Thursday, 17 May 2018

THE CEREMONY of the KEYS ..........

My bestest friend rang me last week  ..... she had booked tickets for her sister and brother in law and themselves to go and see the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. It's a years waiting list and when she looked at the conformation email, she noticed they had six tickets and asked for us to join them ..... of course we said yes !!! 


Walking out of Tower Hill tube station you are greeted by  The Tower of London in all it's glory. 



The White Tower, which gives the entire castle it's name, was built by William the Conqueror. in 1078 and was a resented symbol of repression. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until the notorious Kray twins were imprisoned there in 1952. Despite it's enduring reputation as a place of torture and death, only seven people were executed  within the Tower before the two World Wars. Executions were more commonly held on the notorious Tower Hill.








The Tower has served as an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. 



..... past Traitors Gate, the entrance through which many prisoners of the Tudors arrived at The Tower of London. Prisoners were bought by barge, passing under London Bridge where the heads of recently executed prisoners were displayed on pikes !!!



It was a lovely Spring evening  and we made our way to .....



..... The Tower hotel for dinner. 



At precisely 9.30 p.m we were admitted, under escort, to the Tower. I have visited The Tower of London before quite a few times but always in daylight ..... being in there at night, without tourists, brings home the horror and the beauty of the place.
Every night at precisely 9.52 p.m, a lone figure in a long red coat walks down Water Lane, the narrow, cobbled street enclosed between the mighty inner and outer walls of the Tower of London. He is the Gentleman Porter whose responsibility it is to lock up the Tower. This has been done, every single night since 1280 ..... over 700 years without fail,  through the Plague, the Great Fire and the Blitz. It is the oldest ceremony in the world. It is a precisely timed, seven minute ceremony which must finish on the exact stroke of 10.00p.m. The only time this did not happen was the 29th December 1940 when a bomb fell within 50 feet and blew the warders off of their feet !!! They picked themselves up, completed the ceremony and wrote a letter of apology the the King for being three minutes late, who graciously replied that he fully understood !!!
The Gentleman Porter walks alone with his lantern, down Water Lane to the entrance to the Bloody Tower, { where the young princes were murdered by their uncle, Richard 111 and where Walter Raleigh was imprisoned for thirteen years} where he picks up an escort of Tower of London guards who return down Water Lane with him to the gates.
Once the huge doors are shut, barred and locked, the escort march swiftly back down Water Lane. A sentry steps out from the shadows, challenging those approaching crying

" Halt ! Who comes there ? "
" The Keys "
All involved have a loaded gun pointed at them.
' Whose keys " asks the sentry,
" Queen Elizabeth's keys "
" Pass Queen Elizabeth's keys, for all is well " responds the sentry.
The keys and escort march triumphantly to the stone steps, they present arms, the clock chimes 10.00 p.m , the Gentleman Porter raises his Tudor bonnet , delivering the words,
" God preserve Queen Elizabeth ! "


Finally, a bugler plays the last post and the Gentleman Porter makes his way to report to the Constable that the Tower is locked for the night. 


.....


and this has happened, every single night for over seven hundred years !!!!!      







..... and then it was time to go home !!!


Another great thing to do in London and, it's free !!!!!



XXXX









image 9: via coach house rentals, image 10: via the household division, all other photographs via me

Jackie

18 comments:

  1. Did they let you out in the morning?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They did ...... one of the recent Gentlemen Porters Saw two men in doublets with long clay pipes standing at the fireplace and they pointed at him .... he never spent a night in there again !!! Ooooooo 😱👻 XXXX

      Delete
  2. I have visited the Tower of London only once. I found it very spooky even in daylight and crowded. I would like to be there at night to hear the bugler. I bet that was the most chilling part of the evening was it not?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was Rachel ..... and very moving. It was a totally different experience, being there at night. Whatever time of day you visit the Tower, one can only be reminded of the macabre things that happened there .... it does give me the heebie jeebies !!! XXXX

      Delete
  3. Must be filled with ghosts. I loved my visit there. And what did this bird lover especially enjoy? The ravens begging and posing just walking everywhere flapping their wings for a treat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I expect you know the superstition Donna that ‘ if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it ‘ !!! 😱 XXXX

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. You would love it even more if you could be there Z ..... it sends shivers down your spine ! XXXX

      Delete
  5. London is on my to do wish list....i never been there.....but in Parijs three Times...lovely weekend love Ria x 💜

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You would love London Ria .... so much to do.
      Lovely weekend to you too. XXXX

      Delete
  6. What a happening to witness . . .
    700 years . . .

    On my only visit to the Tower of London I started to sob.
    My friend who I was traveling with could not console me.
    I felt like I had been there . . . in another life . . .
    Just writing this brings me to tears!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Lynne ..... maybe you had been.... perhaps you were visiting a friend or relative in a past life. It is quite a chilling place. XXXX

      Delete
  7. Oh wow. I remember watching a programme about this on the telly. To see it in real life must be awesome.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was very moving Jessica and I’m so pleased that we saw it. Anyone can go ..... you just have to wait for a year !!!!! XXXX

      Delete
  8. Lucky you; that must have been wonderful. The last time I visited the Tower, I was about 10. I remember the Ravens, the Beefeaters, and people ranting on Tower Hill. I imagine nothing has changed there either.

    ReplyDelete
  9. No Cro, nothing has changed ....... I think it’s had a clean recently though that’s all. It is an amazing place and the Ceremony of the Keys was really worth seeing. We are very good at all of these traditions so I shall be watching the wedding tomorrow !!! XXXX

    ReplyDelete
  10. I didn't know this! How fascinating Jackie!
    Greetings Maria x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did know about it because I remember my Dad going to it Maria ...... it was really good to see it. XXXX

      Delete