The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history. It was besieged several times and controlling it has been important to controlling the country. The Tower has served variously as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. From the early 14th century until the reign of Charles II, a procession would be led from the Tower to Westminster Abbey on the coronation of a monarch. In the absence of the monarch, the Constable of the Tower is in charge of the castle. This was a powerful and trusted position in the medieval period. In the late 15th century the castle was the prison of the Princes in the Tower. Under the Tudors, the Tower became used less as a royal residence, and despite attempts to refortify and repair the castle its defenses lagged behind developments to deal with artillery.
The peak period of the castle's use as a prison was the 16th and 17th centuries, when many figures who had fallen into disgrace, such as Elizabeth I before she became queen, were held within its walls. This use has led to the phrase "sent to the Tower". Despite its enduring reputation as a place of torture and death, popularized by 16th-century religious propagandists and 19th-century writers, only seven people were executed within the Tower before the World Wars of the 20th century. Executions were more commonly held on the notorious Tower Hill to the north of the castle, with 112 occurring there over a 400-year period. In the latter half of the 19th century, institutions such as the Royal Mint moved out of the castle to other locations, leaving many buildings empty. Anthony Salvin and John Taylor took the opportunity to restore the Tower to what was felt to be its medieval appearance, clearing out many of the vacant post-medieval structures. In the First and Second World Wars, the Tower was again used as a prison, and witnessed the executions of 12 men for espionage. After the Second World War, damage caused during the Blitz was repaired and the castle reopened to the public. Today the Tower of London is one of the country's most popular tourist attractions. It is cared for by the charity Historic Royal Palaces and is protected as a World Heritage Site.
With the pain and death associated with the tower it is no surprise that it has a few ghosts.
- The Two Princes -- Edward V and Richard Duke of York. The nephews of Richard III, supposedly killed by him. Current thinking has it being Henry VII that did the dirty deed, he had more reason. The princes are usually seen playing on the Tower Green. More often heard in the White Tower, and not seen.
- Countess of Salisbury -- The last of the Plantagenets. King Henry VIII had her executed for political reasons. The feisty Countess refused to put her head on the block like a common traitor. When her executioner came after her she ran, but was pursued by him, with his ax in hand hacking at her until he had hewn the Countess to death. Her ghost has been seen reliving this truly gruesome act. Also the shadow of a great ax has been seen falling across the scene of her murder.
- Anne Boleyn -- The second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I Executed for adultery, incest and treason, clearly trumped up. She is said to haunt several rooms and passages.
- Sir Walter Raleigh -- lived quite comfortable compared to others who were imprisoned within the walls of the Bloody Tower.His "rooms" are still furnished as they were in the 16th century, and can be seen when visiting the Tower today. He was executed by James I, and has been seen looking exactly as he does in his portrait hanging in the Bloody Tower.
- Elizabeth I -- Only one incident known when Queen Victoria had a long conversation with her in the White Tower. The reason for the founding of Mi-13
- Something unseen --- And very frightening is in the Salt Tower. This is one of the most haunted areas of the Tower of London complex. This is a very old section, dogs will not enter this ancient building, and ever since one of the Yeoman Warders was nearly throttled by a force unseen, they will not go in the area after nightfall.