When I think of the Tower of London, my neck starts to ache as I think of Ann Boleyn, every season finale of every season of The Tudors, the beginning of the movie Elizabeth, and poor little Lady Jane Grey. But I had no idea how much more important the Tower of London is in British history!
The Tower was built by William the Conqueror in 1066 to protect the city of London. From UNESCO’s description:
As the setting for key historical events in European history: The Tower has been the setting for some of the most momentous events in European and British History. Its role as a stage upon which history has been enacted is one of the key elements which has contributed towards the Tower’s status as an iconic structure. Arguably, the most important building of the Norman Conquest, the White Tower symbolised the might and longevity of the new order. The imprisonments in the Tower of Edward V and his younger brother in the 15th century, and then, in the 16th century, of four English queens, three of them executed on Tower Green – Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey – with only Elizabeth I escaping, shaped English history. The Tower also helped shape the story of the Reformation in England, as both Catholic and Protestant prisoners (those that survived) recorded their experiences and helped define the Tower as a place of torture and execution.
The Tower was the last of my sightseeing during my ten days in London. For my visit, I got there pretty late in the afternoon, was coming down with a hella cold, and had not dressed properly for how windy and rainy it was! So I bucked up as much energy as I could to really enjoy my last London activity before retreating to the warmth of my cozy AirBnB apartment. As a die-hard Tudorphile, I could not miss this no matter how quickly my cold was catching up to me!
Tickets were pricey at 22 pounds. Note: this would be included in the London pass if you go that route, which I didn’t because my sightseeing revolved around my work schedule). This includes a guided tour guide if you go with the group, but due to my aforementioned freezing sickness, I chose not to wait outside for the guide.
You start out by visiting some of the apartments and rooms that acted as royal residences over the years, then see short exhibits on life in the Tower and the military.
I definitely experienced some anxiety when I got to the torture exhibit. My favorite part by far was seeing the Crown Jewels. I didn’t expect to like them so much, and actually almost skipped them. I’m so glad that I didn’t! Unfortunately, they don’t allow pictures! I usually don’t let that stop me, but I thought this place might mean business.
My afternoon was thought-provoking, sobering, and (thanks to all those crowns) quite sparkling! I really loved my time there (even if my cold is still hanging on three weeks later).
England Travel Resources
- London Packing List for All Seasons
- My Tip 10 Super Awesome Surprise London Adventures
- The 12 British Phrases the Have Taken Over My Brain
- Visiting the Tower of London
- The History of Windsor Castle (podcast episode)
- Banqueting House (podcast episode)
- Visiting Stonehenge