The Tower of London- From Royal Residence to Prison

By: The Scribe on Monday, April 25, 2011

One of the most popular places to see in London is the Tower of London. The building has stood since its construction in 1078 CE by order of William the Conqueror. William was both King of England from 1066 CE to 1087 CE and Duke of Normandy from 1035 CE to 1087 CE. As well as having two noble titles, he also had several names. In England, he was known as William I. In Normandy, he was known as William II. Privately, people called him William the Bastard. It was a reflection both of the fact that he was illegitimate by birth, and also that he was not particularly well loved.

Aerial view of the Tower of LondonIn its early days, the tower was actually used as a royal residence and was called The White Tower instead. The English really did not like the fact that the Normans had conquered England and saw the Tower of London as a symbol of that oppression. It was a beautiful residence and was actually a complex of several buildings inside a wall and moat rather than a single tower. Later rulers such as Richard the Lionheart, Edward I and Henry III expanded on the complex.

Although most people think of the beheadings that were held there, the tower was actually used on joyous occasions as well. Monarchs would stay overnight at the tower and then travel from the tower to Westminster Abbey where they were crowned. During the Tudor period, it was used as a royal residence less and less and as a prison on an increasingly regular basis.Ravens have lived at the tower for centuries

The tower gained attention due to some of the prisoners that were kept there. It was usually a place for prisoners who were royalty or who were politically important. Sir Thomas Moore was one of the most famous prisoners. He was sent to the tower after publicly disagreeing with King Henry VIII over his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn herself was kept at the tower prior to her beheading in 1536. Executions were held on the Tower Green and a total of 112 prisoners were executed there during the tower’s use as a prison.

Some of the most famous residents of the tower are not even human. A group of common ravens have lived at the tower for hundreds of years. The ravens living at the tower are connected to a popular legend. It is said that if the ravens leave the tower that the tower will fall. If that happens, it is said that the monarchy will come to an end. The ravens that live at the tower are fed well and tended by the tower guards. Their wings are now clipped so that they cannot fly away. They strut around the grounds and are a popular site with the tourists who visit the tower.

Tower guards take place in a ceremony called the Ceremony of the Keys. This has taken place every night since the 14th century. The ceremony starts with the locking of the tower gate with keys that are held by the Chief Warder of the tower. They are then carried to a building known as the Queen’s House and the last post is played on a trumpet.


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