At 7.30pm a group of Kent Club members and their guests were let into the Tower of London for a guided tour culminating in The Ceremony of the Keys. They were shown round by one of the Yeomen Warders who regaled the group with tales from the Tower’s bloody and fascinating history. At 8.30pm there was an hour long break where the group settled into the Yeoman Warders Club. Surrounded by the trappings of their history the group enjoyed a buffet and drinks before venturing out again to observe The Ceremony of the Keys. This time Philip Wilson, another Yeoman Warder, who had featured in ARENA, accompanied us.
Dating back 750 years, the ceremony is one of the oldest traditions at the Tower. Throughout war and pestilence this ceremony has taken place every night without fail. Every evening just before 10 pm, the Chief Yeoman Warder, with military escort, locks the outer gates of the Tower. As he tries to return to the inner ward, however, he is challenged at the Bloody Tower by a sentry. Having identified the keys as those of the sovereign and been saluted by the Tower Guard, the Chief then gives them to the Governor for the night.
The Tower of London is living history in the heart of our Capital. Its traditional ceremonies are not empty rituals, but have very real functions in keeping traditions alive and honouring the Tower as a royal institution. Some ceremonies occur daily, others are seen more infrequently, some are private but many others are open to the public and well worth seeing.
With thanks to Julian Trought for the text and pictures