You could be forgiven to think that the medieval age is sort of a grey mass of non-specific historic events that don’t really matter because they were so long ago. If pushed, most of us can blurt out the Magna Carta even though its significance is probably lost in the ether, together with all the maths you learned at school that your teacher so desperately tried to convince you would actually be useful in your adult life. But anyway…
Those of us that have a passing interest in history lose out in the medieval centuries because successive monarchs showed a shocking lack of imagination when naming their children. Nearly everyone is called Edward, Henry or Richard, but it was precisely all those Edwards, Henrys and Richards that ushered in a series of building works which gave the Tower of London the presence that it has today.
Medieval England was an uncertain place and this uncertainty is reflected in the growth of the Tower. By 1350 successive monarchs had transformed the Tower, adding a series of smaller towers, walls and a moat, and thus transforming the landscape around the White Tower. In peacetime the Tower would be a power base but in times of national crisis it would become a place of refuge for the ruling elite.
The security of the Tower meant that it could be used for a variety of purposes and it is in the medieval era that we see the growth of its use as a prison, a mint, a menagerie, a place for tournaments, coronation celebrations, a royal palace, but then also as a place of murder, execution and assorted intrigue. It is the medieval Tower that played host to so many of the infamous stories that have helped create Tower myths; the princes in the Tower, the murder of Henry VI, the Peasants’ Revolt, to name but a few.
More information on the medieval Tower can be found here.