The Tower of London is one of the most iconic landmarks in English history, with a fascinating past that stretches back over a thousand years. From its construction in the 11th century to its use as a royal palace and a notorious prison, few buildings have played such a central role in the story of England as the Tower of London.
In this article, we’ll explore the history of the Tower of London in-depth, from its beginnings as a fortress built by William the Conqueror to its use as a prison for some of England’s most notorious criminals.
But the Tower of London is more than just a fortress or a prison. It’s a symbol of English power and history, a place where some of the most important events in the country’s history have taken place. Join us as we delve into the fascinating history of the Tower of London and discover all of its secrets.
The Tower of London is not just one of the most iconic landmarks of Britain, it is a symbol of British history and power.
A Brief Overview of The Tower of London
To understand the history of the Tower of London, it’s important to start with a brief overview of the fortress itself. Construction on the Tower began in the 1070s under the orders of William the Conqueror, and it has been added to and expanded over the centuries.
While it’s most famous for its use as a prison, the Tower has served many different purposes over the years, including as a royal palace, an armory, and a treasury. Today, it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in London, drawing millions of visitors each year.
In this section of the article, we’ll explore the layout of the Tower of London, its most important features, and its role in English history.
The Early Years of The Tower of London
The Tower of London was built in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest as a fortress to protect London from outside attack. William the Conqueror wanted a symbol of Norman power in the heart of the city, and the Tower served as both a royal residence and a military installation.
Over the centuries, the Tower was expanded and fortified, with new walls, towers, and gatehouses added to make it one of the strongest fortresses in the country.
But the Tower’s history is also shaped by the events that took place within its walls. From royal murders and imprisonments to acts of rebellion and defiance, the Tower has seen it all.
The Tower of London in the Medieval Period
The medieval period was a time of great change and upheaval in English history, and the Tower of London played a central role in many of the key events of the era.
During the Wars of the Roses, the Tower was used as a prison for supporters of the losing side. Henry VI was murdered there in 1471, and two young princes – Edward V and his brother Richard – were famously imprisoned there by their uncle, who would later become Richard III.
But the Tower was also a place of great ceremony and pageantry. Kings and queens would stay there on their way to their coronations, and it was home to the crown jewels, one of the most dazzling collections of precious gems in the world.
The Crown Jewels of The Tower of London
The Crown Jewels of England have been kept in the Tower of London since the 14th century. The collection consists of 23,578 gemstones, including the world’s largest clear cut diamond. The jewels are constantly guarded by Yeoman Warders, a group of ceremonial guardians who protect the Tower.
Apart from their immense value, the jewels have played a significant role in ceremonies of royal and state importance. From the Imperial State Crown, used at the State Openings of Parliament, to the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, which dates back to the 17th century. The Crown Jewels have a rich history of their own.
One interesting fact about the jewels is that they are still ceremonially worn by the reigning monarch during important occasions. Many people visit the Jewel House each year to witness their splendor, but few are aware of the fascinating history behind them.
The Creation of the Crown Jewels
The crown jewels were created for the coronation of Charles II in 1661, after the original jewels were melted down by Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan regime during the English Civil War. The new collection included new pieces, such as the imperial state crown, the royal scepter, and the orb.
It took a team of skilled craftsmen several years to create the new jewels, using the most precious stones in the kingdom. The coronation of Charles II with his new Crown Jewels marked the beginning of a new era of restoration for the monarchy.
Since then, alterations and additions have been made to the collection, with new gems being added and old ones repurposed. The next addition to the Crown Jewels will most likely be for the coronation of the next British monarch.
The Legend of the Black Prince’s Ruby
One of the most remarkable jewels in the collection is the Black Prince’s Ruby, a large irregular cabochon red spinel set in the center of the Imperial State Crown. The jewel is rumored to have been worn by the Black Prince, son of King Edward III, during the battle of Crecy in 1346.
The jewel was later acquired by Henry V, who wore it on his helmet during the battle of Agincourt in 1415. According to legend, the ruby has special powers that protect its owner from harm and misfortune.
Although the actual origin of the stone is unclear, it is known to have been part of the Crown Jewels since the 16th century when it was worn by Henry VIII. Despite its name, the stone is, in fact, a spinel, which is a rare mineral that is highly prized for its deep-red color.
The Haunted History of The Tower of London
With over 1,000 years of history, it’s no surprise that the Tower of London has earned a reputation as one of the most haunted places in Britain. Visitors and staff members have reported numerous sightings of spirits and ghosts throughout the Tower’s many buildings.
One famous ghost is that of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, who was executed on the Tower Green in 1536. Her ghost is said to wander around the White Tower, near the place where she was imprisoned before her execution.
Another infamous ghost story is that of the Princes in the Tower. The two young boys, King Edward V and his brother, were imprisoned in the Tower by their uncle, Richard III, in 1483, and were never seen again. Their disappearance has led to many ghostly sightings of two young boys throughout the Tower of London.
Other eerie stories include the ghost of a Spanish soldier who was killed by guards in the 16th century and the White Lady, a spectral figure who appears in the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, where many famous executions took place.
The History of Torture and Execution at The Tower
The Tower of London is infamous for its dark past of torture and execution. From the reign of King Henry III, prisoners were brought to the Tower to be held captive and, in some cases, executed within its walls.
The most famous execution at the Tower was that of King Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, who was accused of treason. She was beheaded on the Tower Green, where her ghost is said to wander to this day.
Other notable figures executed within the Tower include Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for just nine days before being executed for treason; William Wallace, who was hung, drawn and quartered for rebellion against King Edward I; and Sir Walter Raleigh, who was beheaded in 1618 after being accused of conspiracy against King James I.
Many executions were carried out in public for people to view, which often drew large crowds to the Tower. These public executions were stopped in 1868, but the Tower’s dark history as a place of torture and execution lives on in its many ghostly legends.
The Legend of the Ravenmaster
The use of ravens as a symbol of the Tower of London dates back to the 17th century and legend has it that should the ravens ever leave the Tower, the white tower will crumble and Britain will fall into chaos.
The ravens are still kept within the Tower to this day and have a designated Ravenmaster who ensures their safety and wellbeing. These birds have become as much a part of the Tower’s history as its architecture and the Crown Jewels.
The current Ravenmaster, Chris Skaife, has written a book on his experiences with the birds and their unique personalities. It is rumored that if a raven becomes ill or dies, a replacement is quickly found to ensure the continuity of the legend.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the history of the Tower of London?
The Tower of London has a fascinating history that dates back to the 11th century. It was built by William the Conqueror as a fortress and royal palace.
What is the significance of the Tower of London in the medieval period?
The Tower of London was an important center of power in the medieval period. It served as a royal palace, a prison, and a place of execution.
What are the Crown Jewels of the Tower of London?
The Crown Jewels of the Tower of London are a collection of ceremonial objects that are used in the coronation of British monarchs. They include crowns, scepters, and other items made of gold and precious gems.
What is the haunted history of the Tower of London?
The Tower of London has a reputation for being one of the most haunted places in the world. Ghosts of former prisoners, including Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey, are said to haunt the Tower.
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