Monday, February 4, 2013

The Tower of London

I've only a few more posts about London. Actually, my favorite sites/events happened towards the end of our trip (with the exception of Westminster Abbey). One of our favorite sites was the Tower of London. The history behind the Tower is quite interesting, at least to me. So today's post includes a mini-history lesson. (I love history. I love listening to Brittany talk about it. Sometimes I wish I could be one of her students. How weird would that be? I wonder what Ms. Burns would do with me whe I had to run to the bathroom constantly or when I dressed inappropriately. In my FLANNEL JAMMIES, of course! I wouldn't be caught dead wearing some--or most--of what the high school girls wear these days. Yikes! I am so glad my kids are already adults.)

On to the Tower of London: "For much of its 900-year history the Tower was an object of fear. Those who had committed treason or threatened the throne were held within its dank walls. A lucky few lived in comparative comfort, but the majority had to put up with appalling conditions. Many did not get out alive, and some were tortured before meeting violent deaths on nearby Tower Hill... Tower Green was where the aristocratic prisoners were executed, far away from the ghoulish crowds on Tower Hill. But only seven people died here--including two of Henry VIII's six wives--hundreds had to undergo public execution on Tower Hill."

It isn't all about blood and gore. There is a Queen's House on site which is where the "official residence of the Tower's governor" is located. In addition, "The Tower has been a tourist attraction since the reign of Charles II (1660-1685), when both the Crown Jewels and the collection of armor were first shown to the public. They remain powerful reminders of royal might and wealth." 

Photos were forbidden within the buildings. The weather oscillated between heavy downpours and small bursts of sunshine, so I only got a few decent photos outside. 
The next three photos are of the Jewel House. I found the contents of this building to be quite intriguing, as I hadn't really known much about the Crown Jewels.
"The Crown Jewels comprise the regalia of crowns, scepters, orbs, and swords used at the coronations and other state occasions. They are impossible to price but their worth is irrelevant beside their enormous significance in the historical and religious life of the kingdom. Most of the Crown Jewels date from 1661, when a new set was made for the coronation of Charles II; Parliament had destroyed the previous crowns and scepters after the execution of Charles I in 1649. Only a few pieces survived, hidden by the clergy of Westminster Abbey until the Restoration. 

"Many elements in this solemn and mystical ceremony [the Coronation Ceremony] date from the days of Edward the Confessor. The king or queen proceeds to Westminster Abbey, accompanied by objects of the regalia, including the State Sword which represents the monarch's own sword.
 The Jeweled State Sword, "one of the most valuable swords in the world."

"He or she is then anointed with holy oil, to signify divine approval, and invested with ornaments and royal robes. Each of the jewels represents an aspect of the monarch's role as head of the state and church. The climax comes when St. Edward's Crown is placed on the sovereign's head; there is a cry of 'God Save the King' (or 'Queen'), the trumpets sound, and guns at the Tower are fired. The last coronation was Elizabeth II's in 1953.
St. Edward's Crown

"There are 10 crowns on display at the Tower. Many of these have not been worn for years, but the Imperial State Crown is in frequent use. The Queen  wears it at the Opening of Parliament. The crown was made in 1937 for George IV, and is similar to the one made for Queen Victoria. The sapphire set in the cross is said to have been worn in a ring by Edward the Confessor (ruled 1042-66).
(2,800 diamonds, 273 pearls, other gemstones as well)

"The most recent crown is not at the Tower, however. It was made for Prince Charles' investiture as Prince of Wales at Caernarvon Castle in north Wales in 1969, and is kept at the Museum of Wales in Cardiff. The Queen Mother's crown was made for the coronation of her husband, George VI, in 1937. It is the only one to be made of platinum--all the other crowns on display at the Tower are made of gold.

"Apart from the Crowns, there are other pieces of the Crown Jewels that are essential to coronations. Among these are three Swords of Justice, symboling mercy and spiritual and temporal justice.

"The orb is a hollow gold sphere encrusted with jewels and weighing about 1.3 kg (3 lbs). 
The Orb, "symbolizing the powers and empire of Christ the Redeemer."

"The Sceptre with the Cross contains the biggest cut diamond in the world, the 530-carat First Star of Africa. The rough stone it comes from weighed 3,106 carats." 

Dude, that is some serious bling.

Okay, maybe there was more blood and gore than I attributed to the Tower of London. Here's a bit about the legend referred to as Princes in the Tower. "Now explored in a display in the Bloody Tower, one of the Tower's darkest mysteries concerns two boy princes, sons and heirs of Edward IV. They were put into the Tower by their uncle, Richard of Gloucester, when their father died in 1483. Neither was seen again and Richard was crowned later that year. In 1674 the skeletons of two children were found nearby." Nice guy, that Richard of Gloucester. He only reigned for two years before he was killed in battle, which you can read about here. (Just FYI, all of the above quotes are from DK Eyewitness Travel: London, pages 154-157. Copyright 2012 by Dorling Kindersly Limited, London. I found the photos of the Crown Jewels on Google Images. Links are provided)

And, of course, Miss Emma wanted a silly photo. :)
That's is for the Tower of London. Up next: My Squealishly Wonderful Day in London!

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