In this post, we look at some of the stories surrounding the tower, and examine why the Tower of London should be one of your stops during your next London tour.
The real Tower of London
The Tower of London began as a mott-and-bailey castle built on Roman walls soon after William the Conqueror ascended to the throne in 1066. In 1077, William commissioned the first stone building on the site, the 90 foot White Tower. It is this tower that earned the whole site its moniker.
Today, the site, which is officially called Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, houses a complex of several structures including around 20 towers. However, it is still more popularly known as the Tower of London.
It isn't really a prison
The enduring reputation of the Tower of London is that of a prison, but that was not its original function. As its official name suggests, the Tower is a palace, and it was, in fact a royal residence at some point in its history.
This isn't to say that people weren't imprisoned at the Tower of London. On the contrary, several notable figures in the Kingdom's history were held in the castle's various towers, and many of them ultimately met their fate on the castle grounds. Among the most notable of these prisoners are queens Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey.
The Tower was still a grim and forbidding place
While the Tower of London was not originally a prison, it still deserves its reputation as a horrific prison. Several prisoners were executed there - Tower Hill served as the site for public executions, while Tower Green was reserved for Royal executions. The crypt of the White Tower also hides a dark secret: it once held torture chambers in its crypt.
With its grim the history, it's no surprise that many believe the Tower is haunted by the spirits of those who died there. There are reports that the headless shade of Anne Boleyn wanders through the corridors of the White Tower, and visits her own grave at the Chapel of Saint Peter ad Vincula. The screams of Catherine Howard have been heard behind the door of the room she was locked in before her execution, and the 16 year old Lady Jane Grey, who served as queen for a mere 9 days, has also been spotted in the castle.
Queens aren't the only spirits haunting the tower. The tortured screams of Guy Fawkes have often been heard echoing through the tower, and Thomas A. Becket has also been seen. The most famous ghosts of the Tower of London, however, may be the so-called Princes of the Tower, 12 year old Edward V and his 9 year old brother Richard Duke of York, who were imprisoned by Richard III to prevent them from taking his crown.
Learn more about the Tower
The ghosts roaming the castle aren't the only ones who have taken residence at the Tower. Roughly 150 people live in the Tower of London today, mainly the Yeoman Warders and their families. The Warders are responsible for the castle, as they have been since the reign of Henry VIII.
One of the responsibilities of the Warders today is guiding guests around the castle when the visit inside the Tower of London. They serve as expert guides, sharing tales about the castle and its residents, discussing the Tower's rich history, and otherwise entertaining and educating guests to the Tower. Meet the warders, and maybe the supernatural residents of the castle, when you take your Tower of London tour.