Tower of London — Part 1
Today I was able to travel back in time to 200 AD — if you count standing next to an excavated Roman wall inside the Tower of London grounds!
The Tower of London is only a few blocks from our hotel, on the north bank of the River Thames. My favorite part, the White Tower, was built by William the Conqueror almost 1,000 years ago! It wasn’t a prison then, but a fortified castle with a moat and heavily fortified walls.
Throughout its history, the Tower of London has had many purposes. It’s been a small zoo, a treasury and mint, and an armory. It contains the Crown Jewels, which are bigger and brighter than I imagined. But of course, the Tower is most infamous for its executions.
One of the main reasons I wanted to visit the Tower is because I am fascinated by Anne Boleyn. She is a conundrum to me — was she an innocent or was she a schemer? Her refusal to sleep with King Henry VIII was savvy. He pursued her ardently, and eventually it led to church reformation in England, but not before Archbishop Wolsey was framed (partially by Anne) because he hadn’t been able to secure King Henry’s annulment from his first wife Catherine. I love some of Wolsey’s final words, “… if I had served God as diligently as I have done the King, he would not have given me over…”
Cromwell and others helped strip the power of the Catholic Church, and Henry was so anxious to have Anne, he wed her secretly a couple months before their formal wedding. The future Queen Elizabeth was born ten months after their secret marriage!
Three years later, and three miscarriages later, Henry VIII had moved onto Jane Seymour. And we all know what went down when he thought his prospects of achieving a male heir would be better with Jane. Despite being falsely accused as a traitor, with additional charges of incest and adultery, Anne’s final words were so gracious: “I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord.” Was that Anne showing unconditional love for her husband? Was she trying to “heap burning coals on her enemy – Proverbs 25:22”, was she hoping to convince Henry to relent, or did she really thing Henry hadn’t orchestrated her downfall?
Regardless, it was moving to be so near Anne’s final resting place, under the roses pictured here on the floor of the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula. We had the privilege of hearing a choir singing hymns from outside the chapel before we we able to tour it.
It was an awesome experience to be in a place so central to hundreds of years of history, a place of unspeakable anguish and remarkable triumph.