Tower of London


A thousand years of royal history


The Tower of London is one of the oldest buildings in London with a thousand years of royal connections.
The Tower of London was begun in the reign of William the Conqueror (1066-87). The White Tower, the great stronghold that gave the place itsname, was completed by 1100. That year, its first known prisoner, Bishop Flambard of Durham, escaped by climbing through one of the tower's windows using a smuggled rope. In the 12th century the first expansion of the castle took place. The Bell Tower was constructed and palace builings were erected to the south of the White Tower. During the regency of Henry III and Edward the Tower was encircled by two curtain walls and a great moat. A mint and menagerie were esthablished within the fortress.
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tower of london In the 14th century the river wharf was completed. Richard II was forced to shelter Within the Tower during the Peasants' Revolt.
One hundert years later the 12-year-old Edward V and his younger brother Richard, sons of Edward IV, were perhaps the Tower's most famous and tragic prisoners. Following their father's death in 1483, they were lodged in the Tower under the protection of their uncle, Richard Duke of Gloucester. Preparations began for Edward's coronation but in the event it was their uncle who was crowned in his place as Richard III. The princes remained in the Tower for a time and then mysteriously disappeared; their uncle was popularly believed to have arranged for their murder. During this period the Tower's defences were vigorously maintained and minor improvements made, notably in about 1480 when Edward IV built a new brick bulwark (outer defence) beyond the western entrance.


The first Tudor monarch, Henry VII (1485-1509) was responsible for building the last permanent royal residential buildings at the Tower. He extended his own lodgings around the Lanthorn Tower adding a new private chamber, a library and a long gallery; he also laid out a garden.
The reigns of the Tudor kings and queens were comparatively stable in terms of civil disorder. However, from the 1530s onwards the unrest caused by the Reformation (when Henry VIII broke with the Church in Rome) gave the Tower an expanded role as the home for a large number of religious and political prisoners.
The first important Tudor prisoners were Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher of Rochester, both of whom were executed in 1535 for refusing to acknowledge Henry VIII as head of the English Church. They were soon followed by a still more famous prisoner and victim, the King's second wife Anne Boleyn, executed along with her brother and four others a little under a year later. July 1540 saw the execution of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex and former Chief Minister of the King - in which capacity he had modernised the Tower's defences and, ironically enough, sent many others to their deaths on the same spot. Two years later, Catherine Howard, the second of Henry VIII's six wives to be beheaded, met her death outside the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula which Henry had rebuilt a few years before.
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One of the main attractions at the Tower are the Crown Jewels, which have been housed there since the 14th century. They are still used by the Queen and the Royal Family and they can be viewed at close quarters.



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