When you think of the Tower of London, what do you think of? Perhaps William the Conqueror. Perhaps King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Perhaps just a vague "Middle Ages Vibe". But the Tower of London also has some interesting history during the mid 20th century.
I've said it before and will say it again: World War II drastically affected life in a way that most of us don't understand. Over and over we are able to see how World War II posed a different threat and brought about a different mentality than other previous conflicts. If you haven't already, you can read my article on World War II and the Olympics, here. Or my article on World War II and the Chateau de Chambord in France, here. Or my article on the Greatest Generation, here.
The Tower of London can be added to the list of places that tell part of that story.
Let's start with the Crown Jewels.
The Crown Jewels are a collection of precious stones/gems and coronation regalia such as crowns/scepters. Today, you can actually see the Crown Jewels if you visit the Tower of London. Kings and Queens have stored these incredibly historic and valuable pieces at the Tower of London for safe keeping since the 1600's. For centuries, they stayed there. Think about that!
During the Seven Years War (when England fought with their arch-rival, France to assert dominance as the most powerful empire in the Western world) - the Crown Jewels stayed at the Tower of London. During the French Revolution (which was a big deal in England, because it followed the American Revolution's example of overthrowing the Monarchy) - the Crown Jewels stayed at the Tower of London. During World War I - the Crown Jewels stayed at the Tower of London. hint: did you catch the theme? The Crown Jewels stayed put.
But when World War II rolled around? The Crown Jewels were moved from the Tower of London to a secret location that to this day has not been disclosed. Let's just take a moment to acknowledge how this shows just how big of a deal World War II really was.
When England was fighting on many fronts to preserve their sprawling empire...the Crown Jewels were left alone. When England was afraid of the entire concept of the Monarchy being obliterated...the Crown Jewels were left alone. When aircrafts fitted with guns and bombs were used for the first time in human history during World War I...the Crown Jewels were left alone. But something changed when Hitler and the Nazis came on the scene.
Now that says a lot. World War II was about something bigger than just a conflict with one country/region or one type of government. It was an attack on humanity itself. It was an attack on history. It was an attack on art. It caused countries all over the world to completely change their mentality of how things were done.
Side note: the Tower of London was actually hit with 15 bombs, 3 missiles, and numerous other attacks during World War II. Surprisingly, the damage to the structure of the tower was pretty minimal.
World War II holds another piece of history for the Tower of London: the last execution at the Tower.
Many traitors and high status prisoners had been executed there over the centuries. Perhaps the most famous being King Henry VIII's wife, Anne Boleyn, in the 1500's. But the last execution took place August 15, 1941. He was a German spy who had parachuted into London and been captured. Most spies at the time would have been hung. But because this man was an officer he was given a more "respectful" execution by military firing squad within the Tower walls.
Since then, no more executions have taken place at the Tower of London. World War II brought about a conclusion to that chapter of the Tower's life. Which is kind of interesting to think about considering it is a legacy that is almost 1,000 years old.
Stay tuned for more articles on the Tower of London!
If you liked this, check out my first article on this historical fortress:
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