The Tower of London has a history dating back over 1,000 years. It was founded by William the Conqueror in the 1070s and took about twenty years to finish. The Tower is a complex of buildings and fortifications, including the White Tower, which is the central and oldest part of the complex. The White Tower is an example of Norman military architecture and has served various pruposes throughout its history. The White Tower is one of the twenty-one towers which, together, form the Tower of London castle complex.
Malory tells us that when Mordred after seizing the throne of Britain, announced his intention to marry Queen Guinevere, she fled and barricaded herself in the Tower of London to escape him, so it had to have been around in Arthur’s time. Mordred arrived and besieged it, using cannon, but he had to break off the attack to meet the army of King Arthur at Dover.
There is a story that England will fall if ever the ravens abandon the Tower of London. The head of Bran the Blessed was said to be buried beneath the White Mount, according to the Welsh Triads, which might be the origin of the story.
Tower of London | History
Norman Conquest | 1066-1070s
The Tower of London was founded by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, following his victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The White Tower, a central keep, was constructed as a symbol of Norman authority and control over London. It was completed around 1078.
Early Uses | 11th – 12th centuries
In the years following its construction, the Tower served multiple purposes, including a royal residence, military fortress, and prison. The White Tower, with its thick stone walls, was designed to impress and intimidate.
Plantagenet and Tudor Periods | 12th – 16th centuries
The Tower of London played a significant role during the Plantagenet and Tudor dynasties. It was used as a royal residence, and it witnessed the imprisonment and execution of numerous notable individuals, including Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, and Lady Jane Grey, who was briefly queen of England.
Expansion | Late 16th – 17th centuries
The Tower underwent various expansions and renovations over the centuries, including the addition of the outer curtain wall and the construction of the Waterloo Block to house the Crown Jewels.
Use as a Menagerie | 13th – 19th centuries
The Tower housed a menagerie of exotic animals, including lions, polar bears, and elephants. These animals were often gifts from foreign monarchs and served as a form of entertainment for the public.
Modern Times | 18th – present
The Tower ceased to be used as a royal residence and military stronghold and gradually transitioned into its role as a historic site and tourist attraction. The Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) became responsible for the Tower’s security and providing tours to visitors.
The Tower of London has been the official home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom since the early fourteenth century. The Crown Jewels are displayed in the Jewel House and are a major attraction for tourists.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Tower of London was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 due to its historical and architectural authenticity.
White Mount | The Legend of King Arthur
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470