Sadly all good things have to come to an end and it was the final day of our London adventure. However, we had a bit more history and culture ahead with a visit to the Tower of London. Myself and Alan had been on previous visits and knew it was a good day out. After watching Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway spoof ‘Who stole the Crown Jewels?’ Imogen and Abigail were keen to see if they were safely back in the cases. And which girl doesn’t like a bit of lusting over diamonds in the Tower of London?
Tower of London Crown Jewels
Jumping on the tube from our station Park Royal to Tower Bridge we were at the entrance in around 30 minutes. Our friend Stephen had been just a few weeks previously and had recommended we get there for opening at 10am to beat the Crown Jewel queue. We followed his advice and were soon in a short queue at the Jewel House to see the royal bling.
The Crown Jewel exhibition itself is well organised and you shuffle through the space. Rousing music and projections of Royal gone by as you pass royal artifacts such gold fonts, which are used at Royal Christenings, and the Coronation Robes. The pageant music is really atmospheric and the projection of the Queen at the televised coronation ceremony gave me a little lump in my throat. I don’t think this would be the place to go if you aren’t a big fan of the Royals.
Moving on through the exhibit we finally came to the Crown Jewels. The doors to this part of the room must be a half a metre thick of iron, like a huge safe. On each side of the cases there is a slow moving travellator which tickled the girls. If you have mobility problems there is a little raised bridge on a ramp to enable you to see them. The girls decided to head back across the bridge and jump back on the travellator to catch another glimpse, which i’m not sure was actually allowed, but they didn’t incur the wrath of the guides. Highlights are the Imperial State Crown which is used by the Queen at each state opening of Parliament and the Sovereign’s spectre which contains the 530.2 carat diamond the Culinan 1. Amazing! Unsurprisingly this part was a camera free zone.
Yeoman Warded Guided Tours
The Yeoman of the Guard (affectionately known as Beefeaters) are the ex-military officers who live and work in the Tower. Part of their role is to take the visitors on tours of the Tower. Tours are half hourly and as you would expect attract a very large crowd. We jumped on the back of a tour just starting and headed to Traitor’s Gate, where prisoners made their fateful journey to the cells to wait their fate. The story of the two princes in the tower was recounted and Anne Boleyn who was beheaded by Henry 8th. As we tried to follow the Yeoman the girls were getting a bit squashed in the crowd and weren’t enjoying it so we decided to leave the tour for another time and go at our own pace.
Torture at the Tower
Heading into the Wakefield Tower there was an exhibition with reconstructions of the torture implements used in the tower. Manacles and the rack I’d heard of in the history books but The Scavenger’s Daughter was a new one on me. Instead of being stretched, like on the rack, the implement crushed you like a nutcracker. Grim!
Next up on the list was walking the Tower Walls, which told the history of the tower as a fortress. It was interesting to find out that peasants managed to invade the Tower in 1381, despite all the armed soldiers. These poor peasants must have been pretty mad at the world and determined! Along this stretch of the tower there was some interesting medieval grafitti and some interactive parts for children. This included dressing up in chain mail and modelling a very heavy metal helmet!
The Tower walls led to an exhibition called Royal Beasts held in the Brick Tower. The exhibition told the history of the menagerie of exotic animals which lived at the tower for over 600 years. Animals were given as gifts to the Royals from other countries with lions, polar bears and elephants being the first, known as the Royal Menagerie. A lot of these poor animals died as they didn’t know how to care for them properly. Some of them managed to get their own back by escaping or even killing their handlers! The animals that survived eventually made their way to London Zoo when it was built.
Ravens at the Tower of London
It was past lunchtime and the girls were getting a little fed up of the Tower of London. We had spied a Wetherspoons just outside so were keen to head over there for a cheap lunch and alcoholic beverage.
Before we left we went to see the Ravens where legend has it:
‘If the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall…’
Although the Tower Ravens wings are clipped we didn’t go too close in case they were having a bad day!