Ladies & Gents, the Tower! Pt. I

I was ecstatic when I got to see the Tower of London. It immediately became a highlight. It was my very first real life castle visit and the most impressive historical landmark I’d ever seen. There’s such a rich heritage there, and so much to see and do that I’d recommend setting aside at least three to five hours to visit. Personally I’d go with five, especially on a busy day. I was there for four and a half and could probably have stayed a little longer.

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Pano of the main courtyard
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The main courtyard with Tower Bridge in the background!

You can buy tickets and get more info here. I bought them online in advance, which saved a bit. Once again, I used my student ID! He he. Sixteen pound versus twenty five. *shivers at the thought* It would have been worth it, though!

One of the top things you MUST do is go on a sixty minute tour guided by the Yeoman Warders, also known as Beefeaters. The name may be familiar because of this;

beef gin

You’ve probably been drinking this for years and had no idea where the name came from. I damn sure didn’t, and I was a bartender! Now I know the Yeoman Warders are the Royal bodyguard, dating back over 500 years. They got the nickname because their lofty positions meant they could eat as much beef as they wanted; quite the luxury in the 1500’s. These days they’re required to serve in the armed forces with an honorable record for more than twenty years before they’re even considered for a post. My guide was personable and hilarious, and the tour seemed shorter than it was because it was so doggone entertaining. He was snarky and I’m all about that. Still very friendly and approachable though.

During his introduction, this particular Yeoman Warder asked where people were from and made jokes about it; any Australians? He asked. When they raised their hands, he told them the were the main ones populating the prisons. Any Americans? He asked. I raised my hand along with the others and he quipped, “Welcome home.” Before I could stop myself I said, loud enough for everyone to hear me in the near silence, “…Not really.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t rude or nasty about it. It was basically like I was thoughtfully mulling it over in my own head and it spilled out of my mouth! Nobody acknowledged that I’d said anything, but I know everyone, including the tour guide, heard me. Ha! It was probably a funny story for the guide to tell his friends. “I told the Americans ‘welcome home’ and the Black woman said ‘not really’ lol.” It was pretty damn funny, if you ask me.

While they don’t take you to every corner of the castle (that would take too long) they give you a good idea of the layout, and lots of fun facts about the rulers, daily life, prisoners, and executions (Henry the 8th was NO JOKE). An important example of the intensity of this era is the memorial to the executed, which was placed on the Tower Green where many of the grisly executions took place.

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Some of the most recognizable names in English history were slain here and buried beneath the altar of the thousand year old chapel, The Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula.

“Three queens of England Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey, and two saints of the Roman Catholic Church, Sir Thomas More and John Fisher, are buried here. Their headless bodies were buried under the nave or chancel without memorial until the 19th century when remains found in the nave were re-interred in the crypt.”

Needless to say, I was intrigued. Not only because of my sense of morbid curiosity, but also because I was enthralled by a structure that has such a rich history.

Much more on the Tower of London to come!

 

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