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Luke: Tower of London

January 28, 2011

I visited the Tower of London last week. Even though I had been there three years ago, it was well worth a second visit. It was actually getting a facelift so as to be sparkly clean for the Olympics, so a giant drawing covered the canvas draping over one side of the White Tower, showing scenes from the Tower of London’s bloody history. The chapel was actual conducting a service since it was Sunday, and Beefeaters really do live at the Tower of London with their families. Who are the Beefeaters? Well, today they are retired members of the British military who still wish to serve their country. Tourists know them mainly as their guides for visits to the Tower, though. Also housed in the Tower of London are the Crown Jewels, including Queen Victoria’s famous “mini-crown” and the crown that George VI wore to India. Many of the items there dated to the year 1661 or shortly after. This is because Oliver Cromwell and the Parliament destroyed many objects owned by the monarch or that were symbolic of the monarchy, which was restored under Charles II in, you guessed it, 1661. Some interesting traditional items were the Coronation Spoon, which is 800 years old and is now used to put oil on the new monarch during Coronation, and the Sovereign’s Orb, which is placed in the new monarch’s right hand during Coronation and represents the monarch’s role as Defender of the Faith of the Church of England. I also saw crowns containing diamonds cut from the Great Star of Africa, one of the largest diamonds ever found.

Outside, I walked on the green upon which many people were executed, including Queen Anne Boleyn, who demanded a particular style of execution, forcing King Henry VIII to get an executioner from France to come over to do the job. The oldest and tallest part of the Tower of London is the White Tower, which was built over 800 years ago under William the Conqueror. Nearby are remains from the original Roman wall which is 2000 years old. Inside is a great collection of armour and weapons from all periods of English history.

I also visited several buildings that are part of the Tower of London that have housed many famous prisoners. Sir Walter Raleigh was held at the Tower, the same one who tried to establish a colony on Roanoke Island and who, while inprisoned, wrote The History of the World. The best story about the Tower of London in my opinion is about the Princes in the Tower. The two brothers were the sons of King Edward VI and were living in the Tower of London (which was actually once a royal residence). The older one (Prince Edward, aged 13) was soon to be crowned king in 1483 after his father’s death, but that summer both he and his brother disappeared from the Tower of London, never to be seen again. Their uncle, Richard III, became king and is suspected of having the princes killed. Another suspect is Henry VII, who followed Richard III as king. He seems to have had a motive to get rid of the two boys, who were in front of him in the succession to the throne. Then again, we don’t necessarily even know that the princes were killed at all. I’d put my money on Richard III as the culprit, since the princes’ deaths directly cleared his path to immediately assume the throne.

Unfortunately this website can’t upload my pictures at the moment, so I can’t show you any. Hopefully they’ll get it fixed soon.

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