- Anne Boleyn?
- Crown Jewels?
You’re right, of course, but it’s so much more than that. Its traditions and value to the UK history are something that the Yeoman Warder (aka Beefeaters) manage to maintain to this day.
Something that surprised me was the family friendliest of the Tower. When we arrived, we were told at the bag checks that we were to go straight to Crown Jewels, have a few views while no one was there and come back for the 10 o’clock Yeoman Warder tour. Like a cork in the river we did as we were told and we were pleased we did.
Getting there early meant we saw the Crown Jewels almost by ourselves. All Warder guards are extremely knowledgeable, friendly and very approachable. The exhibition itself is set out to display the jewels for large amount of visitors to view but it has a very personalized feel to the labels. One thing that struck us was there was a lot of dates showing after the 1600s but not many prior. It was then we learned that Oliver Cromwell ordered the Crown Jewels to be broken up (and some say melted down). However, this didn’t take away from the items such as the GIANT punch bowl (and every bigger ladle!) and other items within the collection.
We made our way back to the entrance in time to hear Yeoman Warder Shaun start the hour long tour. The people on our tour were a true mixture of demographics: young to old, English, American, Brazilian, France and everything in between. This didn’t faze Shaun at all. He started the tour as he meant to go on – with facts, humour and a fun.
‘Do you know why we’re called Beefeaters? Nope, neither do we… ‘
Shaun took us to the outside of each of the buildings, reliving its significant place in history with such flair and wit that we didn’t realize we were learning until after the tour was over and we went into each of the buildings. Suddenly, you relive Shaun’s tales and stories and marry up what he was saying to the rooms. A favourite for me was seeing the graffiti on the walls within of the Beauchamp Tower left from Prisoners of the tower.
Charlotte’s favourite was the Princes of the Tower – the exhibition within the Bloody Tower lets you hear two sides of the story and ask you to decide who you thought was responsible for the disappearance of Prince Edward V and younger brother Richard. While this sounds like a very deep subject, on the tour Shaun described the story with such humour using kids within the tour as ‘victims’.
The kid friendliness is obvious throughout the Tower of London. While every single room isn’t ‘hands on’ the interactive areas and things to do are enough to keep children of every age entranced. There are suggestions on their website such as letting the kids take the lead in the tour (when going with the Yeoman’s), Spot the Raven and taking part in the family trails. The kids area within the White Tower called ‘Hands on History’ kept us occupied for quite awhile. We got to try our hand pulling on a bow, feel/touch knives and swords and play a game where we had to hit the target with an arrow (arrow was LED).
Within the ‘Fit for a King’ exhibition, Charlotte questioned why one of the horses was bright yellow. She sheepishly asked the guard, almost apologizing for her odd question. We were so impressed with the in-depth answer and the fact that he answered Charlotte’s question like it was the BEST question he ever heard. [The guy who designed the horse was famous for this time and the different color would have made his horse stand out amongst the other horses.]
Every Yeoman along our journey greeted people with smiles. Pictures were never denied.
We spent four hours at the Tower of London and could have gladly spent all day there if it weren’t for having a previous engagement.
I thought it was brilliant and I could go again and again and never get bored! ~ Charlotte, 11
It is very family friendly with a mixture of education/history with a gorgeous (but bloody!) backdrop.