Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London is most famous for three things: the Crown Jewels, the Beefeaters, and the ravens. In addition, it is infamous as the prison that hosted such illustrious figures as Sir Thomas More and Sir Walter Raleigh and as the site of execution that witnessed the beheading of two of Henry VIII's wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. With a history that spans nearly 1,000 years, there is much more than this to explore and discover.
We will begin with a walk outside the tower and consider the oldest part of the structure, which was built by William the Conqueror in the 1070s. We will think about the strategic advantages to its location by the River Thames on the edge of the wealthy City of London and its role as a reminder to Londoners of the power and military might of the king. On entering, we will discuss the architectural developments of the Tower of London as a castle and a royal residence in relation to the political and social presence of the ruling monarch and the various messages of power that it conveyed.
At the execution site, we will remember those who were executed and imprisoned here on charges of treason and we will explore the question of why private rather than public executions were chosen and the political implications each sentence held. In hearing of famous prisoners like Guy Fawkes, who attempted to blow up Parliament in 1705, as well as in seeing examples of torture instruments from the past, we will discuss questions of imprisonment, torture, and execution.
On our tour we will also see the Yeoman Warders, or the Beefeaters as they are more commonly known, who are the ceremonial guardians of the Tower; the ravens that have been at the tower for over 300 years and the legend surrounding them; and the Crown Jewels, used in the coronation ceremony of each new monarch, which symbolize the divine right of kings. We will discuss these in relation to the authority conferred by tradition and to the narrative within the story of the tower. We will further explore this in relation to the Victorians and the many narratives they constructed, specifically looking at Traitor's Gate and the execution site, and in relation to contemporary narratives spun by the guides.
Then, depending on your preference and continuing along with the themes of power and authority, we can enter the White Tower, the oldest part of the Tower of London constructed in the 1070s, and explore the state-of-the-art Norman fortress and royal palace. We will see spectacular examples of Henry VIII's armour and discuss the functions of the medieval tournament and its chivalric ideals. Alternatively, we can explore the many other towers, perhaps seeing the graffiti carved into the walls by prisoners in the Beauchamp Tower (also know as the Bloody Tower), where two young princes were said to have been murdered in 1483.