The Tower of London is one of the must-sees in London. It’s therefore a bonus that it is always a fun place to take the children. It’s got lots of history, plenty filled with gore, to keep them interested as well as the amazing Crown Jewels.
All around the Tower are these amazing chicken wire sculptures of animals that used to be in the Royal Menagerie. For example, the polar bear was a gift to Henry III from the King of Norway. The polar bear was kept on a long leash and allowed to swim and fish in the Thames. In the 18th century, the monkeys were kept in a palace room so that visitors could be amused by their human-like antics. The sculptures are found throughout the Tower area and makes a fun finding game for children.
Another animal, ravens, are integral to the myth of the Tower of London. Apparently the Tower of London will fall if there are no more ravens left. They have their wings clipped every couple of weeks to keep them from flying away. They are fed 4 times a day a diet of meat and blood-soaked biscuits. Having originally been one of the 20 castles established by William the Conqueror to symbolise his dominance and conquest, this site is steeped in history (and blood). A plaque marks the place where 3 Queens of England were beheaded, including the most well-known, Anne Boleyn. In happier times, Henry VII had these buildings made as quarters for the Boleyns. This past of mayhem and murder means the Tower has its share of ghost stories especially the White Tower. Our children were fascinated to learn that the wardens’ dogs will not enter the White Tower. Apparently, the dogs will just stand outside and whimper. The White Tower also has an armoury which children will like. In addition to the armoury itself, there are interactive exhibits to demonstrate how to shoot a bow and arrow or what a knight could see through his helmet’s eye slits (not much!). In addition, there was a dragon which was made of fighting apparel because historically, armies had displayed arms captured in battle in a pile. The modern version was much more artistic.
My daughter (and even my son) were completely enthralled by the Crown Jewels. She couldn’t believe the Cullinan diamond would have been the size of her head before it was cut into 10 diamonds, including one for the monarch’s sceptre. There are approximately 11 tons of gold in this collection and thousands of precious stones.
Some random Tower trivia:
- Not only boiling oil was poured out of the murder holes in the castles walls but also boiling tar, and boiling urine (in that order). The tar was to represent being tarred and feathered, a form of humiliation, as was the urine, the ultimate insult.
- Many of the prisoners in the Tower carved graffiti into the stone walls using just their fingernails which resulted in lots of blood, of course.
- The last prisoner in the Tower was Rudolf Hess, second in command to Hitler, who parachuted into Scotland on a secret mission during World War II and was captured. (Wouldn’t that be a great parody along the lines of ‘Allo Allo?)
In the obligatory gift shop stop, I found a book which was written as if Henry VIII was a blogger. In this witty take on the king’s life, Henry wrote blog posts about his women troubles, his annoyance with assorted ministers etc. I’m waiting for the Twitter version of Henry VIII’s life. I’m thinking he would be a prolific tweeter, obvs.
We were visitors at the Tower of London courtesy of City Wonders.