This huge stone fortress on the North Bank of the River Thames was built by William the Conqueror shortly after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Its fascinating history has captured the imagination of millions, and 950 years after its construction it is a recognised world heritage site, and one of London’s most visited tourist attractions.
Over the centuries the castle has served as a royal palace, a prison, a treasury, an armoury, and has housed the Royal Mint. In 1471 King Henry VI was murdered in the castle, and a decade later the two “Princes in the Tower”, sons of Edward IV mysteriously disappeared during their imprisonment there, believed murdered by their uncle the Duke of Gloucester, crowned shortly afterwards as Richard III. Three queens of England were beheaded within the Tower of London’s walls, including Lady Jane Grey, queen for just nine days, who was sentenced to death in 1553 a mile away at London’s Guildhall.
The Tower houses the world-famous Crown Jewels, the name given to the collection of 140 jewelled objects, set with over twenty thousand gemstones, that make up the regalia of the British Royal Family. These objects have been stored in the Tower of London since 1661 and incorporate some of the world’s largest and best-known diamonds including the Cullinan I, also known as the Great Star of Africa, which is set in the Royal Sceptre, and is the world’s largest clear cut diamond.
Entry tickets to the Tower of London give visitors admission to all the principal visitor experiences within the castle and its walls, including the Mediaeval Palace, the Bloody Tower, the White Tower, the Battlements, the “Torture at the Tower” exhibition, and of course the Crown Jewels. Tower of London Tours, included in the admission price, and led by the Yeoman Warders (“Beefeaters”) normally take place about every half hour until around 2.30pm, but may currently be suspended due to Covid protocols. In this case, warders will still be situated at key locations to share and explain the Tower of London’s history.