Tower of London

The Crown Jewels, which I wrote about last time, are kept on display in the Tower of London. To see them, you pass through a doorway with open “doors” that look incredibly secure, like a bank vault, and I guess the rooms themselves are a very large walk-in vault. Yeoman Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, keep an eye on you and the glass-encased jewels.

The Yeoman Warders give tours and look great in vacation photos, but they have other, more serious, responsibilities. All have had a distinguished military career that meets certain requirements necessary to become a Yeoman Warder.  Living in flats in the tower complex with their spouses and children, their duties are security and visitor safety in addition to shifts giving tours. One of the Yeoman Warders is a woman.

Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London. Photo by Arpingstone.
Guards, such as these at Buckingham Palace, also protect the Crown Jewels at the Tower.
Guards, such as these at Buckingham Palace, also protect the Crown Jewels at the Tower.

The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror and was completed by the year 1100.

DSCN1043 (1024x768)The photos above and below show the walled complex, much of it medieval, in the heart of a 21st century city with many modern buildings.

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What fun to suddenly come upon something you've never seen, yet it's familiar. Me at the Tower Bridge.
What fun to suddenly come upon something you’ve never seen, yet it’s familiar. Me at the Tower Bridge.

Here’s a link to a YouTube video by Historic Royal Palaces, about the Line of Kings (click on those words), showing royal armor and more on display at the Tower, and how and why this exhibit has changed over the centuries.

The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom

I recently visited London for the first time and was awed by the Crown Jewels:  the actual crown, scepter and orb used in coronations, the crown the queen wears when opening Parliament, and other crowns.

Click on this link to the royal family’s website to see them.  The largest photo is of the Imperial State Crown, with a large diamond, the Cullinan II, in the lower front. Click on thumbnails (small photos) to enlarge each photo and read the caption, if you like.

Queen Elizabeth II was 25 at her coronation, and in the portrait you can see in the above link, she holds the Sovereign’s Orb and the staff-like  Sovereign’s Sceptre.

The sceptre (scepter in American English) holds the Cullinan I diamond — it’s the large diamond you see in the close-up of the top of the scepter, and there is also a close-up of the diamond alone.  (It comes out so it can be worn as jewelry.) At 530 carats, it is the largest top-quality cut diamond in the world. It’s also called the First Star of Africa.

The Cullinan Diamond was discovered a century ago in a mine in South Africa, and it weighed one and one-third pounds. It has been cut into smaller pieces, the largest being the Cullinan I and the Cullinan II, also called the Second Star of Africa, which you saw in the Imperial State Crown.

You can read more about the Crown Jewels on the royal family’s website, and also how Oliver Cromwell got rid of many early Crown Jewels after he did away with King Charles I.