Our guide, Tom, was a retired barrister. Don't ask me the difference between a barrister and a solicitor and a lawyer. That's not what this blog is about. Anyway, he was incredibly entertaining and told us so much more than if we ventured on our own.
Our tour started across from the Tower - on Tower Hill, the site of an obscene number of executions done at the top of the hill to make sure the excited masses were entertained by watching the slow death of the latest schmuck who angered the king. This was the site of beheadings - hangings were performed up the road. How entertaining was it for the crowds? Well, how gruesome shall I get here? The axes weren't always very sharp and the executioners weren't always that sober, so naturally, the aim of the ax wasn't always that accurate. Some notable people to die here, include Sir Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell and George Boleyn. Good times.
|A simple memorial where so much carnage took place.|
It was a time when gossip was truth. As we often see even today, you repeat something enough times, it becomes believed as the truth. Why? Because humans are stupid. And the whispers of the court were all about gaining favour and ruining not just the reputation, but the lives of others in order to get ahead.
|The iconic Tower Bridge. Maybe our guide was full of the macabre because even this beautiful bridge has been the site of many very sad stories.|
Yes, the Tower is full of cheerful memories. Some of the other famous prisoners include Sir Walter Raleigh (he was eventually hung), Guy Fawkes and Rudolf Hess. It has always been a place of imprisonment and violence. There are 3 torture devices on display - likely the most popular of the day - the rack, the manacles where people were hung from their arms and a device that was used to basically compress someone. They were very effective at getting confessions. Who wouldn't confess to any crime when they were literally being ripped apart limb by limb? Of course George Boleyn said he slept with his sister. Confessing meant signing your own death warrant, but it was the better option.
The Tower also has an impressive display of the suits of armour, swords and military paraphernalia of the British royal houses. Not usually my cup of tea, but I'm glad I took our guide's advice to check out Henry VIII final suit of armour with its enormous backside. The cod piece displays Henry's delusion.
It's kind of fitting that the permanent residents of the Tower, aside from the ghosts, include ravens. Legend has it that if the ravens leave the Tower, the monarchy will fall. So they have a permanent home and clipped wings to make sure that does not happen.
And in the midst of this macabre and violent history is the home of the most beautiful gems of the Crown Jewels. Stunning does not begin to describe these pieces. My favourites were the Imperial Crown of India, which was created for George V to wear on his trip to India in 1911, the Saint Edwards Crown, used for Coronations and the Imperial Crown, which is worn every year for the opening of parliament. A girl could spend some happy time in amongst these jewels.
|Such a beautiful place - with such a brutal history.|