6. 23,500 jewels are held in the fortress today
The tradition of safekeeping the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom in the Tower of London is almost as old as the fortress itself. The first king to order the Crown Jewels to be kept there was Henry III, who ruled between 1216 and 1272. Initially, a specialized Jewel House was created to house the royal regalia, but it was demolished in 1669 and the precious royal ceremonial objects have been rehoused twice after.
Currently, they are stored in the Jewel House in the Waterloo Block, and the collection includes an 800-year-old Coronation Spoon, St. Edward’s Crown, the Imperial State Crown, and 23,578 gemstones. What a treasure!
7. The Tower was the location of several executions
Image Source: Shriram Rajagopalan/ Flickr
Being a prison since Medieval times, it follows that the Tower of London is an eerie place that had witnessed a lot of death and executions. Although the prison was there for nearly a millennium and had quite a lot of prisoners, the overall number of executions is relatively low – an estimated 400 people. Of the famous figures executed there was, as already mentioned, Anne Boleyn, as well as Jane Boleyn, William Hastings, and Jane Gray.
That said, the Tower of London has also seen several murders, the most famous one being that of two little Princes, Edward V and Richard, the only two sons of King Edward IV. After their father’s death and an ongoing battle for power, the two boys were held in the Tower for “protection”, but vanished under mysterious circumstances and were believed to be murdered to secure the throne for Richard III of England. The tragic story is widely known as the Princes in the Tower today.
8. A sea of ceramic poppies were ‘planted’ outside of the Tower of London in 2014
The red sea of flowers was part of the art installation titled ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ by artist Paul Cummins. 888,246 handmade ceramic poppies were hand-made by the artist, with each poppy representing a British military fatality in World War I. The poppies were then scattered on the moat of the Tower of London and displayed publicly as a powerful anti-war statement and an effort to raise awareness of WWI.
Reportedly, over 5 million people came to see the exhibition, and the poppies were later sold for £25, collecting an estimated £23 million to raise money for various charities related to armed forces.
9. Is it haunted? Certainly!
Image Source: Picous/ Wikimedia Commons
Given that you already know at least some of the fearsome stories of executions, imprisonments, and murders that have happened in this ancient castle, you’re probably wondering, “Is the Tower of London haunted?” Well, many people think so, and with all those stories going around, we have no idea how the Beefeaters live there, to be honest… For instance, several witnesses swear they’ve seen the ghost of a beheaded torso of Ann Boleyn, carrying its head in the arms and walking around the White Tower.
Others claim they have seen the Princes of the Tower and other famous figures that met their demise at the Tower, but probably the most mysterious ghost sighted at the Tower wasn’t even human at all. In 1816, one of the guards outside the Jewel House said he had seen a ghost of a bear running towards him; the poor guard reportedly passed away of fright just a few days later.
10. At least 6 ravens must live in the Tower of London at all times
Image Source: Norppa /Wikimedia Commons
Legend has it that in the 17th century, King Charles II was warned that the ravens leaving the Tower of London are a bad omen, a sure sign of the impending doom of the monarchy. Ever since then at least six birds arebheld captive in the fortress at all times as a sign of good fortune.
To this day, seven ravens are living in a specialized aviary on the Tower’s grounds. Their wings are slightly trimmed to prevent them from flying away too far whilst still allowing them to fly around the castle.