As the Chief Warder shuts and locks the great oak doors of first the Middle Tower and then the Byward Tower, the escort halt and present arms.
They now return along Water Lane towards the Wakefield Tower, where in the deep shadows of the Bloody Tower Archway a sentry waits and watches.
As the Chief Warder and escort approach, the sentry's challenge rings out.
"Halt!" the escort is halted.
"Who comes there?""The Keys" replies the Chief Warder."Who's Keys?""Queen Elizabeth's Keys" is the answer."Pass Queen Elizabeth's Keys - All's well".
Whereupon the Chief Warder and escort proceed through the archway towards the steps by the 13th century wall, where the Guard for the night is drawn up under an officer with drawn sword, The Chief Warder and escort halt at the foot of the steps. The Officer gives the command, Guard and Escort - present arms. The Chief Warder takes two paces forward, raises his Tudor bonnet high in the air and calls out God preserve Queen Elizabeth. The Whole Guard reply Amen, and as the parade ground clock chimes ten, the Drummer (bugler) sounds the Last Post.
The Chief Warder takes the Keys to the house of the Resident Governor, and the Guard is dismissed.
The Ceremony of the Lilies and Roses
The Wakefield Tower, built originally for defensive purposes swiftly became the Presence Chamber of Plantagenet kings. It is with an indication of this ancient role that you see it today. In a recess is the Oratory with an altar chest, bearing the likeness of King Henry VI and the Arms of Eton College and King's College, Cambridge. In front is an appraisal of the King by his confessor, John Blacman.
In 1471 King Henry VI, founder of those Colleges was held a prisoner in this tower. He was murdered at these prayers in the Oratory between eleven and twelve o'clock on the night of the 21st May. His body rests in St George's Chapel at Windsor, in which Castle he was born on the 6th of December 1421.
The King's birthday has long been celebrated by both his Colleges as Founders Day and since 1905 two Kin's Scholars of Eton have laid a sheaf of its white lilies on his tomb on that day.
Through the friendly interest of Sir George Younghusband, then Keeper of the Jewel House, King George V was graciously pleased to approve the setting of a marble tablet in the Oratory at the spot where by tradition King Henry VI met his death. Eton lilies have since been laid there in the evening of each anniversary. By the Sovereign's sanction and with approval of the Constable of the Tower, the arrangements for this annual ceremony were delegated to the incumbent Keeper of the Jewel House; and it was not neglected even during the Second World War, when HM Tower of London was restricted area and the Wakefield Tower itself was hit by a German bomb.
In 1947, the Provost and Scholars at King's College, Cambridge, secured the permission of the King and the Constable to associate King Henry's sister foundation with the ceremony. The white roses of Kings, in their purple ribbon, have since been laid alongside the Eton lilies, in their pale blue, on the Founder's stone.
The Ceremony of the Lilies and Roses. Though still a very simple one, has over the years acquired a certain form and formality. The Provost of Eton or his deputy, the Provost of King's or his deputy, and the Chaplain of the Tower are conducted by the Resident Governor and Keeper of the Jewel House, with an escort of Yeoman Warders, from Queen's House to the Wakefield Tower. The Chaplain conducts the short service and the lilies and roses are ceremoniously laid: to lie until dusk on the next day as token that King Henry's memory is ever green in the two Colleges which are perhaps his most enduring monument.
There are many stories of ghosts, poltergeists and other malevolent spirits connected to the Tower of London. Who hasn't heard the one about the headless apparition of Anne Boleyn stalking the Tower grounds at night. Who for instance, hasn't heard stories of the chained and headless Sir Walter Raliegh being seen on the ramparts close to where he was kept prisoner. The Tower of London with its 900 years of history has earned itself a multitude of spine tingling stories, mainly due to its infamous reputation as a place of execution. The following stories are different in the fact that as far as we know, they have never been told before, at least not beyond the boundaries of the Tower of London.
The Ghost of Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn, the most celebrated of the wives of Henry VIII was beheaded on Tower Green in 1536. Her ghost has frequently been seen both on the Green and more spectacularly in the Chapel Royal situated in the White Tower. It was in the Chapel that a Captain of the Guard saw a light burning in the locked Chapel late at night. Finding a ladder, he was able to look down on the strange scene being enacted within. A nineteenth century account described it thus:
Slowly down the aisle moved a stately procession of Knights and Ladies, attired in ancient costumes; and in front walked an elegant female whose face was averted from him, but whose figure greatly resembled the one he had seen in reputed portraits of Anne Boleyn. After having repeatedly paced the chapel, the entire procession together with the light disappeared. (excerpt from Ghostly Visitors by "Spectre Stricken", London 1882.)
Another account of this same story tells of how the procession always occurs on the anniversary of the terrible execution of Margaret Pole the Countess of Salisbury, in 1541. This brave old lady (she was over seventy when she was killed) suffered because of her son's (Cardinal Pole) vilification of the King Henry VIII's religious doctrines, something the Cardinal did from the safety of France. So when Henry realised that the Cardinal was out of his reach his mother was brought to the block instead as an act of vengeance. Instead of submitting weekly to the axeman however she refused to lie down and was pursued by the axeman around the scaffold. Swinging wildly he inflicted the most hideous wounds on her till at last she died.
Another sighting of Anne Boleyn is alledged in 1864 by a sentry standing guard at the Queen's house. The guard saw and challenged a white shape that appeared suddenly veiled in mist. When the challenge went unanswered the sentry put his bayonet into the figure but he was overcome with shock when it went straight through the figure without meeting any resistance. This story was corroborated by two onlookers who saw the whole event from a window of the Bloody Tower. It is not known what made the sentry and the onlookers believe that this was the ghost of Anne Boleyn but we can only accept that after 100 years of tradition it must be so.
The Traitors' Gate was the watergate entrance for prisoners condemned after trial at Westminster. It dates from 1240 when Henry III enlarged the fortress by building extra defence works. There is a story that when the work was nearing completion on St George's day 1240 there was a great storm that resulted in the foundation's being undermined and this resulted in the gate collapsing. When the circumstances were repeated identically a year later an inquiry revealed that a priest claimed to have seen the ghost of Sir Thomas Becket striking the walls with a crucifix. He said that the ghost was proclaiming that the new building was not for the common good but "for the injury and prejudice of the Londoners, my brethren". Since it was the King's grandfather who had caused the death of the saint he felt it was wise to include a small oratory in the tower of the new building dedicating it to Sir Thomas Becket. Even so it's rooms have always had a reputation of being haunted. Doors open and close without reason, the figure of a monk in a brown robe has been seen. Ghostly footsteps including the distinctive slap of monastic sandals are sometimes heard.