Sunday, 16 June 2013

Locking up at the Tower

To the Tower of London for what must be the best free show in London, the daily ceremonial locking up of the Tower; known as 'the Ceremony of the Keys.'

They've done it every night for seven hundred and forty one years.

They've never missed a night, not even during the Blitz when bombs reigned down the City for nights on end.

The nearest enemy action got to disrupting the tradition was the night the ceremony was seven minutes late because a bomb had hit the guard room.

That merited a letter of the apology to the King who was understanding of the lapse.

At precisely seven minutes to ten the ceremony begins with the warden carrying a lantern in one hand, the keys in the other, is escorted by a detachment of soldiers,and the following exchange, unchanged for centuries, takes place:

SENTRY:    Halt, who comes there?'
WARDER:  The keys
SENTRY:    Who's keys?
WARDER:   Queen Elizabeth's keys.
SENTRY:     Pass Queen Elizabeth's keys. All's well.

Following the locking of the two gates, the last post is sounded and then the warder cries: 'God preserve Queen Elizabeth.' And all the people reply 'Amen.'

About seventy members of the public are admitted each night to witness the event. Admission is free but you have to book ahead (apply here). A Yeoman warder acts as your guide and the whole visit takes just over half a hour, concluding at the foot of the floodlit, White Tower (the oldest part of the complex), a breathtaking sight.

No comments:

Post a Comment