Historical fortress of William the Conqueror, royal palace, prison... London's history revolves around the Tower of London.
It is one of London's most popular monuments (about 2 million visitors each year) and one of the must-see visits to understand London's history. If you only need to visit one monument during your stay, it may be this one. The visit, both outside and inside, is very pleasant and offers beautiful views of the Thames quays, Tower Bridge... The Tower of London evokes the glorious but also sinister and bloody history of the British past. It was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror to ensure the security of the capital, but above all, to impose respect on the English people. It is built on the ancient Roman fortifications that can be seen during the visit. The original palace, built of wood, does not stand the test of time, unlike the White Tower, built in 1077, which until the 17th century served as a royal residence and fortress. Surrounded by a 3.60 m wide ditch, an impenetrable enclosure controlled by 12 towers and a barbican that protects the drawbridges, the tower is an ideal prison. It has largely demonstrated this. The executioners were not idle during the War of the Two Roses, nor during the reign of Henry VIII, two of whose six women were beheaded here. This medieval fortress is composed of towers and buildings dating from different centuries. The oldest and most splendid, the Clean Tower, houses the weapons and armour collections, including a room specialising in tournament armour. The "Armoury in action" room will seduce the youngest ones since they will be able to practice virtually becoming gunners or archers. St John's Chapel, in Romanesque style, on the second floor, is the oldest church in London (about 1080). It was used as a place of worship for kings and queens for 900 years and is still used as a chapel for all the Tower's staff. The Bloody Tower inherited this name after Edward IV's two sons, aged 10 and 13, died in 1483. They may have been murdered on the orders of their uncle, Richard of Gloucester (who later became Richard III immortalized by Shakespeare), to prevent them from ever claiming the throne. At the bottom of St Thomas' Tower, the famous Traitors' Gate overlooks the Thames. The prisoners enter it to never leave it again. Beauchamp Tower, often used as a prison, still keeps the prisoners' inscriptions on its walls. The tower is still guarded by the Yeomen Warders, also known as Beefeaters, who still wear the dark blue uniform with red stripes from the Tudor era. During the commemorations, they wear a similar costume but of scarlet color, very popular with tourists. The tower has not been used as a prison for a century, although the Nazi Rudolf Hess was imprisoned in Gaoler's House in May 1941. However, the place remains a fortress for the priceless crown jewels. Be careful, we have to wait in line again to access the part dedicated to jewels. Most of the old jewellery has been melted or sold by Cromwell. The oldest pieces in the collection therefore only date from the Restoration. The Imperial State Crown, manufactured in 1838 for Queen Victoria, contains no less than 3,000 precious stones, including a huge ruby worn by Henry V at the Battle of Azincourt. The Queen Mother's crown is adorned with the fabulous Kohinoor diamond (109 carats) and the Royal Sceptre is surmounted by the largest diamond ever cut in the world (516.5 carats). It is said that this diamond was sent to England by post, because it was the best way not to attract attention... You do not risk staying too long in front of the jewellery since treadmills prevent any prolonged stops in front of the windows. We slide and the jewels parade before our amazed eyes by such a modern scenography. For centuries, the Tower of London has also housed exotic animals, lions, polar bears and monkeys, symbols of British power. In 1832, they were liberated. Today, an interactive exhibition brings them back within these walls, recreating the royal menagerie virtually. And metal mesh sculptures evoke them along the way. The visit is punctuated by many panels on which we find
always in French.
The ravens of the Tower of London. While visitors are asked to leave at the end of the day, some guests have been staying in the Tower of London for centuries: the crows. History tells us that King Charles II wants to get rid of these birds because astronomer John Flamsteed complains about their uncomfortable presence. However, he was told that the day the crows left the site, the tower and the British monarchy would collapse. They have since become the symbol of the monarchy and its good health. We therefore take great care of it. To avoid disaster, Charles II then decided to keep six crows in the tower enclosure at all times. To make sure they don't run away, he makes them trim their wings. Even today, there are seven ravens in the Tower of London, all bearing a name, which a ravenmaster (raven breeder) is responsible for monitoring and feeding. We discover their cages in front of the White Tower. Despite this surveillance, in 1981, Grog escaped and was last seen outside a pub in the East End. Other crows, on the other hand, had to be revoked for misconduct. In 1986, the George raven was sent back because of repeated attacks on television antennas. He was placed in a zoo, and the following announcement was made: "This Saturday, September 13, 1986, George the Raven, hired in 1975, was placed at the Welsh Mountain Zoo. Unsatisfactory conduct. His services are no longer required. In 1996, two other crows were sent back for their aggressiveness towards visitors. Crows can live to an advanced age. The oldest one who lived at the Tower of London was Jim Crow, who died at 44. They are one of the most famous attractions of the Tower of London and are always carefully cared for, their good health being the guarantee that the British monarchy will live and last. Their size is impressive and they can even be a little scared. They now have the freedom to fly around the Tower of London, but still have a few feathers on their wings cut off as a sign of gratitude. There is no way we're losing the guardians of the monarchy! They are pampered and are fed twice a day by Master Raven. They feed on a special diet of mice, chicks, rats and assortments of raw meat. They eat more than 170g of raw meat a day! As a special treatment, they receive blood-soaked cookies.
Every day at the Tower of London takes place the Keys ceremony. For 700 years, the ritual has not changed. At 9:50 p.m. sharp, Chief Yeoman Warder, in full dress, with a candle holder in one hand and the keys to the tower in the other, went to Traitors Gate where an escort of guards was waiting for him. One of them is holding the candle holder while the Chief closes the gate. They proceed in this way in front of the gate of each tower. Finally they head for the Bloody Tower where the guard screams:
"Who goes there?
- The keys.
- What keys? What keys?
- Queen Elizabeth's keys. »
They are then granted the right to pass. When the main guard greets him, the Chief replies: "God Save the Queen". He then dropped off the keys at Queen's House while the retreat was being called. This outdated show is reminiscent of a Shakespeare play, performed outdoors and sold out for many years. To attend the key ceremony (it is free of charge), you must write at least two months in advance to Ceremony of the Keys Office, Tower of London, EC3N 4AB, specifying your name, the desired date and the number of people (no more than 6 in summer, 15 in winter) and attaching a stamped envelope or an international reply coupon.
Tuesday-Saturday 9am-4.30pm, Sunday and Monday 10am-4pm in winter, 5.30pm the rest of the year. Adult £24.70 when booking.
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