The Tower of London, formally recognized as His Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, stands as an ancient castle situated on the northern bank of the River Thames in the heart of London, England.
It is situated within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, with Tower Hill, an open area, serving as the dividing point between this borough and the eastern border of the City of London’s square mile.
There’s probably a lot that you don’t know about this historical landmark, but today my aim is to change that…
Here are 15 Interesting Facts You Might Not Know About The Tower Of London
1. The establishment of the Tower of London occurred near the conclusion of 1066, marking a significant event during the Norman Conquest.
William the Conqueror, in 1078, oversaw the construction of the White Tower, from which the entire castle derives its name. This imposing structure became a symbol of oppression, viewed with resentment by the inhabitants of London, as it represented the imposition of Norman rule upon the city.
2. The castle served as a prison from 1100, beginning with the incarceration of Ranulf Flambard, until 1952, when the Kray twins were held there. In fact, Guy Fawkes, Anne Boleyn, and even Queen Elizabeth I were all imprisoned at this fortress. However, it’s important to note that its primary function was not as a prison.
3. The inaugural zoo in London was located within the Tower of London and operated for an astonishing six centuries. It housed a fascinating array of exotic creatures, including polar bears, elephants, lions, ostriches, kangaroos, and various others, some of which were presented as royal offerings.
As an example, Henry III received three leopards from the Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1235. Eventually, in 1835, the Duke of Wellington decided to shutter the menagerie, relocating the animals to the newly established London Zoo in Regents Park.
5. For a span of at least 500 years, the Tower of London served as the primary location for producing England’s coins. This mint, established by Edward I in 1279, was responsible for crafting the majority of the nation’s currency. It operated in an area known as Mint Street.
Historically, coins were created by striking a small, blank piece of metal with a heavy object to imprint the desired design. As time passed, the introduction of the screw press revolutionized coin production. In the 1800s, due to increased space requirements, the mint relocated from the Tower of London to a purpose-built facility.
6. The Tower of London houses the Crown Jewels, which comprise 140 royal ceremonial items, including regalia and attire worn by British monarchs during their coronations. These jewels represent a powerful symbol of the monarchy, spanning 800 years of history.
They have been safeguarded within the tower since the time of William the Conqueror. When a new monarch is crowned, these precious items are meticulously protected and transported to Westminster Abbey for the coronation ceremony.
With over 30 million visitors, the Tower of London stands as the most visited attraction in the United Kingdom, drawing people from around the world who come to witness the magnificence of the Crown Jewels.
7. The White Tower, constructed by William the Conqueror, stands as the oldest and most renowned section of the Tower of London, making it an iconic castle globally. It served as the cornerstone around which the rest of the Tower of London was built, enclosed by two protective walls.
At the summit of the White Tower, one can observe the original executioner’s block and axe, last employed in 1747. This tower is celebrated for its strength and functioned as accommodations for the King and his officials, earning recognition as the most comprehensive 11th-century palace across Europe.
8. Ravens have long been inhabitants of the Tower of London, serving as traditional protectors of this historic site. Legend has it that their presence safeguards both the Crown and the Tower itself.
An enduring urban myth suggests that if the Tower’s ravens are lost or depart, it foretells the downfall of the Crown and, consequently, Britain. These ravens are flightless due to clipped remiges (flight feathers), rendering them unable to fly.
9. The Tower of London earned the distinction of being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, acknowledging its worldwide significance and the need for its preservation and safeguarding.
Unlike many medieval structures on the list that have faded with time, the Tower of London remains remarkably well-preserved and retains its original allure, making it one of the few such buildings that have endured the ravages of time with remarkable integrity.
10. The Ceremony of The Keys stands as one of the most ancient military rituals that still persists today. This historic practice of securely locking the gates at the Tower has occurred without fail every day in London for more than 700 years.
11. Many well-known spirits are believed to inhabit the Tower of London, and there is even a chilling story of a bear that has frightened visitors. Arbella Stuart, cousin to Elizabeth I, is said to haunt the Queen’s House, where she starved to death within the fortress’ walls. Anne Boleyn, who was executed in 1536, is rumored to appear near Tower Green, the site of her execution.
Additionally, two young boys, King Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, known as the ‘Princes in the Tower,’ are said to haunt the Tower. These boys, imprisoned after their father’s death in 1483, were believed to have been murdered, with their remains discovered two centuries later.
12. Regarding the Tower of London’s significant historical events, one of the most noteworthy was its crucial role in both World Wars, when it evolved into a formidable military stronghold.
In World War I, the Tower’s moat served as a training ground for fresh recruits, including those destined for the Royal Fusiliers Regiment, whose headquarters remains at the Tower to this day.
During World War II, the Tower was utilized as a detainment facility for the renowned Nazi prisoner of war, Rudolf Hess, who crash-landed in London during a flight to Scotland. Additionally, the Tower saw the execution of 12 spies during this wartime period.
13. During the throes of World War II in 1940, an air raid inflicted severe damage upon the Tower of London. One of its towers was bombed and crumbled entirely, with debris falling into the moat beneath. However, the Tower underwent swift restoration and promptly reopened to the public.
14. The Yeoman Warders (aka Beefeaters) have faithfully safeguarded the Tower of London and its invaluable Crown Jewels for many years, and their selection process is highly meticulous, focusing on their prior military service.
To attain the prestigious title of a Beefeater, candidates are required to have completed a rigorous 22-year military career. Furthermore, they must be ready to relocate their families to reside within the Tower.
The distinctive uniform worn by the Yeoman Warders is a testament to their role and commitment, with each outfit costing over £7,000 due to the intricate golden thread embellishments.
15. The Tower is still officially a royal residence. The monarch could, at any time, choose to move in, though this hasn’t happened for centuries. The royal residence is called King’s House when a king is on the throne and Queen’s House when the monarch is female.
Well, there you have it, 15 Interesting Facts You Might Not Have Known About The Tower Of London. If I’ve left out something important, feel free to comment on this article.
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