Thursday, September 26, 2019. London, England.
Soundtrack: Blind Guardian – The Bard’s Song (The Hobbit)
The Tower of London was less of a tower and more of a squat, broad fortress. I’m sure a thousand years ago, a four story building was the cutting edge of tower technology. It would’ve proved insurmountable to anyone who wanted to pick a fight with William the Conqueror, considering that your typical early Middle Ages Anglo-Saxon peasant could not dream such luxury as ladder ownership.
The tower would be repurposed throughout the ages, from fortress to prison to wife disposal and dead prince storage.
It was a beautiful old fortification. There are many who define success as a life of leisure and freedom to pursue their dreams. My own definition is regular access to a strategically defensible position. Siege warfare soothes me.
The torture room was real downplayed. They only brought in three replicas of torture instruments, and devoted the rest of the compound to largely anticlimactic British history.
Here we see the scavenger’s daughter, heralded as “totally worse than the rack” on that little info thing. You fold a dude up in it then keep tightening it down until he breaks his whole business on his whole business. Truly, we are our own worst enemies.
The centerpiece that really pulls any torture chamber together, the rack. You don’t need a blow-by-blow of the rack, do you? It’s 2019. Read a book.
There’s something to be said of simplicity. Manacles are wide, unsexy handcuffs that fasten around behind you, then a member of the Catholic church hoists you up, lifting your arms behind your back and really frigging up your whole rotator cuffs until you admit that heliocentricity is false and heretical.
The White Tower was the first building and the one for which the tower is named. It served as Willy the Conq’s main keep, and parsing these agonizingly long-winded and self-congratulatory Wikipedia articles has brought to my attention that it is the largest keep in the Christian world, and a “donjon par excellence”.
There was also what I can only describe as a raven yard in the castle courtyard. Some goofy old prophecy predicted that, should the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, both the keep and the country of England would fall.
This strikes me as a very specific and arbitrary prophecy. Probably just some crazy guy yelled it once, but that was all it took. The keep’s keepers began a long-standing tradition of clipping the raven’s flight wings on one side to keep them in the courtyard, feeding and breeding these large, noisy, functionally useless creatures. For centuries.
They just keep doing things for centuries.
Dressing like this, for example. Those are the official vestments of the post. Imagine what kind of national pride you’d need to put on that outfit every day and go to work caretaking these giant, ineffectual carrion scavengers in observance of an entirely arbitrary bit of divinatory bird magic dating back over half a millenium.
Look at these Masterpiece Theater clowns trying to conscript me. God save the queen? God save bofa.
England in particular, and Europe in general, has a morbid fascination with treasure in concept that I can’t quite grasp. I went through one of the main fortifications to check out the Crown Jewels; photography was expressly forbidden, so you’ll have to take my word for it. There was a kind of cool ceremonial sword, but aside from that, it was just shiny Party City costumery.
They packed the halls with gold and jewels, an absolute Tolkienian hoard, and I breezed right past all the elderly Brits and Spaniards who were gawping like the displays were going to do tricks.
I’m an American, honey. Money is the second cheapest thing, after talk. Where do you think all that gold came from?
1d8+Dex, now we’re talking. I tried to wind it but the bastards nailed it down, presumably to prevent open insurrection. Cowards.
They set up a number of modern art knight sculptures doing cartoonishly stylized castle things throughout the tour.
There was a room about the tower’s role in World War I. It boiled down to “it was a fortress”. Wow.
What heinous sentence construction. And that’s coming from me, compulsive preposition stacker, hamfisted infinitive surgeon, and irredeemable parenthesaiyan. I can’t believe they invented the language.
This fuckin’ guy. He just goes stomping around, to and fro. Me and the legions of Asian tourists were standing there, watching him go. To what end? Who knows?
“Hey, we need this guy to march in a circle every hour, on the other,” someone said, six-hundred years ago.
“QUITE RIGHT SIRE! ASTUTELY PROPHESIED”
The place was filthy with history, and I can’t go into all of it here because:
- I’m coming up on 1000 words, which is my cutoff.
- I don’t get paid enough.
If you want to know about the dead prince bones squirreled away in the basement, or any of the other political prisoners they disposed of, or Henry the VIII’s pro-gamer move wife trade-in, google’s got your back.
I made my way out of the Tower of London, which was simpler than you may have heard.
Are you British, or a Britain enthusiast, boiling with frumpy rage at my assessment thus far? Let’s fight in the comments below! Or, if you want to take the fight to social media, pick a link from the left. Bring your whole crew.