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280

The Tower of London

Jul 15, 2022
History
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20
minutes

It is one of London's most famous tourist attractions, and it has an amazing history that not all tourists are aware of.

In this episode, we'll explore the bloody but fascinating history of London's oldest standing building.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about the Tower of London.

[00:00:27] It is one of the most famous monuments in the UK, with almost 3 million visitors every year. 

[00:00:33] And its story, the story of the Tower of London is full of gruesome tales of executions, torture and ghostly hauntings

[00:00:42] Not only this, it is also home to the dazzling crown jewels of the United Kingdom, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is actually the oldest standing building in London.

[00:00:54] And today we are going to tell its amazing story.

[00:00:58] Okay then, the Tower of London. 

[00:01:03] Our story starts just under 1,000 years ago, with the arrival of a French Duke of Normandy to England.

[00:01:11] His name was William, and he would later become William I, King of England, after he invaded and conquered England in 1066.

[00:01:21] Upon his victory, William needed to secure his reign, his rule, over the English. 

[00:01:28] As he feared an uprising against him, and he lacked the support of the people, he immediately ordered that the first fortifications be built on what is now the site of the Tower of London.

[00:01:41] While London and the south of the country had surrendered to William, he did not have the people’s loyalty yet, not everyone accepted him as king. 

[00:01:52] What’s more, the entire north of the country was still controlled by English lords who were determined to fight back against him. 

[00:02:00] So to protect himself and to make a sign to the English people that he was not someone to be messed with, someone to rise up against, William I did what kings and queens have done for centuries. 

[00:02:15] He decided to build an extremely secure fortress that would send a clear message to the people of the country. It would be built in a very different style, and with very different materials to the rest of London. 

[00:02:31] At the time most buildings in London were made of wood and fires were frequent, there were a lot of fires. 

[00:02:39] St Paul’s Church, for example, the precursor to St Paul’s Cathedral, burned down in 1087.

[00:02:47] William had grown up in Normandy, in northern France, and he knew one material that wouldn’t burn down. Stone.

[00:02:56] And in particular, a type of stone called “Caen stone”, a kind of light creamy stone from the city of Caen, in Northern France.

[00:03:07] William, perhaps unsurprisingly, ordered for his new palace to be built in this white creamy stone, which was brought over from France specifically.

[00:03:18] The site he chose stood on the remains of two Roman defensive walls, which William would use to shore up his defences, to reinforce the fort

[00:03:30] Around 1078, 12 years after the invasion, work began on what we recognise now as the White Tower, the most famous and oldest part of the Tower of London complex.

[00:03:43] Just to clarify, today, when you hear someone talking about the Tower of London, they normally mean the whole site which counts numerous buildings, not just the White Tower, but the White Tower is the main part of the Tower.

[00:03:58] It is a square shape, 36 by 32 metres, and rises up 29 metres into the sky. 

[00:04:07] By modern standards, it’s no skyscraper, but it was by far the tallest and most imposing non-religious building in the city, exactly as William The Conqueror intended it to be.

[00:04:20] Over the next several centuries, fortifications, defences, were added around the White Tower. 

[00:04:27] By the time of Edward I’s reign in the 14th century, the Tower of London boasted two defensive walls, plus a huge moat.

[00:04:36] A moat is the defensive ditch that was dug around castles and often filled with water, making it harder for invading soldiers to cross. 

[00:04:47] The Tower of London became England's strongest castle and it was home to sumptuous Mediaeval royal apartments where the King and Queen could stay. 

[00:04:58] Bear in mind that in mediaeval times, the monarch would frequently move between royal residences.

[00:05:04] Although a place called Westminster Palace was the main royal palace, the Tower of London was also an important residence for the monarch to stay in, especially in times of crisis, when the king or queen needed somewhere where they knew they would be safe.

[00:05:21] The Tower continued to be used as a royal residence right up until the time of the Tudors, the period from 1485-1603, although it was still common for the monarch, the king or queen, to occasionally stay there in later years for ceremonial reasons.

[00:05:40] But when people think of The Tower of London, it isn’t normally thought of as a “royal palace”. It’s most famous for being the place where enemies of the state were held, and then executed.

[00:05:53] While the Tower had also been used to house prisoners from as early on as 1100, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that it really became a prison in its own right

[00:06:06] Prisoners in the Tower of London were most often political prisoners. 

[00:06:11] While there were lots of other prisons in London, the Tower of London was the most secure prison in the country. 

[00:06:19] For this reason it was used for prisoners who were considered to pose a threat to national security or those who had been accused of treason

[00:06:29] Members of powerful noble families who fell out of grace with the monarch would all too often end up being locked in the Tower.

[00:06:38] And, as you might imagine, if you are a political prisoner who has got on the wrong side of the king or queen, there is normally only one way you get “out of prison”. 

[00:06:49] I don’t mean you were set free to go off and live your life elsewhere, oh no, English kings and queens weren’t usually so forgiving

[00:06:58] The journey of a political prisoner at the Tower of London would normally end in a public execution

[00:07:06] If the prisoner was a high ranking noble or had a lot of supporters, they might be executed at Tower Green within the Tower of London itself. 

[00:07:17] If the prisoner was not a noble, if they were a high-profile rebel, for example, they would be killed in front of a large crowd.

[00:07:26] Executions in front of the masses took place at Tower Hill just a little to the northwest of the Tower outside of the main compound

[00:07:37] By the 16th and 17th centuries, the Tower of London had become the most important and the most feared prison in the country. 

[00:07:46] So much so, that the phrase “being sent to the Tower” has become another way of saying being imprisoned, being put in prison, even today. 

[00:07:56] Now, you’ve probably heard of a lot of the prisoners who either spent time imprisoned in the Tower, or who ended up being executed there.

[00:08:06] William Wallace, the famous Scottish freedom fighter, was a prisoner in the Tower before being brutally executed in 1305.

[00:08:15] Guy Fawkes, the English conspirator who unsuccessfully attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, was also imprisoned in the Tower of London and subjected to excruciating torture in an attempt to make him say who else helped him. 

[00:08:32] Henry the VIII imprisoned two of his queens, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, in the Tower, before having them executed

[00:08:40] His daughter Elizabeth I would also spend a spell in the Tower before becoming queen.

[00:08:47] On a side note, we do actually have episodes on William Wallace, on Guy Fawkes and on the wives of Henry VIII, so if you haven’t listened to those and you weren’t aware that they existed, well they do.

[00:09:00] But The Tower of London wasn’t just for notable rebels or out-of-favour wives.

[00:09:06] In the late 15th century the Tower is thought to have become the final gruesome resting place for two young boys, two royal princes. 

[00:09:16] After their father, King Edward IV, died unexpectedly from illness, his 12-year-old and 9-year-old sons were kept in the Tower of London on the orders of their Uncle Richard, a man who would later become King Richard III. 

[00:09:32] Their uncle kept them in the tower supposedly for their own protection, until the 12-year-old prince was old enough to become king, but the boys mysteriously disappeared, and their uncle Richard became king instead.

[00:09:48] It has always been assumed that they were murdered as they were never seen alive after they were sent to the Tower, supposedly "for their own safety”. 

[00:09:58] In 1674, however, two skeletons that would fit the age of the princes were found buried under the staircase in the White Tower of the Tower of London. 

[00:10:09] The Tower was used less and less as a prison going into the 19th and 20th centuries, although Rudolf Hess, Hilter’s second in command, was imprisoned there during World War II as the last state prisoner. 

[00:10:23] The last person to be executed in the Tower, in fact, was a Nazi spy called Josef Jakobs who had parachuted into Britain, was discovered, sent to the Tower of London and was killed by a military firing squad in 1941.

[00:10:40] In a strange twist of fate, the Tower of London’s very last prisoners were the infamous Kray twins in 1952. 

[00:10:49] They were only in the Tower for a few days after failing to report for National Service, for military service.

[00:10:56] They were released, and the twins would go on to become London’s most feared gangsters. 

[00:11:02] If you’d like to learn more about the Krays and their murderous life of crime, by the way, you can listen to episode number 223. 

[00:11:11] Today, if you visit the Tower of London you’ll see this amazing castle steeped in history, but you will also see some slightly strangely dressed men and women, men and women normally wearing bright red clothes, a big black hat, and occasionally carrying a black bird in their hand.

[00:11:31] These people are called “Beefeaters”, and no story about The Tower of London would be complete without them.

[00:11:39] They aren’t officially called “Beefeaters”. They are called The Yeomen Warders, and they can trace their history back to Henry VII when he created this regiment as a sort of personal bodyguard.

[00:11:53] Why they are called “beefeaters” is a subject of debate. Some say it comes from the French, “Buffetier”, which is an old French word for a waiter or servant.

[00:12:05] Others say it comes because part of their salary was paid in beef.

[00:12:10] In any case, the Yeoman Warders, or rather the Beefeaters, continue to this day, and act as sort of ceremonial guards of the Tower and guides to tourists.

[00:12:22] The Beefeaters still wear the same uniform as they did in Tudor times and they live within the Tower complex, often joined by their families. 

[00:12:32] In the past, being a Beefeater could be passed down from father to son, but today, you have to have been in the British armed forces for at least 22 years and with at least the rank of an officer and have been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

[00:12:49] And contrary to popular belief, there are female Beefeaters too. 

[00:12:54] The role is traditionally held by men, but there have been three female beefeaters, including a lady called Moira Cameron, who is currently in the role.

[00:13:05] Aside from living in the Tower of London, the Beefeaters also have another very special perk - their very own personal Tower of London pub called The Keys.

[00:13:18] Not only is the pub private to Yeomen Warders only, it also sells two exclusive craft beers that are brewed just for them, with of course, the widely available Beefeater gin, of which they receive a bottle for their birthday. 

[00:13:34] The beefeaters are also responsible for the ravens of the Tower of London. 

[00:13:40] Ravens, by the way, are the large black birds that are prized for their intelligence and their ability to mimic, to copy, human voices. 

[00:13:50] They look a bit like big crows.

[00:13:53] The tradition of keeping ravens at the Tower of London dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th century. 

[00:14:02] While there had been ravens earlier, Charles II was the first monarch to insist that they were protected, appointing a Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster to care for them.

[00:14:13] Legend has it that there must always be a minimum of six ravens at the Tower or else the Tower and the monarchy will fall, it will collapse. 

[00:14:24] Naturally, it’s not a good idea to leave the fate of the Tower of London or the monarchy completely up to the ravens, so their feathers are cut so they can't fly to far.

[00:14:35] As a little fun linguistic aside, the collective noun for a group of ravens is an unkindness or a conspiracy - it's probably linked to ravens often being considered to be unlucky or creepy.

[00:14:50] Now, just to conclude this episode, I wanted to share some other interesting facts about what else The Tower of London was used for, facts you might not hear on a tour, or read about in a guide book. 

[00:15:02] From the 1200s to 1835, the Tower of London also housed what was known as the Royal Menagerie, essentially a zoo containing exotic animals.

[00:15:14] The Tower of London was at one point home to a polar bear, a gift from the King of Norway, an elephant, from the King of France and three lions, or possibly leopards, gifted by the Holy Roman Emperor. 

[00:15:28] Over the years, the collection grew to include a tiger, jackals, leopards and eagles. However, over time people became more aware of the unsuitability of the surrounding for animals, and the Menagerie closed down in 1835.

[00:15:45] What happened to the animals, you might be asking? 

[00:15:47] Well, 150 animals were rehoused to Regent's Park in 1826, creating what would become London Zoo, an actual, purpose-built real zoo, not a prison-come-castle turned into a zoo. 

[00:16:03] And although exotic animals are precious and valuable, they weren’t the most valuable things kept under lock and key at The Tower of London.

[00:16:12] Weapons and armour were stored there, of course.

[00:16:15] But, being such a secure place, the Tower of London was the ideal place to control England's currency supply, the supply of money. 

[00:16:25] All English coins were created, or “minted”, at the Tower of London from the end of the 13th century up until 1810 in what was called the Tower Mint. 

[00:16:37] And of course, if you go to The Tower of London today, you too can see debatably the most valuable piece of jewellery in the country, The Crown Jewels, which are thought to be worth anywhere from 4 to 6 billion Euros.

[00:16:52] And who is responsible for guarding them? The Beefeaters of course.

[00:16:57] And our final curiosity about The Tower of London is that the first person to be kept prisoner in The Tower of London was also the first person to escape from the Tower of London.

[00:17:09] His name was Bishop Ranulf Flambard, and he was thrown into the Tower of London after falling out of favour with William the Conqueror’s younger brother, Henry I.

[00:17:20] Henry I threw the bishop into the tower, but it sounded like it wasn’t a particularly uncomfortable prison.

[00:17:28] The bishop still had access to money and fine food. He decided to put on a banquet, a large meal, for his jailors, and ordered for barrels of wine to be sent into the Tower.

[00:17:42] In one of these barrels was a rope, and while the guards were enjoying the fine food and wine, perhaps enjoying the wine too much, the bishop used this rope to lower himself out of the Tower to safety. His supporters had arranged for a horse to be left outside the window. The bishop jumped onto it, rode all the way to the coast and then got on a boat to France. 

[00:18:07] So, there you go, a brief history of The Tower of London. 

[00:18:11] From its beginnings as a defensive castle, a royal residence, prison, mint, zoo and home to the Crown Jewels, the Tower of London has a rich and fascinating history, spanning over 900 years. 

[00:18:25] It’s little wonder that the once feared Tower of London is now one of the most popular UK tourist attractions, as well as a national monument that is a central part of English history. 

[00:18:36] And it’s one that you can still visit today, and I’d certainly recommend you do. 

[00:18:41] Go to The Tower, strike up a conversation with a Beefeater, think of all the prisoners who spent their last days looking out through the prison windows.

[00:18:51] And keep a lookout for ravens. If you can’t see six of them, well, you might just be the first person to realise that the future isn’t bright for the British monarchy.

[00:19:04] OK then, that is it for today's episode on the Tower of London.

[00:19:09] I hope it’s been an interesting one, and you’ve learned about the real history of London’s most iconic landmark, as well as some of the quirky details that you’re less likely to hear about on the tourist trail

[00:19:21] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:19:24] Have you ever been to the Tower of London or are you planning to? 

[00:19:28] If you’ve been, did you see the Beefeaters, or even the Crown Jewels?

[00:19:32] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started. 

[00:19:36] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:19:44] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:19:49] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about the Tower of London.

[00:00:27] It is one of the most famous monuments in the UK, with almost 3 million visitors every year. 

[00:00:33] And its story, the story of the Tower of London is full of gruesome tales of executions, torture and ghostly hauntings

[00:00:42] Not only this, it is also home to the dazzling crown jewels of the United Kingdom, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is actually the oldest standing building in London.

[00:00:54] And today we are going to tell its amazing story.

[00:00:58] Okay then, the Tower of London. 

[00:01:03] Our story starts just under 1,000 years ago, with the arrival of a French Duke of Normandy to England.

[00:01:11] His name was William, and he would later become William I, King of England, after he invaded and conquered England in 1066.

[00:01:21] Upon his victory, William needed to secure his reign, his rule, over the English. 

[00:01:28] As he feared an uprising against him, and he lacked the support of the people, he immediately ordered that the first fortifications be built on what is now the site of the Tower of London.

[00:01:41] While London and the south of the country had surrendered to William, he did not have the people’s loyalty yet, not everyone accepted him as king. 

[00:01:52] What’s more, the entire north of the country was still controlled by English lords who were determined to fight back against him. 

[00:02:00] So to protect himself and to make a sign to the English people that he was not someone to be messed with, someone to rise up against, William I did what kings and queens have done for centuries. 

[00:02:15] He decided to build an extremely secure fortress that would send a clear message to the people of the country. It would be built in a very different style, and with very different materials to the rest of London. 

[00:02:31] At the time most buildings in London were made of wood and fires were frequent, there were a lot of fires. 

[00:02:39] St Paul’s Church, for example, the precursor to St Paul’s Cathedral, burned down in 1087.

[00:02:47] William had grown up in Normandy, in northern France, and he knew one material that wouldn’t burn down. Stone.

[00:02:56] And in particular, a type of stone called “Caen stone”, a kind of light creamy stone from the city of Caen, in Northern France.

[00:03:07] William, perhaps unsurprisingly, ordered for his new palace to be built in this white creamy stone, which was brought over from France specifically.

[00:03:18] The site he chose stood on the remains of two Roman defensive walls, which William would use to shore up his defences, to reinforce the fort

[00:03:30] Around 1078, 12 years after the invasion, work began on what we recognise now as the White Tower, the most famous and oldest part of the Tower of London complex.

[00:03:43] Just to clarify, today, when you hear someone talking about the Tower of London, they normally mean the whole site which counts numerous buildings, not just the White Tower, but the White Tower is the main part of the Tower.

[00:03:58] It is a square shape, 36 by 32 metres, and rises up 29 metres into the sky. 

[00:04:07] By modern standards, it’s no skyscraper, but it was by far the tallest and most imposing non-religious building in the city, exactly as William The Conqueror intended it to be.

[00:04:20] Over the next several centuries, fortifications, defences, were added around the White Tower. 

[00:04:27] By the time of Edward I’s reign in the 14th century, the Tower of London boasted two defensive walls, plus a huge moat.

[00:04:36] A moat is the defensive ditch that was dug around castles and often filled with water, making it harder for invading soldiers to cross. 

[00:04:47] The Tower of London became England's strongest castle and it was home to sumptuous Mediaeval royal apartments where the King and Queen could stay. 

[00:04:58] Bear in mind that in mediaeval times, the monarch would frequently move between royal residences.

[00:05:04] Although a place called Westminster Palace was the main royal palace, the Tower of London was also an important residence for the monarch to stay in, especially in times of crisis, when the king or queen needed somewhere where they knew they would be safe.

[00:05:21] The Tower continued to be used as a royal residence right up until the time of the Tudors, the period from 1485-1603, although it was still common for the monarch, the king or queen, to occasionally stay there in later years for ceremonial reasons.

[00:05:40] But when people think of The Tower of London, it isn’t normally thought of as a “royal palace”. It’s most famous for being the place where enemies of the state were held, and then executed.

[00:05:53] While the Tower had also been used to house prisoners from as early on as 1100, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that it really became a prison in its own right

[00:06:06] Prisoners in the Tower of London were most often political prisoners. 

[00:06:11] While there were lots of other prisons in London, the Tower of London was the most secure prison in the country. 

[00:06:19] For this reason it was used for prisoners who were considered to pose a threat to national security or those who had been accused of treason

[00:06:29] Members of powerful noble families who fell out of grace with the monarch would all too often end up being locked in the Tower.

[00:06:38] And, as you might imagine, if you are a political prisoner who has got on the wrong side of the king or queen, there is normally only one way you get “out of prison”. 

[00:06:49] I don’t mean you were set free to go off and live your life elsewhere, oh no, English kings and queens weren’t usually so forgiving

[00:06:58] The journey of a political prisoner at the Tower of London would normally end in a public execution

[00:07:06] If the prisoner was a high ranking noble or had a lot of supporters, they might be executed at Tower Green within the Tower of London itself. 

[00:07:17] If the prisoner was not a noble, if they were a high-profile rebel, for example, they would be killed in front of a large crowd.

[00:07:26] Executions in front of the masses took place at Tower Hill just a little to the northwest of the Tower outside of the main compound

[00:07:37] By the 16th and 17th centuries, the Tower of London had become the most important and the most feared prison in the country. 

[00:07:46] So much so, that the phrase “being sent to the Tower” has become another way of saying being imprisoned, being put in prison, even today. 

[00:07:56] Now, you’ve probably heard of a lot of the prisoners who either spent time imprisoned in the Tower, or who ended up being executed there.

[00:08:06] William Wallace, the famous Scottish freedom fighter, was a prisoner in the Tower before being brutally executed in 1305.

[00:08:15] Guy Fawkes, the English conspirator who unsuccessfully attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, was also imprisoned in the Tower of London and subjected to excruciating torture in an attempt to make him say who else helped him. 

[00:08:32] Henry the VIII imprisoned two of his queens, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, in the Tower, before having them executed

[00:08:40] His daughter Elizabeth I would also spend a spell in the Tower before becoming queen.

[00:08:47] On a side note, we do actually have episodes on William Wallace, on Guy Fawkes and on the wives of Henry VIII, so if you haven’t listened to those and you weren’t aware that they existed, well they do.

[00:09:00] But The Tower of London wasn’t just for notable rebels or out-of-favour wives.

[00:09:06] In the late 15th century the Tower is thought to have become the final gruesome resting place for two young boys, two royal princes. 

[00:09:16] After their father, King Edward IV, died unexpectedly from illness, his 12-year-old and 9-year-old sons were kept in the Tower of London on the orders of their Uncle Richard, a man who would later become King Richard III. 

[00:09:32] Their uncle kept them in the tower supposedly for their own protection, until the 12-year-old prince was old enough to become king, but the boys mysteriously disappeared, and their uncle Richard became king instead.

[00:09:48] It has always been assumed that they were murdered as they were never seen alive after they were sent to the Tower, supposedly "for their own safety”. 

[00:09:58] In 1674, however, two skeletons that would fit the age of the princes were found buried under the staircase in the White Tower of the Tower of London. 

[00:10:09] The Tower was used less and less as a prison going into the 19th and 20th centuries, although Rudolf Hess, Hilter’s second in command, was imprisoned there during World War II as the last state prisoner. 

[00:10:23] The last person to be executed in the Tower, in fact, was a Nazi spy called Josef Jakobs who had parachuted into Britain, was discovered, sent to the Tower of London and was killed by a military firing squad in 1941.

[00:10:40] In a strange twist of fate, the Tower of London’s very last prisoners were the infamous Kray twins in 1952. 

[00:10:49] They were only in the Tower for a few days after failing to report for National Service, for military service.

[00:10:56] They were released, and the twins would go on to become London’s most feared gangsters. 

[00:11:02] If you’d like to learn more about the Krays and their murderous life of crime, by the way, you can listen to episode number 223. 

[00:11:11] Today, if you visit the Tower of London you’ll see this amazing castle steeped in history, but you will also see some slightly strangely dressed men and women, men and women normally wearing bright red clothes, a big black hat, and occasionally carrying a black bird in their hand.

[00:11:31] These people are called “Beefeaters”, and no story about The Tower of London would be complete without them.

[00:11:39] They aren’t officially called “Beefeaters”. They are called The Yeomen Warders, and they can trace their history back to Henry VII when he created this regiment as a sort of personal bodyguard.

[00:11:53] Why they are called “beefeaters” is a subject of debate. Some say it comes from the French, “Buffetier”, which is an old French word for a waiter or servant.

[00:12:05] Others say it comes because part of their salary was paid in beef.

[00:12:10] In any case, the Yeoman Warders, or rather the Beefeaters, continue to this day, and act as sort of ceremonial guards of the Tower and guides to tourists.

[00:12:22] The Beefeaters still wear the same uniform as they did in Tudor times and they live within the Tower complex, often joined by their families. 

[00:12:32] In the past, being a Beefeater could be passed down from father to son, but today, you have to have been in the British armed forces for at least 22 years and with at least the rank of an officer and have been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

[00:12:49] And contrary to popular belief, there are female Beefeaters too. 

[00:12:54] The role is traditionally held by men, but there have been three female beefeaters, including a lady called Moira Cameron, who is currently in the role.

[00:13:05] Aside from living in the Tower of London, the Beefeaters also have another very special perk - their very own personal Tower of London pub called The Keys.

[00:13:18] Not only is the pub private to Yeomen Warders only, it also sells two exclusive craft beers that are brewed just for them, with of course, the widely available Beefeater gin, of which they receive a bottle for their birthday. 

[00:13:34] The beefeaters are also responsible for the ravens of the Tower of London. 

[00:13:40] Ravens, by the way, are the large black birds that are prized for their intelligence and their ability to mimic, to copy, human voices. 

[00:13:50] They look a bit like big crows.

[00:13:53] The tradition of keeping ravens at the Tower of London dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th century. 

[00:14:02] While there had been ravens earlier, Charles II was the first monarch to insist that they were protected, appointing a Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster to care for them.

[00:14:13] Legend has it that there must always be a minimum of six ravens at the Tower or else the Tower and the monarchy will fall, it will collapse. 

[00:14:24] Naturally, it’s not a good idea to leave the fate of the Tower of London or the monarchy completely up to the ravens, so their feathers are cut so they can't fly to far.

[00:14:35] As a little fun linguistic aside, the collective noun for a group of ravens is an unkindness or a conspiracy - it's probably linked to ravens often being considered to be unlucky or creepy.

[00:14:50] Now, just to conclude this episode, I wanted to share some other interesting facts about what else The Tower of London was used for, facts you might not hear on a tour, or read about in a guide book. 

[00:15:02] From the 1200s to 1835, the Tower of London also housed what was known as the Royal Menagerie, essentially a zoo containing exotic animals.

[00:15:14] The Tower of London was at one point home to a polar bear, a gift from the King of Norway, an elephant, from the King of France and three lions, or possibly leopards, gifted by the Holy Roman Emperor. 

[00:15:28] Over the years, the collection grew to include a tiger, jackals, leopards and eagles. However, over time people became more aware of the unsuitability of the surrounding for animals, and the Menagerie closed down in 1835.

[00:15:45] What happened to the animals, you might be asking? 

[00:15:47] Well, 150 animals were rehoused to Regent's Park in 1826, creating what would become London Zoo, an actual, purpose-built real zoo, not a prison-come-castle turned into a zoo. 

[00:16:03] And although exotic animals are precious and valuable, they weren’t the most valuable things kept under lock and key at The Tower of London.

[00:16:12] Weapons and armour were stored there, of course.

[00:16:15] But, being such a secure place, the Tower of London was the ideal place to control England's currency supply, the supply of money. 

[00:16:25] All English coins were created, or “minted”, at the Tower of London from the end of the 13th century up until 1810 in what was called the Tower Mint. 

[00:16:37] And of course, if you go to The Tower of London today, you too can see debatably the most valuable piece of jewellery in the country, The Crown Jewels, which are thought to be worth anywhere from 4 to 6 billion Euros.

[00:16:52] And who is responsible for guarding them? The Beefeaters of course.

[00:16:57] And our final curiosity about The Tower of London is that the first person to be kept prisoner in The Tower of London was also the first person to escape from the Tower of London.

[00:17:09] His name was Bishop Ranulf Flambard, and he was thrown into the Tower of London after falling out of favour with William the Conqueror’s younger brother, Henry I.

[00:17:20] Henry I threw the bishop into the tower, but it sounded like it wasn’t a particularly uncomfortable prison.

[00:17:28] The bishop still had access to money and fine food. He decided to put on a banquet, a large meal, for his jailors, and ordered for barrels of wine to be sent into the Tower.

[00:17:42] In one of these barrels was a rope, and while the guards were enjoying the fine food and wine, perhaps enjoying the wine too much, the bishop used this rope to lower himself out of the Tower to safety. His supporters had arranged for a horse to be left outside the window. The bishop jumped onto it, rode all the way to the coast and then got on a boat to France. 

[00:18:07] So, there you go, a brief history of The Tower of London. 

[00:18:11] From its beginnings as a defensive castle, a royal residence, prison, mint, zoo and home to the Crown Jewels, the Tower of London has a rich and fascinating history, spanning over 900 years. 

[00:18:25] It’s little wonder that the once feared Tower of London is now one of the most popular UK tourist attractions, as well as a national monument that is a central part of English history. 

[00:18:36] And it’s one that you can still visit today, and I’d certainly recommend you do. 

[00:18:41] Go to The Tower, strike up a conversation with a Beefeater, think of all the prisoners who spent their last days looking out through the prison windows.

[00:18:51] And keep a lookout for ravens. If you can’t see six of them, well, you might just be the first person to realise that the future isn’t bright for the British monarchy.

[00:19:04] OK then, that is it for today's episode on the Tower of London.

[00:19:09] I hope it’s been an interesting one, and you’ve learned about the real history of London’s most iconic landmark, as well as some of the quirky details that you’re less likely to hear about on the tourist trail

[00:19:21] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:19:24] Have you ever been to the Tower of London or are you planning to? 

[00:19:28] If you’ve been, did you see the Beefeaters, or even the Crown Jewels?

[00:19:32] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started. 

[00:19:36] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:19:44] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:19:49] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about the Tower of London.

[00:00:27] It is one of the most famous monuments in the UK, with almost 3 million visitors every year. 

[00:00:33] And its story, the story of the Tower of London is full of gruesome tales of executions, torture and ghostly hauntings

[00:00:42] Not only this, it is also home to the dazzling crown jewels of the United Kingdom, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is actually the oldest standing building in London.

[00:00:54] And today we are going to tell its amazing story.

[00:00:58] Okay then, the Tower of London. 

[00:01:03] Our story starts just under 1,000 years ago, with the arrival of a French Duke of Normandy to England.

[00:01:11] His name was William, and he would later become William I, King of England, after he invaded and conquered England in 1066.

[00:01:21] Upon his victory, William needed to secure his reign, his rule, over the English. 

[00:01:28] As he feared an uprising against him, and he lacked the support of the people, he immediately ordered that the first fortifications be built on what is now the site of the Tower of London.

[00:01:41] While London and the south of the country had surrendered to William, he did not have the people’s loyalty yet, not everyone accepted him as king. 

[00:01:52] What’s more, the entire north of the country was still controlled by English lords who were determined to fight back against him. 

[00:02:00] So to protect himself and to make a sign to the English people that he was not someone to be messed with, someone to rise up against, William I did what kings and queens have done for centuries. 

[00:02:15] He decided to build an extremely secure fortress that would send a clear message to the people of the country. It would be built in a very different style, and with very different materials to the rest of London. 

[00:02:31] At the time most buildings in London were made of wood and fires were frequent, there were a lot of fires. 

[00:02:39] St Paul’s Church, for example, the precursor to St Paul’s Cathedral, burned down in 1087.

[00:02:47] William had grown up in Normandy, in northern France, and he knew one material that wouldn’t burn down. Stone.

[00:02:56] And in particular, a type of stone called “Caen stone”, a kind of light creamy stone from the city of Caen, in Northern France.

[00:03:07] William, perhaps unsurprisingly, ordered for his new palace to be built in this white creamy stone, which was brought over from France specifically.

[00:03:18] The site he chose stood on the remains of two Roman defensive walls, which William would use to shore up his defences, to reinforce the fort

[00:03:30] Around 1078, 12 years after the invasion, work began on what we recognise now as the White Tower, the most famous and oldest part of the Tower of London complex.

[00:03:43] Just to clarify, today, when you hear someone talking about the Tower of London, they normally mean the whole site which counts numerous buildings, not just the White Tower, but the White Tower is the main part of the Tower.

[00:03:58] It is a square shape, 36 by 32 metres, and rises up 29 metres into the sky. 

[00:04:07] By modern standards, it’s no skyscraper, but it was by far the tallest and most imposing non-religious building in the city, exactly as William The Conqueror intended it to be.

[00:04:20] Over the next several centuries, fortifications, defences, were added around the White Tower. 

[00:04:27] By the time of Edward I’s reign in the 14th century, the Tower of London boasted two defensive walls, plus a huge moat.

[00:04:36] A moat is the defensive ditch that was dug around castles and often filled with water, making it harder for invading soldiers to cross. 

[00:04:47] The Tower of London became England's strongest castle and it was home to sumptuous Mediaeval royal apartments where the King and Queen could stay. 

[00:04:58] Bear in mind that in mediaeval times, the monarch would frequently move between royal residences.

[00:05:04] Although a place called Westminster Palace was the main royal palace, the Tower of London was also an important residence for the monarch to stay in, especially in times of crisis, when the king or queen needed somewhere where they knew they would be safe.

[00:05:21] The Tower continued to be used as a royal residence right up until the time of the Tudors, the period from 1485-1603, although it was still common for the monarch, the king or queen, to occasionally stay there in later years for ceremonial reasons.

[00:05:40] But when people think of The Tower of London, it isn’t normally thought of as a “royal palace”. It’s most famous for being the place where enemies of the state were held, and then executed.

[00:05:53] While the Tower had also been used to house prisoners from as early on as 1100, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that it really became a prison in its own right

[00:06:06] Prisoners in the Tower of London were most often political prisoners. 

[00:06:11] While there were lots of other prisons in London, the Tower of London was the most secure prison in the country. 

[00:06:19] For this reason it was used for prisoners who were considered to pose a threat to national security or those who had been accused of treason

[00:06:29] Members of powerful noble families who fell out of grace with the monarch would all too often end up being locked in the Tower.

[00:06:38] And, as you might imagine, if you are a political prisoner who has got on the wrong side of the king or queen, there is normally only one way you get “out of prison”. 

[00:06:49] I don’t mean you were set free to go off and live your life elsewhere, oh no, English kings and queens weren’t usually so forgiving

[00:06:58] The journey of a political prisoner at the Tower of London would normally end in a public execution

[00:07:06] If the prisoner was a high ranking noble or had a lot of supporters, they might be executed at Tower Green within the Tower of London itself. 

[00:07:17] If the prisoner was not a noble, if they were a high-profile rebel, for example, they would be killed in front of a large crowd.

[00:07:26] Executions in front of the masses took place at Tower Hill just a little to the northwest of the Tower outside of the main compound

[00:07:37] By the 16th and 17th centuries, the Tower of London had become the most important and the most feared prison in the country. 

[00:07:46] So much so, that the phrase “being sent to the Tower” has become another way of saying being imprisoned, being put in prison, even today. 

[00:07:56] Now, you’ve probably heard of a lot of the prisoners who either spent time imprisoned in the Tower, or who ended up being executed there.

[00:08:06] William Wallace, the famous Scottish freedom fighter, was a prisoner in the Tower before being brutally executed in 1305.

[00:08:15] Guy Fawkes, the English conspirator who unsuccessfully attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, was also imprisoned in the Tower of London and subjected to excruciating torture in an attempt to make him say who else helped him. 

[00:08:32] Henry the VIII imprisoned two of his queens, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, in the Tower, before having them executed

[00:08:40] His daughter Elizabeth I would also spend a spell in the Tower before becoming queen.

[00:08:47] On a side note, we do actually have episodes on William Wallace, on Guy Fawkes and on the wives of Henry VIII, so if you haven’t listened to those and you weren’t aware that they existed, well they do.

[00:09:00] But The Tower of London wasn’t just for notable rebels or out-of-favour wives.

[00:09:06] In the late 15th century the Tower is thought to have become the final gruesome resting place for two young boys, two royal princes. 

[00:09:16] After their father, King Edward IV, died unexpectedly from illness, his 12-year-old and 9-year-old sons were kept in the Tower of London on the orders of their Uncle Richard, a man who would later become King Richard III. 

[00:09:32] Their uncle kept them in the tower supposedly for their own protection, until the 12-year-old prince was old enough to become king, but the boys mysteriously disappeared, and their uncle Richard became king instead.

[00:09:48] It has always been assumed that they were murdered as they were never seen alive after they were sent to the Tower, supposedly "for their own safety”. 

[00:09:58] In 1674, however, two skeletons that would fit the age of the princes were found buried under the staircase in the White Tower of the Tower of London. 

[00:10:09] The Tower was used less and less as a prison going into the 19th and 20th centuries, although Rudolf Hess, Hilter’s second in command, was imprisoned there during World War II as the last state prisoner. 

[00:10:23] The last person to be executed in the Tower, in fact, was a Nazi spy called Josef Jakobs who had parachuted into Britain, was discovered, sent to the Tower of London and was killed by a military firing squad in 1941.

[00:10:40] In a strange twist of fate, the Tower of London’s very last prisoners were the infamous Kray twins in 1952. 

[00:10:49] They were only in the Tower for a few days after failing to report for National Service, for military service.

[00:10:56] They were released, and the twins would go on to become London’s most feared gangsters. 

[00:11:02] If you’d like to learn more about the Krays and their murderous life of crime, by the way, you can listen to episode number 223. 

[00:11:11] Today, if you visit the Tower of London you’ll see this amazing castle steeped in history, but you will also see some slightly strangely dressed men and women, men and women normally wearing bright red clothes, a big black hat, and occasionally carrying a black bird in their hand.

[00:11:31] These people are called “Beefeaters”, and no story about The Tower of London would be complete without them.

[00:11:39] They aren’t officially called “Beefeaters”. They are called The Yeomen Warders, and they can trace their history back to Henry VII when he created this regiment as a sort of personal bodyguard.

[00:11:53] Why they are called “beefeaters” is a subject of debate. Some say it comes from the French, “Buffetier”, which is an old French word for a waiter or servant.

[00:12:05] Others say it comes because part of their salary was paid in beef.

[00:12:10] In any case, the Yeoman Warders, or rather the Beefeaters, continue to this day, and act as sort of ceremonial guards of the Tower and guides to tourists.

[00:12:22] The Beefeaters still wear the same uniform as they did in Tudor times and they live within the Tower complex, often joined by their families. 

[00:12:32] In the past, being a Beefeater could be passed down from father to son, but today, you have to have been in the British armed forces for at least 22 years and with at least the rank of an officer and have been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

[00:12:49] And contrary to popular belief, there are female Beefeaters too. 

[00:12:54] The role is traditionally held by men, but there have been three female beefeaters, including a lady called Moira Cameron, who is currently in the role.

[00:13:05] Aside from living in the Tower of London, the Beefeaters also have another very special perk - their very own personal Tower of London pub called The Keys.

[00:13:18] Not only is the pub private to Yeomen Warders only, it also sells two exclusive craft beers that are brewed just for them, with of course, the widely available Beefeater gin, of which they receive a bottle for their birthday. 

[00:13:34] The beefeaters are also responsible for the ravens of the Tower of London. 

[00:13:40] Ravens, by the way, are the large black birds that are prized for their intelligence and their ability to mimic, to copy, human voices. 

[00:13:50] They look a bit like big crows.

[00:13:53] The tradition of keeping ravens at the Tower of London dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th century. 

[00:14:02] While there had been ravens earlier, Charles II was the first monarch to insist that they were protected, appointing a Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster to care for them.

[00:14:13] Legend has it that there must always be a minimum of six ravens at the Tower or else the Tower and the monarchy will fall, it will collapse. 

[00:14:24] Naturally, it’s not a good idea to leave the fate of the Tower of London or the monarchy completely up to the ravens, so their feathers are cut so they can't fly to far.

[00:14:35] As a little fun linguistic aside, the collective noun for a group of ravens is an unkindness or a conspiracy - it's probably linked to ravens often being considered to be unlucky or creepy.

[00:14:50] Now, just to conclude this episode, I wanted to share some other interesting facts about what else The Tower of London was used for, facts you might not hear on a tour, or read about in a guide book. 

[00:15:02] From the 1200s to 1835, the Tower of London also housed what was known as the Royal Menagerie, essentially a zoo containing exotic animals.

[00:15:14] The Tower of London was at one point home to a polar bear, a gift from the King of Norway, an elephant, from the King of France and three lions, or possibly leopards, gifted by the Holy Roman Emperor. 

[00:15:28] Over the years, the collection grew to include a tiger, jackals, leopards and eagles. However, over time people became more aware of the unsuitability of the surrounding for animals, and the Menagerie closed down in 1835.

[00:15:45] What happened to the animals, you might be asking? 

[00:15:47] Well, 150 animals were rehoused to Regent's Park in 1826, creating what would become London Zoo, an actual, purpose-built real zoo, not a prison-come-castle turned into a zoo. 

[00:16:03] And although exotic animals are precious and valuable, they weren’t the most valuable things kept under lock and key at The Tower of London.

[00:16:12] Weapons and armour were stored there, of course.

[00:16:15] But, being such a secure place, the Tower of London was the ideal place to control England's currency supply, the supply of money. 

[00:16:25] All English coins were created, or “minted”, at the Tower of London from the end of the 13th century up until 1810 in what was called the Tower Mint. 

[00:16:37] And of course, if you go to The Tower of London today, you too can see debatably the most valuable piece of jewellery in the country, The Crown Jewels, which are thought to be worth anywhere from 4 to 6 billion Euros.

[00:16:52] And who is responsible for guarding them? The Beefeaters of course.

[00:16:57] And our final curiosity about The Tower of London is that the first person to be kept prisoner in The Tower of London was also the first person to escape from the Tower of London.

[00:17:09] His name was Bishop Ranulf Flambard, and he was thrown into the Tower of London after falling out of favour with William the Conqueror’s younger brother, Henry I.

[00:17:20] Henry I threw the bishop into the tower, but it sounded like it wasn’t a particularly uncomfortable prison.

[00:17:28] The bishop still had access to money and fine food. He decided to put on a banquet, a large meal, for his jailors, and ordered for barrels of wine to be sent into the Tower.

[00:17:42] In one of these barrels was a rope, and while the guards were enjoying the fine food and wine, perhaps enjoying the wine too much, the bishop used this rope to lower himself out of the Tower to safety. His supporters had arranged for a horse to be left outside the window. The bishop jumped onto it, rode all the way to the coast and then got on a boat to France. 

[00:18:07] So, there you go, a brief history of The Tower of London. 

[00:18:11] From its beginnings as a defensive castle, a royal residence, prison, mint, zoo and home to the Crown Jewels, the Tower of London has a rich and fascinating history, spanning over 900 years. 

[00:18:25] It’s little wonder that the once feared Tower of London is now one of the most popular UK tourist attractions, as well as a national monument that is a central part of English history. 

[00:18:36] And it’s one that you can still visit today, and I’d certainly recommend you do. 

[00:18:41] Go to The Tower, strike up a conversation with a Beefeater, think of all the prisoners who spent their last days looking out through the prison windows.

[00:18:51] And keep a lookout for ravens. If you can’t see six of them, well, you might just be the first person to realise that the future isn’t bright for the British monarchy.

[00:19:04] OK then, that is it for today's episode on the Tower of London.

[00:19:09] I hope it’s been an interesting one, and you’ve learned about the real history of London’s most iconic landmark, as well as some of the quirky details that you’re less likely to hear about on the tourist trail

[00:19:21] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:19:24] Have you ever been to the Tower of London or are you planning to? 

[00:19:28] If you’ve been, did you see the Beefeaters, or even the Crown Jewels?

[00:19:32] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started. 

[00:19:36] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:19:44] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:19:49] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]