In the early 1080s, William the Conqueror began to build a massive stone tower at the centre of his London fortress which would become known as The Tower of London. Nothing like it had ever been seen before.
Through the centuries that followed, successive monarchs added to the fortifications. This short history charts the different stages of its construction and explains its role as fortress, palace and prison.
The White Tower
You can’t miss the White Towers four distinctive turrets at the centre of the Tower of London overlooking the River Thames. It was built, to awe and strike fear and submission into the unruly Londoners and to deter foreign invaders. It’s now an iconic symbol of London and Britain and a world heritage site.
Inside the White Tower you can see five centuries of spectacular royal armoury. Perhaps the most famous armour here is that of Henry VIII. Also check out the other floors containing weapons and canons.
The Crown Jewels
They are the greatest working collection of Crown Jewels in the world and priceless symbols of the British monarchy. If you spot an ‘in use’ sign, Liz and Wills could possibly be wearing them at that moment. You’ve got to be quick though because the only way you can view the Crown Jewels is on a conveyor belt that flies you by in seconds.
There are 23,578 gems that make up the Crown Jewels, including the Imperial State Crown, which alone has 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 5 rubies. The First Star of Africa, now mounted at the top of the Sovereign’s Sceptre, is the largest cut diamond in the world. This collection of priceless Coronation Regalia has been at the Tower of London since the 17th century with apparently only one attempt to steal them.
The Yeoman Warders or ‘Beefeaters’as they are nicknamed, have been symbols of Britain since 1509. It’s thought their nickname came from their position in the Royal Bodyguard which allowed them to eat as much beef as they wanted from the King’s table. Today to be a Beefeater at the Tower they’re required to have served in the armed forces with an honourable record for at least 22 years. And as a bonus, they get to live at the Tower. They just have to put up with all of us tourists.
The ravens have become one of the Tower’s most famous sights. Legend says that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six ravens ever leave the Tower. Unfortunately for the ravens, their wings have been clipped to make sure that doesn’t happen.