Spare time in London?

Beefeater at the Tower Of London, taken by Adr...

Beefeater at the Tower Of London, taken by Adrian Barnett with digital camera. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take time to visit the Tower of London and watch the “Ceremony of Keys.”

London has lots of events and exhibitions that you can do completely free of charge. If you have the time and want to venture out, you can spend some pretty enjoyable hours checking things out. First on the list, how about a visit to the Tower of London to catch the “Ceremony of the Keys.” Here’s your chance to be part of an ancient ceremony!

The “Ceremony of the Keys” is the traditional locking up of the Tower of London. It has taken place each and every night for the last 700 years.

The ceremony starts at exactly 9:53 PM so you’ll need to arrive before then. This is when the Yeoman Warders start locking up the entrances to the Tower.

To begin the ceremony, the Chief Yeoman Warder, dressed in Tudor Watchcoat, meets the military escort, made up of members of the Tower of London Guard. Together, the Chief Yeoman Warder and the Yeoman Warder ‘Watchman’ secure the main gates of the Tower. Upon their return down Water Lane, the party is halted by the sentry and challenged to identify themselves:

Sentry: Who comes there?

Chief Warder: The keys.

Sentry: Whose keys?

Chief Warder: Queen Elizabeth’s keys.

Sentry: Pass Queen Elizabeth’s Keys. All’s well.

Following this, the party makes its way through the Bloody Tower Archway into the fortress, where they halt at the bottom of the Broadwalk Steps. On the top of the Stairs, under the command of their officer, the Tower Guard present arms and the Chief Warder raises his hat, proclaiming:

Chief Warder: God preserve Queen Elizabeth.

Sentry: Amen!

He then takes the keys to the Queen’s House for safekeeping, while the Last Post is sounded.

The ceremony was interrupted was during the Second World War, when incendiary bombs fell on a section of the tower during an air raid. There is a letter on record apologizing that the ceremony was late, along with a reply from the King which says that the officer is not to be punished as the delay was due to enemy action.

While the Monarch no longer resides at the royal palace, the importance of securing this fortress is relevant because the Crown Jewels and many other valuables reside there. The Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror after the Norman Conquest. The fortress is now a World Heritage Site, and home to the Crown Jewels.

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