Thursday, 2 August 2007

Tower of London

Yesterday morning I met Dave and Katherine and family at the Tower of London. I have been there once before and it was a memorable visit for me. Mum and Dad took us when we lived in Scotland; I think I was thirteen at the time. I still remember a picture Mum took of Paul with his head on Anne Boleyn's chopping block.

The Tower is built on a little mound alongside the River Thames. The Traitor's Gate is an entrance from the river, through which a barge could be rowed, carrying prisoners accused of treason, for example. Only noblemen and women were imprisoned in the Tower, lower class prisoners were held elsewhere in the city in less luxurious accommodations.

The oldest part of the Tower of London (which is actually made up of quite a few buildings with 21 towers in total) is the White Tower, on which construction was begun in 1078. It housed the royal accommodations on its top floor, and included this darling little Chapel Royal where the royal family would worship.

The second-to-top floor of the White Tower was for the commander in charge of the fortress and his family, while the lower floors were meeting rooms and the kitchens and store rooms. After several hundred years, the royals had other places to live and so the building was used as an armoury, the royal mint, the home of the menagerie, and as the records office. We saw loads of weapons on display there. Here Christeen and Andrew are learning about how different weapons were used.

Andrew tried on a Tudor helmet and Christeen tried on a Norman helmet. Dave and James look on, amused.

Dave got his chance later to try on some arm protection.

We saw the Crown Jewels--very sparkly as you may imagine. No pictures are allowed there, so you will have to imagine the huge diamonds and other gemstones set in gold crowns backed with purple velvet. There was a gold, highly decorated wine tureen there which had a basin the size of a paddling pool. We saw numerous gold platters, goblets, trumpets, and coronation items like maces.

I especially enjoyed the accommodation of Edward I, which included this very handsome bedroom with a tiled floor and painted and curtained walls.

A small chapel in a nearby room had these stained glass windows, my favourite part of the trip. There was no signage to let me know when they were added to the Tower, and I have to say, they don't look particularly old. The geometric designs are made with small portions of what looked to be glass taken from other windows.

After all this sightseeing we were exhausted. Here's the whole family leaning out over the walls, watching the Thames and other tourists flowing by.

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