Tower of London (16th century)

Tower of London (16th century)

The intriguing history of this historic castle spans nearly a thousand years.



London, Tower of London, Thames, raven, England, British Empire, London Bridge, Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, Henry VIII, House of Tudor, Edward I, tower, fortress, fortification, Great Britain, keep, inhabited bridge, William the Conqueror, rook, chapel, king, Norman, moat, palace, dungeon, 16th century, Middle Ages, modern history, execution, history

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  • On the bank of which river is the Tower of London situated?
  • When was the first building of the castle complex built?
  • During which king's reign did construction work start?
  • Which one is the oldest part of the Tower?
  • What surrounded the Tower?
  • Who established the settlement at the site where London is currently located?
  • What is the structure of the Tower like?
  • What was never built in the Tower of London?
  • After whom was Traitors' Gate named?
  • Is it true that each tower was named after a person?
  • What was the Bloody Tower named after?
  • What was never operating in the Tower of London?
  • Who was NOT executed in the Tower?
  • Which tower was commissioned by William the Conqueror?
  • After which animal was one of the towers named?
  • The ghost of which person is said to haunt the Tower?
  • Where were the nobles executed in the Tower buried?
  • After whom was the parish church of the Tower named?
  • Which one is the highest tower in the Tower of London?
  • How tall is the White Tower?
  • What kind of birds, surrounded by legends, live in the Tower of London?
  • What is the common feature of the corpses buried in the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula?
  • For how long did the Royal Menagerie functioned in the Tower?
  • Who built the Queen's House?
  • After what was the Lion Tower named?
  • Through which gate did the prisoners arrive in the Tower after their journey on the Thames?
  • After which profession was one of the towers named?
  • After which material was no tower named in the Tower of London?
  • What is the nickname of the Yeomen Warders?


Tower of London

  • River Thames - With a length of 346 km, it is the second longest river in the United Kingdom. The Thames flows through southern England into the North Sea.
  • London - The capital city of England and the United Kingdom was founded on the site of the Roman settlement of Londinium, which became the capital of Britannia province by the 2nd century.
  • inhabited bridge - Construction of the Old London Bridge was completed in 1209. During the reign of the Tudors the 8 m wide bridge had about 200 buildings on it.
  • White Tower - By commissioning the construction of the White Tower, William the Conqueror founded the building complex of the Tower.

William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invaded England in 1066 and his Norman troops defeated the English in a decisive battle at Hastings. William was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey the same year and took the name of William I. It was very important for him to consolidate his power so he built thirty-six fortresses over the following two decades.

The White Tower, a keep (or donjon) on the north bank of the River Thames was built on his orders. Besides providing protection, it also symbolised the power of the fortress that was developing around it. The Tower of London became the residence of the ruling monarch and it was extended and fortified over the decades by English monarchs, including for instance Richard the Lionheart and Henry III. The general layout of the medieval fortress has not changed since the end of the 13th century, when Edward I was occupying the throne. During the Tudor period, the royal residence lost its original function and was used instead as a prison, armoury and gunpowder store. This is why the Tudors had the Tower refortified and modernised.

Even though wars of the modern period left their marks on the Tower, it is still one of the most important tourist attractions in London.

The Tower of London is also famous for the Jewel House, where the Crown Jewels are on display; the guards, commonly known as the Beefeaters; and also the ravens residing within its walls.

Building complex

  • Tower ditch - According to historical sources, parts of the moat around the fortress were dug during the reign of Richard the Lionheart, but it was completed and filled with water from the Thames only in the second half of the 13th century.
  • moat surrounding the city - It was created for defence purposes. Its construction was completed in 1213.
  • outer ward
  • outer wall
  • White Tower - A concentric fortress.
  • inner ward
  • inner wall
  • innermost ward

The Tower of London is located on the north bank of the River Thames. The fortress was founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and the general layout of the medieval fortress has not changed since the end of the 13th century. Naturally, monarchs ruling after the 13th century also had the Tower refortified and extended. It was protected on all sides by a moat filled with water from the Thames. The concentric fortress was surrounded by two curtain walls, reinforced at intervals by bastions and towers.

White Tower

The White Tower is the oldest part of the Tower of London. The keep was commissioned by William the Conqueror and construction started in the 1070s.

It became the most secure location of the fortress that was developing around it, providing protection for the king and the nobles. It also became a symbol of power. Towers were built at each corner of the rectangular building. At the western corners there are square towers and a circular one at the northeastern corner. At the southeastern corner there is a semi-circular projection. The apse of St John's Chapel is part of this semi-circular projection.

The sidewalls of the White Tower are 36 and 32 m long at the base and measure 27 m in height without the towers. The original three-storey building comprised a basement, an entrance level floor and an upper floor. Similarly to other Norman keeps, the entrance was above the level of the ground. The southern gate could be accessed via a wooden staircase.

The first monarch to order the whitewashing of the White Tower was Henry III. He may have been influenced by the contemporary European custom of painting important buildings white.

Inner Ward

The walls of the concentric fortress divide the Tower into clearly distinguishable parts. The inner ward was where many important events took place, including executions.

Prisoners from lower social classes were publicly executed on scaffolds built on the streets; however, the nobles were beheaded privately within the Tower of London, more precisely on Tower Green. Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, who both had been wives of Henry VIII, were executed here. It is said of the former that her ghost haunts the Tower with her head tucked underneath her arm. The executed nobles were buried in the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula.

The Queen's House, probably built by Henry VIII, is also located in the inner ward. It was built for Anne Boleyn and has a very different style than the rest of the Tower. The second wife of Henry VIII spent some days here before her coronation as well as her last days before her execution.

Henry VIII

Henry VIII was the second son of Henry VII, the founder of the House of Tudor. After the sudden death of his brother, the heir apparent to the English throne, he became the next in line of succession. He was crowned king in 1509.

Henry VIII was a firm ruler of England who managed to strengthen the country's dominance in the world with his diplomacy and the wars he waged. However, his dream of ruling France was never fulfilled.

Initially, he had a good relationship with the Pope but later he broke away from the Catholic Church of Rome, established the Church of England, and became its head in 1534 when the Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy.

He introduced major political and economic changes which eventually led to the end of feudalism in England.

The Tower of London lost its original function during the Tudor period. It was used more as a prison and armoury than a royal residence but it still remained a secure fortress. During the reign of Henry VIII, a lot of money was spent on the modernisation of the Tower and the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.

Henry VIII was a well-educated man as his parents wanted him to pursue a church career. Nevertheless, he is probably most remembered for having six wives during his life, rather than for his intellect or his deeds done for the country.

Two of his wives were beheaded and one was forced to leave the court. Henry himself admitted to having felt true love only for his third wife, Jane Seymour.

According to historical sources, Henry VIII became a tyrant with age. He was obese and suffered from illnesses, all of which contributed to his mood swings. After Henry’s death, Edward, his son from Jane Seymour, ascended the throne and took the name Edward VI. However, the new king was too young to rule the country, so his uncle, Edward Seymour, governed as Lord Protector.


Ravens are native to Great Britain; they were becoming adapted to urban environment in the Middle Ages.

According to folklore, ravens have been living in the Tower of London for centuries, but it is impossible to determine accurately the time of their arrival there.

They were supposedly first attracted to the Tower by the smell of the corpses of executed prisoners; allegedly ravens were gazing at Anne Boleyn's execution in 1536, and were even seen 'pecking the eyes from the severed head' of Lady Jane Grey in 1554.

Another legend attributes the start of the tradition of keeping ravens in the Tower to Charles II. His astronomer, John Flamsteed complained that the ravens were flying past his telescope, obstructing the view. Flamsteed asked Charles to have the birds removed, but he refused, believing it would bring bad luck to kill a raven. So instead of getting rid of the birds, the observatory was moved from the Tower to Greenwich.

According to yet another legend, ravens appeared in the Tower after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Ravens were persecuted for scavenging, but Flamsteed persuaded Charles to spare the birds' lives, thinking that killing them would have meant the fall of the kingdom. Charles ordered that six ravens be kept in the Tower, with their wings clipped to prevent them flying away.

However, there are no historical records supporting these stories. The first printed proof of the ravens' presence in the Tower is an illustration, published in 1883 in a newspaper. Today historians believe that the ancient history of ravens in the Tower is only a legend, created in the Victorian era. Some claim the first ravens were simply pets of the staff. In the Second World War, however, the ravens played a very important role: they were used as spotters of enemy aircraft.

Whatever the truth is about their origin, the superstition about the ravens holds to this day and these large, black birds are highly esteemed in the Tower. One of their wings is still clipped to stop them flying away.



  • River Thames - With a length of 346 km, it is the second longest river in the United Kingdom. The Thames flows through southern England into the North Sea.
  • London - The capital city of England and the United Kingdom was founded on the site of the Roman settlement of Londinium, which became the capital of Britannia province by the 2nd century.
  • Traitors' Gate - Prisoners arriving by water on the Thames entered through this gate. From here, a staircase led to the Bloody Tower. Famous prisoners at the Tower included Anne Boleyn and Thomas More, among others.
  • White Tower - The oldest part of the Tower was built by William the Conqueror at the end of the 11th century. The fortified keep was also a symbol of power.


The historic Tower of London is a concentric fortress on the bank of the River Thames, built nearly a thousand years ago.

The first building of the castle complex, the White Tower, was erected at the end of the 11th century on the orders of William the Conqueror. The building complex was massively expanded over the centuries by other monarchs.
The general layout of the medieval fortress has not changed since the late 13th century when Edward I was on the throne. The tower was protected on all sides by a moat filled with water from the Thames. Towers and bastions are located along the two curtain walls.

Originally, the Tower was built as a royal residence but it eventually became famous as a prison. Many well-known people were held captive here and executed as well. Some of the prisoners entered the Tower through Traitors' Gate. The castle complex included a treasury, an archive, an armoury, an observatory and barracks.

From the 13th century onwards, exotic animals were also kept in the Royal Menagerie for 600 years. Ravens also became residents in the Tower over the years but not as part of the Royal Menagerie. Legend has it that 'if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it'.

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