Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tower of London

White Tower, Tower of London
The American Conservative tour of London continues with a requisite stop at the Tower of London (  This is the second most popular tourist stop in London, only exceeded by the Millennium eye.

Construction on the Tower of London was begun by William the Conqueror shortly after his successful invasion of England in 1066.  The Tower was established in order to keep down a restless population of Anglo-Saxons by the invading Norman minority.

Beefeater at Tower of  London
There are three primary reasons for a visit to the Tower of London.  First and foremost, the guided tours by the yeoman warders or "Beefeaters" are vastly entertaining.  Each of these men -- or women since 2007 ( -- must be a veteran of Her majesty's armed forces for at least 22 years who knows how to spin a tale.  They will remind you that this once once a royal palace; they will make the bloody history of England come alive for you.
Koh-i-Noor Diamond, 181 1/16 carats
Second, you can see the crown jewels.  Warning: do not photograph them -- I know of friends who have been compelled to erase their memory cards.

A Ceremonial Canon, Tower of London
Third, the White Tower (see photo above) holds an extraordinary collection of arms and armor.  This is the old Norman heart of the city of London.  The Duke of Wellington was one of the many distinguished Constables of the Tower of London.  This was the military center of the British Empire that once controlled one quarter of the globe and invaded nearly 90% of all the world's countries (see earlier post All the countries We've Invaded, 3/13//13).

Richard III had his young nephews imprisoned and later smothered to death in the Tower.  The remains of the last Plantagenet King were recently discovered beneath a parking lot in Leicester  (

Commander K. in front of Queen's Palace
Where Rudolph Hess was imprisoned briefly in 1941 
Even in the 20th century the Tower of London was used as a jail and execution site.  Rudolph Hess (See earlier post Rudolph Hess 1/7/13 and Rudolph Hess: Peace-monger, 1/13/13) spent four days at the Queen's palace in 1941.  The last execution to take place by in the Tower of London took place with German spy Josef Jakobs in August 1941 who was shot by a firing squad.
Anne Boleyn (Circa 1501 - 1536)
In 1533 Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I, was beheaded with a sword by a French executioner inside the Tower.  Historian Peter Ackroyd writes...

"'I have heard say...that the executioner is very good, and I have a little neck.'  Then she put her hands about her neck and laughed.  On May 19, just before noon, she was brought to the scaffold within the walls of the Tower.  In her nervousness she continually glanced behind her, as if she might be taken unawares.  She was the first Queen of England ever to be beheaded.  Her exact age at the time is unknown, but it is estimated that she was in her early thirties.  When the executioner held up the head its eyes and lips moved,  Her body was then thrown into a common chest of elm-tree, made to hold arrows." Source: The History of England, Volume II, Tudors, 2012, Macmillan (

Archer, Tower of London
Henry VIII sent two of his wives to the executioner for being unfaithful; he sent two bishops, Thomas More (Man for all Seasons) and Thomas Cromwell to the executioner for being faithful to the old Church.

Henry VIII was making a crude bid for abolsoute power.  According to the gospel of Mathew, Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's".  It was Henry VIII's vaulting ambition to combine the power of the state and the power of God under his sole authority.  He ended his days a bloated and profoundly unhappy man (Ackroyd writes that the King "made a double mark beside the following passage in Proverbs: 'For the lips of a harlot are a dropping honeycomb, and her throat is softer than oil.  But at last she is as bitter as wormwood, and as sharp as a two-edged sword.'"  Source: The History of England, Volume II, Tudors, 2012, Macmillan (
Bloody History
Ackroyd writes, "It has been calculated that some 200 Catholics suffered death in the course of Elizabeth's reign, among them 123 priests, compared with 300 Protestant martyrs who perished during Mary's much briefer rule.  In the reign of Henry VIII 308 people were executed as a result of the Treason Act of 1534.  The historian here often pauses to deliver a lament on human bigotry, but the temptation should be resisted.  It is not possible to judge the behaviour of one century by the values of another.  It was in any case a high crime to refuse to conform to the religious imperatives of the state."  Source: The History of England, Volume II, Tudors, 2012, Macmillan (

We should not, as Ackroyd suggests, be quick to judge the Tudors and their brutal ways.  Tudor contemporaries and those who immediately followed, however, had no reluctance about making practical judgements.  An appreciation of this history, however, helps to explain why so many were motivated to "vote with their feet" by attempting to escape European religious bigotry and persecution by making a new life for themselves in the New World.  The Tower of London helps us to understand why Americans included  religious freedom in their bill of rights and insist upon essential Conservative principles such as a limited role for government.  Religious freedom means that the government could never attempt to supplant the role of religion as Henry VIII attempted to do.  The bloody history of the Tower of London helps us to appreciate the need for checks and balances in our own Constitutional system.  Henry VIII would have surely used drone technology if he had any parked in his 'Tudor' garages!

Might a 21st century version of Richard III not declaim, "A drone, a drone, my kingdom for a drone?"
Dragon with Gunpowder, White Tower
Commander Kelly concludes, "The Tower of London helps to explain how England became England;  it also helps explain why America became America.  This is why it is a mandatory stop on the American Conservative tour of London."

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades or on


David Michaelson said...

Super! Enjoyed it very much. I liked the comment about Henry VIII parking a drone at the Tower if he could!

David Michaelson said...

And Lord only knows how many poor souls the good King might have knocked off had he a squadron of drones parked at the Tower!

Jack Menendez said...

was invited to stay at the Tower of London as a guest of one of the Yeoman Warders, who happened to be the RavenMaster (now retired) because I am best friends with his son in law, but I blew it and couldn't get to London at the time because I took that job at Altrec. I met him here in the U.S., he came and brought his sword with the Her Majesty The Queen's permission to cut the wedding cake at his daughter's wedding. He wore his Beefeater's uniform complete with sword to the wedding. The Queen must give explicit permission for any of the Crowns jewels, of which the sword is one, to leave the country. The sword was carried onto the flight to S.F. with special permission from the U.S. consulate.