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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is a historic castle on the north bank of River Thames in London. It has been an important part of English history and has been besieged many times. It has served as a treasury, a prison, the Royal Mint, an armoury, a menagerie and of course home to the Crown Jewels. The Tower of London has established itself as one of the most popular and most visited tourist attractions in London. A visit to London would be incomplete without visiting the Tower.



The White Tower, located in the innermost ward of the castle complex, was built to awe and terrify the Londoners and also to keep away the foreign invaders. The Tower contained lodgings for the King and was originally only 3 storeys high. The entrance to the tower is above the ground level and via a wooden staircase on the southern side. In the olden days, in the event of an attack, the staircase would have been removed making it difficult for the invaders to get in. Over the years, several Kings have held court at the Tower of London and the tower has also seen two World Wars. During the Second World War, the tower was damaged by bombs. However, after the war repair work was done and the Tower reopened to public. The White Tower is now a part of a World Heritage Site. You can spend a few hours looking through the 4 floors at your own pace or you could join one of the group tours led by the Yeoman Warders or 'Beefeaters' as they are lovingly called. These guided tours last approximately 60 minutes and start near the main entrance.



The entrance floor of the White Tower houses the Line of Kings; an impressive display featuring arms and royal armour, life-sized wooden horses and figures of kings. You will be amazed by the collection of armours which were once worn by the nobles in the years gone by.









The tower complex also houses The Crown Jewels. Though it is an 'edited' collection with only some selected jewellery on display, the allure of the precious stones and jewels always draws visitors from all around the world. The day we went, luckily there was no queuing. A slow-moving walkway in front of the main showcases is an excellent idea as it eliminates crowding and everyone gets a chance to view the jewels. The Crown Jewels, part of the Royal Collection, are an important facet of the British Monarchy and are still used in coronation ceremonies. The Crown of Queen Elizabeth(the Queen Mother) is set with 2,800 diamonds which includes the famous Kohinoor. Words cannot describe the magnificent pieces of jewels and priceless treasures  that are housed here. You need to see it for yourself. Photography is not allowed in this section.





The Fusilier Museum

The Fusilier Museum walks you through the story of a British infantry regiment that was raised at the Tower of London in the 1680s. Drawing on the rich archive of war diaries and flags, uniforms and more the museum depicts the journey of the Regiment from its formation to the current day. The collection in the museum includes military insignia, photographs, silverware, medals and souvenirs from vanquished enemies. The Silver wine cooler pictured in the second photograph below was presented to the Regiment by King William IV when the Regiment was stationed at Winchester Barracks.






The photograph below shows the dress uniform and bearskin of King George V who was the Colonel-in-Chief(the ceremonial figurehead of the regiment) of the Royal Fusiliers from 1901-1936.





The medal on the left in the photo above is an Iraqi Medal presented to the Fusiliers for 30 days of continuous service in the Iraq/Middle East in 2003. The medal on the right is the Elizabeth Cross that is awarded to the families of all servicemen killed in action on operations, 1945-present.

For over 600 years, wild and exotic animals were held captive in the Tower. Most of these animals were royal gifts and remained in the tower for entertainment of the royal court. Lions, polar bear and elephant were the first animals to be brought to the tower and housed in the Royal Menagerie. These were followed by kangaroos, monkeys, tigers and many more. In 1832, after several animal attacks on the tower staff and visitors, all the animals were moved to heir new home in London Zoo. During our visit, we spotted a lot wire animal sculptures.



When you stroll around the Tower precincts, you will notice some ravens. There are a total of seven ravens at the tower today. According to legend, the ravens were considered as the guardians of the Tower. It was believed that if they left the Tower, the Kingdom would fall. The ravens at present are lodged next to the Wakefield Tower and handled/fed by the Raven Master. We spotted 2 ravens during our visit.



Also to be seen at the Tower are the replicas of terrifying instruments of torture. These can be found at the Tower in the bottom of the Wakefield Tower. Or you could explore the East Wall Walk and be awed by the massive defensive inner wall and four huge towers.

The Tower of London is open at the following times:
Tuesday - Saturday 09:00 - 17:30
Sunday - Monday 10:00 - 17:30
Last admission is at 17:00

For more information:
The Tower of London London - EC3N 4AB







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