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The Tower of London, built from 1078 by William the Conqueror

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The Tower of London

The Tower of London

The Tower of London was built from 1078 by William the Conqueror shortly after the Norman invasion of England in 1066. It was designed as a castle to protect London and the Normans from enemies particularly those attacking from the River Thames. The Tower is located on the north bank of the river, and in it's sinister past was a home to monarchs as well as a prison for many famous people including the Princes Edward and Richard who were imprisoned by their uncle King Richard III in 1483, King Henry VI who was murdered there in 1471, and Lady Jane Grey who was murdered with her husband in 1554. Sir Walter Raleigh was held in the Tower for thirteen years before being executed in 1618, and Robert Devereux, who was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, was also executed here in 1601 after allegations were made at court that he was plotting against her. The Devereux Tower was named after him.

The Tower of London quickly became a massive fortified stronghold and eventually surrounded by a moat with 19 towers within. The eleventh-century White Tower was the central castle keep and was over 27 metres high. This was the tower that became a residence for kings and queens until the end of the sixteenth century when it was decided that the defences could not be improved upon. The Tower of London was continually used as a prison and a place of torture to extract 'confessions' and had a variety of torture instruments including the infamous rack which was once used on Guy Fawkes after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was discovered. The Tower of London also had its own gallows and scaffold, and its own execution ground, Tower Green - Ann Boleyn was beheaded here for treason by King Henry VIII in 1536.

During the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 the Tower of London was besieged with King Richard inside. The king rode out to meet with Wat Tyler, the rebel leader, but a crowd broke into the castle without meeting resistance and looted the Jewel House. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Sudbury, took refuge in St John's Chapel, hoping the mob would respect the sanctuary. However, he was taken away and beheaded on Tower Hill. Tower Hill, outside of the Tower of London, was the execution ground used for public executions.

It is said the Anne Boleyn's ghost is regularly seen at the Tower of London particularly in and around the White Tower and the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where she is buried. There have also been reports of ghostly sightings of King Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey and the young Princes Edward and Richard after they were buried under the stairs in the Bloody Tower.

The Tower of London is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK and is still the home of the Crown Jewels and the displays of armour through the ages.

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