Friday, July 20, 2012

The Ceremony of the Keys

No photos allowed- so this one is from Google
No one does ceremony and tradition like the British. Every night, for over 700 years, the guards at the Tower of London have held a special ceremony to ensure the safekeeping of the Tower, its residents, and, of coarse, the Crown Jewels.  A small number of people are allowed to witness the ceremony and we were lucky enough to have tickets for last weekend! 

At 9:30 we were escorted inside.  Of course, it started to rain.  We were drenched, but it did add to the spooky atmosphere of the Tower at night. The Yeoman Warder (commonly called a Beefeater) explained the specifics of the Ceremony and reminded us to be perfectly silent throughout.  He escorted the children to the front for a better view, and then it began.  There was marching, a lantern, the slamming of the huge doors, the jingling of giant keys.  And then the highlight:  An armed guard shouting, "Halt!  Who comes here?"

It was pretty exciting.  I was amazed that this exact ceremony is held every night, and has been for so many centuries.  It is the oldest surviving military ceremony in the world.  As an American, it's hard to even comprehend a tradition that dates back so many years. 

After the gates were locked I noticed my five year old looking a bit scared.  He was wondering how we were getting out.  Thankfully, the guests are allowed to exit through the Lion Door (which is an ancient "doggie door" used when lions used to stay at the Tower).

It was such a fun night- made even better because we were able to share it with our dear Australian friends who were on holiday in London.

Tickets to the Ceremony of the Keys are free, but must be requested in writing well in advance.  For more information click here.

This was one of the more unique experiences I've had in London and something we will all remember for a long time to come. 

Have you been to the Ceremony of the Keys?
What other unique things have you seen or done in London?  

 

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for yet another fun idea for London adventures!

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  2. Really cool, Jenny! What a unique experience-- we will have to look into it...

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  3. So COOL! You are really making the most of your time in England. Green with envy, but in a good way. Every time you update I get to sit back and at least for now live vicariously through your adventures! Cheers!

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