The Tower of London is famous for being the sight of much bloodshed and for being the prison of many hundreds, if not thousands, of people since it was first built by William the Conqueror in the late 11th century.
For us, the Tower of London is important because it is where Anne Boleyn spent the night before her coronation in 1533, in the Queen’s apartments, where she was imprisoned (again in the Queen’s apartments) after her arrest on 2nd May 1536 and where she was beheaded by a French swordsman on 19th May 1536 after being found guilty of treason, adultery and incest.
After her execution, her body and head were taken away by her ladies, wrapped in a white cloth and placed in an arrow chest for burial. Anne Boleyn was buried in a common grave in the Tower of London chapel, St Peter ad Vincula, but was then re-interred in Victorian times in a crypt under the altar. A simple tile marks the burial site of Anne and her cousin, Catherine Howard, another wife of Henry VIII’s.
You can read more about Anne Boleyn’s final resting place in my blog post on the subject and on the Anne Boleyn’s Final Resting Place page. This page is here to tell you more about the Tower of London itself and its attractions.
The Tower of London
The Historic Royal Palaces website has got detailed information on the Tower, its history and its attractions, including excellent factsheets to download, but here are some interesting facts:-
Famous people imprisoned at the Tower include:-
- Ranulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham – An unpopular bishop who was imprisoned in 1100 but escaped.
- John Balliol, a Scottis King who was forced to abdicate by Edward I and who was imprisoned in 1296 but exiled to France.
- George, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV – Imprisoned in 1477 and executed in secret.
- The Princes in the Tower – Edward V and his brother, Richard, were imprisoned in the Tower and mysteriously disappeared.
- Anne Boleyn (obviously!!) – Imprisoned and executed in May 1536 for treason and adultery.
- Catherine Howard – Imprisoned and executed for treason and adultery in 1541.
- Anne Askew, a Protestant martyr – She was imprisoned in 1546 and burned at the stake.
- Hew Draper, Sorcerer – This sorceror was imprisoned in 1560 but his fate is unknown. He left an astrological carving on his cell wall.
- Sir Walter Raleigh – Raleigh was actually imprisoned in the Tower three times before being beheaded in 1618.
- Sir Everard Digby – Digby was imprisoned in 1605 for his part in the Gunpowder Plot and was hung, drawn and quartered.
(Video of photos taken by Paudie Kennelly, an Anne Boleyn Files visitor)
Tower of London Ghosts
Being the scene of much violent bloodshed means that the Tower is haunted (if you believe that kind of thing!). Famous Tower ghosts include:-
- Thomas à Becket
- The Two Princes, Edward and Richard
- Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, who ran from the executioner and so was hewn to death.
- Headless Anne Boleyn
- The Salt Tower Ghost – Yeoman Warders and even dogs refuse to enter at night.
- Lady Jane Grey
- A huge phantom bear
Tower of London Attractions
The Tower of London is a great place to visit just to see Anne Boleyn’s resting place but it also has many more attractions:-
- Henry VIII Dressed to Kill Exhibition – A special exhibition of Henry VIII’s armour.Click here to find out more.
- The ravens – Legend has it that the Tower of London will fall down if its famous black ravens leave.
- Tower Green – This is where people were executed and is now the home of a special memorial to all those who died.
- The White Tower – This four turreted tower is what people know as the Tower of London.
- The Crown Jewels – See these famous Royal jewels under armed guard in the Jewel House.
- The Medieval Palace – See the lavish recreated Medieval interiors of this palace.
- The Fortress – Explore the Tower of London’s history as an impenetrable fortress.
- East Wall Walk – This is the defensive inner curtain wall of the Tower which you can explore, along with its four towers.
- The Yeoman Warders – Take a Tower tour with a Yeoman Warder (“Beefeater”).
- Tower grafitti – See the grafitti that prisoners and past visitors carved on the wall, including Anne Boleyn’s falcon crest which is thought to have been carved by one of her supporters.
Planning Your Visit
The Tower of London’s opening times are split into Summer and Winter opening times:-
01 March – 31 October
Tuesday – Saturday 09:00 – 17:30
Sunday – Monday 10:00 – 17:30
Last admission 17:00
Winter opening times
01 November – 28 February
Tuesday – Saturday 09:00 – 16:30
Sunday – Monday 10:00 – 16:30
Last admission 16:00
At time of writing (June 2009), online booked tickets are cheaper, costing £16 per adult, £9 per child under 16 (under 5s are free), £13.50 for concessions (students or over 60s with ID) and £44 for a family (2 adults and up to 3 children). These prices are valid until 28th February 2010. On the gate prices are slightly more expensive.
You can find out how to get to the Tower of London by going to their Planning Your Visit page and clicking on the appropriate link.
The Tower has cafés, restaurants and toilets, and although it is tricky for wheelchair users because of its cobbles and steps, the Tower has been made as accessible as possible – see the Visitor Access Page.
There is so much more to the Tower of London than what I can write here, so do visit the Tower of London website for information, fact sheets, games and more – http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/