The Tower of London is one of London's most recognized landmarks and a must-see for anyone looking to visit London. It is not that much of an actual tower, but rather a historic castle. It is located on the River Thames in the center of London and was first built soon after the Norman invasion of England in 1066 in 1078. It was used as a prison from 1100 and was a symbol of oppression by the ruling elite. The Tower is actually part of a complex of buildings and is surrounded by two defensive walls and a moat.
About The Tower
- Official Name: Her Majesty's Royal Palance and Fortress of the Tower Of London
- First Built: 1078
- Historic Uses: Fort, Prison, Armory, Treasury, Menagerie, Base Of The Royal Mint, Home Of The Crown Jewels of England
In its history, it has been besieged several times and it was one of the important locations from which to control England as a whole. Its use as a prison peaked in the 16th and 17th centuries and its use as a defensive position waned as artillery developed and its fortifications were not modernized enough.
There have been many important figures imprisoned here. Perhaps the most famous was Elizabeth I who was sent to the Tower before she became queen. Despite its depictions in movies, people were normally not executed here, instead, they were executed on the notorious Tower Hill (112 people were executed there over 400 years).
In modern history, in both the First and Second World War it reprised its role as a prison, and 12 men were executed here for espionage. It was also damaged during the London Blitz.
Today the Tower is one of England's premier tourist destinations and is under the ceremonial control of the Constable of the Tower and is operated by the Resident Governor of the Tower of London and Keeper of the Jewel House.
The Tower and the Crown Jewels within it have long been a tourist attraction in England. The Crown Jewels have been on public display since 1669 while the Tower has had a purpose-built ticket office since 1851.
The Crown Jewels
The Crown Jewels are some of the United Kingdom's most prized objects and they are kept at the Tower. They are the regalia and vestments worn by the monarch during their coronations. These jewels symbolize the 800 years of the monarchy and they are the most historically complete regalia in the world.
- Number Of Stones: The Regalia Contains 23,578 Stones
- Record: The Largest Clear Cut Diamond in The World Is In The Sovereign's Sceptre (Found In South Africa in 1905)
As the Tower is still officially a residence of the queen and because it is the location of the famed crown jewels, it is the British Army's job to defend the Tower. When visiting the Tower one will see these iconic soldiers with their red tunics and bearskin hats standing guard. They stand as one officer, three NCOs, and ten soldiers. They defend the Tower in cooperation with the Yeoman Warders. At night there is the ancient ritual called the Ceremony of the Keys where the Tower of London's main gates is locked for the night. It is said to be the oldest military ceremony in the world.
King Henry VIII And Anne Boleyn
Innumerable movies and a series have been made of King Henry VIII and his famous 6 wives - particularly Anne Boleyn. With the nation scared from the War of the Roses, it was the King's duty to provide an heir to the throne to prevent another disastrous succession crisis. King Henry VIII's first wife couldn't have a son, so he divorced her in favor of the beautiful and smart Anne Boleyn. But Anne Boleyn also failed to deliver a son and Anne Boleyn was beheaded in the tower in 1536 for treason.
She was buried in the Church of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower and it is said that her ghost continues to haunt the tower. The story goes that she walks around the White Tower carrying her severed head. Other ghost stories include Lady Jane Grey, Henry VI, and Margaret Pole. See here for more creepy history facts about the tower.
- Fun Fact: The War Of The Roses Was The Historical Inspiration For Game of Thrones And The Two Main Houses
- Anne Boleyn: While He Failed To Deliver A Son, She Gave Birth To Elizabeth Who Would Go On To Be The Long Reigning Queen Elizabeth I
Visiting The Tower
- Opening Hours: 9.00 am to 5.30 pm
- Cost of Admission: Adult £29.90 ($42)
- Included In The Ticket: The Ticket Includes Access To The Crown Jewels, the White Tower, the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Battlements, Medieval Palace, Bloody Tower, Torture at the Tower exhibition, Fusiliers Museum, And The Royal Mint exhibition