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Tower of London

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Continued from page 8

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ABOVE: Gun salute by the Honourable Artillery Company, the oldest armed body in Britain. INSET BELOW: Colonel Blood attempts to steal the Crown Jewels.

Events and reenactments

The Tower of London keeps visitors (and Londoners) coming back with seasonal events, historic reenactments, and special exhibitions.

  • Gun salutes are perennial crowd-pleasers; these take place at least half a dozen times a year on such occasions as the Queen's official birthday (62 guns) and the State Opening of Parliament (41 guns).

    If you're a fan of noise and smoke, try to visit the Tower in years when the Queen's official birthday coincides with the Duke of Edinburgh's actual birthday (June 10), which last happened in 1967. In those years, 124 shots are fired consecutively from the Honourable Artillery Company's 105mm light gun on Tower Wharf. (Blank rounds are used in respect for Thames river traffic.)

  • photoRe-enactments and narrations by costumed performers take place throughout the year. In the photo at right, for example, an actor portrays Colonel Thomas Blood, an Irish scoundrel who nearly got away with the Crown Jewels after cozying up to the Keeper's daughter in 1671.

  • State parades take place on Easter, Whitsun, and the Sunday before Christmas. Yeoman Warders escort the Governor from the Queen's House to a service in the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula and back again. (Anyone can watch the parade, but if you'd like to attend the service, you'll need to phone the chaplain well in advance to obtain written permission.)

  • A ceremony named the Constable's Dues occurs whenever a large Royal Navy ship visits the port of London (normally about a year). The ship honors an ancient tradition by delivering a barrel of rum to the Tower's Constable.

  • On Ascension Day every three years, local children whack theTower's boundary markers with willow tands in a ceremony known as the Beating of the Bounds. (This is in honor of 14th Century boys who were thrashed whenever they encroached on the Tower's grounds.)

  • Special exhibitions and tours occur regularly at the Tower; these range from "ghost tours" to royal murder mysteries to medieval Christmas celebrations.

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Photos copyright © HRP. Used by permission.

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