The Tower of London
The White Tower
Overview and Introduction
Founded nearly a millennium ago, The Tower of London has been expanded upon over the centuries by many a king and queen. The first foundations were laid in 1078 and the castle has been constantly improved and extended.
The Tower of London is the oldest palace, fortress and prison in Europe. History has it that King Edward of England backed down on his promise to give the throne to William, Duke of Normandy and ended up giving the throne to Harold Godwinson, his English brother in law.
William, quite angry, sent his army across the English Channel to conquer England and on October 14, 1066 he met Harold at Hastings. The Duke's Norman warriors won the battle, and later that year on Christmas day Wiiliam was crowned king.
William decided he needed a stronghold to keep the unruly citizens of London in line. The site upon which William chose to build his fortress was the very same site upon which Claudius, the Roman Emperor, had built a fortress more than a thousand years before that and traces of the Roman wall are still seen within the Tower grounds.
The addition of other smaller towers, extra buildings, walls and walkways, gradually transformed the original building into the splendid example of castle, fortress, prison, palace and finally museum that we enjoy today.
The Tower began its life as a simple timber and stone enclosure. The original structure was completed by the addition of a ditch and palisade along the north and west sides. This enclosure then received a structure of stone, which came to be called The Great Tower and eventually The White Tower, as we know it today.
Around the year 1240 King Henry III made the Tower of London his home. He whitewashed the tower, widened the grounds to include a church, and added a great hall and other buildings. The Normans called the tower 'La Tour Blanche' [White tower].
The White Tower formed the basis of a residential palace and fortress suited for a king or queen. As history has shown to its occupants, the Tower of London became the perfect all-purpose complex. The Tower of London has been used as a fortress to protect a prison, used to imprison (for many an accused, it was the last sight they saw on earth), as a home for kings and queens, and as a royal mint and treasury.
Originally, the caps at the top of the four turrets were conical, but were replaced by the present onion-shaped ones in the sixteenth century. It was Henry III that renamed the entire area the Tower of London to White Tower. Although he used it as a prison, he continued to use it as a palace and entertained guests and many came with gifts of animals. These gifts were kept near the drawbridge where he built Lion Tower; a zoo where visitors would be greeted by roaring beasts.
Today it houses the Crown Jewels and is keeper to the Royal Ravens. The ravens are flightless birds due to the fact their wings are clipped and this tradition points to the superstition that the English still believe dating back from time of Charles II that when there are no longer ravens in the Tower both the White Tower and the Commonwealth of England would fall.
The Tower was a dynamic and changing project for the kings of England, king after king built upon the Tower adding walls and smaller towers (thirteen inner and six outer) and finally encircling it was a moat whose water was delivered by the Thames River.
Today the official title of the Tower is still 'Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London' although there isn't actually a Tower of London. It is not quite known when the name was first used but through the ages Tower of London has become the accepted term of description for the entire complex.
The Tower of London is a combination of buildings begun during the time of William the Conqueror. Originally built as a fortress, to keep hostile Londoners at bay it was also used to sight approaching enemies on the Thames River. It has been used as a palace, a library, a mint, a treasury, a bank, an arsenal and an observatory. The most famous reputation is that of a prison.
There are several towers within the Tower of London, the oldest part of the building and the most conspicuous being the White Tower [which was named during the 13th-century when Henry III had it whitewashed}. This is the central keep built by William the Conqueror and completed by his sons William Rufus and Henry I.
The walls of the White Tower are 15 feet thick and it is 90 feet high. Of interest is that one of the Four Corners (turrets) contained the first royal observatory. The White Tower currently contains the Chapel of St. John, one of the few unchanged areas where the Royal Family and the court worshipped and where the knights of the Order of Bath spent their Vigil the night before the king or queen was crowned. The White tower also contains an exhibition of arms, armor and torture instruments.
The Middle Tower was built in the 13th century and the archway, together with Byward Tower and Bloody Tower were defended by portcullises (spiked like gates), two of which are still there. The Bloody Tower was originally known as the Garden Tower. [The name Bloody Tower, however, is only traced back to 1571] It was here that two little princes Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, were supposedly murdered in 1483 with orders from Richard Duke of Gloucester, who was subsequently crowned Richard III.
Many years later, during the reign of Charles II, two sets of bones of young boys were found under a stairway (the presiding king ordered the bodies buried in Westminster Abbey) and thus the name Bloody Tower came about due to treachery and murder within its walls.
In 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh became a prisoner here - the period during which he wrote his History of the World, but he was kept "prisoner" in what was considered "comfortable circumstances". He was released in 1616 and died in 1618 when James I had him beheaded.
The Wakefield Tower is where Henry VI (founded Eton and Cambridge University) was brutally murdered. In 1471, during the time of the 'Wars of the Roses' - England's medieval civil war, he was stabbed to death while praying. The Wakefield Tower housed the Crown Jewels from 1879-1967 but it is now an empty tower.
Important prisoners were kept in Beauchamp Tower, where the inside walls are still covered with graffiti and inscriptions carved by the prisoners. The most elaborate is a memorial to the five Dudley brothers, one of whom was Lord Guilford Dudley, husband of Lady Jane Grey - the pair was executed in 1554.
The Tower Green is where two of Henry III's queens and several other people at his request were beheaded. It was a rare honor to be beheaded inside the tower; most people were executed outside on Tower Hill, so the crowds who enjoyed such events could get a better view.
The Traitor's Gate was originally known as Water Gate but the name was changed when it began to be used as a landing place for traitors. This is where the prisoner boats arrived, many hoping they would be ransomed or pardoned.
In more modern times, German spies were executed in the courtyards during the two World Wars, and in 1941, Hitler's deputy - Rudolph Hess, was actually imprisoned in the Tower.
The Jewel House is where you'll find the Crown Jewels, a collection of gold, silver, precious stones and other royal regalia. The Chapel Royal and St. Peter ad Vincula is the oldest chapel royal in England. It is in this chapel that most of those who died on Tower Hill and six of the seven executed on Tower Green were laid to rest under flagstones without ceremony.
Between the Chapel and Tower Green is a small paved area where a scaffold was erected for beheadings. The six people beheaded on the site were three queens of England: Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey.
The Queens House built around 1530, probably by the second queen of England and mother of Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn . She lived there only 18 days as a prisoner while awaiting execution and was beheaded on Tower Green for alleged infidelity. It is used now as the Council Chamber and it is here that Guy Fawkes was interrogated before being tortured on the rack in the White Tower and signing a confession incriminating his fellow conspirators. Adjoining the Council Chamber is a room in which William Penn (who founded Pennsylvania) was once a prisoner.
The Martin Tower was built by Henry III and is famous as the scene of Colonel Thomas Blood's attempt to steal the crown jewels. King Edward's son returning from abroad interrupted him and his accomplices.
The Salt Tower is another tower built by Henry III about 1235. Later it was used as a prison for Jesuits. It also contains a number of inscriptions, the most notable one being a complicated diagram for casting horoscopes cut into the stone wall . In several places on the walls a pierced heart, hand and foot have been carved signifying the wounds of Christ- with a cross and H the sign of the Jesuits.
The Bell Tower was built in the 13th century. In the past when the bell at its top was rung in alarm, drawbridges were raised, the portcullises were dropped and gates were shut. The only time the bell is now rung is in the evening to warn visitors that it is time to leave. Prisoners were kept in the tower.
One of the most famous was Sir Thomas Moore, who was at one time a close friend of Henry VIII. More refused to acknowledge the validity of Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon or acknowledge him as supreme head of the Church, and in consequence he was imprisoned there in 1534. He was executed in July 1535 and buried in St. Peters Chapel.
Later, one of Henry's own children was imprisoned there - princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) In 1554 Elizabeth was held by her half sister Mary I on suspicion of being concerned in a plot against the throne.
Critiques | Translate
mesutilgim (86574) 2011-03-10 0:57
Hi Csaba, my neighbour !
Amazing . Both the title and the entry.
Of course congratulations to your 400ty entry at TE.
TFS and best regards
snunney (86342) 2011-03-10 2:39
Firstly, congratulations on 400! We all have to go somewhere even the king:-) Good capture of this WC by royal appointment. Looks a bit cold to sit there too long!
Budapestman (82620) 2011-03-10 2:55
Rendhagyó fotó egy rendhagyó pillanathoz, sok jubileumi fotót láttam már a TE évek alatt, de Neked sikerült lepipálnod őket.. :))
Gratulálok négyszázadik fotódhoz, kellemes utazásokat, sok napfényes pillanatot kívánok Neked!
A fotó kompozícióját, színeit, hangulatát most nem részletezem, úgy jó, ahogy van...emlékszem, mikor itt jártunk komoly sorbaállás volt e királyi "kamra" előtt, természetesen fotózás miatt :)
timecapturer (49288) 2011-03-10 3:31
400th! well done. This is a strange one to choose for this milestone, but lets hope it is not an omen! Only kidding! Wonderful clarity and textures, one wonders how many BIG decisions were made sitting in this little room!
Sergiom (62832) 2011-03-10 5:16
Le seul endroit ou le roi se rendait seul. La place était quand męme lugubre et le peu d'aération devait garder les odeurs ŕ l'intérieur , ce qui explique le peu de décoration.
vasilpro (40997) 2011-03-10 15:13
Congratulations for the 400th photo on TE.
Interesting composition with excellent notes.
(Sorry but I am out of green smiling faces for today)
Warm regards, Vasilis.
jlbrthnn (76037) 2011-03-11 7:38
Congratulations for your 400 publications on TE. I like very much your photo which describes a funny detail of the Tower of London. The composition is good, I appreciate the depth, the light and the neatness. Bravo.
Have a nice day
bona (13101) 2011-03-11 9:19
I really like the note about Tower of London, a very amazing rich history this place have. But After read all your note, I can't see what you are showing from the tower, it looks a toilet to me. :)
Congratulations for you 400th.
Fis2 (87301) 2011-03-11 11:16
My congratulations for you 400th photo in TE!!!.
Good frame and composition.
Intertesting colors and light.
Nice place ;)))
Have a nice weekend.
Silvio1953 (125507) 2011-03-12 5:36
Ciao Csaba, congratulations my young friend for your wonderful 400th post on TE, original coiche to celebrate with a bathroom,, but we all use this place, beautiful perspective, splendid light and colors, excellent clarity, very well done, have a good week end, ciao Silvio
delpeoples (53543) 2011-03-15 3:48
Szia dear Csaba
Congratulations on your 400th photo. And you have shown us a royal latrine fit for a king. This is so funny! I love it. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, you have made me laugh and I wish you many years here on TE.
- Copyright: Csaba Witz (csabagaba) (6582)
- Genre: Places
- Medium: Color
- Date Taken: 2008-09-22
- Categories: Castles, Humorous, Ceremony, Architecture
- Camera: Sony DSC R1, ZeissVario-SonnarT*14,3-71,5 f/ 2,8-4,8
- Exposure: f/2.8, 1/30 seconds
- More Photo Info: view
- Photo Version: Original Version
- Date Submitted: 2011-03-10 0:54