The Tower of LondonThe Tower of London, the oldest fortified palace in Europe, was built by William the Conqueror in the late 1000’s. It has served as a fortress, prison, palace, and the final resting-place of many people (“Tower of London” Encarta 1). Its history is full of amazing and horrific stories of life and death. To truly appreciate this magnificent group of structures a look must be taken into its history through it’s architecture, uses, and those held in the prisons and dungeons.
The Tower Of London is not actually one tower, it is a group of 13 towers located on 7.5 hectares of land known as Tower Hill (“Tower of London” Encarta 1). To the south of the tower is the Thames Rivers, which used to feed a moat that was drained in 1830. The general shape of the tower is a square with two lines of defensive walls surrounding it. The outer wall is defended by six towers on the river face, and there are two semi-circular bastions at the northeast and northwest corners (Tower of London Virtual Tour 3). The original tower, also known as the White Tower, is flanked by four turrets (Encarta 1). By looking carefully at the architecture of the tower you can see the painstaking workmanship put into every little detail.
The group of thirteen towers collectively known as the Tower of London has five areas, which are especially interesting. One such tower was the Lion Tower, called so because it once housed the royal managerie. Often bear baiting performances were held here (Virtual Tour of the Tower of London 4). The Bell Tower is known by this name because of the belfry located at the top of it. The bell in the belfry was used as a warning system of an oncoming attack from enemies to the English (Virtual Tour of the Tower of London 6). Another building is the famous Bloody Tower, which is called this because it is the location of the murder of Prince Edward V and the Richard, the Duke of York (Virtual Tour of the Tower of London 9). The oldest tower is the White Tower, which is the great central keep. It was once used as the seat of the government and the home of the royal family (Virtual Tour of the Tower of London 10). Another infamous area of the Tower of London is the site of the block w!here a scaffold was erected and all of the executions were performed so that the public could watch (Virtual Tour of the Tower of London 14).
One of the most famous uses of the Tower of London was as a prison and final resting-place for many members of the English royal family. One such person was Lady Jane Grey. Grey was queen for nine days until her own father lead a revolution that took her out of power and put the rightful heir to the throne in. Later Grey’s father placed her in prison and was forced to have her executed to show his loyalty to the queen (Hamlin 1). Another infamous murder was that of Anne Boleyn. Boleyn was married to Henry VIII, but after a while Henry became tired with her and decided to dump her for his mistress Jane Seymore. So Henry had Anne Brought up on the charges of treason, adultery, and incest, and Anne was beheaded (Hibbert 70). Other famous prisoners killed at the Tower of London include, Edward V, Richard Duke of York, Archbishop Crammer, Bishops Ridley and Latimer, and Sir Walter Raleigh (Tower of London Virtual Tour 9).
As you can see the Tower of London is a window into the rich history of England through its architecture, uses, and those imprisoned and executed there. The tower’s history shows how different the time of Elizabethan age and the years preceding it are so different from today, through the subtle differences in architecture and quality workmanship. Clearly the Tower of London is a perfect example of a window into the life and times of those living in Elizabethan England.
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