The Tower of London has been historically nestled in the throes of London City ever since it was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. It sits grandly on the Northern Banks of the River Thames in Central London, and has served numerous purposes, from majestic beginnings of being the royal residence to serving as a prison to witness several executions; it has within its walls an armoury, the first zoo of London and, even the Crown Jewels of England. The Tower is an impenetrable fortress, and its history is intriguing, just as its structure is astounding.
The early 14th Century saw the beginnings of a tradition of a procession being led from the Tower to Westminster Abbey at the coronation of every monarch, and even now, when the crowning of the next King happens, the Crown Jewels will be taken from the Tower to Westminster for his coronation.
In today’s London, the Tower is regaled as one of the most popular tourist attractions and is officially referred to as Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. It has also been afforded the title of World Heritage Site and is cared for by the charity Historic Royal Palaces under the ceremonial charge of the Constable of the Tower.
When you visit London, the montcalm london city suites provide luxurious stay and you ought not to miss visiting the tower, where you can gaze upon the Crown Jewels, charge the battlements, visit the grounds where heads have rolled and, listen to the legends of the Tower’s ravens being told. The hotel is famous for having the best meeting rooms city of London has experienced in business.
The Crown Jewels – The Crown is made up of 23,578 gem stones, and is still worn in royal ceremonies today, such as Opening of Parliament. The Crown Jewels are housed in the Jewel House, along with other royal regalias such as jewels and royal symbols – the sceptre, crown, and sword. To differ between the royal wear still worn by the Queen today, and other ceremonial objects, look for the ‘In Use’ signs.
Displays in the Tower depict how the Crown Jewels are used during the Coronation and the significance behind each symbol. The Crown Jewels were destroyed after the English Civil War and re-created in 1661 for King Charles II’s coronation. They signify the crowned monarch with royal authority to protect the nation.
Water City Music – The first week of July every year is uplifted in the Tower by the joyous sounds of music, as over a thousand young people come to perform for visitors, completely transforming the normally morbid atmosphere here.
The music at the seven day festival features contemporary and classical music based on the themes taken from the Tower, such as Palace, Fortress, and Prison. Performances are held from between noon to three in the afternoon each day in the White Tower’s shadow, on a stage constructed specially for the festival.
Live Re-enactment of History – Daily re-enactments of the historical battles which have been fought at the Tower are held, with active participation from the visiting tourists. With many sieges and wars to its name, the Tower does not lack stories for the re-enactment of its battles.
Menagerie – The Kings and Queens of England have held captive wild, exotic creatures from the world over for their pleasure at the Tower of London. You will get to see animals from lions and tigers to monkeys and elephants. Alligators, kangaroos, and bears were all kept at the Tower for over 600 years. At one point in time, the menagerie housed over 60 species of animals.
These animals were a status symbol for the royal household and a source of entertainment and oddity for the court. Sadly, many of these animals were mistreated and treated as mere gifts to be exchanged throughout Europe. Today as you walk about the Tower, you will be able to see life-sized sculptures of the animals once housed in the menagerie. These have been created by artist Kendra Haste.
Beefeater Tour – Members of Her Majesty’s Body Guard or Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London are called as the Beefeaters. Do not confuse them with Yeoman of the Guards, which is a completely different corps of Royal Bodyguards. Yeoman Warders are the ceremonial guardsmen, and have been appointed through centuries for protecting the Crown Jewels, and taking care of the prisoners at the Tower.
At present, there are 22 Yeoman Warders. Nobody knows why they are termed the ‘beefeaters’. It is speculated that they were allowed to have as much beef as they wished from the King’s table, but that is not a proven historical fact.
Here’s an interesting titbit for you – the Beefeaters have been men ever since its origins in 1485. However, Moira Cameron of Argyll, Scotland was the first, and only, female Yeoman Warder, inducted into service in 2007. She is still serving as a Yeoman today.
To get the best out of seeing the Beefeaters, join in on a tour led by a Beefeater himself. Besides, that is the only way to get admission to the Tower church. The Yeoman Warders are a delightful, charismatic and charming group of men, and it is a pleasure to join them as they explain the history of the tower.
The ceremony of the Keys – This is an ancient tradition carried over 700 years, and is a wonder for all those who get to witness it. The dialogue of the exchange of the keys has been spoken the same for centuries, except to change the name of the ruling monarch.
‘Halt! Who comes there?’ calls a voice from within the depths of the Tower. ‘The Keys,’ replies the Yeoman Warder. ‘Whose Keys?’ asks the voice ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Keys?’ ‘Pass then, all’s well.’
This ancient script is one of the oldest enactments in the history of its kind and even though the monarch no longer resides at the Tower, its importance is supreme for the Crowns Jewels and royal regalia that still do.
Do book a ticket in advance to be able to be a part of the exchange. Do also remember that photography is banned during the ceremony.