Tower of London: History & Facts

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
A royal castle, arsenal, prison and more, the Tower of London boasts a storied past. Read a brief history of this famous landmark and learn some interesting facts along the way.

The Tower of London

Medieval times are undoubtedly associated with a few things in almost everyone's mind. Kings, queens, knights in shining armor and castles. The Tower of London is one such castle and fortress, although it is far more than that. Over its history, it has also been used as a palace, a prison, an arsenal and even a mint.


The Tower of London is located, not very shockingly, in London, England. Back in the 11th century, under the direction of William the Conqueror, the White Tower's construction began. The White Tower, a kind of fortified tower known as a keep, is part of the entire Tower of London and stands roughly in the middle of the fortress today. The purpose of the White Tower was to take control of a strategic military and economic position within England.

The White Tower.

The White Tower was protected by ancient Roman walls on two of its sides and by ditches on the other sides. It was built out of limestone sourced from Caen, Normandy. Caen is located in what is now Northern France.

Over the next centuries, the Tower's fortifications were expanded by successive kings. Under Richard the Lionheart's reign (1189-1199), the fortress was doubled in size as its defenses were expanded. Henry III (1216-1272), the so-called 'boy king', built numerous new towers to secure the fortress. Edward I (1272-1307) built lots of new defenses as well, including a new moat. Numerous other additions were added by various kings in the years to come.

But the Tower of London's history is a lot richer than just a series of ever-expanding fortifications. Remember, it wasn't just a fortress. It was a prison, among other things.

Have you ever heard of the Princes in the Tower? These were Prince Edward V, 12 years old, and Prince Richard of Shrewsbury, 10 years old. They were imprisoned there by King Richard III as they were a potential threat to his reign. Eventually, the boys simply disappeared, and some believe they were murdered.

Another famous prisoner was Guy Fawkes. Guy Fawkes was a revolutionary who was on a mission to blow up part of the British government. He wanted to Kill King James I. In the end, he was caught and was executed.

The Tower also served as a palace of sorts. In fact, Henry VIII built numerous lodgings just for his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Unfortunately for Anne, she went from being a royal resident to prisoner of the Tower of London. That's because she was accused of adultery, among other things, and executed by beheading on Tower grounds. So yes, the Tower of London also served as a place of execution.

A scale model of the Tower of London.


Here are some interesting facts about the Tower of London:

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