The Tower as seen from the outside on the Thames embankment. Tourists who choose not to visit the Tower for whatever reason can still enjoy a free and scenic walk around the perimeter of the complex and over Tower Bridge.
The Significance of Ravens
Tower Green with two ravens and Tower Bridge on the left.
‘If the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall, ‘ goes the legend, probably started by Charles II, so seven ravens now live in the Tower grounds and have one wing clipped to prevent a catastrophic emigration. Six is the vital number so there’s one to spare but they still disappear from time to time and the Ravenmaster has to quickly conjure up a new one. Raven George was fired recently for obsessively eating TV cables while Raven Grog did a flutter (a raven version of a runner) and was last seen frequenting a pub in the east end.
Do not try to feed the critters, they are bold, treacherous and don’t respect normal people, much like the kings that used to live in the Tower.
Ex-soldiers all, Yeomen Warders have been Royal Bodyguards since 1509 and are called Beefeaters due to their envied access to beef from the king’s table.
A Yeoman guided tour to the left and the famous scaffold execution site on the right.
Free Yeoman Warder guided tours start every 30 minutes from near the main entrance and last 60 minutes. They will definitely be fascinating and probably hilarious so get close to your selected Beefie and stick with him (or in a rare case, her).
A few of those who were lucky enough to get the chop on Tower Green (really! the alternative was a down and dirty public execution with a careless, inexperienced or drunken axeman) are Sir Walter Raleigh and three queens of England: two of Henry VIII’s wives, Ann Boleyn and Catherine Howard; Lady Jane Grey was queen for only nine days in 1553 at the age of 16 and was executed as a traitor.
Famous Prisoners in the Tower of London
– George, Duke of Clarence was imprisoned in the Bowyer Tower and accidentally drowned in a cask of wine in 1477. Apparently he drank too much.
– The ‘Princes in the Tower’, young Edward and Richard, were ‘disappeared’ from the Bloody Tower in 1483, probably at the command of that charming Richard III.
– Anne Askew was housed in the Cradle Tower and later burned at the stake for her religious beliefs by Henry VIII in 1546.
– Sir Walter Raleigh, 13 years in the Bloody Tower for plotting against King James I. Beheaded in 1603.
– Sir Everett Digby, a few months in the Broad Arrow Tower for the Gunpowder Plot against King and Parliament in 1605. Hung, drawn and quartered.
Historic graffito by prisoners in Beauchamp Tower.
There are many beautifully carved graffiti in the Beauchamp Tower but few of them are inscribed by famous persons. This tower seems to have been the resting place for lesser people.
A brilliant dragon made from medieval weapons and armour.
The Fit for a King free, permanent exhibition in the White Tower displays 500 years of the best royal armour and weapons, with plenty of dazzling, gem-encrusted swords and silver studded armour but also a fascinating series of hands-on games and quizzes related to survival in medieval times that will keep the older kids and younger adults busy.
Fun and educational displays on the best way to kill, crush or just maim a person.
Authentic armour, with the giant set reaching 2 metres high and the small one built for a very young prince.