The Tower of London (officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress) is a castle on the north bank of the River Thames in East London, dating to the Norman Conquest of 1066. Originally a royal residence, it has also been used as an armoury, treasury, public records office and home of the Royal Mint, but its most famous incarnation is that of prison. Prisoners were kept in the tower since around 1100, but the practice reached its peak in the 16th and 17th centuries when disgraced figures, such as the future Queen Elizabeth I and her mother Anne Boleyn, were locked within its walls. Two of its most famous inmates were the young Princes Edward and Richard, whose uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester (Richard III) removed their claim to the throne after their father Edward IV's death. Accommodated in the Tower, they disappeared around 1483 and were never seen again.
Propagandists gave it a reputation for being a dark place of torture and death – it was a common perception that once inside the Tower, a prisoner would never be seen again – but in fact only seven people were executed there before the 20th centuries, when 12 accused spies were executed in World War II. Tower Hill, the open space to the north of the building, was used commonly for public hangings and beheadings.
The Tower of London is open to the public and one of London’s most popular attractions. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it features exhibitions on the Tower’s history as a prison and armoury and also displays the Crown Jewels of England.