The Tower of London is one of the world’s most famous fortresses in the U.K. It has seen service as a royal palace, prison, armory and even a zoo! The ancient stones reverberate with dark secrets, priceless jewels glint in fortified vaults and pampered ravens strut the grounds. Construction of the Tower of London was initiated in 1070 by William the Conqueror shortly after his victory at Hastings in 1066. The Tower was built to enforce the power of the king over the newly conquered region. The fortress, strategically located at the Thames, was originally not more than a temporary wooden building, which was replaced later by the White Tower. Over time the complex was expanded into a stronghold with about 20 towers.
The massive White Tower is a typical example of Norman military architecture whose influence was felt throughout the kingdom. It was built on the Thames by William the Conqueror to protect London and assert his power. The Tower of London that was an imposing fortress with many layers of history was built around the White Tower. The ensemble of the Tower of London is a major reference for the history of medieval military architecture and a big symbol of royalty.
The most famous tourist attraction in the Tower of London is the collection of Crown Jewels. This collection has been on display since the 17th century and during the reign of Charles II. Most of the jewels were created around the year 1660, when the monarchy was reinstalled. However, the majority of the older crown jewels were destroyed by Oliver Cromwell. The jewels can be found in the Jewel House, which is part of the Waterloo Barracks just north of the White Tower. Some of the highlights of the collection are the 530 carat First Star of Africa, which is set in the Imperial State Crown Scepter of the Cross; the Imperial State Crown with more than 2800 diamonds and the famous Koh-I-Noor, a 105 carat diamond.
There is plenty more to see in the Tower of London, such as the Royal Armories, which includes the personal armory of King Henry VIII, one of the world’s largest armories. When in London on our London/Paris bus tour, you will have free time to explore the famous fortress.