Europe Photoblogging, Part 5: The Tower of London
By Dwip September 12, 2014, 4:10 pm Comments (0) RSS Feed for this post

The guy whose statue you see giving the “I don’t know” shrug is the Roman emperor Trajan, and behind him is some of what remains of the Roman city wall around London, which back in the day marked the boundry of the city, but today is just sort of in the middle of everything next to Tower Hill Tube station.

This was one of the first things I saw on my 4/2/04 trip to the Tower of London, which was the first of many weekly trips organized by AHA to give us students some sense of all the cool places to go in England. We did one of these most Fridays, with a few three day weekends scattered in between. I talk about it in the 4/2 section of this post.

That’s the Tower of London itself, as seen from Tower Hill across the A100. As you can see, if you were expecting just a tower, well, not so much. In reality, this place is a fortress, still with areas cleared along the entire wall and the whole bit:

Inside the Tower now, this is the Jewel House, where they keep, and you’ll never guess this, the crown jewels and other assorted regalia. Sad to say I don’t remember a damn thing from the interior, though I was apparently impressed at the time.

This is the White Tower, which is supposed to have got its start during the reign of William the Conqueror, who is a man you may perhaps have heard a thing about that one time. Over the centuries, as the Tower became a more and more central thing and more built up, it also got more and more ornate at parts.

That said, one of the neat things about getting your way into the White Tower is that big wooden staircase there, which is indeed how they used to do that sort of thing in the bad old days when people got sieged regularly. Presumably if they wanted and the French armies were beating at the door, the Tower guards could still fire the staircase and retreat inside.

This is the Tower Bridge, an 1890s construction that was a lot of fun to walk across after we did the whole Tower of London tour. I’m mainly showing it to you now because it wraps up the exterior portion of our photographs and because dramatic clouds and lighting.

Much of the White Tower is filled with arms and armor. This is a suit of plate mail armor and barding belonging to one or other of the King Henrys, though I can’t tell you which one because I wasn’t smart enough to take a picture of the plaque.

This one is me coming down a staircase into a room filled with guns. Lots of guns. These are nice decorative columns full of various sorts of pistols.

Another wall in the same room has a bunch of swords, some daggers, and various rifles and pistols. Folks, if you’re going to display your expensive centuries-old weapons, this is the way to do it.

This rack full of rifles and bayonets is impressive, definitely the most impressive I’d seen up until Sarah and I hit Springfield, Massachusetts in 2009.

At the time I was looking at this, it was labeled as being the block and axe used to behead Anne Boleyn, though at the very least it was used for public executions in the 18th century until they stopped doing them.

There are also various walls full of moderately brutal-looking polearms. That one in the middle is labeled “King Henry the VIII’s Walking Staff, which knowing Henry VIII seems like the sort of thing he’d go and do. In the event, getting whacked with it appears like it would be painful, which I guess is the point, so to speak.

This particular lineup is apparently called the Line of Kings and is more famous than the random line of wooden royal horses than I was giving it credit for. I’ve seen some pictures of this with actual guys in armor on top of the horses, which I’m rather jealous of.

That said, do you like armor? There is armor here.

In amongst all of the firearms and armor and polearms are a bunch of assorted cannons and mortars, which as you can see are all fairly hefty and iron and such. Some of the mortars are big enough you could fit your head inside.

Aside from being a repository for the crown jewels and a whole lot of weaponry, the Tower has also had a long life as a prison. There’s an awful lot of graffiti in said prison where some guy spent a whole bunch of time carving out something extremely elaborate. There’s some extremely impressive stuff in here, demonstrating that way before spray cans were cool, your great-great-great-grandad was rocking it in the Tower of London.

This is the study of Sir Walter Raleigh, who most Americans know from the settlement of Virginia. He was also imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592 for carrying on an affair and having a scandalous secret marriage with one of her ladies in waiting. The couple spent a few months in prison before Sir Walter got released to go do some more daring deeds for Queen and country. He came back after a trial for treason in 1603, and stayed until 1616 when he was finally released. While there he wrote a history of the world, which is what this study is supposed to represent. He ultimately came back one last time in 1618, where he was executed by beheading.

This is the so-called Great Chamber of Edward I, who you may remember as the villain from Braveheart. I rather like it as an example of a well-appointed medieval room, with window seats, a nice fireplace, etc. I use a lot of pictures of this for modeling references.

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