The Tower of London and the British Museum (England Part 7)

The Tower of London fits several categories – palace, prison, site of the royal mint, and the royal menagerie. It is the home of the royal wardrobe and the crown jewels. History tells us that on June 2, 1953, a 62-gun salute was fired from the Tower Wharf when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in nearby Westminster Abbey. That salute is repeated every year on that date. Of course, it was repeated at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

View of The Tower of London, which is a fortress, prison, palace, etc.

It was not uncommon for gifts of exotic animals to be given to royalty. The Tower of London was home to apes, elephants, lions, and even a polar bear.

Being a birder and a Baltimore native (Edgar Allan Poe spent much of his life there and yes, that’s where the football team’s name came from), I was fascinated by the ravens at the Tower of London. I also like a good, weird story. And it seems pretty strange to me that Charles II would have insisted that the security of the crown would lie in ravens living at the Tower. But I suppose silly to one person is just superstition to another.

I didn’t want to leave without seeing the famous ravens. Glad we saw them, because if they were not there, it could have been catastrophic.

A guide explained that Charles II insisted that they be protected, and that the kingdom would fall if less than six ravens resided at the Tower. “If the ravens leave the tower, the kingdom will fall.”

If you’ve seen The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock, you know birds can cause quite a lot of trouble. This was the case for the king’s unfortunate astronomer John Flamsteed. The flock (called an unkindness) was always in the way of his work, so eventually they kept six with a few spares and everyone lived happily ever after. The guide also explained that they keep the spares, just in case, for national security. I love their names – Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Erin, Poppy, Georgie, Branwen, and Edgar.

The big draw to the Tower for me was seeing the crown jewels. When we got inside and I could almost see the jewels, I asked a rather stupid question to a docent and got more information than I could have imagined. I asked about the sceptre. Was it only a symbol of the kingdom or could it be used as a weapon? (It’s fun to push up against that saying that there are no stupid questions.)

The docent informed me that it is solely a symbol of the kingdom – the crown. There are several and whenever Parliament is in session, a sceptre representing the crown is there. “So,” she informed me, “whenever Boris Johnson is lying to Parliament, he is essentially lying right to the Queen’s face.” That was the first of several clues as to the sentiment of the Brits to their former Prime Minister. It was rather shocking to me to have that said within the walls of the Tower of London. Bad form. But interesting.

Handsome grandsons waiting with us to see the crown jewels.

The British Museum

The collections that are on display at the British Museum reflect the enormity of the British Empire. This was the most diverse museum of our trip. Several display descriptions included the word “hoard,” which suggested to my mind bands of marauders bringing the goods back to the King. I had to tame my active imagination by reminding myself that a hoard is simply a collection. Many things were gifted, but I did not delve into where the artifacts came from. I simply enjoyed viewing them.

The Lewis Chessmen – part of a hoard found on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland in the year 1831.

I took this picture specifically for my granddaughter, Ella, who is a huge Marvel fan.

There was an extensive Egyptian display.

The Rosetta Stone, discovered in July 1799

Bob Anderson with The Gayer-Anderson Cat – bronze with silver plaque and gold jewelry, around 600 BC, possibly from Saqqara – just because we’re Andersons

Marble statue of a boy, the so-called ‘spinario’ (thorn-puller) – Hellenistic, about 200 – 100 BC

This statue is a fitting end to my England posts. You have to take care of your feet! Thank you for coming along with me. Cheerio!

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing details of your trip, Bonnie. Now I really want to go to England!

    Reply

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