The victory of the Normans in the Battle of Hastings ushered in a cultural transformation from architecture to language and from law to religion in England. Today, the motto representing the British monarchy on the British national emblem is still the French phrase “Dieu etmon droit”, which means “I am authorized by God.”
As the most important castle in England, the Tower of London marked the complete end of the Anglo-Saxon dynasty, and the Normans began to become the masters of England. However, it is not only a historical coordinate linking the past and the future, but also contains the strong personal characteristics of the first founder William. If we want to truly understand the Tower of London, beyond the icy feet and space, we must first understand the era that gave birth to the Tower of London and what kind of person William was.
The Duke of Normandy defeats the King of England
On October 14, 1066, ancient England ushered in a major historical turning point.
The 38-year-old Duke of Normandy, William, led hundreds of Viking warships and nearly 10,000 soldiers across the Strait of Dover and landed at Pevensey on the coast of England, heading for Hastings, where fierce fighting is about to break out. This thrilling battle lasted for a whole day. In the evening, King Harold fell in pain with an arrow in one of his eyes. Four Norman cavalry took the opportunity to rush over and cut him in half, winning. The negative is doomed.
72 days later, William, Duke of Normandy, was crowned in Westminster and became King William I of England. Then, he decided to build a huge stone castle in the southeast corner of London, which was later the Tower of London.
More than 100 years before the Battle of Hastings, William’s Viking ancestor, Rollo, led his troops to sack the kingdom of France frantically, besieging the city several times in exchange for ransom. At this time, the French treasury was in a hurry. Whether it was fighting the Vikings’ military expenses or buying the Vikings’ ransom, they were overwhelmed. Therefore, King Charles III made an amazing offer to Rollo: he gifted Rouen and the surrounding area to Rollo, in exchange for Rollo to convert to Christianity and stop attacking French territory.
Rollo agreed and established a country in northwestern France, named “Normandy”, which means the land of the Normans. Only a few generations later, the Viking pirates who had robbed their homes and robbed their houses and abandoned their Odinism and Old Norse, and became Christian and French-speaking princes and nobles. However, such a strong history of the founding of the country destined the descendants of Rollo to be unwilling to become vassals to the King of France. The Principality of Normandy and the Kingdom of France were in peace during the war, and even helped an ambitious noble to usurp the throne and establish the French Capet dynasty. .
By 1035, William was only 7 years old when he became the Duke of Normandy. He is the illegitimate son of the late Duke Robert. Such a weak young lord greatly stimulated the ambitions of the noble lords. They used William’s wealth to expand their power and regarded him as a puppet that could be contended and manipulated.
Once, the butler Osborne slept in William’s room as a caregiver. The next morning, young William woke up in the strong smell of blood and found that Osborn had his throat cut. The assassin god sneaked into William’s bedroom without knowing it, killing his trusted butler. This is a naked threat: if you are not obedient, this is the end!
In this situation, the lords under William’s rule competed to separate and rob each other, and the Principality fell into a long turmoil. William grew up in the bloody civil strife. He has been on the battlefield since the age of fourteen or five. He has re-assembled a group of young and loyal staff members, personally led the soldiers to counter the rebellion, brave and fearless. The lords who fought inextricably realized it suddenly: “Mongrel” William was not frightened, and he would never be a pawn willingly controlled. There is only one way left.
One day in 1045, 17-year-old William was hunting in the western region of Normandy. Someone quietly reminded him that his cousin Guy, as the mastermind, will assassinate him when he returns to his residence tonight. William watched his attendants carefully and decided to escape alone. He placed an almost crazy bet: he crossed most of the duchy, across the borders, and went straight to the King of France, and as a vassal, he asked the king of the suzerain country to send troops to quell the rebellion. He won the bet. After weighing it, the French king believed that it was more advantageous to support William than to support the rebels. As a result, the French king’s army and William’s army formed a coalition and fought against the rebels in the sand dunes of Vals and won a great victory. Just beside the mountain of rebel corpses, William convened a “peace meeting” to show authority to the noble lords.
This was a big step for William in stabilizing the Principality. Nearly 20 years later, he led troops everywhere to conquer the rebellious lords and attack the castles they built without authorization. It can even be said that William’s entire youth life as a duke, It was spent in breaking through castles and then building their own castles.
He introduced the French “special product”-castles to Britain
When William decided to conquer England across the sea, he was not only the feared real power duke in northern France, but also an outstanding commander who was known for his invincibility. It took him 30 years to turn from the humble “hybrid” William to the “conqueror” William who has been in the annals of history.
However, even if William has become King of England, his story with the castle will continue. Harold’s descendants and the local Anglo-Saxon nobles repeatedly rebelled. William often resorted to brutal suppression. In order to win over the Norman lords who followed him, he often acquiesced to them to accumulate wealth. At the same time, William also brought a French “special product”-the castle to England.
At that time, a monk named Odric Vitalis wrote: “In the counties of England, people have almost never heard of the fortresses called’castles’ built by the Normans. So, although The English were brave and militant, but they had no resistance.”
Obviously, the castle became an important tool for the Normans to consolidate their rule in England. According to conservative estimates, the Normans built about 500 castles in England during the reign of William the Conqueror. In short, William used an army of less than 10,000 people and more than 500 castles to conquer and contain a country with a population of close to 2 million.
Among these castles, the most prominent of course is the Tower of London as the royal residence. In the center of the Tower of London, stands the White Tower, a square fort built by William. The white pagoda is made of hard and rough white stones. The base is about 36 meters long, 33 meters wide, and the tower is about 28 meters high. The wall thickness varies. It is a double wall of 3-6 meters with very small windows. . The top of the White Pagoda is a crenellation, with four tall towers rising from the four corners. Except for the round tower in the northeast corner, the other three towers are all square, which was absolutely magnificent in the castle at that time.
However, inside the White Tower is another scene. Generally speaking, if a monarch wants to build a royal complex, he will choose an open area to build lobbies, meeting rooms, meeting rooms, palaces, churches and other buildings scattered within the tall walls. But inside the White Tower, these functional spaces are stacked one after another, all squeezed in this three-story tower. It is especially worth noting that there is a narrow spiral staircase in the corner of the tower, which can only accommodate one person up and down, leading to the king’s palace on the top floor. The space of the bedroom on the third floor is narrowly divided and the light is dim. It is by no means the bright and luxurious king’s residence in our imagination.
If it weren’t for William himself, I couldn’t imagine any architect who would dare to present such an embarrassing design to this “tyrant”. It is true that William ruled England for a short period of time. In addition to comfort, he must first consider the practicality of deterring his people and defending offensively. However, this obviously also reveals the deep insecurity of the builders.
At the end of William’s reign, the situation in England stabilized. After the cruel plunder and killing, the Norman lords intermarried with the only remaining Anglo-Saxon nobles. The once violent aliens rebelled and gradually reconciled through blood. In this environment, castles are no longer a tool for conquering and oppressing foreign races. Since the 12th century, many castles built by the Normans have been abandoned. Those castles that can survive will inevitably add new ones adapted to the peaceful era. Function, the Tower of London is the same.
The dark royal story in the Tower of London
In the following centuries, the kings of England who succeeded William made large-scale expansions centered on the White Tower, forming a multi-layer defensive complex with four floors inside and outside, including 13 towers on the inner wall, and 6 towers on the outside. 2 bastions. In addition to the original fort and palace functions, the Tower of London is also used as an armory, a treasury, a court, a mint, an observatory, a document library, a jewelry storehouse, and a beast garden.
However, the most notorious function of the Tower of London is to serve as a prison and execution ground for the imprisonment and execution of nobles. According to statistics, more than 3,000 people have been held here, 22 of them were executed, 10 of them were beheaded in the tower, and 7 of them were members of the royal family.
Among these people who went to the guillotine of the Tower of London, two women from the 16th century were the most famous. One is Ann Bolling, who is the second queen of Henry VIII of the Tudor dynasty. Prior to this, Henry VIII was so fascinated by her. In order to marry her, he did everything possible to divorce Queen Catherine. He did not hesitate to offend the Holy See and Catherine’s natal Spain at the same time, and finally got his wish. However, only three years later, someone informed Henry VIII, claiming that Queen Ann had committed adultery with many people, including her brother George. Henry VIII was furious and did not believe her excuse. After publicly executing her 5 “adulterers”, he also sent her to the guillotine. As a special favor, Henry VIII hired an execution swordsman from France. After learning about it, Ann Bolling said to the jailer in the Tower of London: “I heard that the executioner is very good, and my neck is very thin.” Her hands were both hands. Surrounding his jaw, he laughed and wore a black satin dress with white mink fur to his death. This is indeed in line with her usual coquettish style, and was called “Queen of Thousand Days” by later generations.
The other woman was Jane Gray. She was the only monarch executed in the Tower of London, nicknamed “Queen of the Nine Days.” Originally she was just a noble girl who lived deep in Jane. She loved to read the Greek version of Plato’s works. When Henry VIII’s son Edward was dying, Jane was appointed as a collateral blood relative as his successor. The reason was that Edward was a Protestant and did not want to fall into the throne. Hand of Mary, sister of Catholics. Soon after Jane took the throne, she was deposed by Mary, and the Tower of London, which had just become her palace, turned into a prison where she was imprisoned in a blink of an eye. Jane was imprisoned in the tower for 7 months. Like Ann Bolling, her execution site was also in front of the green tower. Before Jane was executed, she watched her newlywed husband beheaded. She was only 16 years old when she died.
Portrait of William I. It took him 30 years to turn from the humble “hybrid” William to the “conqueror” William who has been in the annals of history.
“The Execution of Jane Gray” by Paul Delaroche. Jane Gray was the only monarch executed in the Tower of London, nicknamed “Queen of the Nine Days.” Jane witnessed the beheading of her newlywed husband. Then, she was covered with white cloth in great fear, and she groped for the cutting board of the guillotine with shaking hands. She was only 16 years old when she died.
Among the many anecdotes of the Tower of London, there is another thing that is rarely known-a pair of real “Romeo and Juliet” was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
In June 1610, 35-year-old Abella Stewart secretly married 22-year-old lover William Seymour. Only 2 weeks later, King James I of England learned of the incident and was furious. He imprisoned William in the Tower of London and placed Abella under house arrest in Barnet, 20 kilometers away from London. Their union was prevented because according to the blood relationship, Abella’s possibility of inheriting the throne was originally equal to that of James I. If she were to marry another distant relative, William, then their children would have an excellent throne. Succession qualifications seriously threatened the king’s status.
Abella and William couldn’t bear the suffering of lovesickness, and decided to take the risk and go far and high together. In the summer of 1611, Abella disguised herself as a man, put on tights, cloak and boots, and escaped Barnett on horseback under the cover of her allies. At about 6 in the afternoon, she arrived at the port of Blackwall, but she did not see William who was thinking about it. Has his plan to escape from the Tower of London leaked? She waited anxiously. The Thames was about to rise. It was very difficult to escape at night. For every minute of delay, her chances of getting free would decrease by one point. After waiting for more than 2 hours, Abella had to escape first, and a French captain would take her to Calais. A few kilometers from Calais, Abella ordered the boat to stop to see if William could catch up. But she kept looking back and eagerly looking forward, what was waiting was not her “Romeo”, but the arrest of her. Subsequently, Abella was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where William was once held, and was subjected to more stringent imprisonment, with no possibility of escape. What she didn’t know was that William pretended to be a shaver and had successfully escaped from the Tower of London, but he was unfortunately delayed while waiting for the boat, missed her, and then went into exile in France. Four years later, Abella died of depression in loneliness. This period of love tragedy, which was not allowed and must end in the death of one party, came to an end in the Tower of London.
In fact, the king James I, who made trouble from it, was also the last monarch to use the Tower of London as a palace. For the subsequent kings of England, only when they were crowned in Westminster Abbey, they had to stay in the Tower of London for a few days as usual.
Today, the Tower of London has long lost its various functions and has become a world-renowned historical exhibition hall. The most popular is the Treasure Hall next to the White Tower, which displays the imperial swords, coronation robes, crowns and royal scepters. Rare treasures attract millions of visitors every year.
Beginning in 1952, the Tower of London ushered in its new owner, Elizabeth II, who was a fusion of the blood of the “conqueror” William and King Harold. The once violent and noisy alien war, like the Tower of London, has escaped the reincarnation of conquest and blood and returned to tranquility.