The Tower of London........I came, I saw AND they let me leave!

The Tower isn't just a goal, it's a royal village with a unique feel of it's own! My time spent wandering around the Tower of London was another unique experience. Given that it has over 6 million visitors a year, it retains the "vibe" of it's origins. The actual towers (where people like St. Thomas More and Anne Boleyn were locked up) are pretty sad, scary places. Many of them have retained the feeling of desperation and despondency that those imprisoned within the walls must have felt. There are carved names and Roman Catholic symbols in many of the walls (numbers of these etched by Jesuit prisoners), that are a stark reminder of the miserable lives people lived awaiting their ultimate fate (which was more than likely execution). On the green there is a memorial to people who were beheaded or hung and numbers of people who were buried in unmarked, unconsecrated grounds within the walls were exhumed and reburied in the Chapel Royal of St Peter and Vincula (including Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves) by Queen Victoria.

The Waterloo Block which houses the Crown Jewels is a sight to behold and there is a great display explaining the excavation and preparation of a number of the significant stones that are incorporated in some of the crowns (including the Cullinan 1 diamond and Koh-i-Noor among another 23,000 plus diamonds!). The Yeoman Warders (commonly called "Beefeaters") provide a great tour full on interesting information, wit and whimsy, but I found it immensely interesting that they have to be active armed forces personnel for 23 years and reach the highest rank (for an enlisted man) before they are eligible to apply for a position as a Yeoman Warder!

There is so much to see in the complex and I was lucky that currently there is an exhibition called, "Henry V111: Dressed to Kill", which comprises armour, weapons and sporting equipment that belonged to the famed Henry (including the worlds oldest soccerball, made from a pigs stomach wrapped in cloth). How those blokes walked around in all that chainmail and armour, I haven't a clue, let alone the poor horses who had to carry them in addition to being covered in their own armour from nuzzle to tail! I also found it surprising (even though it WAS the fashion of the day) that the suits of armour included an insitu codpiece! It reminded me of "Blackadder", in fact the whole time I was walking around The Tower of London, I was expecting to see "Baldrick" lurch around a corner, covered in filth on some errand for "Sir Edmund", but the closest I got was walking past a peasant asking a group of French high-school kids if they liked "blood and guts", the appropriate response to which, none of them seemed to know!

I once again showed my antipodean ignorance when I asked the Yeoman Warder why there were so many crows around on Tower Green (I thought it must be to do with people leaving around scraps of food from their lunches). To which he let out a hearty " don't know your history girlie", which I must say I thought was a bit harsh, but I wasn't saying that to a man who had spent at least 23 years in the army! The "crows" it turns out are actually ravens (der!) the famous "Guardians of the Tower" who were protected (it is said) by Charles 11 and were seen as a good omen, in fact Charles is attributed with saying "If the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall........" So obviously everything is done to keep them happy, including having a "Raven Master" who looks after them (whatever that means) so that they won't WANT to leave!

I even saw a recreation of the bed of Edward 1 ("Longshanks"), the nemesis of William Wallace. He was called "Longshanks", not because he liked to eat the legs of sheep all lined up in a row, but because he had very long legs himself! In fact he was 6 foot 2 inches tall (they know this cause they opened his tomb and measured him). They say the bed was portable, as he had to take it everywhere with him. The bedroom recreation also has samples of the mattress, sheets, blanket, pillow and furnishings that you can touch....................sure am glad I didn't live in the 13th century cause there's no way I'd be able to sleep on one of those mattresses!

So the Tower was a great place to visit, and I've only given you a "sniff" of what it was like, but I have attached a few photos, so you can see some of the highlights (including one of 16C Jesuit graffiti, Baldrick look-alikes and "Longshanks" bed).

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