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Tower of London

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photo LEFT: The shadow of the axe falls before the White Tower, which was begun in 1077 and finished 20 years later. INSET BELOW: Tudor reenactment near the Queen's House on Tower Green.

Capsule history

photoThe Tower of London's history can be traced back to 1067, when William the Conqueror ordered a wooden fortress built along the Thames to keep Londoners from rebelling against their Norman occupiers.

Ten years later, work began on the White Tower, a stone keep built atop ruins of Roman fortifications. This stronghold--which William named the "Tower of London"--soon grew into a full-scale castle with concentric walls, a moat, and other buildings such as the Garden Tower or Bloody Tower (where the Little Princes are said to have been murdered in 1485), Beauchamp Tower (famous for its carvings and inscriptions of medieval prisoners), and Queen's House, where Elizabeth I was imprisoned on orders of her half-sister, Queen Mary, for several months in 1554).

The Tower is perhaps best known as a prison, a role that it served from the beginning of the 11th Century until the early years of World War II.

It has also housed the Royal Mint, a menagerie, an armory, and the Crown Jewels.

Since World War II, the Tower of London has been open to the public as an historic site and a tourist attraction.

Next page: Famous prisoners

Photos copyright © HRP. Used by permission.

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