When asked what the one thing a person must experience while in London, I tell them to visit the Tower of London and while there, be sure to take a Yeoman Warders Tour, say hello to the ravens, and check out the crown jewels. During my recent trip to London and Paris, the Tower of London was one of my favorite stops.
The Tower of London has a long, eventful history. Established in 1066 by William the Conqueror in an effort to keep hostile Londoners at bay, the Tower of London has served as the home of Monarchs, a prison, a menagerie, the site of some of England’s most famous executions, and so much more. Sir Isaac Newton even carried out some of his research on gravity while serving as warden and, later, master of the Royal Mint.
These days, the Tower of London is still home to the Yeoman Warders and their families. Their role is to look after the Tower of London and its crown jewels, and to serve as tour guides. Also known as “Beefeaters,” their guided tours of the Tower of London are a lively re-telling of the Tower’s bloody history. They are also willing to answer questions about the Tower of London and England’s history. And, of course, they are happy to pose for a picture or two!
The Tower of London is actually made up of many towers. In the Beauchamp Tower, visitors can see graffiti left on the walls by Tudor prisoners. The ground floor is home to the ‘Prisoners of the Tower’ exhibition which details the history of prisoners kept at the Tower of London and how they lived. The Bloody Tower is believed to have been home to the “Little Princes,” Edward V and his little brother, Richard, who were declared illegitimate by their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. The princes were never seen again, but it is believed they were murdered in the Bloody Tower.
Two of the most popular attractions at the Tower of London are the Crown Jewels and the White Tower. The Crown Jewels showcases some of the British monarchy’s most valuable pieces, like the silver-gilt Coronation Spoon which is over 800 years old and is used at the Coronation for holy oil, the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross which contains the largest colorless cut diamond in the world, and St. Edward’s Crown which is worn at the moment the new monarch is crowned in Westminster Abbey.
The White Tower is enormous and was built by William the Conqueror as a fortress. Today, it houses part of the collection of the Royal Armouries. Visitors will see many suits of armor, weapons ranging from swords to cannons to guns, and several spoils of war in its four levels.
When standing in the Tower of London, Tower Bridge visible just over the battlements, one starts to realize and appreciate just how old the landmark is, particularly when compared to our own country. It’s humbling to realize you are standing in a place where so much history has unfolded over many centuries. Personally, my visit to Tower of London is not only a trip highlight, but a moment of realizing just how big this world really is that I will never forget.
The Tower of London is one of many attractions you may visit when traveling with us to London. See our U.K. Perspectives programs to learn more about our programs!