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England: The Tower of London

December 16, 2015

The Tower of London is another one of those places that was pre-fixed in my memory from boyhood stories and photos.  I imagined it to look something like this photo below of the Armory, even though I was puzzled as to which part of the image comprised the actual “Tower.”

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I was impatient to see the place and so we arrived at 3 pm on our first day in London. This is by far the best time to visit; the ticket taker tried to discourage me from entering at the late hour and advised us to come back in the morning. However the crowds had thinned and we had an unimpeded look at the London’s richest historical site.

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We entered through the western gate, the route through which all tourists are funneled.

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The architeture, some of which is a thousand years old, is imposing enough, even with the ample evidence of rebuilding. This building is the home of the Britsh Crown Jewels. We had all the time in the world to gaze at the ostentatious display of royal wealth. No photorgraphy allowed, of course.

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Dark passageways abounded.

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And school kids looked befuddled, as kids do everywhere at such grown-up sites.

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I really wanted to find the room in which Ann Boleyn had been held captive prior to her beheading on 19 May, 1536. Astonishingly I couldn’t find this tidbit of information anywhere in the various tourist brochures or plaques on the grounds. Another boyhood dream dashed.

But we did see some places where prisoners were held and we took the opportunity to study the grafitti they created between torture sessions. Grim stuff. One gentleman, inkeeper Hew Draper, was locked up for “sorcery” in 1561 yet remained apparently unrepentant.

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Meanwhile other tourists thought it best to keep checking their Facebook pages or whatever.

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I strove to find symbols of the modern Tower and its place in British society. Here is a succint view of new London, the Tower walls, and the immigrants who keep things presentable.

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Finally I realized it’s not a place that Brits probably think much about these days. The Tower hides in plain view, in this case behind the windows of restaurant on the St. Katherine Docks, on the other side of an elevated roadway.

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As for Hew Draper, that unfortunate Tudor innkeeper, The Guardian speculates on his eventual fate as follows:

“What happened to Draper? No one knows. His death is not recorded in the Tower annals; nor is his escape, or his later life. Perhaps the occult experiment he was performing in the Salt Tower was a success and he vanished from captivity in a puff of smoke.”

 

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