The Tower of London (completed in 1100 A.D.) was built by William the Conqueror. It was built to be a fortress that made a statement. It was meant to intimidate and meant to show power and strength of the monarchy.
The Tower of London has a long rich history with many intriguing stories. Perhaps one of the most interesting details? The fact that it used to be home to all kinds of exotic animals.
The menagerie (a.k.a. collection of wild/exotic animals) existed during 1200's - 1835. It included lions, leopards, tigers, eagles, an elephant, bear, even a kangaroo and more! You might wonder...why would these animals be here? Well they were gifts from foreign monarchs. It was a normal thing for rulers to send each other exotic animals as gifts apparently. I mean who needs a nice pen when you could send an elephant, am I right? #obviously
These animals were kept as status symbols and put on display as a sort of "curiosity" to visitors to the Tower of London. Most people from this area had never seen these types of animals. So it was awe-inspiring and intimidating for guests who had to pass by all the animals in order to walk into the Tower.
A few interesting facts about the menagerie:
1. King Louis IX of France sent an elephant as a gift for the Crusades.
Well meaning keepers made the elephant drink a gallon of red wine a day to "keep the cold out". The result? The elephant pretty much stayed drunk the whole time and died a few years later. But at least he never got cold.
2. The collection of exotic animals drew tourists to the Tower of London.
By the 1700's admission cost about 3.5 half pence. But you could get in for free if you brought in a cat or dog to feed the lions. Umm what?
3. The wild animals sometimes injured or killed their keepers/soldiers/ visitors.
I mean that just kind of seems like a given.
4. By 1835, they realized this practice was not humane so they stopped keeping exotic animals at the Tower of London.
And just like that a tradition that was over 600 years old was stopped! But don't worry - they now have statues of exotic animals that guests pass by as they enter the Tower.
Stay tuned for more articles about the Tower of London!