Башня Лондона (Tower of London)
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In the White Tower the medieval kings of England lived with their families and their court. Here was the seat of government and here the laws of the land were made. The royal family lived in the top storey; the council chamber was on the floor below. In this chamber in 1399 Richard II was forced to sign away his throne, and in 1483 Richard III summarily sentenced Lord Hastings to death.
Chapel of St. John the Evangelist
On the first floor of the White Tower is the exquisite Chapel of St
John the Evangelist where the royal family and the court worshipped and where the knights of the Order of the Bath spent their vigil the night before a coronation. It is one of the most perfect specimens of Norman architecture in Great Britain. Roman influence can also be found in the
White Tower's basement where there is two-millennium-old well. The White
Tower also contains one of the finest collections of arms and armour in the world.
The Arms and Armour (Part One)
The White Tower and the New Armouries contain the national collection
of arms and armour. As the most important fortress in the kingdom, the
Tower must have held armour and arms from the time it was first built, but in their present form the Armouries date from the time of Henry VIII. The collection -- one of the greatest in the world -- illustrates the development of arms and armour from the Middle Ages to 1914.
The White Tower is entered through the Tournament Room. The display
here is devoted entirely to armour specially designed for use in warlike
exercise. This collection includes the tilt armour for the German form of
joust known as the Scharfrennen, in which sharp lances were used, and the
splendid Brocas helm. The armour was made about 1490 in Germany for use at
the court of Emperor Maximillian I; the tilt helm was probably made in
England in the same period.
In tournaments mounted men ran different courses against each other, each course requiring armour of a special design. Men also fought against
one another on foot and this required armour of yet another pattern. The
Armouries contain three foot-combat armours made for Henry VIII, the first dates to about 1512 and the second about 1515, when he was slim and active.
The third one was made in 1540 when he was forty-nine and very portly. The middle armour is remarkable in that all the plates fit together, over flanges, thus enabling his height of six-feet one-inch to be accurately determined.
In the adjacent room the collection of hunting and sporting arms
includes crossbows and firearms. Here can be traced the technical advances
in firearm mechanisms, from the match lock, the snaphance and the wheel
lock to the flintlock. The development of decorative techniques is also
evident. Craftsmen applied or inlaid precious metals, ivory, bone and even
mother-of-pearl to enhance the wood they carved and chiselled with such
consummate skill; the contemporary artistic styles from the 15th to the
19th centuries can thus be compared.
An especially interesting exhibit is the elegant silver-decorated
sporting gun made in Dundee in 1614. It came from the personal gun-room of
Louis XIII of France. Another unique exhibit is the Scottish gun made entirely of engraved brass for Charles I when he was a young man. Through the Chapel of St John is the Mediaeval Room, which is now devoted to the earliest arms and armour in the Tower. The exhibits are mostly of the late
14th and 15th centuries and include a superb Italian visored bascinet with its original neck protection of mail. There is also one of the few Gothic horse armours surviving. It was probably made to order for Waldemar VI of
The Arms and Armour (Part Two)
In the adjoining Sixteenth-century Room, fine arms and armour date from that century, but exclude English products. Most conspicuous is the massive suit of German armour made around 1540 for a man nearly seven feet tall. From the middle of the century is the splendid Lion Armour embossed with lions masks and damascened in gold.
On the top floor, the Tudor Room is devoted mainly to the armours made
in the royal workshops at Greenwich which Henry VIII established about
1514. They include four armours made for the king himself -- one engraved and silver plated -- and others made at Greenwich for Tudor courtiers.
There is an armour made for one of Elizabeth I's favourites, Robert Dudley,
Earl of Leicester, another for William Somerset, Earl of Worcester, another for Sir John Smythe, who vainly championed the use of the long bow many years after its inevitable super-session by firearms.
In the adjoining Stuart Room are beautiful little armours made in
France and England for the Stuart kings and princes and the London-made harquebus armour of James II. They are the focus of a display devoted to the 17th century -- the last period before armour ceased to be used.
Separate displays are devoted to the armour, arms and accoutrements of the richly equipped bodyguards, the light and heavy cavalry, and the infantry.
The armour of the pikemen was the last to be worn by foot soldiers before the increased efficiency of firearms made its use impractical.
In the basement is the Mortar Room, where the bronze mortars on view
include one of the bores used for fireworks at the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle
in 1748. At the far end of the room is the entrance to the sun-crypt of the
Chapel of St John, where a carved and gilt figure of the Lion of St Mark, a trophy from Corfu, is flanked by a number of the finest small cannon from the armouries collection.
In the adjacent Cannon Room the walls are hung with relics of Henry
VIII's army and a great array of armour and weapons returned to the Tower after the Civil War. Here also is the greater part of the Armouries collection of cannon, including several from the ships of Henry VIII's navy.
The New Armouries comprise a red brick building close to the White
Tower. On the ground floor is a representative collection of armour and arms of Africa and the Orient. It is dominated by armour for an elephant, probably captured at the battle of Plassey in 1757. One Japanese armour on view was presented to James I by the governor of Edo in 1613. Many of the later sporting firearms on the first floor are of the highest quality. The flintlock guns include ones given by Louis XIV to the first Duke of
Richmond, another was sent by Napoleon to Charles IV of Spain, and a third with matching powder flask, pair of pistols and stirrups, was made to the order of Elizabeth, Empress of Russia. Here also are the Reverend Alexander
Forsyth's own models of the percussion lock he invented after years of experiment in the Tower. Superseding the flintlock, it completely revolutionised firearms development and, consequently, the science of war.
The Crown Jewels
During medieval times Crown Jewels were the personal property of the
sovereign. It was fairly common practice for the King or Queen to pawn them
or use them as security for loans in time of war. Most were kept at the
Tower, particularly when the sovereign was in residence there, although the
Coronation Regalia was held at Westminster Abbey. Sometime after 1660, a new set of Regalia was made to replace what had been destroyed during the
Commonwealth. It was at that time that the Tower became the permanent home of the Crown Jewels and put on public display.
The Crown Jewels are what most visitors to the Tower of London come to see. This incomparable collection of crowns, orbs, swords, sceptres and other regalia, and gold and silver plate was refashioned in 1661 after parliament had ordered the original gold and precious metals to be melted down for coinage in 1649.
The Imperial State Crown worn by monarchs at their coronations is set
with jewels of great antiquity and historical significance. The oldest is
Edward the Confessor's sapphire, believed to have been worn by him in a ring. The great gem above the rim is the ancient balas-ruby, known as the
Black Prince's ruby, which is said to have been given to him by Pedro the
Cruel of Castile.
From the intersections of the arches hang four superb drop pearls, the
so-called Queen Elizabeth's Earrings, but there is no evidence that she
ever wore them in this way. Set in the rim at the back of the crown is the
Stuart sapphire. It is probably much older than its name implies, but is known to have been in the possession of James II when he fled to France after his deposition. It was formerly mounted in the rim, at the front, but was displaced by the Second Star of Africa cut from the Cullinan diamond.
In addition to these jewels, the Imperial State Crown contains over 3,000 diamonds and pearls, as well as fine sapphires, emeralds, and rubies.
The Crown Jewels have in the past resided in both the White Tower and in the Martin Tower. Today they have their home in Jewel House which is a part of the Waterloo Barracks (left side of photo). [Greeley/Gilmore]
The Royal Sceptre with the Cross is a rod of chased gold, with the peerless Star of Africa cut from the Cullinnan diamond held in a heart shaped mount. Above this is a superb amethyst with a diamond-encrusted cross set with an emerald.
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's Crown was made for her coronation as queen consort in 1937. This graceful crown is set with diamonds, dominated by the famous Koh-i-noor. Its Indian name means "Mountain of Light" and the jewel has a long and turbulent history. Tradition says that its male owners will suffer misfortune, but women who possess it will rule the world.
These are some of the ceremonies that take place at the Tower of London.
Ceremony of Keys
The traditional locking up of the Tower of London each night. This ceremony has been carried out every night for the last 700 years.
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