In this new series, we go behind the walls of the nation’s most historic and best loved attraction. 2021 has been a momentous year for the Tower. They’ve performed a special Royal gun salute to commemorate the passing of Prince Philip, managed the loss of Merlina, the Tower’s oldest and most famous raven, witnessed the birth - inside the tower itself - of four new raven chicks, and the appointment of a brand new Yeoman Gaoler.
And as well as celebrating over 1000 years of incredible British history on the home front, the close-knit Tower community come together to celebrate a Beefeater wedding in the chapel, and announce the arrival of two new Yeoman Warder recruits who are welcomed into the illustrious ranks…
20.00, Thursday 11 November on Channel 5
Merlina, the Tower’s oldest raven, is also one of the royal palace’s star attractions. She has a special relationship with Ravenmaster Chris Skaife who’s cared for her for over a decade. In winter Merlina goes missing. After a long search, Chris must come to terms with the fact she’s gone forever.
In April, the Tower organises a special gun salute to mark the passing of Prince Philip. It’s a very personal moment for Chief Yeoman Warder Pete McGowran who met the Prince when he visited the Tower with the Queen in 2014. The Yeoman Warders wear black armbands as a sign of mourning.
After coming to terms with the loss of Merlina, Ravenmaster Chris is excited to discover his pair of breeding ravens, Huginn and Muninn, have given birth to chicks in the Tower moat. Originally Chris thought there were three chicks but once they’ve left the nest he realises there are actually four. And the difficult decision must now be made – which two will be allowed to join the Tower’s illustrious Raven colony full time.
Researching the Tower’s history often throws up new surprises and Chief Curator Tracy Borman, uncovers further details of a deadly plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth by Catholic conspirators who wrote secret letters in code. The code is cracked with the help of Elizabeth’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham and the Tower takes dreadful revenge on the plotters. Meanwhile new curator Misha Ewen discovers the extraordinary story of an enslaved boy kept as part of the Lion Master’s household when the Tower had a menagerie.
20.00, Thursday 18 November on Channel 5
This spring two baby ravens have joined the Tower’s resident colony. One of them, Edgar, is called after the horror writer Edgar Allan Poe, but his sister still needs a name. It will be chosen by public vote and Ravenmaster Chris is on tenterhooks waiting to find out the result.
Tower Governor Brigadier Andrew Jackson, and Chief Yeoman Warder Pete McGowran are rehearsing a brand new, one off opening ceremony to celebrate the Tower re-opening its gates to visitors after the covid lockdown. The ceremony has hardly changed in a hundred years and they have only one chance to get the new one right.
Meanwhile Chief Curator Tracy Borman is following in the footsteps of the young Elizabeth I, brought to the Tower as a prisoner. Tracy discovers the psychological torture she suffered at the hands of her sister...
In the exclusive Beefeaters’ pub, the Keys, Yeoman Warder John Donald prepares a special commemorative display for his predecessor Yeoman Warder Albert Curtis, who fought so courageously over a hundred and twenty years ago and he was awarded the Victoria Cross for valour.
As the Tower observes a special ceremony marking the death of King Henry VI who met his end here, Tracy turns detective and discovers how the King was most likely murdered while held prisoner by his successor and rival Edward IV. Edward claimed Henry died of grief but Tracy reveals the extraordinary cover up of Henry’s death that continued for centuries.
20.00, Thursday 25 November on Channel 5
It’s June and the Tower is bringing out the big guns to celebrate the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation in 1953. It’s staging a massive 62-gun salute on the Wharf, but with his boss the Chief Yeoman Warder away, new Yeoman Gaoler Rob Fuller is in charge for the first time. Three 4000 lb guns and thousands of visitors to contend with, mean the pressure’s on Rob to get it right.
It’s an anxious time for the two new baby ravens, Edgar and Branwen, who joined the Tower’s resident colony this spring. They’re meeting the rest of the flock, and with a very strict pecking order, Ravenmaster Chris Skaife is on tenterhooks to see if they’ll fit in.
Meanwhile Chief Curator Tracy Borman in on the trail of one of Henry VIII’s daughters who was every bit as bloodthirsty as him. Tracy discovers how Mary Tudor earned the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’ after a campaign of torture and execution where she even imprisoned her own half-sister, the future Queen Elizabeth I. Some graffiti left behind from her reign of terror shows just how frightened her victims were.
The Yeoman Warders gear up for one of the fiercest battles the Tower has ever seen – a competitive bowls match. As they prepare the green and get some practice in, we meet their rivals, the Honourable Artillery Company’s Pikemen and Musketeers, the oldest regiment in the British Army. As the sun sets, the tensions rise, but who will be victorious?
And new Curator Misha Ewen explores the Tower after dark as she investigates the tragic tale of a young servant girl, who prophesied the King’s death – and discovers just how dangerous it was to cross this murderous monarch.
20.00, Thursday 02 December on Channel 5
Today the Tower of London is kept pristinely clean, but for centuries all its rubbish was thrown into the River Thames. However, as Chief Curator Tracy Borman discovers, yesterday’s trash is today’s treasure. She joins a team of archaeologists down on the foreshore for a once in a decade survey, and makes some remarkable finds - from thousand year old pottery to ancient armour.
Yeoman Warder Barry Stringer turns detective to investigate a grand fraud at the hands of none other than Henry VIII. He uncovers the King’s devious plan to produce phony silver coins and keep the profit for himself – robbing the public of their hard earned cash.
The Tower welcomes a very important guest, as Governor Brigadier Andrew Jackson and Chief Yeoman Warder Pete McGowran host the Lord Mayor of the City of London. A historic rival of the Tower, previous Lord Mayors have even found themselves locked in the Tower, but this one will be leaving with his head still on.
Meanwhile Tracy learns just how turbulent the Tower’s relationship with the City could be, as she goes on the trail of the Evil May Day Riots. In this terrifying incident a violent mob took over London, before Henry VIII’s brutal crackdown saw the Tower turn its guns on the people.
And Keeper of the Tower Armouries Bridget Clifford sends a precious Tower treasure on a 6000 mile journey all the way to Japan. 400 years ago, this unique Samurai armour would have been the most exotic thing most people had ever seen... now it's going home to be put on display for the Tokyo Olympics.
20.00, Thursday 16 December on Channel 5
Love is in the air as Yeoman Warder Matt Pryme prepares to marry his sweetheart Jo at the Tower of London. The whole community are getting ready for the big day. While Matt prepares the chapel, Canon Roger Hall chooses his most celebratory vestments. Beefeaters Clive and John polish their ceremonial partisan staffs to give bride Jo an exclusive escort to the altar, and Chief Yeoman Warder Pete McGowan toasts the groom's last day of singledom.
The Tower also welcomes two new recruits - Yeoman Warders number 412 and 413, Paul Langley and Emma Roussell. Both RAF veterans, they're thrust into life at the fortress. Emma finds some fans as she does her first solo shift, and the two become part of Tower history with a photoshoot.
Meanwhile Chief Curator Tracy Borman turns detective to try and crack the case of the Tower's most mysterious prisoner. Irving Guy Ries was a WWI spy executed at the fortress in 1915 - except that wasn't his real name. Tracy discovers never-before seen footage showing how he created his false identity, and delves into just-released secret archive documents to reveal who this spy really was.
Keeper of the Tower Armouries Bridget Clifford and Yeoman Warder Moira Cameron look back at the Tower over the years as they curate a unique photo exhibition. Resident photographer Jeremy Hall captured life at the Royal Palace for almost 30 years - from snap shots of daily life to a visit from Her Majesty the Queen.
And curator Misha Ewen is on the trail of the servant girl at the heart of one of history's greatest controversies. As a servant in Katherine of Aragon's bedchamber, Catalina of Motril was present at the most intimate moments of Katherine's marriage to Henry VIII - but what became of her when the marriage turned sour?
20.00, Thursday 23 December on Channel 5
We're back behind the gates of the Tower of London as the world famous Beefeaters prepare for a very special Christmas. Historic Royal Palaces Interpretation Officer Emma Bell has a bold plan to transform the fortress into a spectacular winter wonderland inspired by the Tower’s famous menagerie.
Chief Yeoman Warder Pete McGowran and Deputy Governor Debbie Whittingham supervise as a family of elephants are installed on the south lawn, a winter forest springs up around the resident polar bear and a giant 22ft Christmas tree is carefully positioned on ancient Tower Green. The ravens don't miss out either - they get their own special tree complete with sparkling decorations.
Chief Curator Tracy Borman uncovers how a grumpy Henry VIII rejected his wife Katherine of Aragon's Christmas gifts and Beefeater Darren Hardy takes the Yeoman Warders carol singing around their homes in the Casemates.
This will be a Christmas like no other at the Tower.