We asked you five quick trivia questions about the Tower of London. Here are the answers:
- When was the Tower of London founded, and by whom?
William the Conqueror (aka William the Bastard) first set up a fortress at the south-eastern corner of the Roman walled city of London after it surrendered to him in December 1066. However, construction of the White Tower – the central keep of the Tower complex, the bit that everyone recognises – didn’t begin until 1078.
- Which famous historical character was beheaded at the Tower in 1618?
Sir Walter Raleigh. A great favourite of Queen Elizabeth of England (no doubt for the substantial boosts that his expeditions of colonisation and privateering gave to her coffers), he was implicated in the alleged “Main Plot” against her successor James VI & I in July 1603, just four months after James’s accession to the English throne. After 13 years in the Tower, he was let out in 1616 to head an expedition to find El Dorado – but it failed, and he was executed to placate the Spanish, having attacked one of their outposts on the Orinoco river.
- In what century did the Tower first become the permanent home of the Crown Jewels?
The thirteenth century. They’d previously been kept at the Tower and at Westminster Abbey until the Abbey was found to be unsafe. Almost all the original Crown Jewels were scrapped and sold in 1649 when the Commonwealth abolished the monarchy; the Tower then became the permanent home for the new ones which had to be made for Charles II’s coronation in 1661.
- Legend has it that if the ravens leave the Tower, then England will fall. How many ravens are officially resident?
Six, as decreed by Charles II. However, there’s always a seventh on hand to ensure there’s a full complement at all times; from time to time a raven does escape (and one was dismissed in 1986 for repeatedly trying to eat TV aerials!). Ravens live an average of 25 years, but the oldest recorded at the Tower died at the ripe old age of 44.
- Who was the last state prisoner to be held captive at the Tower?
Rudolf Hess, after his bizarre flight to Scotland to attempt to conduct peace negotiations with the Duke of Hamilton in May 1941. However, a number of prisoners were held briefly in the Tower in the early post-war years, including the Kray twins when they went AWOL from National Service in 1952.
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