Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tower of London

An ultramodern tower juxtaposed against the ancient.
A little over a thousand years ago, William the Conqueror built the first tourist attraction in London. He didn't build it to protect the city from foreign invaders, but it to protect his soldiers from the citizens whom he just conquered (hence the name). Over the years it's been built up, added on and upgraded. It's served as a royal residence, treasury, museum and jail.

The White Tower is the original structure. Once a stark fortress within the walls and moats, it was renovated numerous times. The area surrounding was also built up, beefed up, and tricked out. It was a royal residence for years until Cromwell had the more palatial aspects of the Tower removed.

The White Tower got its name from its white-washed walls.
These masks once appeared in the many suits of armor.
Royal family crest on the gates leading to the tower.

Details from one of the many wrought fences.
Many of the people who work at the Tower, particularly the Yoemen Warders, actually live withing the walls. They're all ex-military who spend a few years guarding the crown jewels and, formally, guarding prisoners. Today they're basically tour guides, but undoubtedly the most respected and well known tour guides in the world.

A bicycle leans against an interior wall lined with houses.
A Yeoman Warder greets the visitors as they arrive.
You'd never suspect that these buildings are inside a fortress.
The Tower ravens are much part of lore as part of history. Everyone knows the legend that if the ravens ever leave the Tower, the structure, the royal family and even England itself will fall. There was a near miss during World War II when all but one bird perished. The Yeoman Warders breed the animals to maintain a good stock of a dozen or so birds.

One of the clipped ravens that inhabit the grounds.

One of the pleasant surprises in the Tower is the inclusion of animators, dressed in period costume, performing the roles of famous visitors and prisoners. They're all local actors with a strong interest in history.

Sir Thomas Moore's daughter chats with another animator.
Oliver Cromwell gazes suspiciously upon the well dressed tourists.
The blade atop the halberd carried by one of the animators.

The Tower was home to many prisoners over the years, so it's easy forget that it was not a prison but also a royal residence. Some of the rooms have been decorated to remind us of that.

A glorious bedroom within one of the numerous towers.
A sunlit alcove.

A locked wrought iron door within the White tower.

When I found out that the traditional guards were replaced by visiting guards, I was disappointed. However, as soon as I saw the white uniform with a silk wrapping, I was quite pleased. I saw these fellows outside the royal residence in Kuala Lumpur a few years ago.

A Malaysian soldier guards the entrance to the crown jewels.
Boots from the East shine as brightly as boots from the West.
A Yeoman Warder clears the way for the changing of the guards.
The guard captain shouts his orders.

A young woman gets photographed with a Yeoman Warder.
At the end of a shift, a Yeoman Warder takes a well-deserved rest.

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