Autumn 2003


Commodoreís Bit
AGM & Prize Giving
Annual Dinner
Ceremony of Keys
Cruising at Chichester
Everything Comes
For Sale
Impossible Dream
Local Government
London Fun Night
News of Members
Regatta & Jazz Night
Sailing Report
SigneT Nationals
Social Calendar
Stop Press News
Tall Ships at Rouen
What Goes Around
Winterís Coming
Working Party

Ceremony of the Keys 19th July - George Bray

Well, the Crown Jewels are safely locked up for the night Eight Aquarians went to the Tower of London to see the "Ceremony of the Keys" which is the oldest military ceremony in the world and which has taken place at the Tower every night for over 700 years.

The Tower of London itself is over 900 years old and in it's time has been a Royal Palace and place of refuge in time of civil unrest, as well as a Prison, the site of the Treasury and Royal Mint, an Armoury, the repository of the Crown Jewels, and even the site of the forerunner of London Zoo. And of course the place of many celebrated executions.

The Beefeaters or more correctly the Yeomen Warders of the Guard live and work within the Tower. They were first formed in 1485 and are all ex time servicing members of the army who achieved the rank of Sergeant Major and who had been awarded long service good conduct medals which many squaddies refer to as rewarding 21 years of undetected crime!

We met up at St Katherine's Dock, a very interesting mix of marina, restaurants, pubs and shops. The marina has both Thames Sailing barges and some very serious looking yachts and cruisers with price tags in the millions but after due inspection and a few noggins we moved on to Tower Hill.

At 9.30pm we were ushered through the gate and somewhat incongruously had our bags checked electronically by a Yeoman in Tudor uniform . Once inside the fortress, we found ourselves a little apprehensive as we were facing the Bloody Tower with the Traitors Gate immediately behind us but our guide for the evening assured us that we would be released eventually.

The ceremony began with the Chief Warder carrying an ancient candlelit lantern and the keys of the Tower being escorted by a small detachment of Guards. The party progressed through several tower gateways slamming and locking the doors and eventually being challenged by the sentry opposite us with the traditional "Halt who goes there". On giving the response "Queen Elizabeths keys", all then moved on to the steps by the White Tower where the rest of the Guards detachment were drawn up to present arms to the key party, for the warder to call "God bless Queen Elizabeth" and for the last post to be sounded.

The ceremony is short and purely traditional but within the setting of a softly floodlit Tower is quite theatrical and we all enjoyed the experience. Afterwards they did agree to let us out through a small postern gate I hope they remembered to lock it after us.

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