Grim, grey and awe-inspiring, the Tower of London - which is, in fact, a grouping of many different towers clustered around the forbidding and foreboding White Tower - has dominated the London skyline and the pages of English history, since it was completed by William 1st in the wake of his Norman invasion of this country in 1066.
Few buildings in the United Kingdom come close to matching the Tower when it comes to history, not to mention the tales of murder, intrigue, execution and hauntings that swirl around the time-stained walls of this imposing fortress.
And, on Richard's private tour of the Tower of London, you'll enjoy a genuine voyage of discovery through nigh on a thousand years of eventful and bloody history as you criss-cross the centuries to get up close and personal with the many famous, not so famous, and downright infamous characters, both past and present, to whom, over the centuries, the Tower of London has been a secure abode, a place of refuge, a home from home, a place of imprisonment or, on many occasions, all of these!
BEAT THE LINE AND SAVE TIME
Because Richard is a fully qualified and licensed Blue Badge London Guide, he is one of only a handful of elite outside guides who are permitted to guide officially inside the Tower of London.
The advantage of this to you, the customer, is that he is also able to bypass the normal lines that, at certain times of the year and/or day can prove as tortuous as any of the horrendous acts that have happened inside the Tower - and he can spirit you in via a different entrance to the one used by the majority of visitors.
You'll spend less time in line and more time inside.
And, because Richard knows the Tower like the back of his hand (he's written about it in two books and filmed inside it for the History Channel), he'll treat you to a memorable tour that will keep you far from the maddening crowds, and which will introduce you to dark corners and hidden recesses that the casual visitor might easily miss or overlook.
HISTORY WILL COME TO LIFE
Your visit to the Tower of London will actually begin outside the Tower with a gentle stroll along the shoreline of the River Thames, which for centuries provided the main access to the Tower.
Here you will enjoy an absolutely stunning view of Tower Bridge and Richard will regale you with a full history of this prominent London landmark and tell you of some of the more bizarre episodes from its past, such as the time that a World War 11 flying ace managed to pilot his plane between its two impressive towers.
You'll then find yourself passing over what was once the Tower's moat and, within seconds, you'll be standing between the canyon-like walls of the Tower's outer and inner defences.
Richard will explain how the Tower is a work of military and defensive genius - an observation that is attested to by the fact that it has never once been successfully stormed since its erection in the wake of the Norman invasion of 1066 - and he will draw your eyes to some of the features that have helped make it such an impenetrable stronghold.
He'll show you the ominously named "Traitors Gate" and tell you of some of the figures who, over the last thousand years, have sailed in through it, some of whom were destined to never to see the outside world again.
RAVENS AND BEEFEATERS
You'll then move closer to the heart of the fortress where Richard will introduce you to two of the most famous residents of the Tower of London (collectively speaking) the Ravens and the Beefeaters.
He'll tell you of the customs, traditions and superstitions associated with these superstars of the London landscape, and he'll tackle such important issues as:-
- Why must the ravens never be allowed to leave the Tower and what will happen if they ever do?
- Why are the Beefeaters called Beefeaters?
- What has become of the few Ravens who have dared make a break for it and have managed to escape the ominous reach of the Tower's shadow?
- Last, but by no means least, "how does one actually become a Beefeater in the first place?
All these questions, and many more besides, will be answered as you journey through history and penetrate deeper into the heart of the fortress.
BLOODY TOWERS AND BLOODY EXECUTIONS
As your tour progresses, you will hear the stories of some of those to whom the Tower of London has been both a place of imprisonment and a place of death.
You will hear the saga - or as much of the saga that is known - of the fate that befell the little Princes, Edward and Richard, sent to the Bloody Tower in 1483 on the instructions of their uncle, the much maligned, or thoroughly wicked, depending on who you believe, Richard 111.
You will learn about one of the greatest Elizabethan explorers, Sir Walter Raleigh, and of the occasions when he found himself incarcerated here.
You will become familiar with the agonies endured by some of those who found themselves locked within the Tower's dungeons, anxiously awaiting their fates, be it release, execution or even a silent murder carrried out in the dead of night as the city slept.
You will witness a cavalcade of English history as, in narrative at least, Kings and Queen, Princes and Princesses, Lords and Ladies parade before you.
Henry V1, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Sir Thomas More, Lady Jane Grey, and a veritable Who's Who of other famous figures from the past will help bring the Tower's past vividly life.
Some of them came here with death sentences hanging over them and, in several cases, they met their fates on Tower Green, inside the Tower, with only a handful of witnesses present to watch them face the end, often with a poise, poignancy and dignity that impressed even their most implacable enemies.
You will stand on the spot where these executions took place and hear the poignant roll call of the names of those who died here.
THE CROWN JEWELS
The one thing that Richard cannot do is speed your journey into the Crown Jewels.
They are, after all, one of the most, if not the most popular attractions in the country, and the line to get in to see them can be a long one.
However, the line moves fairly swiftly, so it isn't too bad.
What Richard can do, however, is keep a keen eye peeled for those moments, and there are a few of them during any visit to the Tower, when the size of the line dwindles, at which point we can make a beeline for the jewels and head through before the next large group arrives.
Obviously, this is one part of the tour over which Richard has no control so, although he can't guarantee it, he will, most certainly, do his best to ensure that your time in line is minimised.
THE WHITE TOWER - OUR GRAND FINALÉ
Having really got to know the Tower of London, you will end your visit by stepping inside the Tower, the massive heart of the fortress - the White Tower.
This is the oldest of the Tower's towers (say what?) and Richard will walk you through it, drawing your attention to various points of interest that we will pass as you edge your way through its narrow corridors and up its twisting staircases.
He'll also treat you to some of the many stories that he has collected about this truly impressive building.
Of the ghosts that haunt it; of the terrible acts of infamy to which its cold stone walls have borne silent witness; and of the magnificent suits of armour displayed within - suits that were worn by the likes of Henry V111 and Charles 1st.
The result will be that, by the time you emerge blinking into the daylight, you really will have acquired an extraordinary feel for the history which seeps, and which has seeped, from every pore of its stones, since William 1st ordered its construction on a large mound to the east of the City with the intention of emphatically demonstrating to the people of London that they were now a conquered people and that the Normans were here to stay.
FAREWELL TO THE TOWER
And, as we walk away from this ancient and imposing fortress; as we shake the dust of its history from our shoes and leave this place to its memories and its shadows; you will find yourself deep in thought as you ponder the pageant of the past that has paraded before you on your tour of the Tower of London, one of the World's most glorious, historic and intriguing buildings.