Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Tower of London

By Arlicia McGhee

Side view of the Tower of London

Henry III's Bedchamber
During the mini break, I had the opportunity to visit the Tower of London.  I was expecting a tower similar to those read in fairy tales like Rapunzel, instead, I was received by a medieval, royal palace.  The tower was first built by William the Conqueror in the early 1080s and has been occupied by other monarchs like Henry III, Edward I and their courts.  Not only was the tower a palace, it is best known as bloody dungeon and fortress.  What I found interesting was most famous prisoners were able to live in comfort, while others were less so.  For instance, Sir Walter Raleigh’s prison was decorated to please his and his family needs, and he was also given the opportunity to receive guest and wander the courtyards.  Unfortunately, prisoners like Henry Walpole were tortured and you can even see the imprints of messages written in the tower walls by these suffering guests.   Even though I enjoyed the entire tour, the greatest exhibit by far was the viewing of the Crown Jewels and coronation regalia.  The 23,578 gems that make up the Crown Jewels are securely protected within the tower while being locked behind a steel vault in the Jewel House.  There has only been one attempt to steal the jewels in 1671 by Irishman Colonel Blood who was almost successful until discovered at the last minute.  I was able to gaze at crowns worn by every reigning monarch and my favorite was the small diamond incrusted crown worn by Queen Victoria.  I wish I was able to take pictures of these magnificent jewels because it was a spectacular sight to see

Study in Sir Walter Raleigh's Prison

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