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London Tower

London Tower (19)

The source of numerous tales of treacheries and prisoners, the Tower of London stands on the north bank of the River Thames, reminding us that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

After conquering England in 1066, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, decided that it was essential to build a defensive bastion to protect the city of London from an enemy attack. The White Tower, the imposing central tower of the walled precinct, was completed around 1100. At this time, this massive fortification had no comparison throughout England. With its 30 metres height, it dominated the panorama of the city of London. 

In the following years, the successive English monarchs added to the fortifications and constructed the different buildings that surround the White Tower. 

Although the building was designed for strictly military purposes, in the 13th century it began to be used as a royal residence. During the reign of Henry VIII reforms were made to both the structure and the decoration of the tower to mark the coronation of Ann Boleyn. 

However, it is quite probable that you know all about the more gruesome facet of the precinct, since its walls were used as a prison and place of execution. The future Queen Elizabeth I, the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, the rebel Guy Fawkes and even the Nazi leader Rudolf Hess were incarcerated in this prison. 

Raleigh’s case is a curious one, since he was released in order to set sail in search of the mythical city of El Dorado. On the failure of his mission, he was beheaded.

The part called Tower Green stands out in the history of executions. The prisoners were usually executed on Tower Hill, in the view of the commoners, but some unlucky ones had the privilege of being beheaded in the more reserved Tower Green. Among these people feature Ann Boleyn and Katherine Howard, two of Henry VIII’s wives.

On the other hand, the most distinguished prisoners had the honour of being buried in the chapel of Saint Peter ad Vincula. There, for example, lies the body of Thomas Moore.

Mystery envelops, in contrast, the disappearance in 1483 of King Edward IV’s two sons, who had been declared illegitimate. It is said that it was their uncle, who would become King Richard III, who ordered they be murdered in the tower that today is called the Bloody Tower.

The Tower of London, specifically the Jewel House, is also the place where the impressive crown jewels are guarded, the incalculable value of which is proof of the opulence of the British monarchs.

Another attraction of the precinct is the ravens that live there. There are currently 8 of them. The Ravenmaster, one of the halberdiers of the Tower of London, is in charge of carefully looking after them since, according to tradition, the day they leave, both the building and the British monarchy will fall. To take precautions, the Ravenmaster cuts one of the wings, which, by destabilising their flight, stops them from escaping. 

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