaters’, have formed the Royal Bodyguard since at least 1509.  They have long been symbols of London and Britain. I certainly recommand this tour to anyone visiting the Tower. It is free, and provides you with lots of entertaining stories and interesting history.

View from where I was waiting for the tour. Do you see the Tower Bridge?

Jim, our guard/Yeoman Warder, told us lots of interesting stories and facts. It was built by William the Conqueror. I can clearly remember one gruesome story our guide told us; one poor unfortunate soul (I can’t remember who the man was) had such a terrible death on Tower Hill; the executioner, which was parttime butcher, parttime drunk, parttime hangman, needed FIVE strokes to get the head off the body, and even after that he needed to use a knife to cut the final vein. Absolutely terrifying. A funny story he told: one man actually managed to escape by wearing woman’s clothes, which he took from one of the serving ladies.

The Traitor’s Gate, which was first named The Watergate but its name was changed in the time of Henry VIII, when the gate was mostly used to bring traitors (basicly anybody that didn’t agree with the King) into the Tower.

The Bloody Tower, renamed by Elizabeth I

Entering the main square of the whole area that’s called the Tower. It’s actually a big castle with a little village and chapel in it. On the right you can see the building that is called The White Tower, the building in the middle is where the crown jewels are presented.

Again, a nice view of Tower Bridge

These houses are called ‘The Queen’s House’. Henry VIII built them for his new queen Anne Boleyn. Sadly, Anne Boleyn was finished before the houses were… However they are still called the Queen’s House.

A memorial at the exact spot where the people were beheaded. In total it was ‘just’ 6 people that were actually killed in the Tower. Most people were executed at Tower Hill.

There are still people that live within the walls of the Tower. Yeoman Warders and their families mostly.

14. John Dudley (1553-4): ”You that these beasts do well behold and see, May deem with ease wherefore here made they be, with borders eke wherein there may be found 4 brothers names who list to search the ground.”
15. Robert Bainbridge (1586): ”The patient shall conquer.”
16. G. Gyfford, August 8th 1586: ”Grief is overcome by Patience.”

79. Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel (1587): ”I am waiting for my liberty.”
80. France Owdal 1541
81. Sir Richard (?): ”In God is my hope.”

Old canons

Official Guard near the entrance of the crown jewels building

Of course I went inside to pay the crown jewels a visit. You weren’t allowed to take any photos. Lots of diamonds and gold naturally! The funny thing is, is that after you’ve seen about a bazillion diamonds and golden swords, there is a donation box at the exit…yeah right as if you don’t have enough money ;)

Ceremonial Bearing Sword: By tradition this processional sword belonged to one of the early Lancastrian kings, Henry IV (1399-1413). It was carried before the monarch, signifying royal power over life and death.
It is 227 cm (!!) long and weighs 6.4 kg.

King Henry VIII was about 25 years old when this armour was finished. Tudor roses and pomegranates feature amongst the pattern of stems and leaves as symbols of Henry and his wife Katherine of Aragon respectively. The skirt or base of the man’s armour bears their intwined initals, H and K.

Latin classes seem like a long time ago, but I think this means something like ‘I wear my wapons and power’

I’m always wondering what’s behind gates like these..

Close-up of one of the paper dolls in the store..

They do make a lovely gift don’t they!

The White Tower from the outside. As you just saw, it houses the Royal armouries. However, in the early days the dungeons/basements used to serve as prisons and torturing chambers as well..

Before the London Zoo, all exotic animals were housed in the Tower as well. It must have been quite the place..

This guy actually used orange juice to write letters with invisible ink!!

‘Besides the Rack, the principal kind of torture in England is called ‘the Scavenger’s Daughter’. It is the complete opposite of the rack.. The prisoner’s body is folded into three, with the shins up against the thighs and the thighs against the stomach. The torturer then forces the ends of two iron bows together and locks the prisoner inside, almost crushing his body with a hellish compression. This is an inhuman torture, in every way worse than the rack..’
– A priest, 17th century

’17th century engraving of the rack in the Tower. The artist imagined the instrument of descriptions, but several of the details are inaccurate.’

Very steep and narrow steps!!

This story is so sad. I read a book about their mother, Elizabeth Woodville, ‘The White Queen’ by Philippa Gregory. I’m a bit prejudiced because of this, I don’t necessarily think Richard killed them. It’s terribly complicated and full of intrigues.

Final view, it was beginning to get darker.

I had a terrific day! Although it looks quite sunny in most of the pictures, it was absolutely freezing that day! I actually wore handgloves and earmuffs! If you ever go to London, don’t forget to pay a visit to the Tower if you’re interested in history. It is expensive but worth the money! Frank, thanks again for sponsoring this great trip :).

Enjoy your weekend!



One comment

  1. Hi Roos. You’re welcome! Looks like you had a wonderful day. Great report and nice pictures! Hartelijke groeten, Frank

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