The Tower of London, with its incredible history and its sombre, forbidding presence, is always impressive- but seeing it surrounded by a sea of blood red blooms (888,246 ceramic poppies representing British and Colonial lives lost during World War I) is nothing short of breathtaking.
I was there on a Saturday, and the crowds were fierce, but I barely noticed. I simply could not take my eyes off that brilliant red moat!
I rounded the corner of the Tower and the full extent of what I was seeing became apparent.
This was more than art. It was more than ‘pretty’. I found myself thinking about those 888, 246 lives- what kind of men they were, how old they were when they died, where they were killed, how their mothers, fathers, wives, brothers, sisters and lovers grieved for them. I thought of my little boys back home in Australia, and all the lost sons those flowers represented.
It was incredibly moving.
Of course I went inside…
Traitor’s Gate is one of my favourite parts of the Tower. Built between 1275 and 1279 as a way for King Edward I to access the Tower by river, the gate is infamously remembered as the point where prisoners such as Thomas More, Queen Katherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, Elizabeth I and Queen Anne Boleyn entered the Tower.
I kept wandering, soaking up the history.
Tower Green, the site of the scaffold. Queen Anne Boleyn, Queen Katherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey were among the unlucky folk whose lives ended here.
I found myself reaching out and touching things, partly to convince myself that I was really here, and also as a way of getting some kind of grasp on the passage of time. I wondered how many other hands, over the centuries, had touched this wall. Poppies, stones, years and lives- I was overwhelmed by them, by my inability to count them, by the insignificance of my very small presence against a very large, and very bloody, history.