A group of people stand next to a catapult

Our group chills by a catapult outside the Tower.

The Tower of London is known for its history of bloodshed and mystery; the Tower was used to house traitors to the crown and most were beheaded for their crimes. The most famous of beheadings was that of Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife to Henry VIII. Our tour of Tower of London, a place full of history and bloodshed, started with Mark, our beefeater guide, who made fun of anyone who wasn’t from London, saying “Australians, welcome home!” and than quickly progressing into a story of one of our own being beheaded for treason. All of that was just in the first five minutes. Now some of you may be asking, “What’s a beefeater?” I know I was. The beefeaters are the Tower yeomen, former military men who have retired from service and now live on Tower grounds with their families, giving tours and taking care of the Tower ravens. The name is believed to have come from the point in time where the yeomen were allowed to eat as much beef as they wanted from the king’s table.

Between sarcastic insults– “America, you had your chance to be part of this empire!”– Mark continued to lead us through the Tower, telling us of its torrid past and the mysteries involved there. Most prisoners held at the Tower during their imprisonment were actually beheaded at a hill a little way away from the Tower.

Besides the killings that happened there, the Tower was also where the Monarchs imprisoned the enemies to the crown. King Richard III had his two nephews, the eldest being the rightful heir to the throne, kept there for “safe keeping.” Both disappeared never to be seen alive again, thus leaving Richard III with the crown. The boys’ bodies were later discovered but no one is sure who ordered their deaths and there are multiple suspects.

Flocking all over the Tower grounds are the ravens of the Tower, and they are huge. The ravens are the official birds of the Tower and they have been there since Charles II’s reign. It’s said that if six of the ravens leave the Tower it’s sure to fall. You can also see all the different torture techniques they used on prisoners to get information from them.

But by far one of the best parts, the crowning moment if you will, was seeing the Crown Jewels. I don’t have any pictures of those because photography was not allowed, but trust me when I say they were gorgeous. Everything from ceremonial swords, past crowns, scepters and jewelry belonging to past monarchs to the scepter and crown the Queen used at her own coronation were on display for our viewing pleasure. Let me tell you, they were pretty much every girl’s dream and the perfect way to end our time at the Tower.

–Maggie Williams