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The History Of The Tower Of London In 1 Minute

Picture of Paula Koller-Alonso
Updated: 27 June 2018
With a millennia of history, the Tower of London is one of the most significant historical landmarks of London. Established in 1078, the Tower has withstood several monarchs, wars and even a various amount of exotic animals. Seen as the first prison, the first zoo and the first protector of the Crown Jewels, the Tower holds a wealth of British history, and medieval myths and stories.

In 1078, William the Conqueror wanted to build a place in which he could keep hostile citizens of London prisoners, in order to establish more law and order in the city. The Tower of London was then officially opened in the 12th century, and its first known prisoner was Ranulf Flambard. One of the most famous prisoners was some centuries later: Guy Fawkes.

After his failed attempt to blow up the Parliament in 1605, he was tortured and kept at the Tower of London. There were several executions that took place in the Tower, including Henry VIII’s former wife Queen Anne Boleyn who was beheaded in 1536. Although the last official execution was in 1780, spies and enemies during World War I and II were held in the Tower, tortured and, at times, even executed.

Courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces/
Courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces/ | © Historic Royal Palaces/ | © Historic Royal Palaces/

The Tower was, for medieval times, built with high security. The building was protected with Roman walls on two of the sides and included ditches on the north and west sides of the Tower, which were up to 7.5 metres wide and 3.4 metres deep. Not to mention, the pet polar bear was allowed to swim and catch fish in the ditches.

Polar bears weren’t the only animals that resided within the Tower of London. European monarchs often exchanged living gifts in order to show their gratitude, respect their friendship, or after a wedding of two nobles. This is why in the 13th century the first exotic animals started living in the Tower. Gifts included a polar bear from King Haakon of Norway, a lion from Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and an elephant from King Louis IX of France.

Nowadays, the Tower of London has been opened to the public and includes an exhibition showcasing the Crown Jewels. As well as this, there is an annual art installation of a sea of ceramic poppies, which started as honouring the 100-year anniversary of Britain’s first involvement in World War I.

📅 Winter: Tuesday to Saturday 9AM-4.30PM, Sunday to Monday 10AM-4.30PM

📅 Summer: Tuesday to Saturday 9AM-5.30PM, Sunday to Monday 10AM-5.30PM