The Tower of London

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The Tower of London

The Tower of London has a very interesting story behind it. It was begun by a man who was not even English, William of Normandy. At the time he was the cousin of England's Kind Edward. It all started because William became outraged when Edward backed down on his promise to give the throne to William and ended up giving the throne to his English brother-in-law, Harold. William sailed his army across the English Channel to conquer England. On October 14, 1066, he met Harold at Hastings and conquered him. On Christmas Day later that year, William - now called William the conqueror - was crowned King of England. Immediately after William took over as king, he built forts everywhere. One stood in the southeastern corner of London, near an old Roman wall on the north bank of the Thames River. William ordered that this fort be removed in 1078 to be replaced by a huge stone stronghold. This would be the "symbol of his power, a fortress for his defense, and a prison for his enemies". (Fisher, 1987) He named it the Tower of London.

The Tower was finished twenty years later, rising nearly one hundred feet high, with its walls fifteen feet thick in certain places. Inside was a chapel, apartments, guardrooms, and crypts. The Tower was protected by a wide ditch, a new stone wall, the old Roman wall, and the river. This was done to secure the fact that this tower was a prison that no prisoner would escape from.

The Bishop of Durham was probably the Tower's first distinguished prisoner. He was very fat, greedy, and unpopular. He was dragged to the prison by his brother with his servants and bags of money. But the Bishop lived very well inside the Tower because he could bribe the guards with gold. One night in February,1101, he gave a huge banquet with a lot of food and liquor. When he had gotten the guards very drunk, he pushed his bags through a window and slid down a rope to freedom.

Around the year 1240, King Henry III made this tower his home. He whitewashed the tower, widened the grounds to include a church, a great hall, and other buildings. He renamed the entire new area the Tower of London, and renamed the Tower the White Tower. Although the tower was still a prison, Henry had turned the White Tower into a breathtaking palace. He entertained many important visitors, many of which came with animals as gifts. Near the drawbridge of the tower, Henry built the Lion Tower, a zoo where visitors would be greeted with roaring beasts. Here is a map of the tower.

In 1377, when Richard II was king, the Tower continued to be a stronghold. But four years later, on June 14, a group of overtaxed farmers stormed the Tower. Richard and his brothers safely hid themselves inside. But the farmers found the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Royal Treasurer, a tax official, and a doctor. These men were taken to Tower Hill where their heads where chopped off. Richard later made peace with these farmers. The leader of the farmers, Wat Tyler, was beheaded. Richard was eventually thrown into a Tower dungeon, where he was forced to give up the throne to Henry IV.

Several monarchs died in the Tower of London. One was thirteen-year-old King Edward V. When his father, King Edward IV died, his uncle Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, plotted to take the throne for himself. Richard had the thirteen-year-old king and his younger brother, the Duke of York, taken to the tower. Lord Hastings, a royal officer, tried to protect Edward, but was unsuccessful. Hastings' head was chopped off on the Tower Green, and Edward and his brother were murdered. These murders most likely took place in the Garden Tower, which was later renamed the Bloody Tower.

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