Each trip is a way to discover the history of a country. In my opinion, we can’t understand someone’s culture without knowing the history. Looking at the past allows us to understand the present and, even more important, to foresee the future of a nation.
My visit of the British capital city (read also this article : 5 best things to do in London) included an immersion in the history. I definitely could not leave the city without a
small detour to the Tower of London.
The well-guarded Tower of London
You can visit the Tower by yourself or opt for a guided tour of 60 minutes (in English only) with the halberdiers of the Royal Guard. Also known as “Beefeaters“, they have been living in this iconic monument since the fourteenth century. They are the suitable people to tell you more about all the amazing stories, the best kept secrets and bloody dramas that have occurred here. I urge you to opt for this tour. There are about thirty halberdiers. They guard the Tower, tell stories to the tourists and take care of … ravens ! According to the legend, if all the ravens fly away, the Tower collapse. Therefore, the halberdiers take care of seven ravens (6 incumbents and 1 replacement) everyday.
Interesting fact : During some times, there were a lot of exotic animals (lions, bears, elephants, …).
The white tower of William the Conqueror
Romans were already interested by England and especially by London’s area. Actually, they founded and fortified (200 A.D.) the city, but, the first tower was built by William the Conqueror. Indeed, after the defeat of the king Harold Godwinson in the battle of Hastings, William ordered the construction of the white tower to celebrate the victory and his return in London. Meanwhile, William the Bastard fought against the last rebels of the country. The Great Tower was built with rocks directly imported from Normandy. It was achieved in 1100 A.D.
The tower of London in medieval times
The Westminster palaces were more comfortable than the Tower of London. Consequently, the royal family never spent too much time there. Nevertheless, this landmark never ceased to expand and grow stronger. Richard the Lionheart (1189-1199), his brother King John and Henri III ordered the construction of new towers, moats, defensives systems, …etc. Each king made a contribution to the edifice. After the House of Plantagenet came the reign of the House of Tudor !
The House of Tudor
Maybe you already have heard things about this royal family. Indeed, the story of this house has inspired novels, tv shows and even movies. The well-known Henri VIII is famous for his incredible love affairs. His marital life was turbulent.
His first wife was the queen Catherine of Aragon. He had one daughter from this mariage : Mary I. She will be queen herself. And this mariage was obviously going to failed. But you are surely wondering “Why ?”. Well, let me explain it to you. Catherine was his brother’s wife. And now, you said “WHAT THE F*** ?”.
Explanations : Henry became king after the death of his brother. That is why he married his wife. Well, that’s disgusting… But for this period of time, it is normal.
The first problem was the infertility of his wife Catherine. She didn’t give birth to a boy (and she was growing older). Moreover, Henry VIII was unfaithful. He had an affair with Mary Boleyn. But he fell in love with Mary’s sister, Anne Boleyn. More ambitious than her sister, Anne refused to be the king’s mistress. She wanted to be her queen. Henry, madly in love, has to find a solution to marry Anne and maybe she will give him an heir. So he asks himself :
- Do I have to légitimante the bastard of Mary Boleyn ? But I am not sure he is my son, even if he looks like me.
- Do I have to wait until my daughter Mary give birth to a boy ?
- Do I have to make Catherine disappear in order to marry Anne ?
What a difficult choice to make !
The pope can’t authorize the divorce. Henri VIII sulked in a corner for a while. What to do when your are the king ? You do whatever you want … The English church broke away from the papal authority. That was just the beginning of the English Reformation.
Anne et Heny finally get married. The new queen gave birth to a girl, Elizabeth. She will become queen after the death of her half-sister Mary I. Henri VIII obtained what he wanted so badly (Anne’s virginity) so he will come back to his old habits : infidelity.
However, the new queen was jealous. The tension was palpable in the couple. Henry wanted a son. He also wanted to make out with his mistresses peacefully (Anne doesn’t want to give a son to her king, she is so mean !) so Henry charged Anne of adultery, incest and even betrayal. You better not mess with that guy… Anne is sentenced to death and executed in the Tower of London. But, the king was kind (lol) to her. He chose beheading instead of death by fire. Another kind gesture : she will be executed with a sword instead of an axe. This way, her death will be quicker. Thanks the king for this act of love !
Henry VIII did not stop here. He had six wives and a lot of mistresses. After the unfortunate Anne, he married Jane Seymour. She gave him the long-awaited son and heir : Edward VI. But Jane died soon after delivery from an infection. That’s so bad, the carnage could have been stopped here…
His next wife was Catherine Howard. I have to tell you something first : this Catherine was Anne’s cousin. Anne Boleyn’s cousin … What the fuck is wrong with this guy ? She was his fifth wife. She was a teenager when she married the
old pervert king. He was about fifty years old then. The old man (for this epoch) limped and stank because of a badly healed injury. Catherine was accused of adultery. We can’t blame her fort that. Middle Ages was not a very egalitarian epoch. The king can be unfaithful but not the queen. She was also charged of betrayal. She has been executed by beheading in the Tower of London.
Indisposed by the gout, obese and still affected by its suitante wound of pus, Henry get married for the last time. Finally ! He married … Catherine Parr. Well, this guy is a little bit obsessed by this first name. She was lucky enough to survive until the death of Henry. But,
life was very fun in this time, she died soon after delivering her child with her second husband. I will not be surprised if her last words were “Life’s a b*tch” !
The Tower of London has been the stage of several tragedies and unbelievable stories. That is why I love this place so much. That is better than watching Game of Thrones. There is even more secrets ! I hope this article was readable and that I gave you the envy to visit this monument.
Documentary sources : book bought on site and wikipedia.org