Do you ever wake up and think, “I’m going to the Tower of London today”? Well, yesterday that is what happened. I woke up and I went to the Tower of London.
And it was awesome.
Have you all heard about the Tower of London Remembers project? It’s an art installation in the Tower moat of 888,246 hand made ceramic poppies, one for each British military fatality during WW1. The installation is a long way from being complete but this is what it looks like at the moment.
After crossing the dry moat and going through the gate in the wall, I found myself floating along with the crowds, to the part known as the Medieval Palace, where I wandered around the recreated rooms of Henry III (1216-72) and his son, Edward I.
In the rooms after this one, I spotted this rock crystal chess peice from the 11th century.
Yes, you did hear me correctly. 11TH CENTURY! It makes Ham House seem relatively modern at only 400 years old.
After this – and noting how long it was taking me to get round with the huge crowds – I made my way to the main attraction, the White Tower.
If you have not gasped in wonder and awe, maybe you are unfamiliar with the White Tower? The White Tower has been used for many things but the most interesting use it has had is as a prison. Since 1100, prisoners have been held here. Among them were two of Henry VIII’s wives, who were then beheaded on the green in front of the tower; the tragic 9-day-queen, 16 year old Jane Grey; Elizabeth I and the love of her life, Robert Dudley; and, much later, Josef Jacobs, a German spy who was executed by firing squad in 1941.
Inside the White Tower is the longest running exhibition in the world, called the Line of Kings, which has been open to paying public since the 1500s.
As it sounds, it is a line of carved horses and men dressed in armour that was often the actual armour used by the king at that time.
After leaving this room, I headed for the Crown Jewels which, as I found out from my guidebooks, is the most expensive set of jewels in the whole world!
(Every so often I’m struck by the silliness of this little teeny tiny island on the edge of Europe with not very many people, comparatively, having the longest running exhibition and the most expensive set of jewels in the entire world. It just seems too big to really understand.)
Anyway, I waited in the queue and we all filed around to a room with the most sparkly stuff ever! HUGE gold plates and anointing spoons (didn’t know they existed til then) and goblet things. There were also the swords that had been used by about ten kings or queens hanging up.
Then finally, the Crown Jewels were there. We all got on this little conveyor belt thing and were conveyed along slowly past the crowns of the past 350 years, beginning with Charles II’s new coronation regalia made in 1661, to replace the jewels lost when the Republicans won the Civil War and destroyed all of Charles I’s royal garb. The last one you pass is the one worn by Queen Elizabeth II in her coronation in 1953.
Of all the things to wonder about when I saw these, I remember thinking, ‘Imagine if you came along one day to look but that was the day she got coronated (that’s a word) so it wasn’t there. You’d be gutted.’ Or ‘I wonder if she needs them in an emergency one day and they’ve gotta try and get them out with everyone around. That’d be a right faff.”
Unfortunately there are strictly no photos in the Jewel House so I can’t show you them. Just google it if you’re that interested, alright?
I can, however, show you the animals around the Tower of London.
There was one a menagerie at the Tower so these animals are a reminder of that time. It’s a bit crazy when you read about it. Lions, bears, elephants. All living in the Tower of London.
My feet were worn out by that point and my brain had stopped functioning properly from the sheer amount of stuff I had learned and was trying to remember. So I left, bought some chips and got the train home.