Secrets of Great British Castles (2015–…): Season 1, Episode 2 - The Tower of London - full transcript

Built by William the Conqueror, the Tower of London has been a military fortress, a palace, a royal mint, a prison, a zoo and a place of execution, a silent witness to some of the most ...

JONES: For me a great British castle
is a fortress, a palace, a home.

And a symbol of power, majesty, and fear.

For nearly 1,000 years,

castles have shaped
Britain's famous landscape.

These magnificent buildings have been home

to some of the greatest heroes
and villains in our national history.

And many of them
still stand proudly today,

bursting with incredible stories
of warfare,

treachery, intrigue, and even murder.

Join me, Dan Jones,

as I uncover the secrets
behind six great British castles.

This time, I'm exploring one of the oldest
and most notorious castles ever built.

A fortress, prison, and execution place.

Built to inspire fear in everyone
who walked through its gates. is deprecated, please
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Imagine London,
one of the great capital cities,

conquered, subjugated,
and invaded by aliens.

And imagine if they backed up
that invasion,

by building something new,
terrifying and utterly overwhelming.

A gigantic piece of military hardware,

designed to show off
the power of the invaders

and scare the population half to death.

This brooding monolith
was from another world,

but it wasn't science fiction.

It was very, very real.

Today, the Tower of London
is Britain's most visited tourist site.

But, back in the 11th century,

it was the state-of-the-art weapon
of a new ruling elite.


But of course,
it wasn't built by little green men.

It was the brainchild of one of the most
ruthless kings in English history.


William the Conqueror.

William was the illegitimate son
and heir of the Duke of Normandy,

which meant he was actually
descended from the Vikings.

And like any good Viking,

he had a taste for sailing to new lands
and taking them for himself.

In 1066, he set his sights on England.

William took an army
across the English Channel

and defeated his Saxon rival Harold
at the Battle of Hastings.

The Norman Invasion,

perhaps the greatest turning point
in English history had begun.


After the battle,
William and his army raced to London.

They marched around the city,
burning everything they came across.

It was a stunning show of force.

And it worked.

Within weeks,

the terrified citizens of London
surrendered without a fight.

On Christmas Day, 1066,

William, Duke of Normandy was crowned
King of England at Westminster Abbey.

But this was more than just
a cheeky power grab by a foreign upstart.

It was the beginning of a conquest
that would engulf the whole of England.

And at the heart of the conquest
William built a series of massive castles,

designed to put the masses in their place
and show them that he was their new boss.

The centerpiece of this network

was the vast stone structure
known as the White Tower.

It loomed over London
and its location was carefully chosen.

William used 1,000 year old blueprint,

left behind from the last
great civilization

that had invaded England,

the Romans.

The Normans were building on top
of old Roman ruins, right?

PRIOR: Stone castles
is the name of the game.

To say, as the Romans said

"I came, I saw, I conquered.
We came, we saw, we conquered."

So he's basically setting himself up
as the new imperial

kind of power in the land.

The classic example of that one
is Colchester if you like.

Probably the very first stone castle
that's constructed

by the Normans in this country
it could be that one,

very closely followed by
the Tower of London.

And then at London
he builds this massive stone castle,

which is his seat of power
within the capital city.

JONES: There's another part of this story
of the two castles as well, isn't there?

PRIOR: Supposedly,
the architect for both sites

is the Bishop of Rochester,
a guy called Gundulf, and J.R.R. Tolkien,

who obviously everybody knows
from Lord of the Rings, supposedly takes,

because he's an Anglo-Saxon scholar
at Cambridge, takes Gundulf,

and Gundulf becomes Gandalf.

And of course The Two Towers is the name
of the book, the second book.

JONES: But long before
the Tower inspired Tolkein,

it had a very clear political role.

By building in stone,
William was sending a message.

The Normans were here to stay.

The White Tower was 90 feet high
and its walls were 15 feet thick.

It earned its name,

because it's white-washed stone walls
could be seen for miles around.

Londoners would never
have seen anything like it.

Heavily armed foreign soldiers
stood behind thick stone walls.

And it all sent out a clear message.

This was a castle
devoted to one simple purpose.

Maintaining royal power.

Today, it's hard to know
where power really lies in London.

Is it across the river
with the Mayor at City Hall?

Is it with the politicians at Westminster?

Is it with the money men in the city?

Well, in the 11th century,
there was no doubt where power lay.

This enormous square fortress
landed next to London

as threatening and as alien
as a spaceship.

Placed next to the most important city
in England,

it took nearly
a quarter of a century to build.

But it was worth it.


William was the new boss.
And the White Tower proved it.

Now, no one in England's capital
would dare to disobey their new ruler.

It seems hard to imagine today.
But it's not.

If you want to get a sense
for how the Tower loomed over London

and overawed Londoners,

the best way is to check out
the 21st century equivalent.

This is The Shard.
The tallest building in Britain.

Seventy-two stories high,
it really does soar above London,

overshadowing everything
that stands around it.

Much like the Tower of London once did.

The view from up here
is absolutely astounding.

It's a cloudy day and you can see, still,
about 14 to 15 miles in every direction.

This must have been exactly
how you'd have felt

if you were a Norman king
or a Plantagenet king

down there in the White Tower
looking over the medieval city.

And down below all that
the Tower of London looks kind of puny,

but you've got to unimagine
all of modern London

and try and think back to what it would
have looked like, say, in the 12th century

when William FitzStephen
wrote his famous description of the city,

and he described the Tower of London
there bang in the eastern corner

as rising up on ancient foundations,
its mortar mixed with blood.

Well, that was the eastern end
and the walls came out,

and stretched round
what we now think of as The Square Mile.

And there was St. Paul's Cathedral
rising up in the middle

and then down at the end on the other side
you had Westminster

and that was, as now, a political village.

But what was important
was that these two points,

the Tower and Westminster
marked out a line of power.

So, every king before their coronation
in the Middle Ages emerged from the Tower

and processed through the city

all the way down to Westminster Abbey
to be crowned.

And that was
the ultimate political pageantry.

In the years that followed
William's conquest,

London grew rapidly.

By the end of the 13th century
the population had reached over 100,000.

But as the city grew,
so did the tower and its supremacy.

And it's that tension
between the Tower and the citizens

that lies at the heart of our story.

In times of pomp and celebration,
everything started at the Tower,

but in times of chaos and crisis,
it was a place to go and retreat.

So this wasn't just a castle designed
to overawe the common people.

It was also somewhere to hide from them.

In the 11th century, the White Tower
was built by William the Conqueror

as a symbol of Norman power.

Under the kings who followed him

it grew bigger, stronger,
and more menacing.

In the 13th century,

Henry III extended the castle
to the north and east with a curtain wall.

And he transformed the interior
into a comfortable royal palace,

which is how it's been restored today.

But much of the modern castle
was the work of Henry's son.

A king who added a truly deadly reputation
to the Tower of London.

Henry III's son Edward I
was a warrior king

and one of English history's
keenest castle builders.

He spent twice as much
on the Tower of London as his father

despite only rarely using it
as a royal residence.

But Edward had a difficult relationship
with London and with the Londoners.

And he liked to be sure that
when he needed to,

he could keep his distance from them.

Edward built a second concentric
curtain wall to enclose the first

and he extended the moat,

so the Tower we see today
is essentially the one he completed.

And it was sending a very clear message
to the city.

Know your place.

And know, that I am your King.

In the Middle Ages, castles weren't just
places to house soldiers.

They were also heavily involved
in royal finance.

Both as places to keep the King's money,

and to imprison those
who tampered with it.

Any kingdom ancient or modern
depends on a system of commerce.

Buying and selling, borrowing and lending
and taxation.

But its money that lies at the dark heart

of two of the most vicious
and violent stories

in the history of the Tower of London.

Edward I spent his entire reign
fighting expensive foreign wars.

It cost him a fortune and it made him
obsessed with the currency of the realm.

Edward was prepared to deal very harshly
with anyone who meddled with his money.


Medieval coins were made of silver.

A soft metal that was very easy to bend,
break and forge.

One of the most common methods
of medieval fraud was coin clipping.

Cutting away the edges of silver pennies,
melting down the slivers,

and making new, fake coins of your own.

Since all money
technically belonged to the King,

by clipping coins, you were actually
stealing from the royal pocket.

If you look at the definition of a coin,
it's a piece of precious metal,

whose intrinsic value
is equal to its face value,

and stamped with an official mark
guaranteeing its weight and fineness.

So, it does exactly
what it says on the coin.

If you have a penny like that,
it contains a penny worth of silver.

JONES: And they all have to be the same,
because that's what money is.

Yes, it's the weight of the coin.
The coins were weighed.

Not normally counted.

JONES: So, coinage was something that
was taken really, really seriously

-in the Middle Ages.
-It had sterling qualities.

English coin was renowned
throughout the entire world.

-Because it was so pure and so regular?
-It was good quality

and should have been good weight
and good standard of silver.

Which explains then
why anyone who was caught doing,

-you know, debasing the coin...
-It was treason. It was treason.

JONES: Clipped coins flooded the economy
and caused inflation.

They made foreign merchants suspicious
of doing business with the English

and they reduced the real amount of tax
that could be collected from the people.

In 1278, Edward decided to get a grip
on his realm's money.

And the Tower was at the heart of it.

Since Edward wasn't using the Tower much
as a royal palace,

he decided to move the mint
within the walls.

It was here on Mint Street which stretches
for three sides of the Tower Of London.

It was an enormous operation.

Edward's new mint
improved the look of his coins.

But as well as fixing the coin itself,

Edward wanted a scapegoat to punish
for the widespread crimes of clipping.

He found one in England's
most vulnerable community.

A minority that was involved in finance
and money lending.

The Jews.

Edward blamed everyone for coin clipping

but he blamed the Jews
more than anyone else.

Throughout the 1270s he'd already been
levying punitive taxes on them,

restricting their ability to trade
and do business.

Then in November 1278,

he suddenly rounded up
England's whole Jewish population

putting 700 Jews here in the Tower.


SOLDIER: Come on.

SOLDIER: Get in there.

JONES: Of all the hundreds of Jews that
Edward had imprisoned here in the Tower,

almost half were hanged.

In fact,

for every Christian executed
for coin clipping,

10 Jews suffered the same fate.

And within a decade,
Edward had passed an act of expulsion,

banishing the Jews from England
for nearly 500 years.

This was the worst Jewish massacre
in British history.

But Edward's actions
were met with little more than a shrug

from the rabidly anti-Semitic society
of medieval England.

And what was more,

he had bolstered the fearful name
of the Tower of London.

By the end of Edward's reign

no-one would dare to question
the authority of the Tower.

But 100 years later,

the Tower's mighty reputation
was blown to pieces,

as the castle found itself at the center
of the greatest popular uprising

in British history.

The Peasants' Revolt.

In the second half of the 14th century
England was going to the dogs.

The new King,
Richard II was a 14-year-old boy,

and the country
was being governed by his councils,

led by the Lord Chancellor,
Archbishop Simon Sudbury.

But, Sudbury's rule was a disaster.

And throughout the country,

people were starting to mutter
about rising up in protest.


In 1381, people were moaning
about the same sort of things

they still moan about today,
war, death, and money.

A war had been going on
with France for generations.

The Black Death had wiped out
nearly half the population of England.

Then, on top of all that, came a tax,

a poll tax levied on everyone
old and young, rich and poor.

And there were three of them
levied on England,

one after the other in four years.


The poll taxes were the final insult

to a country that was well
and truly fed up.

On the 13th of June,
a large group of militant protesters

led by the Kentish rebel, Wat Tyler,
entered London.

They burned jails and legal offices.

They chopped the heads off anyone
associated with the government,

piling their corpses in the streets.


The following morning,

Tyler and the rebels
turned their attention

to the ultimate symbol of political power.

The Tower of London
was the rebels' central focus, but why?

They didn't want the lavish apartments,

the royal jewels
or even the coin in the mint.


They didn't want to capture the King,
the teenage Richard II,

which is just as well

because on the day they stormed the Tower,
he wasn't even here.


What they really wanted were the traitors
who had imposed the poll tax.

This is like today's Londoners
marching along Downing Street

and trying to kidnap the Prime Minister.

Archbishop Sudbury knew
that the rebels were baying for his blood.

Terrified, he and his ministers
fled to the White Tower

where they hid in the chapel
and prayed for salvation.


Archbishop Sudbury
and several other royal ministers

had taken refuge in the Tower,

because it was supposed to be
the safest place in London.

But when the angry mob
burst through the doors suddenly,

it was the most dangerous.

Sudbury was hiding in this chapel
when the rebels found him.

He'd been saying masses all morning
and now he was saying his final prayers.

Most traitors were brought to the Tower,

but now Sudbury
was about to be taken out of it.

He was dragged out to Tower Hill
and decapitated.

His head was stuck on a spike

with his bishop's miter nailed on
for good measure.

For a gang of ordinary peasants
to take, what was basically

the Prime Minister of the day,
out of a chapel

in the greatest fortress in the land
and hack his head off on Tower Hill

is completely extraordinary

and this is almost like communism
600 years before its time.

The following day, the young King Richard
met the rebels to hear their complaints.

But the meeting turned violent.

And when Tyler
made a move toward the King,

he was grabbed by one of Richard's men,
and run through.

A revolution was avoided, but only just.

The Peasants' revolt was one of the most
shocking episodes in English history.

It ended with London on fire,
the Chancellor's head on a stick

and the mighty Tower of London
stormed by a gang of villagers.

The lesson perhaps?

Well, you antagonize the mob
at your peril, but it was also a reminder

that the Tower,
like any other castle,

was only as strong
as the person holding it.

The Tower of London survived,

and regained its reputation
as a menacing fortress.

But soon, it would be the scene

of one of Britain's most notorious
and mysterious crimes.

The Tower of London,
first built by William the Conqueror,

began its long life as a military weapon
aimed at the city of London.

Over the centuries
its power and prestige grew.

Kings stayed in the Tower
the night before their coronations,

and they retreated behind its walls
to ride out periods of rebellion and war.

But occasionally,
kings would go into the Tower

and never come out.

One of the great mysteries of the Tower
is the story of the two princes.

It's fascinated people for centuries
and it's easy to see why.

This is a riddle
worthy of any detective novel.

A crime that changed history
and has never been properly solved.


The princes in the Tower
were 12-year-old King Edward V

and his brother the 10-year-old Richard,
Duke of York.

In 1483, their father Edward IV,
died suddenly at the age of 40.

The boys' uncle Richard,
Duke of Gloucester,

quickly took them into his custody,
and placed them in the Tower of London.

He claimed to be their protector

and promised to rule the kingdom
on their behalf.

But soon Richard's plans changed.

He declared the two princes illegitimate,

and took the crown for himself,
as Richard III.

The boys were no longer in the Tower
for their own safety.

They were prisoners.

For a few weeks, passers-by
saw young Edward and his brother

playing games in the Tower gardens.

But after a while,
their servants were dismissed,

and they gradually disappeared
from public view.

By the time Richard had been king
for a couple of months,

his nephews had vanished completely.

They were never to be seen again.

For centuries,
the fate of the boys was a mystery.

Most writers in the Tudor years
blamed Richard III,

including William Shakespeare,

who portrayed him as an evil,
hunchbacked, crown-stealing murderer.

But was he really a murderer?

Without any bodies,
it was difficult for anyone to be sure.

Then, suddenly, startling new evidence
was turned up,

hidden deep within the fabric
of the Tower of London.

During the reign of Charles II,
workmen were remodeling the tower

when they found the skeletal remains
of two children,

hidden under this staircase.

When Charles II heard that
the bones had been found,

he wanted them reburied
with royal dignity,

which is why today they're here

in Westminster Abbey
in this beautiful casket,

designed by the great architect
Christopher Wren.

And the inscription on the casket

lays the blame pretty squarely
at Richard's door.

It says he suffocated the princes
with a pillow and then usurped the throne.

Richard III was dug up under a car park
in Leicester in 2012.

And his bones were subjected to
every scientific test you could think of.

Well, this casket hasn't been opened
since the 1930s, almost 100 years.

When it was opened it was found there
were two children's skeletons inside,

but since then
no permission has been granted

to subject whatever's in there
to modern scientific testing.

And until that permission is granted,

the mystery of the princes in the Tower
will continue.

Even if the riddle of
the princes in the Tower is never solved,

their story will continue to be one of
the most notorious in British history,

and an important part
of the legacy of the Tower of London.

But one thing is for certain,

the princes were not the first prisoners
to suffer in this castle,

and they certainly weren't the last.

Two million people flock here every year

to visit one of history's
most notorious prisons.

But where's the prison.

There are no dungeons here,
there's not even a torture chamber.

But okay, over the years

plenty of people have been locked up
in this fortress,

ranging from Ranulf Flambard
the first prisoner, who escaped,

to the Kray Twins who were banged up here
for avoiding military service.

So, there are reasons why,
"Being sent to the Tower,"

has become one of history's
most resonant phrases.

But in the Tudor years,
the Tower earned a new reputation.

It wasn't just a place
where people were banged up.

It was a place
where people were sent to be executed.

And one English king was particularly fond
of sending his victims here.

This massive suit of armor

was once owned by England's
most famous King Henry VIII

and you look at it,
well, it tells you everything

you need to know about Henry's self-image.
It's big, it's manly, it's virile.

It all points very obviously to one place.

And this was owned by Henry
towards the end of his life, in 1540,

when he was fat, and grumpy,
and ill, and tyrannical.

And that's the Henry
I associate with the Tower of London.

Because it wasn't his fortress,
or his palace or even his playground.

It was his personal prison where he
locked up those he thought were traitors.

Henry executed dozens of people
during his reign.

Dukes and Countesses, monks and nuns,

old women, young men,
wives, cousins, and chief ministers.

But no one sums up Henry's frenzied
and sometimes indiscriminate blood lust

quite so much as one of his
most faithful servants, Thomas More.

Thomas More was a true Renaissance man.

He was Lord Chancellor
and one of Henry's closest advisors.

He was also a deeply spiritual figure,

a philosopher, a lawyer,
and a famous writer.

And his intellectual principles
would set him up

for a monstrous showdown with his monarch.

In 1533, Henry divorced
the first of his six wives,

Catherine of Aragon,
and married the second, Anne Boleyn.

More thoroughly disapproved, and although
he knew it would enrage Henry,

he resigned from
the House of Commons in protest.

As a devout and principled Christian,

More couldn't accept Henry's decision
to defy the Pope

by divorcing Catherine and taking Anne
as his new queen.

But, as one of the King's
most powerful ministers,

he didn't want to antagonize Henry either,

so initially, he bit his lip
and kept quiet.

But then, parliament passed
an act of succession,

confirming Anne as Henry's Queen
and any sons she should have

as Henry's heirs and the King demanded
that everybody, including More,

take an oath to support it.

Caught between his loyalty to the church
and his allegiance to the King,

More found himself in a desperate
and impossible position.

Did he follow the orders of his master,

or stay true to
his basic Christian principles?

Here at All Saints,
his private chapel in Chelsea,

he prayed for guidance,

but when he was summoned before
the archbishop of Canterbury,

he was given an ultimatum.

Support the King
or suffer the consequences.

More was presented
with the Act of Succession.

And he read it to himself in silence.

Then he was presented with
the Oath of Allegiance.

He read it in silence.

But, he couldn't swear the Oath.

And so, to use one of the most
infamous phrases in British history,

he was,
"Sent to the Tower".

There's some debate about
where More was held.

But, many people think it was here
in the basement of the Bell Tower,

next to the modern Constable's residence

which is normally
off limits to the public.

In a way, this bare cell with its
sandstone walls and high vaulted ceilings,

feels like a chapel.

And as a prisoner of conscience,

More spent months here,

reflecting on his life,
and possibly, his death.

At first, More's imprisonment
wasn't too bad.

He was allowed to read and write.

He could have visitors, he could take
walks in the grounds of the Tower.

This was more like
a civilized house arrest

than being chucked in a dungeon.

But within months, parliament had passed
yet another act,

making Henry the absolute head
of the Church in England

and cutting the country off
from the authority of the Pope.

The pressure on More was building.

They may have been lifelong friends,

but Henry was determined
to break More's spirit

and force him to obey.

As one of the most highly respected men
in all of England,

edged slowly towards his doom,

More himself described what happened next.

JONES: So, Andrea,
what is this collection we have here?

We have a set of 16th century transcripts
of the works of Thomas More.

JONES: God, there's so much of it.

So, now we know what
More's been accused of,

but what was his punishment,
because that's in here as well, isn't it?

CLARKE: So we are told that
he's going to lose all of his properties.

His land,
"Shall be deemed and adjudged

"in our said sovereign
and his heirs in like estate

"form and condition as they were before."

So what we're saying here is that
everything that Henry has given

to Thomas More over the years,
and all being in favor,

is now being taken back.

-He's ruined.

He loses absolutely everything.

But, what about More personally?

Halfway down this page we read,

"And also shall suffer such
pains of imprisonment of his body."

So, that great old phrase,
"Sent to the Tower..."

-That's the rest of More's life.


JONES: The ruthlessness of Henry,
I suppose.

Absolutely, and by this stage he was
a complete monster, he really was.

JONES: More was visited twice
in May and June 1535,

in an attempt to get him
to take the Oath of Allegiance.

But, he saw this as a real dilemma.

On the one hand he was a devout Catholic.

On the other, a loyal subject of the King.

And he said, "This act of parliament
is like a two-edged sword.

"For if a man shall swear one way,
it would confound his soul,

"if he swears the other way
it would confound his body."

In other words he was
damned if he did and damned if he didn't.

In the end, when he was
pressed to take the oath,

More remained silent.

On the 1st of July 1535,

Thomas More was taken
from the Tower of London

to Westminster, where he was
tried for high treason.

His accusers deliberated for just
15 minutes before giving their verdict.

More was found guilty of treason
and he was sentenced

to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

He was taken by boat downriver
to the Tower to await his fate.

Having defied his king,

More was sent back to this room
to contemplate his awful fate.

On the day before
he was due to be executed,

he wrote one final letter
to his beloved daughter Margaret.

What does More have to say,
because this is the day before

-he was going to be executed?
-Mmm. Mmm.

It must be quite an emotional letter
for him to have written

-to his daughter.

CLARKE: He says, "I never liked
your manner toward me

"better than when you kissed me last
for I love when daughterly love

"and dear charity hath no leisure

"to look to worldly courtesy."

God, that's incredibly

-touching, isn't it?

CLARKE: So he's referring to
just after his trial,

when he's been sentenced to death

and he's being escorted back to the Tower.

And Margaret has been waiting, sees him,

breaks through
all the soldiers to get to him

and to give him
one last hug and to kiss him,

and that obviously gave him great...

Uplifted him and gave him great comfort.

She really seemed to understand him,
and she seemed to really understand

why he felt unable to swear
the Oath of Supremacy

and she supported him in that decision.

And I think, you know, we're kind of

sitting in front of More
putting pen to paper,

imprisoned in the Tower of London.

It doesn't get much more, um,
spine-tingling than that, really.

JONES: At 9:00 the next morning,

Thomas More was brought from this cell
to meet his fate.

In the end he wasn't
hanged, drawn and quartered,

but simply beheaded as a traitor.

His final words were,

"The King's good servant,
but God's first."

Thomas More's execution
was only the beginning

of Henry's reign of terror.

And throughout the Tudor years,

plenty of other noble men and women
found themselves

locked up here,
waiting for the executioner's call.

None were more famous
than Henry's second wife,

Anne Boleyn, just one year later.

Anne Boleyn stayed in the royal apartments
here at the Tower of London

on the night before her coronation
as Henry VIII's Queen.

Three years later, she was back
on the morning of her execution.

Now for Anne's daughter, Elizabeth I,
it worked the other way round.

She was a prisoner here at the Tower,
of her sister, Mary I.

Within a matter of months,
she was leaving the Tower

on the morning of her own coronation.

In Tudor times,
treachery was a fickle concept

and today's king, queen,
or royal confidante

could easily be tomorrow's traitor.

But, fear of the monarchy
would begin to wane.

Less than a century
after More's execution,

the balance of power in England
would shift.

Soon the dominance of the Tower of London

would be overshadowed
by the will of the people.

From Norman times till the Tudor years,

the Tower of London had been
the focus for royal power.

But, by the 19th century,
it was starting to lose its grip.

This was no longer the main arena
for political battles.

Further up the River Thames,

the Houses of Parliament
now took center stage.

Now, the Tower took on another role.

It began to attract tourists.

And they weren't just here
to inspect the ramparts.

One of the main attractions was
some of its more exotic inhabitants.

Because it wasn't just humans
who were locked up in the Tower.

This is a story about a bear.

"And though the bear,
which killed the child,

-"escaped at this time...

"He was afterward
by command of the King

"baited to death with dogs, upon a stage."

Well, that gives us an insight
into the cheery humor

of the 18th century, doesn't it?

Oh, dear.

What's amazing is this tiny, little book

is one of the first known guidebooks
to the Tower of London,

and it's full of miniature
portraits of animals.

It's extraordinary to think that
for 600 years,

the Tower was home to the menagerie
or London's main zoo.

For more than 900 years,
since the time of William the Conqueror,

the Tower of London
has been a royal palace.

Now royals get a lot of gifts.

In fact the present royal family
has received

a bear, two sloths, a baby crocodile,
an elephant, a horse, and a canary.

In 1252, the King of Norway

presented the Tower
with a very exotic gift.

It's very own polar bear.

Now the royal records show
the purchase of a muzzle,

a chain, and a long length of rope

so the bear could go fishing
for its own food in the river.

England's medieval kings
needed somewhere secure

to put all the animals they received.

Naturally, they chose
the strongest castle in the land.

The Tower of London.

Over the years, the Tower
was home to everything

from monkeys to Barbary lions and
my favorite, a pair of dog-faced baboons.

In the 18th century, the Tower of London

opened its menagerie, or zoo,
to the public.

To get in, you had to pay three pennies

or bring along a cat or dog
to feed to the lions.

By 1828, the Tower held over 280 animals.

But one man was not impressed.

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

was the heroic general
who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.

Now aged nearly 60,
he was made constable of the Tower.

The old soldier had plans
for the great fortress,

and they didn't include wild animals,

or the noisy crowds that came to see them.


As far as the Duke of Wellington
was concerned,

the Tower was a barracks for troops,
not a circus or a zoo.

On top of that the place was filthy.

The water in the moat was fetid
and there was cholera among the troops.

Now Wellington was a founding member
of the Zoological Society

and to his mind, cleaning this place up
meant the animals had to go.

The Duke of Wellington knew
that housing wild animals

in a medieval fortress
was an accident waiting to happen.

And he was right.

In 1835, when one of the lions
allegedly mauled a soldier,

the Iron Duke had had enough.

He relocated the entire menagerie
to Regent's Park,

where it became one of the world's

most famous collections
of animals, London Zoo.

Wellington got rid of the animals
and the mint.

He drained the moat
and he turned the Tower

back into a proper,
shipshape military barracks.

They named a building after him,

where they now keep
the Crown Jewels.

But you know what?
The ultimate irony is,

the Duke of Wellington hated tourists.

Wellington proposed
that the public should be kept out

of the Tower of London.

He called them a nuisance
and a threat to security.

Fortunately for the millions of tourists
who come here every year,

he never got his way.

For nearly 900 years,

the Tower has dominated London
and fascinated the world.

Today it remains the most famous
British castle of them all.

In the end the story of the Tower

is about the mob and it always has been.

The Tower was built
to frighten and subjugate them.

It's been used to appease them,
locking up criminals and foreigners

and of course, it's been used
to amuse them,

whether coming to the zoo
or going out to Tower Hill

to watch traitors being beheaded.

And it still amuses them now.

A royal fortress, invaded every day

by thousands of ordinary people
pouring in off the streets of London.