What most surprised me about this place is that people still live here!  What they call Yeoman Warders – 35 of them and their families – live inside the Tower of London.  They are retired soldiers whose sole duty it is to keep watch over the towers and grounds and probably more importantly, the crown jewels, because this is also where those babies are kept.  After all of the tourists have gone home, the Yeoman Warders, their wives and children, have this whole place to themselves!  What a strange, weirdly wonderful home to grow up in.  Playing ball where Anne Boleyn was beheaded.  Huh.

Well I skipped the crown jewels and just wandered the rest of the place, learned a whole lot of history.  And let me tell you, this place is a lot bigger than it looks from the outside.  It’s more than just one tower first of all – it’s a collection of several towers and a palace.  It’s gotten a gruesome reputation over the centuries because of the prisoners that were tortured and killed here, but it was never just a prison.  It was at times the quarters of the king and queen, especially when they wanted to hide out during troublesome times.

I think what I found most moving was what’s now referred to as Traitors’ Gate.  It’s been called that for the silly reason that 3 queens were delivered through it to their deaths – most notably Anne Boleyn.  But it was originally called Water Gate (no relation to Nixon’s) because it was built by Edward I so he could have a place to park his barge when he sailed up the Thames to the tower.  What I found so moving is that Anne’s coronation procession started from Traitors’ Gate when she married Henry VIII, and then 3 years later, he had her sent back through it to be beheaded.

There are a number of towers where prisoners were kept even up through WWII.  Rudolph Hess, one of Hitler’s Nazi party leaders, was kept at Beauchamp Tower for 4 days before his trial!  In this tower, you can view a kind of medieval graffiti – etchings prisoners made into the stone during their imprisonment.  Very sad and moving.  It was surreal to see a very beautiful etching done by one of Lady Jane Grey’s brothers-in-law – Dudley.  Jane, the Dudley brothers, and Jane’s husband were imprisoned at Beauchamp after Mary Tudor seized the throne.  Jane had been queen for only 9 days and her own father abandoned her and supported Queen Mary after having pushed Jane onto the throne to begin with!  She was only 16 when she was beheaded.  I’m going off on the history stuff, now, but I can’t help it.  I saw the spot on Tower Green where Jane and Anne Boleyn were beheaded.

And of course I saw what’s called the White Tower.  This is the oldest on the grounds, built by William the Conqueror in 1066!  And I walked around in it!  Can you imagine?  I've traced the Speegle side of my family tree all the way back to a woman named Muriel De Conteville, born in 1041.  Muriel’s mother was Harlette DeFalaise, who also had a son from an earlier affair with Robert I, Duke of Normandy.  That son’s name was William, later known as William the Conqueror.  So Will was Muriel’s half brother!  And if Muriel’s the 27th great grandmother of my great granddad Pratt, then that makes Will my great half uncle, like 2700 times removed, right?  Don’t I have some kind of royal rights to claim here?  :)

Anyway… enough dreaming.  I learned an awful lot more that I’d love to share, but this is supposed to be a blog, not a history lesson.  I took my friend Isabelle’s advice and snapped a couple photos of myself for posterity’s sake.  I’ll start posting more pics of myself, but they do NOT count as part of my 3, just so you know.  I’m having a hard enough time picking just 3 to show you without MOI mucking the whole thing up.  Been taking a lot of pictures of windows, too.  I seem to be fascinated by windows and doorways.  Some analyst would have a field day with that one.  One of my favorite pics is of a doorway in a plantation outside New Orleans that I took when I went with my Mom.  Wish she was here.

 


Zell
07/24/2013 5:42am

Can you imagine how quirky a kid who grew up in the Tower of London might turn out, lol? What an upbringing for writing Gothic literature!!

I heard that yesterday church bells were peeling in London for the new prince--did you hear them? I also understand there's been a heat wave in London; I'm sure you've felt THAT!

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Vicki
07/24/2013 1:42pm

No, didn't hear bells, but I heard the gun salute they did for him near the Tower! And today the heatwave ended! Lovely and cool outside! How is it where you are? Are you in New York?

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