Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Tower of London

The flight from Riga to London was only two and half hours and so after our early flight we still had time to get some sight seeing done before it got too late.  We decided to head to downtown London to see Tower Bridge...  

...and take a tour of the Tower of London.  I hadn't really realized that although people describe a singular "Tower" it is not really one structure and instead a collection of many smaller towers built through the centuries.

This is the thrown that the kings and queens sat upon when staying at the Tower.  It's not quite the Thrown of Swords but still...

The Crown Jewels are guarded in the Tower by Coldstream Guards.  They don't let you take photos of the jewels themselves...

...but we did get to see a changing of the guard in front of the Jewel House.

There was also a historical display detailing the possibilities of what happened to the Princes in the Tower.  Were they killed on the orders of Henry VII?  Was he murdered by Richard III?  Or were they not murdered and instead hidden away somewhere?  As you left the exhibit you got to vote for the answer that you thought was most likely.  It seems that we have a lot of good-hearted people who hope for the best possible fate for the Princes.

In the White Tower they are many historical displays including several devoted to warfare.  Here is one of the more interesting/disturbing pieces which is a set of armor made for a young boy...possibly a prince.  

And here is a closer look at the piece.

Also to be found in White Tower are many, many gifts that have been given to the Royal Family over many, many centuries.  Here's a gift from the United States government of a Great Plains Indians war bonnet.

There is also a legend about the Tower in that if the ravens that live on the grounds were to all leave then Britain would fall.  This seems like something that could easily happen until you learn that the Tower ravens have had their wings clipped.  

And the younger ravens that haven't been clipped yet are kept in a cage. 

Along those lines, the Tower has a rich history of housing many unique animals and some that you would be surprised to see ever see in England.  King Henry III received many exotic animals as gifts from other rulers during his reign and many were allowed to wonder around the Tower's grounds.  

As you walk around the grounds today, if you aren't paying close attention you might think some of those animals are still on the grounds.  

There are statues all around the grounds in honor of the past animals that lived on the grounds.  

There is one in honor of the polar bear which was a gift from the King of Norway.  The bear was sighted many times swimming in the Thames on a long chain.  

And as you enter and leave the Tower you are met by these three lions who were gifts from Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in honor of Henry's coat of arms which also had three lions on it

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