Wednesday, April 6, 2011

You beefeater!!

So, as most of those around me already know, I am very interested in European history. More specifically, English history during the 15th and 16th centuries. It all started when I read a biography about Catherine Di Medici, an Italian noblewoman that married the Dauphin of France and became Queen. She was a devout Catholic and ruthless against the Protestants!! When I learned that she ruled at the same time as Elizabeth I and also helped to raise Mary, Queen of Scot’s, I wanted to learn more about Elizabeth and Mary as well. So, I picked up a book written by Rosalind Miles called I, Elizabeth, then another about Elizabeth and Mary’s relationship as cousins. I would highly recommend Rosalind Miles’ books if you want to learn more about these two historical figures. After reading more from Rosalind Miles I also started reading Phillippa Gregory books after they were recommended to me. Learning more about these characters from history and their reigns fascinated me! And I’ve been reading about them ever since. In London I picked up a book from Allison Weir and hope to read more from her too- she is supposed to be a great author of that time period as well.

About a week and a half ago we traveled to London. It should be no surprise that the first landmark that I wanted to see was the Tower of London. Our hotel the first night was only a couple of blocks away, so it was perfect! Our first day in London we toured the Tower and it was amazing! We really lucked out with the weather as well- it was about 50 degrees and sunny the entire time we were there! I was so excited to see The Tower because it is so wrought with history starting as a royal palace for the King and his favorite members of court, turned prison for traitors including Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Elizabeth I. Three queens were executed there, and two princes are rumored to be murdered there but their actual fate is unknown. What is known is that the two little princes definitely disappeared after they entered the Tower, never to be heard from again. It’s no surprise that when we finally entered the Tower I was feeling very uneasy. I’m not sure if it was because of all of the history that happened there, but I suddenly felt similar to how I felt when we visited Dachau Concentration Camp years ago. Josh was shocked that I wasn’t more excited to be there, but the place was very creepy (although beautiful).

We toured the outer ring of the castle, then the inner section where the queens were executed, Anne Boleyn’s memorial, the crown jewels, and the White Tower itself. They also showed us the famous Traitors Gate. If you were charged with treason, you entered the Tower by water through this gate. If you entered through this gate, you didn’t leave (except for Elizabeth I). She was the sole person to leave the tower with her life after entering through that gate. The Tower is still a royal palace carrying the royal standard of the monarchy, but they do not live in the palace anymore. Instead, there are guards living in the palace called Yeomen that give tours and guard the palace. They are known as “Beefeaters”… just like the gin. The name comes from a time when they were not paid much for guarding the palace, so the king would send beef to them. Beef in those times was VERY expensive and the general public couldn’t afford it. When the townspeople saw the Yeomen out about town in their famous yellow and red uniforms (just like they are pictured on the Beefeaters Gin bottle), they called them “beefeaters”. It was a derogatory term, similar to what people say back home about people from Edina- those “cake eaters”!

Outside of the Tower was the Tower Bridge- another beautiful sight! Our first day in London consisted of a lot of history and walking around the city. It was a little surreal to be in a place where so much had happened! Especially after reading about all the characters that entered the Tower and never came out, Anne Boleyn’s execution by a French swordsman and seeing the place where all of it actually happened. I had chills. So many people died in that place that it was a sharp reminder of how lucky we are today to live in a free society without fear of dying for our religious beliefs or even just saying the wrong thing to the king.


  1. When you were in the Tower of London, did you get to see the actual cells where people were imprisoned? Like Sir Thomas More? Not able to take pictures though?
    You are an excellent writer, Maren, and I am enjoying all your adventures.

    Jo, Mike's Mom

  2. Hi Jo!

    Thanks for your message! Its great to hear from you. We did get to see those parts of the Tower, but those pictures are on Joshs Nikon. I am unable to upload them until we get internet in our appartment (which will hopefully be in the next two weeks). Once that happens I will most likely post a blog with just photos.