The Tower of London is one of the most popular tourist sites in the United Kingdom. Some of its saddest history is as the place of death for condemned prisoners.
A lot of the people held here were actually taken elsewhere to be hanged or beheaded. It was a privilege to be executed on Tower Green, a la Queen Anne Boleyn.
This photo is from an upper window of the Beauchamp Tower. Below is a small memorial featuring a glass pillow on a circular table top, a work of art by British artist Brian Catling, unveiled in 2006. It displays the names of ten people known to have been executed here, five of whom are associated with the reign of King Henry VIII.
This includes Lady Jane Grey, who was executed in 1554, seven years after Henry died. I consider her a victim of misfortunes connected with him despite the time lapse, although some may not agree.
When I visit places like this and realize that it is only 450 years since a king could order the death of any subject – including the queen – and that in those times, executions were something of a public entertainment, I realize two important things. One is that we humans have come a long way, and the other is that we haven’t.
Disclosure: I had this adventure on October 1, 2012. I used my Historic Royal Palaces membership card (which I paid for myself) to get in to the Tower of London. You can see some of the tower property from the outside, including Traitor’s Gate. There’s quite a bit more you’ll see if you pay to go in, including the Crown Jewels. By the way, there’s a section of Roman wall near the tube station, free to see and rather impressive to consider.