After a post about probably the smallest and quietest museum/historical site I’ve ever visited, this post is about the busiest museum/historical site I visited in Europe: the Tower of London. After two visits to London and not going in (budget student travelling) I decided it was high time I forked out the entry fee and went inside.
I’m glad I did. Anyone that knows me personally will know that I love medieval british history have read about it extensively (I even got to work on a project about Medieval Manuscripts once!). Still, the inside wasn’t what I expected. Probably because I mostly read about early medieval history and it has obviously changed and evolved overtime.
The outside spaces were quite easy to get around and weren’t filled with visitors. But the exhibitions inside the buildings were completely packed. It was necessary to move at that irritating look-over-your-shoulder shuffle to view the items. And I did have to contend with a very large bunch of giggling girls to get a look at Henry VIII’s armour, surely due to its sizable codpiece.
But the main reason for my visit was to watch at performance by Past Pleasures, a historical reenactment and costumed interpretation company. It was a ‘Dark Tales of the Tower’ story about an Jacobean Prisoner and the intrigue that surrounded his death.
Sir Thomas Overbury was imprisoned in the tower at the start of the 17th Century where he was murdered. A few years later Frances the Countess of Somerset (previously Essex) and Robert Carr (Earl of Somerset) were found guilty of his murder by poisoning. Their motivation believed to be a dislike of his attitude to and knowledge of their earlier affair (the married two months after his death).
It was a lively and well-acted piece. The performers delivered their characters with a flair and humour that suited the audience. Attention was drawn to the more scandalous parts of the story, and there were an array of toilet-related jokes (they never cease to entertain, do they?)! I also thought the audience involvement in the story was great, it set it apart from a staged theatre piece. They asked questions about our opinions, roused our support or had some people playing a small part. All of these aspects added to my level of engagement.
Also, as an educator I was happy to discover the story linked to an exhibition currently showing in the Tower. So after watching the performance visitors could find out more information about it.
To me, this was the most fun part of a visit to the Tower. There’s no question that the prison cells were haunting, the armour and jewels impressive, and the presence of so much history awe-inspiring. But nothing was as fun as that little bit of theatre.