1So with all of the world turning its attention this year to one of my favourite cities … London. I thought that it was time to do a small series of posts on this wonderful city and some of the things that I really loved.
Why does London a special place for me … I guess it would have to be a combination of
- My family (on my paternal grandfather’s side) can be traced back hundreds of years living in London. And the family had even attained a small level of prominence … well for the making of cricket bats. Their bats were famous (Clapshaw bats) and were consider for their time the best even by Prince Albert (husband to Queen Victoria). The Prince Consort not only bought his bats from Clapshaws, but gave the firm the Royal Warrant.
- I am an absolute history nut and anglophile … so walking around London for me is a bit like a child in a candy store. I go into a bit of a historian/geek frenzy 🙂
- Being a musical theatre tragic … yes I have always liked musicals. IMHO there are two cities in the world that you can get to see the best of the best … and this is one.
So with the Olympics coming here later in the year … I thought it was worthwhile me putting my 2 pence worth and highlighting some of the spots I like.
Tower of London
I think it is far to say that I LOVE the Tower of London. I think it is quite easy to say that the number of times I have visited the tower is greater than the number of times I have visited London. It is my favourite of all the royal palaces (please do not think it is a prison … it has acted in that capacity but it is and always has been a royal palace), one of favourite museums .. and touristy place to visit. If you are going to London for the first time I would recommend that you visit the Tower.
What’s so special about the Tower?
Lots of things … But here is a some short highlights
- Longevity – The Tower has had associations with (and often contributions and extensions made by) every monarch from and including William the Conqueror. Although not completed until after his death, the credit for the White Tower and the choice of site belong to William the Conqueror.
- Interesting prisoners within the Tower and dying within within the tower walls …
- 1471 – Henry VI of England was imprisoned in the Tower after his capture at the Battle of Tewkesbury and was murdered there on 21 May 1471.
- 1483 – Edward V of England and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury (The Famous ‘Princes in the Tower’) disappear, presumed murdered
- 1502–1539 – Sir William de la Pole. A distant relative of King Henry VIII, he was incarcerated at the Tower for 37 years for allegedly plotting against Henry VII, thus becoming the longest-held prisoner.
- 1536 – Queen Anne Boleyn was held prisoner in the Tower and beheaded at Tower Green. Buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.
- 1539-1541 – Margaret, Countess of Salisbury – Last Plantagenet Princess is held prisoner in the Tower and beheaded at Tower Green. Buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.
- 1542 – Queen Catherine Howard and Jane, Viscountess Rochford, Wife of Anne Boleyn’s brother are held prisoner in the Tower and beheaded at Tower Green. Buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.
- 1554 – Lady Jane Grey, the ‘nine days queen’, was held prisoner in the Tower and beheaded at Tower Green. Buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.
- Interesting prisoners within the Tower and executed on Tower Hill (or elsewhere)
- 1305 – William Wallace was imprisoned for a short time before his execution in 1305 at Smithfield
- 1540 – Thomas Cromwell was held prisoner in the Tower and beheaded at Tower Hill.
- 1534-5 – Thomas More was imprisoned on 17 April 1534. He was executed on 6 July 1535 at Tower Hill and his body was buried at the Tower of London.
- 1553-1554 – Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was imprisoned in 1553 before being sent to Oxford in 1554 to be burnt at the stake for heresy.
- 1605 – Guy Fawkes is tortured at the Tower following the failed Gunpowder Plot to assassinate James I and blowing up Parliament. When he confessed to treason, he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered in the Old Palace Yard at Westminster; however, he escaped his fate by jumping off the scaffold at the gallows which in turn broke his neck and killed him.
- Interesting prisoners within the Tower and lived ..
- 1406-8 – James I of Scotland, then heir to the Scottish throne, was kidnapped while travelling to France and imprisoned in the Tower until 1408 before being transferred to Nottingham Castle
- 1471-5 – Margaret of Anjou, consort of Henry VI Imprisoned after being captured at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 until ransomed in 1475.
- 1554 – Princess Elizabeth, later Elizabeth I, is imprisoned in the Tower.
- 1941 – Rudolf Hess, deputy leader of the Nazi Party, the last state prisoner to be held in the Tower, in May 1941
- Interesting Uses … in addition to being a Royal Palace and sometimes prison it has over the years had some other interesting uses
- Zoo (well a menagerie) … But yes the tower was used to hold wild animals. For over 600 years, animals were kept at the Tower for the entertainment and curiosity of the court. Everything from elephants to tigers, kangaroos and ostriches lived in what was known as the Royal Menagerie. In 1832 this came to an end when after several attacks, the royal beasts were sent to London Zoo in Regent’s Park, London.
- Crown Jewels – the current home for the home Jewels was built in 1994 but the crown jewels have had their home in the Tower for many hundreds of years. The Crown Jewels are a sight to behold. They are the greatest working collection of Crown Jewels in the world and priceless symbols of British monarchy. Some interesting facts
- The oldest object in the Crown Jewels is a gold Anointing Spoon that dates back to the 12th century.
- The First Star of Africa, now mounted at the top of the Sovereign’s Sceptre, is the largest cut diamond in the world
- The Imperial State Crown, which has 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 5 rubies.
- Yeoman Warders – I am a big fan of the Yeoman Warders (better known as Beefeaters) and I think they are one reason that I hold such a high esteem for the tower in general. They are simply amazing. A trip to the tower must include a tour with the Yeoman Warders. Every tour I have been on I have learnt something new about the Tower, its history but also general British history and had a great time. It isnot easy and it is a honour to be a Yeoman Warder. Yeoman Warders are required to have served in the armed forces with an honourable record for at least 22 years and then have to complete and are tested on their knowledge of british history before being considered if and when a position arises.
- Ravens – Why do they have Ravens in the Tower? Well according to legend and superstition “If the Tower of London ravens (six resident ravens) are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.” There are seven ravens at the Tower today (the required six plus one spare!). You can find their lodgings are to be next to the Wakefield Tower
For more information including how tot get here and ticketing go to the the official website of the Tower of London.