More commonly known as the Tower of London, Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. Built by William the Conqueror in 1078, it was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite.
Today the Tower of London is one of the world’s major tourist attractions and a World Heritage Site, attracting over two million visitors a year from all over the world.
The ancient custom of the Ceremony of The Keys, which involves the formal locking of the gates of the Tower of London, has been carried out continuously every night, without fail, for more than 600 years since 1340. At exactly 9.53pm, the Chief Yeoman Warder of the tower emerges from the Byward Tower wearing his long red coat and Tudor bonnet. He carries in one hand a candle lantern and in the other hand the Queens Keys. He meets the military escort, made up of members of the Tower of London Guard and together they secure the main gates of the Tower. Following this, the party makes its way through the Bloody Tower Archway into the fortress, where they halt at the bottom of the Broadwalk Steps. On the top of the Stairs, under the command of their officer, the Tower Guard present arms and the Chief Warder raises his hat to salute the Queen. He then takes the keys to the Queen’s House for safekeeping, while the Last Post is sounded. It is very relevant to secure the fortress for the night because, although the Monarch no longer resides at this royal palace, the Crown Jewels and many other valuables still do.
The Tower of London by night is a breathtaking backdrop of a wonderful evening. Before closing time, you can visit a Tudor chapel containing monuments to residents of the Tower and its prisoners, including those executed on Tower Green. Originally a parish church, the chapel was incorporated into the walls of the castle during Henry III’s expansion. Three queens of England Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey, and two saints of the Roman Catholic Church, Sir Thomas More and John Fischer, are buried here. Their headless bodies were buried under the nave or chancel without memorial until the 19th century when remains found in the nave were re-interred in the crypt. The chapel also has many monuments which commemorate officers and residents of the Tower who worshipped here. It remains a place of worship for the Tower’s community of 150 or so residents.
There are also night tours London for a thrilling evening. The London tower itself is the most haunted building in England. Its Wakefield Tower is haunted by that most tragic of English monarchs, Henry V1, whose weak and ineffectual reign ended here with his murder “in the hour before midnight” on 21st May 1471, as he knelt at prayer.
If you would like to see the Tower on the same day that you attend the Ceremony of the Keys, you’ll have several hours to kill between the Tower’s closing time and the ceremony. You can easily join a London night tour bus to see the city illuminated in the twilight. See London by night and enjoy the most distinguished and vibrant areas of this world renowned capital.