To be executed or not to be executed, that is the question!
The Tower of London was built in the 1070’s by William the Conqueror. He invaded England at the Battle of Hastings, reclaimed the land, and so had a mighty big fortress built. To this day this World Heritage site has more than two million visitors every year.
In Tudor times, anyone who defied King Henry VIII was sent off to the Tower, to be either executed or kept captive for a long time. Catherine of Aragon was lucky, even though she was married to the king for many years, he divorced her, and she was sent with her daughter princess Mary to the tower for a short time. Henry wanted her out of his way so he could continue his relationship with Queen Anne Boylan. However Anne was not so fortunate and was sent to the Tower to be executed by the sword, he even imported a professional swordsman from France to make a clean cut. Another one of Henry VIII wives to be executed was Catherine Howard, a very young girl of 19, who was known to be frolicking with other men.
When we arrived at the Tower, a Beefeater (also known as a Yeoman Warder) showed us around and he explained where he got the name. In earlier times, Beefeaters were paid in slivers of beef from the King and soon after the name stuck. Our guide was very informative and gave us a whole breakdown of how the Tower came about and all the prisoners that were staying there. However, not all were executed, but a lot were tortured for very long periods. In the torture chamber, the rack was a very popular form of torture for prisoners, and sometimes the guards would like nothing more than to stretch out the poor victim’s body and see them in pain. The Beefeaters had our full attention, and told us that they served in the military for many years, before settling into their job. Hence, there was a lot of shouting. He even showed us where they lived, within in the grounds of the Tower. Phil Wilson, a 64 year old Yeoman quotes ‘The first sounds I hear when I wake up are the ravens croaking as they are released from their pens. It’s like being on the set of a Hammer House of Horror movie!’ We did not get a chance to see the ravens, but we were told they are well fed and looked after. It is believed that if ravens fly away, the Tower of Terror will collapse.
Home to the Beefeaters
We roamed the grounds and got to see the Crown Jewels, which were pretty spectacular as the diamonds sparkled inside the glass cases. In the Jewel House these objects are used at the coronation of a sovereign and are known as the Coronation Regalia. After looking at these breath taking works of art, we climbed the steps to the chapel of St. John in the White Tower to recover the story of the disappearance of the two princes, sons of Edward IV, ages 9 and 12, who were taken to the Tower and were never seen alive again. It is believed they were murdered and their skeletons remains were found years later. To this day, nobody knows what happened to the boys and how they were killed, but the suspicions are that their uncle King Richard III might have something to do with it.
It was a great family day out, very educational with re-enactments of King Henry VIII and the coronation of his beautiful wife Anne Boylan. Lots of old fashioned games were played to get the kids away from those pesky iPad’s.