Historic Palaces – Great Value Multiple Ticket

The Historic Royal Palaces is the organisation responsible for managing 5 of London’s best Royal Palaces.  Three of these are in central London:

Tower of London from outside the western walls

Tower of London from outside the western walls

The others are a little bit further afield:

  • Hampton Court; and
  • Kew Palace.

If you are a regular visitor to London – or stay-cation there – or are a first time visitor looking to make the most of your trip by visiting 3 or more of these sites, then make sure you plan ahead and get yourself an Annual Membership.

Membership costs £47 for an Adult or £90 for a family with 2 Adults and up to 6 children (to understand the value that this represents you need to bear in mind that for a single visit by a family with 2 adults and 2 children to the Tower of London it will cost you £67.20, even if you book at discounted online prices – prices validated 11 Jul 2015).

In addition to your entry fees being covered there are extra exhibitions and tours available to members that are not open to the public so make sure to check on the Historic Royal Palaces’ website (click here),  to see what special events are on when you are expecting to visit.

One of the Chandeliers at the Whitehall Palaces Banqueting Hall

One of the chandeliers at the Banqueting Hall

Although most of these events are planned for specific days over the summer, some are available regularly.  For instance, the Tower has New Members tours – taken by one of the Yeoman Guards (a “Beefeater”) – and although similar tours are available to the public, the members tours are smaller and more intimate. The other is a rooftop tour of Hampton Court that runs on alternate Saturday and Sundays through the summer.

In addition to the member events and unlimited entry to all 5 sites, you will also get some other events that include:

  • The ability to skip the queue at entry;
  • A great souvenir book;
  • Money off at some of the food outlets (trust me when I say that the cost of a bottle of water means you will appreciate every discount you can get hold of!); and
  • Discounts on some of the items in the Palaces’ shops.

So if you plan to visit only one of these spots then pay on arrival but otherwise I recommend a little forward planning.

Tower of London – Royal Zoo

Kendra Haste Baboon sitting on Wall at Tower of London

This Baboon is one of the Kendra Haste animals on exhibition at the Tower of London to remind us of the beasts that once lived in the tower.

One of the lesser known roles that the Tower of London has played in its 1,000 year history is the 600 years it spent as home to the Royal Menagerie.  From the reign of Henry III in the 1200’s, who received a “white bear” from the King of Norway, until 1835 when it was decided to move the animals from the Tower to the new Zoological Gardens at Regents Park (London Zoo), there were large numbers of animals in the cages of the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London.

Kendra Haste's depiction of Henry III's polar bear at the Tower of London

The Kendra Haste depiction of Henry III’s “white bear”

As seems to have been the usual ,the Sheriffs of the City of London were tasked with paying to look after the  Henry’s polar bear.  About a year after its arrival it appears that one of them decided the costs were unnecessary and the bear was chained on a long chain that gave it sufficient room to enter the Thames and fish for his own supper – at this time the water of the Thames was clean and full of salmon.

Kendra Haste Elephant peers through an opening in the walls at the Tower of London

This Kendra Haste Elephant peaks through an opening in the curtain wall of the Tower of London.

The largest of the animals that was housed in the Tower was an African elephant received in 1255 from the French King and was the cause of much excitement with the public coming to the Tower in droves to see the elephant.

Unfortunately, as the centuries passed, the lives of the animals in the Tower were not always happy.  In the reign of James I, the animals were ordered to be pitted against each other for his own entertainment.  He built a platform in the grounds from which he could watch the Royal Games and see these animals tear each other apart.

Kendra Haste's fighting Baboons

Kendra Haste injects life into the animals of the Tower of London with this fighting troop of baboons.

The Tower was of course also home to various species of monkeys and in the 1780’s they were kept in a furnished room for the amusement of the public who were amazed by the human like qualities of the animals.  It appears from reports at the time that this was rethought after one monkey injured a child (having his leg ripped open).

This was certainly not the only incident with the animals in the Tower.  In 1686, Mary Jenkinson learnt that stroking a lion was not a good idea when it mauled her arm and tore the flesh open all the way to the bone.

The wonderful, fun sculptures made of wire add a great deal to the story of the animals in the Tower and are certainly worth keeping an eye out for when you visit the Tower of London (see more of her amazing work at http://www.kendrahaste.co.uk ).  The installation in the Tower is expected to run until 2021.