Sunday, 25 October 2009
The Tower of London
Out of the gloom by the outer gate comes a pale, flickering light accompanied by the faintest jangling. A Yeoman Warder in his red jacket appears & disappears under a gate heading towards the White Tower, appearing again accompanied by 4 footmen. Together they march back to the furthest gate and begin the centuries old ritual of locking the Tower for the night. Doors locked, they march in formation back towards the Inner Ward down Water Lane, their footsteps echoing in the quiet night.
Suddenly the peace is broken by a shout: "holt" demands the Sentry posted by Traitor's Gate. "Who approaches?".
"Keys" comes the response? "Whose keys?" he demands. "Queen Elizabeth's keys" they reply.
And so they are allowed to pass towards the White Tower where the ceremony ends with a lone trumpeter playing the Last Post.
On Friday I went with the W.I to the Tower of London to witness the Ceremony of the Keys which is the ceremonial locking of the Tower which has happened daily since the 1200s and for a night tour of the Tower. It is a fascinating place built and evolved by many Kings of England and has housed some very famous prisoners (and executions). Two of Henry VIII's wives are buried in the church. Guy Fawkes was tortured at the Tower after being discovered at the Houses of Parliament. Even as late as the middle of last century the Kray Twins were held at the Tower for failing to report for national service.
It is also a beautiful reminder of old-fashioned London. I had never thought to visit but if you get the chance, I highly recommend it.