The Tower of London

By Ivy Hendrix

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Home to Royalty and Criminals, Both

Most people do not believe in ghosts, but as one walks through the cold stone corridors of the Tower of London, minds might change. In fact, many have reported seeing ghosts of little boys, Anne Boelyn leading processions, and the White Lady waving from a window as her perfume permeates the oldest tower. Ghosts or no, the Tower has had multiple purposes through its long and interesting history. Originally built to impose the native people, the tower did not only function as a fortress. Royalty resided there, some while they waited for their death. For many years, it was home to exotic animals and birds. It also provided a secure home to the monarchs’ valuables and jewels.
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The Beginning

In the beginning, the tower was built to protect those inside and intimidate the outsiders. When William the Conqueror took the land from the Saxons in the beginning of the 2nd century, he created this fortress to frighten his new subjects. The architect, Guldulf, was pressed, or forced, to design and oversee the construction of The White Tower, as it was originally called, in 1078. He utilized Caen stone and Kentish ragstone to develop 90 foot tall and 25 foot wide walls. Intimidating already, kings throughout the centuries continued to reinforce the castle within a concentric pattern creating “successive lines of fortification” according to The eventual twenty-one towers withstood foes, falling only when insufficient supplies caused surrender.

Home or Prison?

Especially when under attack, the Tower housed many. It became not only a residence, but also a prison. King Edward was the first to employ it as such, imprisoning Ranulf Flambord. The young princes, Edward and Richard were taken to the palace never to be seen again. In the 1600’s, small bones were found under a staircase leading many to believe the children were murdered by their uncle. Even recently, German spies were imprisoned in the Tower during World War II, according to .Throughout the years, Queens were held awaiting death for treason. This served as their home during their tortured last days. Today, the Queen’s House still sits on the grounds, and the official name of the structure is Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, The Tower of London.
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Royal Menagerie

The royalty and the prisoners shared the space with a multitude of animals. When King Richard received the gift of three leopards in 1235, he kept them at the Tower. Although the leopards didn’t live long, the practice remained. Many royals added to this Royal Menagerie, bringing in bears, lions, ostriches, elephants, and kangaroos to name a few of the exotic animals on display. The collection grew to over 300 animals of 60 different species. In the early 1800’s, zoologist, Alfred Cops, presided over the animals until they were moved to the London Zoo permanently.
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Although the exotic animals no longer resided at the Tower, not all creatures left. The ravens are protected. King Charles started this care when he learned of the legend stating the Tower would fall if the ravens left. Now, seven ravens have one clipped wing so they will not escape. The ravenmaster, Derrick Coyle, presides over the ravens today, feeding them 170 grams of raw meat a week and bird formula biscuits soaked in blood every day. A whole rabbit, with fur, an egg, or fried bread are delicacies the ebony fowl enjoy.

Crown Jewels

Keeping the ravens at the palace is important, as is protecting the security of the crown jewels which are also kept in the Tower. King Edward began the tradition of keeping valuables in this fortress. Since the 1660’s, Kings and Queens have stored their jewels in the castle. Royal Center estimates the jewels on display at the Tower are worth $32 million. In fact, the diamonds in Her Majesty’s crown and scepter are 105 carats and 530 carats each respectively. The Royal Central website states, “Their [the crown jewels] actual value is priceless.” During his reign, King Henry III stayed in the palace on the eve of coronation and processed with the jewels to Westminster Abbey for the ceremony the next day. This protocol continues today.
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Today, tourists continue to visit this multi-faceted, intriguing castle. Throngs enter through the gates of the imposing Medieval structure towering over the Thames River. Men, women, and children trace the steps of Queens through the rooms and corridors down to where they lost their lives on the grounds. Although no exotic animals trumpet their presence, the cawing ravens parade throughout the palace. The jewels are encased in silence. Each evening closes with the longest standing military ritual, the Ceremony of the Keys at 9:53 pm. The visitors leave. The spirits of the Tower can now retake their home.

Works Cited

"25 Facts about HMTower of London." N.p., 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

"History of Tower of London." N.p., June 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

Johnson, Ben. "Tower Ravens." Hisoric UK. N.p., 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

Jones, Nigel H. Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London. New York: St. Martin's, 2012. Print.

"Tower of London." Historic Royal Palaces. N.p., 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

"Tower of London." N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

"The Tower of London." United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.