The Tower of London was built in 1098 and the Royal Jewels have been kept there since 1303. A few people at a time are let into the room where they are kept. We saw the official crowns all the kings and queens. (They each get a new one) and lots of other jewelry, gold tea sets, enormous punch bowls made of gold and inlaid with jewels, and a lot of extra jewelry, place settings, scepters, and so forth. A film of the most recent coronation (oh so many years ago) ran in the background. When the Queen opens Parliament (or other official engagements), her crown is taken over there for her to put on and then brought back for storage and public viewing.
So much jewelry! I wondered whether Queen Elizabeth ever wakes up and wonders, for instance, where she put that big gold punch bowl that would be just perfect for this afternoon's tea party.
We went on a guided tour of the buildings, led by a member of the Yeoman of the Guards (aka Beefeaters). These guys have to be retired British Military with at least the rank of sergeant-major . Ours had the voice of a drill sergeant -- fortunately, because the tour group was huge. The tour, about an hour long, was a great over-view. The rest of the afternoon we explored on our own.
This would be a great place to teach kids about English history. It's scary and spooky, with lots of stairs to climb, the wonderfully entertaining Beefeaters, and lots of lawns to run around on. (The lawns have been filled in from what used to be moats around the tower prison)
Both of us remember when we were kids reading about the murder of the Little Princes in the Tower. (We read the story in The Book of Knowledge -- our generation's Internet, I guess.) Unlike the story we read, there are actually several theories about what may have happened to the poor little guys. Others, including Anne Boleyn and a couple other of Henry VIII's wives, were also executed here. But only the most important executions took place here. A lot of not so important people were imprisoned here though.
The Beefeaters and their families can still live in apartments in the Tower. I love this picture taken from the nearby public bus stop. It shows the back of the Tower and, obviously, the back of one of the Beefeater's homes. I can't quite imagine hanging my laundry above all this history -- but it's just home to these people, even if it is over 900 years old.