On the left bank of the River Thames stands the Tower of London, a building that has gone down in European history since its inception.
From the history of education
The word “Tower” is translated from English as a tower . This is the oldest building in London – one of the symbols of Great Britain. The Tower occupies a special place in the history of the English nation. The fortress, built more than 900 years ago, has a gloomy appearance and an equally gloomy rich history.
The emergence of the fortress dates back to the time of the conquest of England by Duke William. Fearing revenge from the inhabitants, the formidable conqueror ordered the construction of a fortress, which became the largest and most terrifying. The impregnable stronghold reliably protected the new masters of the country.
Features of the architecture
The Tower of London is made of stone and mortar in a massive rectangular tower. She was supposed to serve as an impregnable royal residence, impressing his subjects. The southeastern corner of this stronghold, being at the same time the wall of the chapel, protruded in a semicircle beyond the line of the building.
The building was whitewashed and named the White Tower . Over time, the stone box gradually overgrown with towers and new annexes. The length of the walls of the stone fortification is 32 and 36 meters, rising to a height of almost 30 meters.
The Tower was made the most formidable and impregnable by King Richard the Lionheart. He ordered to complete the construction of additional towers, erect two rows of walls, dig a defensive ditch 7 meters wide and 4 meters deep, as well as earthen fortifications with a wooden palisade at the top.
In total, the castle, which was never taken by storm, took 200 years to build. The appearance of the Tower has changed a lot since the 11th century, the time of its construction.
The Tower is an ominous place
Throughout its history, the Tower of London was also a fortress, a palace, a repository of royal jewels, an arsenal, a mint, a prison, an observatory, and a zoo.
For many centuries, its walls have witnessed human grief and tragedies. The rulers and the gloomy casemates of the castle were also involved in the intrigues of the struggle for power. Rivers of blood were shed by prisoners who spent their last days in dungeons.
The first prisoner in the castle, turned into a prison, appeared in 1190. Since that time, it has become a place of confinement for high-ranking persons of noble families.
In the troubled times of the Reformation, within the walls of a gloomy prison, many royalty were tortured and executed – a threat to the peace of the English throne. The bodies were buried in the cellars of the fortress chapel.
King Henry the Eighth was distinguished by particular cruelty towards the prisoners of the casemate. Those who did not agree with his decision were quickly dealt with by chopping off their heads. She was put on a stake that was attached to the bridge. The same fate befell the wives of the monarch, who did not manage to give birth to a son.
The madman’s son was born after all and completely inherited all his qualities. His favorite pastime was public executions, which took place on a hill near the Tower. The heads of the unfortunates impaled on a stake were left for intimidation, and the decapitated bodies were buried in one of the basements of the castle.
Modern archaeologists have found more than 1,500 headless skeletons in the dungeons . The excavations are still ongoing.
The Tower’s prisoners were the kings of France and Scotland. One of the castle’s death row men was able to escape on the eve of his execution. It was a Scottish earl, dressed in a woman’s dress brought by his wife. The last prisoner of the fortress was Hitler’s personal secretary Rudolf Hess.
Legends and ghosts of the Tower
This castle can be called a classic land of ghosts, many of which are members of the royal family. The place, imbued with secrets and legends, fascinates and intrigues. The imagination of the British is excited by the spirits of kings and jesters, nobles, countesses, knights, wives of kings, princes, romantic lovers and their ladies.
Many legends and historical facts make one think about the weirdness of the castle.
The most terrifying event in the ghost story is the execution scene of 70-year-old Countess Margaret Paul . Her son, Cardinal Paul, was at odds with King Henry. When the king realized that he could not deal with the cardinal, he ordered the execution of his mother.
During the execution, the countess escaped from the hands of the executioner and tried to escape. The executioner chased her, striking blows with an ax. The employees of the castle to this day claim that every year on the day of the execution of the countess, the images of the victim and the executioner are clearly visible, their wild cries are heard.
The guards still prefer not to talk about how the ghosts of the “little princes” periodically flash in the corridors of the castle. The heirs of the rightful King Edward were strangled at the age of 9 and 12 asleep at the behest of their trustee, the Duke of Gloucester, who had misappropriated the throne. The bodies of the crown princes were hidden, and no one was able to find them.
Legends and traditions
The traditional inhabitants of the Tower are black ravens. It is a famous symbol of the castle, also associated with its past. According to legend, crows are the messengers of bad events. They always appeared before execution, doomed to death.
Since then, when the Tower began to serve as a royal prison, entire dynasties of ravens have settled on the territory . Their lives are overgrown with a mass of legends. One claims that the Tower and the entire British Empire will fall as soon as the crows leave it.
Surprisingly, in the 17th century, King Charles issued a decree that 6 black ravens should always be in the castle. A special guard was to watch this. Since then and up to now, seven black ravens – one spare – live in the spacious enclosures of the fortress. The state allocates a decent budget for the fantastically free content of the “keepers of the Tower”.
However, in this story there was one unpleasant event, which they try to remember less often. In July 1941, after a massive bombing of the castle by German bombers, all but one of the crows died of stress. The British Empire itself, together with the castle at that time, was on the brink of disaster.
Now the ravens are protected with all their might, but every tourist can contemplate them. They readily respond to their name – each has its own name, as well as its own original character.
Zoo in the castle
King John Landless put an end to the bloody horrors of the Tower. He ordered the use of the castle for entertainment. The monarch gave some of his power to parliament and turned the Tower into a zoo, which was in the fortress for several centuries.
The castle received important guests, who often visited the monarch with gifts in the form of living creatures. It was for her that King Henry ordered the construction of the Lion Tower – a mini-zoo , the Menagerie was constantly replenished with new animals, where even leopards donated by the French king lived.
The menagerie was constantly replenished with new animals. The townspeople visited him for a symbolic fee.
For almost 5 centuries, a mint worked in the fortress, in which silver coins were minted. Silver for them was taken by order of the king, destroying monasteries. Everything was used: crosses, frames from icons, decorative elements of temples.
Trusting the strong, unapproachable walls of the Tower, weapons were made and stored in it. Documents of national importance were hidden in the vaults of the castle.
In the vaults of the castle there is a huge exhibition of diamonds. Among them, the main treasure is the royal crown with diamonds and the world’s largest large faceted diamond Cullian. One of the symbols of royal power – the scepter, adorned with precious stones, captivates the eye with abundance and uniqueness.
The armor of brave knights is also admired for decoration. Interestingly, in 1671, Colonel Bland made an unsuccessful attempt to steal the treasure. King Charles II not only did not execute the insolent person, but also appointed him a life pension for insolence and courage.
The current Tower has little resemblance to the formidable fortress with which it went down in history.
In the middle of the 19th century, the defensive moat was filled up. Today the castle stands on a wide field of short-cut grass. The harsh, blood-drenched courtyard is now also greening under the shade of beautiful trees. During the restoration period, the windows were enlarged, and all 43 towers of the castle were repainted.
Nowadays it is a castle – a museum, a historical monument and a symbol of London. Since 1988, the building has been under the protection of UNESCO. High walls, casemates of darkened stone, filled up ditches.
The square towers are gloomily looking at the Thames, and the vents of ancient cannons are looking there. The haughty skyscrapers of glass and concrete surrounded the once impregnable Tower.
Today the castle-museum is served by 200 people every day , coming here to work. Guards open the doors of the palace every morning.
The prisoners of the Tower and its values needed good protection. For this, specially trained palace guards were kept.
The position of the guardians of the Tower of London still exists today. Dressed in the uniforms of the Victorian Guardsmen, they guard the castle and conduct guided tours for visitors.
The medieval costume of the guards, in which they are in our time, consists of a black round velvet hat, framed with ribbons. A black cloth blouse with red stripes, the coat of arms of England and the initials of the king on the chest evoke the interest and respect of visitors.
All the guards in the Tower are called beefeaters , the literal translation means “meat-eater.” This interesting nickname stuck in the 15th century. During the widespread famine of the common people, the Tower guards were always fed. Each of them received a huge piece of meat.
The deceased guards of the Tower are still buried in the cellars of the fortress chapel. It is very difficult to get into the elite caste of servants and castle guards. To do this, you need to serve at least 22 years in the armed forces of England. A medal for length of service and a rank of at least senior sergeant are also required.
With a guided tour of the Tower
The prim guards meet their visitors every morning at the main gate of the castle. Accompanied by them, you can take a walk around the fortress. Tourists are escorted along the path of the prisoners who entered the Tower. They will learn about the methods of protecting the fortress during the attack of the enemy.
A visit to Tower Meadow is impressive. This is an eerie and at the same time beautiful place, where more than one thousand inhabitants of England parted with their lives.
Now a memorial complex has been built here. The names of the executed monarchs and the dates of their death are carved on a huge stone. Instruments for torturing prisoners make you shudder and remember what you see for a long time.
Nearby there is the cathedral church of St. Peter , where services are held for those executed at this place. During the day there is no overcrowding. Ghost legends haunt young people who are trying to catch the shadow of a flickering ghost in the camera lens.
When it gets dark outside the windows of the fortress, the service of tourists stops. It was at this time that ghosts became the masters of the gloomy casemate. The talkative guides, once again turning into impregnable sentinels, close the castle gates second by second, according to a tradition that has been going on for more than 7 centuries.
Every day for 700 years, an amazing ceremony called “The Queen’s Keys” has been held on the territory of the Tower. A mesmerizing sight appears before your eyes: massive walls, dim light of lanterns, heels of guards echoing in the silence, red uniforms and bear hats.
Every evening at 10 p.m. The Keeper of the Keys with a lantern in his hands, dressed in the clothes of the Tudor dynasty, leaves the Bloody Tower, the very place where the young heirs of King Edward were deprived of their lives. The Keeper of the Keys walks towards him. The guards close the main gate and walk under the arch of the Bloody Tower. The Keeper of the keys takes off his hat and says: “God save Queen Elizabeth!” Everyone answers: “Amen!”
The chief caretaker then takes the keys to the curfew, where they are kept until morning. This solemn ceremony of handing over and keeping the keys to the castle has never been interrupted for 700 years. Only once was she detained for half an hour in 1941 during a direct attack on the castle by German planes.
Entrance to the ceremony by invitation cards. They can be received by anyone who writes a letter 2 months in advance. The absolutely free ticket will kindly be mailed to you.
The Tower of London is visited by 2.5 million people annually, and each of them admires the grandiose building adjacent to the castle. This is a bridge with a unique design. 125 years have passed since its construction.
A suspended bridge with a drawbridge connects the pedestrian walkways of the castle towers. Today it is the cultural center of the city: art exhibitions are held in the aisles of the bridge, there is a permanent exhibition about the rich history of the castle.
Time has no power over the symbol of Great Britain. Still majestic and unshakable, the Tower is the property of kings and one of the residences.