Remember the elephant, shown in my last batch of pictures from the Tower of London? It used to be a custom of kings to have a royal menagerie as far back as the 1200s. So there was at least one elephant kept there. Because these animals were 'exotic', they often did not live long due to the ignorance of the people who were caring for them. The elephant, for instance, lived only two years before dying. Later reading explained that his keepers thought he was a carnivore and were offering him only meat.
The lions were rather an exception to the rule, breeding well in captivity.
There was a tragedy when two tigers were accidently released into a cage with a lion.
They killed the lion.
There was a polar bear, a gift from the king of Norway, who lived on the outer wall of the fortress and fished in the Thames. There was a sculpture of him as well, and I thought that I had taken a picture of it. If I did, I cannot find it.
There were also baboons. They roamed freely and sometimes attacked people, even killing them sometimes.
A later elephant attacked a guard and was killed by cannonfire.
The public was admitted to view the menagerie for a fee, but if they came with a cat or dog, they were given free entrance, and the animal fed to the carnivores.
Now there are only the ravens.
Legend has it that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, Britain and the monarchy will fall, so one of the Yeoman Warders is appointed 'Raven Master', and tends to the birds. The flight feathers on one wing are clipped to prevent them from flying away, but they are well tended birds who did not complain within my earshot.
(Funny note: Some of the ravens do talk and in 2003, Vladimir Putin was said to have been very uneasy when one of them wished him 'good morning!')
This is the building that houses the crown jewels. Photography is not permitted inside, so you will have to content yourself with a photo of the outside. We bought the book, but you can view a partial collection here. One of the duties of the yeoman warders is to guard these jewels.
As befitting a castle, there are knights. There was a little suit of armor made for a prince. That made me sad to see, actually. Such a tiny little thing, and it must have been horribly uncomfortable for a toddler. I found myself hoping that it had never actually been worn.
This lance was about 16 feet long, if memory serves me. I always wondered how a knight managed to hold on to one of these, let alone knock someone off their horse with it.
I found the answer. They're hollow.
Also inside the 'white tower' as the castle proper is known,
you viewed the bedchamber of King Richard I
and the chapel just off his bedroom.
For every story that I can tell you, there are scores more that I don't know.
Two that I do know:
Two little boys, heirs to a kingdom, were taken by their uncle to the Tower of London where they were never seen alive again. In the room where they were held, they have piped in very soft whispering, almost inaudible. Walking into the rude and empty stone room and hearing that whispering gave me the shivers. Although it is assumed that they were murdered, there is no direct evidence to prove this, but we do know their uncle ascended the throne as King Richard III.
Sir Walter Raleigh was also imprisoned there for years before he was finally executed. His head was presented to his wife in a velvet bag and she kept it at her side for all her days. After her death it went to a cupboard under the stairs at his son's home. It was finally buried with the bodies of three of his grandchildren who died in an epidemic.
Standing there in the middle of hundreds of years of history and mystery, where a chapel stood watch over the site where hundreds were brutally murdered by rulers who prayed devoutly in little antechambers off their grand bedrooms, where ravens stand watch to preserve that monarchy and guards stand watch over its treasures, I have to admit to awed goosebumps.
Such gore galore! I'm sad for the all-meat elephant, and concerned about the odor of the head in the velvet bag. Is that why Crown Royal booze is purchased in velvet bags? Can they send a potty-mouthed raven to Putin now? Linda in KansasReplyDelete
There are many sad stories contained within those walls, animal and people alike. I don't think the ravens swear, although some of them have been discharged from service to her majesty. For what crimes, I am not sure, but at least they are not being beheaded.Delete
I remember having goosebumps, too. It's a magnificent place to visit! (I'm not thinking about that admittance to the menagerie) -KellyReplyDelete
Kelly! Did you try calling me? I had your name on my ID. It did not provide a number though, which was confusing. If it was you, call again!!!!Delete
I just looked back and I did!! I'm not sure how I accidentally hit call, but I remember quickly cancelling. That might be why it didn't register my number. I also remember talking to you once many years ago. You were thoroughly entertained by my southern accent! -KellyDelete
A call from Kelly would not have been unwelcome!Delete
When I last visited we went into the little room which houses the Crown Jewels, and it is small! I was fine until a group of tourists all crowded in behind me and my claustrophobia kicked in, big time. I panicked and had to push and shove to fight my way out.ReplyDelete
They have conveyor belts now to keep people moving.Delete
So much history in one building.ReplyDelete
It's like a whole walled village really. There is a military museum there. I believe that there might even be two, actually. It's a pretty amazing place. We spent four hours there, and could have spent even longer...and still not see it all.Delete
Funny, after all these years of reading history, I was under the impression that Raleigh had touched foot on American soil in Virginia but according to Wikipedia, he never did. The closest he came was South America.ReplyDelete
John Smith also wore one of those fancy ruffed collars. But your news surprised me too. Whatever did we do before the internet? Stewed in our own ignorance, I suppose.Delete
I never knew the tower ravens could talk! I'd also forgotten the story of Sir Walter Raleigh's wife carrying around his head. Like your first commenter, it made me think of whiskey in the purple velvet bag!ReplyDelete
I believe that some do, but I believe they are exceptions, not the norm. But it was a funny story about Putin. If I was carrying around Tim's head in a velvet bag, I'd need the whiskey in the purple velvet bag, and I'd just have to hope to God that I didn't get the bags mixed up when I needed a good jolt.Delete
It is a nice reminder of our visit. I think I took photos of the crown jewels. Lordy, I could have punished by being locked in the tower. Great photos, thanks.ReplyDelete
Perhaps it was not always against the rules. The idea of you locked away in a tower cell, carving some pitiful saying into the stone walls to be remembered by conjures up quite a picture. But don't you think a couple months in the tower might be appropriate for a mother who teaches her son to pick flowers in a public garden might work?Delete
This is great, Debby. You are doing a good job of sharing your trip with us. So much information! Well done!ReplyDelete
To be honest, I read a lot. I brought back a lot of stuff and I look on line to make sure that my memory serves properly. I'm putting this together for my own sake as well as your entertainment.Delete
I remember the story of the two princes or at least that there is a story, but I always forget the details.ReplyDelete
Google the two princes, London Tower. I know that I will forget details too. That is why I am writing it down.ReplyDelete
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Thinking of you Pixie.Delete
I've found your posts on the tower of London very interesting. Some of our distant relatives were mean and not that bright.ReplyDelete
Hm.. some of my not so distant relatives still are...ReplyDelete
Nice to be back here! And it was nice this week to be back in London for the first time in two years - indeed, I was but a few hundred yards from the Tower! But you know - and I'm ashamed to say this - I have not been inside it since I was child, just as I have not visited St Paul's cathedral despite walking past it hundreds of times. The things we take for granted...ReplyDelete
England is a remarkable place, that's for sure, but I imagine that it is easy to write places off as 'tourist traps', and avoid them for that very reason: too 'people-y'.Delete
I imagine that I would get a serious case of goosebumps as well. Creepy but so fascinating as well. Thanks for sharing, Debby. Definitely piqued my curiousity and will do some Googling.ReplyDelete
If you want creepy stories there are plenty there, that is for sure.ReplyDelete
Totally off topic, Debby, and I hope you'll forgive me - but the author of the blog post on demographics won't let me say my piece - in reply to him or anyone else. Just wanted to let you know I am glad you (and Ms Moon) spoke up.ReplyDelete