tower of london—flirting with the beefeaters

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When you live in London, it is only right that you do at least some of the absolutely touristy things the city is famous for, which includes going to the Tower of London, packed with swarms of holiday-makers. Most famous for the beheadings of Henry VIII’s (1491–1547) wives when they failed to provide blessed little boys, the Tower has to be on the top things-to-do list in every guide-book on this country. And does it live up to its name. Millions of tourists cannot be wrong. 🙂

Especially the crown jewels comprising 23,578 gems. I had never before realised how big the Cullinan I or First Star of Africa was, or how radiant the Kohinoor. What is equally amazing is that these jewels, a working collection, have been on display since the 17th Century with only one attempt to steal them by a Colonel Blood!

There was a special exhibition taking place on Henry VIII’s armoury titled ‘Dressed to Kill’ as part of his 500th anniversary, the day I visited. It was fascinating, particularly the way his girth kept increasing over the years. My favourite piece, however, was this really cute helmet gifted to Henry by Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor. It had ram horns, optician spectacles and spaced out teeth in a loony grin. Totally adorable.

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The 900-year-old Tower of London was a fortress, prison and royal home; Top Right: Tower Bridge. I took this pic from the ramparts …
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At the heart of Tower of London is the White Tower, the oldest part of the fortress (11th Century); Inside, is a small Romanesque stone church

The Tower of London, built by William the Conqueror (1028-87) in the early 1080s, was used over the centuries as a luxurious royal home, as well as a fortress for anyone the King did not quite fancy, which actually amounted to thousands. The poor souls were brought in here by the traitor’s gate, tried for treason or any other such evil, and then taken to the nearby Tower Hill, where the executioner axed their heads off. These heads were then mounted on spears and displayed at nearby London Bridge to teach everybody what happened when you didn’t play by the rules. Royalty and special personages were killed inside, at the Tower Green.

The most famous of these executions were: the two wives of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn (2nd) and Catherine Howard (5th); the 16-year-old Lady Jane Grey—the 9-day queen—a pawn in the power struggle for the throne; and the twin princes who were brought in here and then disappeared, only for their skeletons to be found 200 years later at the site.

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The Queen’s House is presently the residence of the Tower’s governor. It was built by Henry VIII for his 2nd wife, Anne Boleyn, but she was executed before it was completed
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Past and present both live here—the private chapel in the Medieval Palace (13th Century) and a modern glass memorial at the scaffold site dedicated to the queens and earls who were executed within these walls

Its most celebrated residents? No sharing of the credits here. It is the six ravens with one extra. The ebony coloured birds have had their wings clipped so that they cannot fly. It is not a nice sight seeing them flap their wings, only to stumble. Somebody told Charles II (1630-85) that if the ravens were to ever leave the Tower of London, the Kingdom and the fortress would fall, and so the birds have stayed since.

The Tower is taken care of by the 35 Beefeaters or Yeoman Warders who are as much a tourist attraction as the ravens and Henry. No trip can ever be complete without a picture with them, so here’s the official “I have been to the Tower of London” picture at the end. 🙂

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My official “Yes, I have been to the Tower of London” photo

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