One of the very few major tourist attractions that I never visited during my stays in London, England, was perhaps the most historic – the Tower of London. Oh, I did view it from boats on the River Thames a couple of times, and once exited the Tube from nearby but I never made it inside. Someday…
This was one of the cards that my friend Jenny brought back from her trip to Ireland last month. She’d left the Irish cards at her home on the Emerald Isle but bought me a couple during her layover at Heathrow Airport. The views of the Tower on this card are especially interesting due to the installation of 888,246 poppies on the grounds in order to pay tribute to the Commonwealth soldiers who died in World War I. I’ve always loved the image of a poppy as a symbol for the Great War and was pleased to receive the card.
The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and soon after (1100 with Ranulf Flambard) began its long use as a prison (the Kray twins were its last prisoners in 1952). It also served as a royal residence, becoming a grand palace early in its history. Expansions were undertaken by Richard the Lionheart, Henry III and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The castle was besieged several times during its history; controlling it has been important to controlling England. Amongst its uses has been 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 England. Many of the buildings were left empty by the end of the 19th century and the opportunity was taken to restore the Tower to what was felt to be its medieval appearance, clearing out many of the vacant post-medieval structures. Some damage was caused during the Blitz in the Second World War but this was prepared and today the Tower of London is one of England;s most popular tourist attractions.
Poppy, while a source of the drug opium and containing powerful medicinal alkaloids such as morphine, has become a symbol of remembrance of soldiers who have died during wartime. This was due to the fierce trench warfare which took place in the poppy fields of Flanders during World War I. Thousands of ceramic poppies were “planted” at the Tower of London in the days preceding Armistice Day in November 2014 by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, each representing a British or colonial soldier who had died. Titled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”, the public art installation was visited by more than five million people during the four months that it appeared in the Tower’s moat. The idea for the display was sparked when Cummins came across the will of an unknown solider who had died at Flanders. It contained the line, “The blood-swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread.” When the poppies were removed, they were put up for sale for £25 each, generating an estimated £10 million for six charities to date.
I would love to own one of the Tower poppies but a quick search on eBay yielded plenty of photographic prints of the installation but not a single actual ceramic poppy. Where can I buy one?