If money and time were not an issue, and if you were asked which of the many famous buildings anywhere in the world you would like to visit, would you reply Angor Watt, Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Wall of China, the White House, Parliament, or maybe, the Tower of London?
Before reading The Tower of London by Daniel Diehl and Mark Donnelly, my answer may have been anywhere but the Tower of London. My knowledge before reading Diehl and Donnelly’s book was negligible, that is close to nothing, less than nothing if you must know – nada (Texan speak for zero) –all I knew, it was somewhere in England — enough said.
After reading The Tower of London (Tower), visiting the “White Tower” went to number 3 on my personal bucket list.
While this post could expand for several thousand words, for the sake of expediency (and to make this more enjoyable ), the list below explains some of the more interesting insights surrounding the building and its famous historical residents. (There are many, many more).
* Of all the many world sites with universal recognition, only the Tower is a castle (World Heritage sites).
*The Tower is the most painted, drawn, and photographed building in the world (Diehl & Donnelly).
*Other than the White House, the Tower is the only building which has been used as a permanent residence (among World Heritage sites). Photo courtesy of LIVE SCIENCE https://www.livescience.com/42821-tower-of-london.html Credit: Marek Stefunko | Shutterstock
*The Tower of London is a 900-year-old castle in central London and in addition to holding the crown jewels, it has been the “royal mint, a zoo, an administration office, an armory, and barracks, and used as a royal residence until the 17th century.” (LIVE SCIENCE).
*William the Conqueror began the building of the Tower in 1078. The White Tower and a few sections of “the old Roman city wall,” are all that remain of the original building site. (Diehl & Donnelly).
* Tower historian Geoffrey Parnell writes in his book “The Tower of London Past & Present” (Sutton Publishing, 1998) that the tower was expanded for about 250 years after William the Conqueror’s time. Today, the complex’s series of buildings and fortifications sprawls over 12 acres. (LIVE SCIENCE).
* Famous prisoners included Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for about a week in the 6th century before she was deposed by Mary I. Also imprisoned were two princes, Edward and Richard, ages 12 and 9, sons of Edward IV (died 1483). They appear never to have left the tower alive and some thought they were killed by Richard III, their uncle who took the throne for himself. (Diehl & Donnelly) (LIVE SCIENCE).
Photo of Lady Jane Grey and Katherine Howard: Wiki Commons: George Whiting Flagg: Lady Jane Grey Preparing for Execution. 1835.
*Two of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, were imprisoned and executed. Henry VIII, who turned England into a Protestant country, and King’s counselor Thomas More. (LIVE SCIENCE) (Diehl & Donnelly).
*Another notable prisoner, Guy Fawkes, who in 1605 attempted to blow up the House of Lords and the king by detonating 38 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars below. He was imprisoned in the tower, tortured, and executed. (Diehl & Donnelly) Photo of Anne Boleyn: WikiCommons: By Wenceslaus Hollar Artwork from University of Toronto Public Domain
Today, the Tower maintains the Crown Jewels and what is left of a limited collection of “Royal Regalia…destroyed in the 17th century…pre-civil war.” (LIVE SCIENCE).
“There are over 23,500 jewels there today. The Crown Jewels were moved to the Martin Tower after the Jewel House was demolished.
The total value of the jewels is estimated to exceed £20 billion.” (https://www.visitbritainshop.com/world/articles/top-10-facts-about-the-tower-of-london/)
This version of the Imperial State Crown was worn by George V and is now housed in the Tower of London.
Credit: Public domain. https://www.livescience.com/42821-tower-of-london.html
The “Line of Kings,” Armor Collection
“The tower also contains an impressive collection of armor, called the “Line of Kings,” a show at the tower that first started more than 300 years ago, it features such items as a life-size wooden horse carved about 1690 and a set of armor, gilded with gold, created for Charles I around 1612.” (LIVE SCIENCE). Photo By Jonathan Cardy – Own work, Commons attribution by owner.
“The tower also contains an impressive collection of armor, called the “Line of Kings,” a show at the tower that first started more than 300 years ago, it features such items as a life-size wooden horse carved about 1690 and a set of armor, gilded with gold, created for Charles I around 1612.” (LIVE SCIENCE). Photo By Jonathan Cardy – Own work, Commons attribution.
Bonfire Night – Guy Fawkes
“Remember, remember, the 5th of November: gunpowder, treason and plot.”
Guy Fawkes and 12 conspirators attempted to kill King James King of England by loading 36 barrels of gunpowder into the Houses of Parliament prior to its opening in opposition to the continued persecution of Catholics by the Protestants. In a last-minute check, Fawkes was detained and the plot discovered. Fawkes was imprisoned in the Tower and tortured, after breaking, he was executed.
Guy Fawkes 1570-1606 interrogated by James I 1566-1625 and his council in the King’s bedchamber, from Illustrations of English and Scottish History Volume I (1884). http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/(after)-Ralston,-William/Guy-Fawkes-1570-1606-Interrogated-By-James-I-1566-1625-And-His-Council-In-The-King’s-Bedchamber,-From-Illustrations-Of-English-And-Scottish-History-Volume-I.html Wiki Commons. Country of Origin, Scotland.
The Ravens of the Tower of London
The Ravens of the Tower of London are a group of six captive ravens residing in the Tower. Tradition asserts “their presence protect the Crown and the tower; a super- stition holds that “if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it”.
Some historians, including the Tower’s official historian believe the “tower’s raven mythology is likely to be a Victorian flight of fantasy.”
(Wikipedia) (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia; “Jubilee and Munin, two of the Tower’s ravens.”)
World Heritage Site
The Tower is a World Heritage Site hosting over 2 million visitors a year.
“The main threat to the site today is not rebels, foreign armies or falling bombs (bomb damage happened during World War II) but rather the exhaust of cars. It’s a problem that threatens to turn the White Tower into a yellow color, something which none of the previous threats could ever do. (LIVE SCIENCE).”
Along with being over 900 years old, the Tower has resident ghosts. The notable ghosts include “Henry VI, Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry the VIII, and nursemaid of Prince Edward, Dame Sybil, and a grizzly bear” that resided in the Tower long ago.
There is much, much more to learn about the Tower, its history, its residents, and its other-worldly guests! If you are able, be sure to consider it as a place to visit, or merely research, you won’t be disappointed! There are thousands of real and possible stories to be had at the Tower, you only have to look!
Public Domain. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tower-of-London-0026
Diehl, Daniel and Donnelly, Mark P. Tales of the Tower of London. Sutton Publishing Limited. (2004).
Top 10 facts about the Tower of London. https://www.visitbritainshop.com/world/articles/top-10-facts-about-the-tower-of-london/
Tower of London. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_London Wikipedia.
Tower of London: Facts & History. https://www.livescience.com/42821-tower-of-london.html
A former paralegal, Renee Kimball has a master’s degree in criminal justice. Among her interests are reading and writing. She is an active Animal Advocate, fosters and rescues both dogs and cats from shelters, and works with various organizations to find them forever homes.