A visit to the grand medieval castle was always on top of my bucket list. The castle is a really hard sight to miss. In the middle of all the skyscrapers, bustling business people, and rushing vehicles, is the Tower of London. Even by gazing at the castle encircled in the modern city, it is easy to see how much this city has changed over centuries.
Recently, I had the chance to enter the castle with the Arcadia London Study Center for free. Normally, it would cost you about £18.15.
There are so many things to uncover within the Tower of London. You can check out the dazzling Crown Jewels. Or learn about the tigers, baboons, polar bears, and other bizarre pets that the royals kept. Or visit the prison chambers where infamous criminals like Guy Fawkes were tortured. Or if you’re like me, you would visit the gravesite of Queen Anne Boleyn.
The tale of King Henry and his wives is a grave tragedy. I first fell in love with the story when I saw The Other Boleyn Girl with Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn. In short, King Henry could not have a son with his first wife Catherine of Aragon. After failing to annul the marriage, he separated England from the Catholic Church and remarried to Anne Boleyn. And when Anne had a daughter and not a son, she was accused of treason by the King. Anne Boleyn was executed at the Tower of London.
Ironically, Anne Boleyn’s daughter Elizabeth I still ascended to the throne.
At the Tower of London, a memorial stands where Anne Boleyn was beheaded. It’s a strange sight. All the stories I have read and seen in movies took place right there. I have a difficult time remembering that it’s not just a story. It’s history and it really did happen.
The memorial is a glass pillow centered on an inscribed glass circle. It says:
Gentle visitor pause awhile, where you stand death cut away the light of many days. Here jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life, may they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage under these restless skies.
It’s a really moving quote. Although we didn’t truly know his women nor live in the same time as her, we know her story and we know she was innocent. Hopefully that’s enough for her to find peace. Behind the memorial is the chapel of St. Peter and Vincula where she is buried.
It’s weird that after centuries these pieces of history still stand. It makes the United States seem so young. It makes me feel so small.
Photo of the execution memorial by John Muk