The Tower of London holds all this and more! We spent the entire day at this landmark of the city. Her Majesty's bodyguards, also known as yeoman warders but familiar to all as Beefeaters, guard the tower. They are all men and have served in the army for at least 22 years. They are quite regal in their unmistakable uniforms. They give tours, are endlessly photographed and love to joke around and answer questions.
Initially, it was a hard sell to the kids. The tour is interesting with tons of history but not so much for the kids At one point I was wincing and hoping they weren't listening to the story of the executioner who took 5 swings to behead someone and still didn't succeed. I'll spare you the details of how he accomplished his job.
After the hour long tour, we watched an historical reenactment. Men and women dressed in period clothes explained what is was like to defend a palace. They taught so much about both attacking and defending a fortress with great humor and audience participation. Sam and Emme were picked to climb a ladder over the fortress wall to learn of the demise of most trying to penetrate a castle this way. Sam had boiling water dumped on his head and Emme had excrement heaped on hers. Both water and excrement, they explained, were cheap and readily available. I joined in the fun by helping launch a catapult. As the man explained, you have to do two things at once to be successful- pull a rope and fall on your ass. His quote, not mine. I did both just fine, especially the second part. The kids were enthralled with the whole demonstration and William couldn't have been happier if Robin Hood himself was standing in front of him. The costumes were fantastic. We took tons of pictures and William was beside himself when one of the men let him hold his sword for the photograph. The Tower of London was now officially the coolest tourist attraction in London.
They was still so much more to see and do, we decided to stop for a lunch of what else- fish and chips. It was surprisingly good and reasonably priced. There are actually two or three restaurants and as you can imagine, about four themed gift shops in the complex.
Next we move on to the Crown Jewels. When you enter the building, there is a room called the Hall of Monarchs. The coat of arms of every monarch is displayed as well as the years of their reign. It was fun for the kids to figure out how many years some had reigned, trying to find the longest ones. We also compared names, counting the most popular such as Edward and Henry. If we make a graph later at home, this could count as a homeschooling lesson! Mark pointed out that there has only been one King John. This is familiar to the kids because of Disney's Robin Hood. You may remember the thumb-sucking tiger who portrayed the dastardly, coward of a king. Do you know which number William will be if/when he becomes king? You have probably heard of William the Conqueror who was the first king of England. There have been three others so Diana's son will be King William the Fifth, should he ascend to the throne. There is also some great footage of the coronation of Elizabeth II which shows the Crown Jewels and how they are worn on State occasions. To view the variety of jewels you step on a conveyor belt to keep the crowd moving. The most famous gem in the entire collection is the Star of Africa. It weighs 530 carats and is the largest top-quality white diamond ever cut. It sits atop the sovereigns scepter and is stunning.
Next we toured some of the towers and ended the day at the gift shop. Elise was happy to purchase her own crown jewels made of high quality plastic just like the sword William chose. Emme couldn't live without a coin purse beaded with a Union Jack design. Anne and Sam were happy with stuffed ravens. Next to the Beefeaters, the ravens are the most famous residents of the tower. It is said that the tower and the kingdom will not fall as long as there are ravens in residence. To this end, Charles II protected them by royal decree. Now, they have their wings clipped, a procedure that doesn't harm them but insures they will not fly away. To honor him, they named there stuffed version Chuck. :-)
We were a happy, tired, well-educated crew by the end of the day.
Have a great weekend. Let's make Eli remember where he came from! Go Saints!