This State Service is one of three during the year and shows off the best in pomp and ceremony at the Tower; yesterday's blog shows the scaffolding against the Queen's House- the renovation work has now finished and we have a new Chief Yeoman Warder and Yeoman Gaoler.
Happy Easter everyone. This extract from Poppies, Pomp and Poppies shows the importance of the State Parade and services at the Tower. The picture shows the Governor reviewing the Yeoman Warder escort, prior to marching to the Chapel Royal.
April 5th: Easter Day (2015). State Parade, Saint Peter ad Vincula
Morning Service. Today’s state parade was led by the Governor, Col. Harrold, bringing a great end to Easter Week at the Tower. Special guests were members of the British Korean Veterans Association.
The font (c. 1350) made an impressive vessel for the Calvary scene and floral displays were excellent. Easter eggs were offered as the congregation filed out of the chapel.
This font was discovered during the 1876 restoration, when the Cholmondeley sarcophagus in the centre of the chapel was opened. It contained no bodies, but found inside was the font which now stands by the west door. It appears to have been hidden there by the then-chaplain to preserve it during the Commonwealth (when Cromwell ruled the country as a republic), but the priest presumably didn’t tell anyone prior to his The Governor death, so the hiding place was unknown for over 200 years.
This is one of the busiest days for visitors and most important for the Chaplain and his staff. This extract from Poppies, Pomp and People, features Sacristan Bernard, a most remarkable character.
April 3rd (2015): Good Friday. Liturgy of the Cross: Faure Requiem and Good Friday Reflections.
A fine performance at St Peter ad Vincula at 7 pm, deeply appreciated by the audience for this solemn occasion.
Sacristan Bernard Jackson (on the right in this picture, talking with Lord Dannatt, has been associated with the Tower since 1968 and he is responsible for keeping safe the vestments, furnishings, sacred vessels and records. Currently, for state service occasions, the ‘Salver and Flagon’ (normally displayed in the Jewel House) are placed on the altar. The Sacristan used to use the Salver regularly to hold the filled collection plates, prior to presentation to the officiating priest; it is very beautiful and he regrets its removal.
Deeply respected, Bernard has an incredible memory and eye for detail and is an accomplished expert on the furnishings and he noted that on one of the Queen’s visits, she was wearing the brooch that Prince Albert had given to Queen Victoria on their wedding day in 1840. Bernard recalls the Constable being fascinated by his collection of Maundy Thursday coins and this picture shows them in deep conversation. One important recollection was when Prince Charles attended a private communion service in St John’s on his twenty-first birthday, accompanied by the Queen Mother and his sister, Princess Anne.
He regularly cycles to the Tower from his home in Euston; unfortunately, his previous bicycle was stolen, but the authorities presented him with a replacement.
These ravens are fascinating- world famous, legendary and well looked after by devoted Ravenmaster and supporting group of Yeoman Warders- admire from a distance, they can give a hard nip.
Splendid Procession across the Broadwalk and then into St Peter ad Vincula led by the Yeoman Warder bearing the Abyssinian Cross, followed by the Chaplain of the Chapels Royal, choir and congregation.
To read more about Poppies, Pomp and People, click here.
To purchase, please click here.
This excerpt from the book helps to better appreciate the significance today of the ancient Chapel of St John, high up in the White Tower, at the Tower of London.
April 2nd (2015) Holy Communion was at seven o’clock in the ancient St John’s Chapel, with the Bishop of London, as Dean of the Chapels Royal. He says:
It is a very atmospheric place, high up in the White Tower. The acoustics are marvellous and our choir, of course, sings to extraordinary advantage. It has great spiritual density. It is the most wonderful Romanesque ecclesiastical structure, I think, in the whole of London, and ought to be much better known. This was the private oratory of the ruler. And so we go there after dark every Maundy Thursday. Roger introduced the risky custom of getting people to take off their socks and shoes and washing some feet, which of course is a very powerful way of recalling the events of the first Last Supper. It couldn’t be a more resonant and haunting place in which to recall the night in which He was betrayed, where He ate supper with his friends. And so around that stone altar we gather and sing a hymn, as they did, of course, at the Last Supper. And then in preparation for Easter the altar is stripped and Psalm 22 is chanted, which includes so many of the pictures and images which are then incorporated in the crucifixion story. One of the great climactic experiences of the year is to go there, to the Chapel of St John. And I’m very glad that after some period of controversy as to whether St John, like St Peter, was in fact a Chapel Royal, we have managed to establish that it is.
Below you will see information about a current extra attraction at the Tower. The professional actors have an important role at the Tower. In Poppies, Pomp and Poppies, I wrote 'While the event was enjoyable and entertaining, people were also serious about learning and sharing the authentic value of what was on show.
As with other activities at the Tower, the actors involved take it very seriously and professionally; this is not ‘second-rate’ theatre, but playing an important part in telling the stories. The Yeoman body has perfected this and rightly remains central – they are what people come from all over the world to see, so the drama activities enhance this, adding a further dimension and encouraging visitors to come more often for the varying programme.'
Conquest: 01 Apr 2017 - 20 Oct 2017 Daily, 1 April - 20 October, Meet by South Lawn.
Costumed live activity 'Defend the Tower against its medieval attackers.' England’s greatest medieval fortress is under attack from all sides! You must help our heroic guards defend the mighty castle against its most dangerous enemies.
I remember this pleasant young man- he obviously loved living in Wapping and studying here. It was great for me because I was impressed with his enthusiasm and respect for our country and its values. These reviews are very welcome because they help others to see that it's a good buy. People often go out of their way to compliment me, but very few actually do write a review, despite saying they will. My thanks to Ilie, who says as follows:
I am in the UK to study English and the history of the country. I visited the Tower and loved it, but it was not enough- I wanted to be there again to learn more. My friend said to read a book and I saw that the writer was selling them at a café in Wapping. I bought Poppies, Pomp and People and read it very quickly. It answered many more questions and told me much about the complexity to organise everything about this wonderful place which has millions of visitors. His writing is amusing and fun, just like the Beefeaters; he has great respect for them and I agree, they are important people and are very skilled.
I didn’t know about the famous Poppies sculpture in the moat around the Tower; the book explained about it. Also in the book, important people like the Head Beefeater, the Bishop of London and the Constable (who is in charge and an Army General) help to explain about the Tower. Mr West was very kind talking with me and signed my book. It has many pictures and is very good to buy. Ilie ……
It's difficult to know just how the Yeoman Warders carry on with their addressing up to three hundred people , three times a day while conducting their tours around the Tower. Yes I realize that most of them are well used to it from training on the parade ground. Nevertheless, the noise level is increasing each year (I know, because I live nearby). This extract from Poppies, Pomp and People, illustrates the point.
April 9th (2014): Yeoman Warder David Coleman's Tour.
Yeoman Warder David Coleman is the archivist and also does chapel duty. I followed him around while he was conducting a tour. Irritatingly, a helicopter appeared overhead and sounded thunderous – it hovered above for at least twenty minutes. I mentioned this to several others, who were equally annoyed and deeply sympathetic towards David. He simply continued addressing the 200 or so people while appearing to not even notice the noise. When I asked him about it afterwards, he just shrugged his shoulders and smiled – marvellous! Unshakeable.
Please click here to purchase the book.
Fine spectacle of congregation and choir at the Chapel Royal, as described in the following extract from Poppies, Pomp and People.
March 29th (2015): Palm Sunday
Led by Yeoman Warder Shaun Huggins carrying the Abyssinian Cross, Canon Roger, the choir and congregation process from the Fusilier Museum across the Broadwalk to the Chapel Royal, singing the traditional Palm Sunday hymn ‘All Glory, Laud and Honour’. This gives a stirring start to the service and an extra spectacle for visitors and staff.
Details here for how to buy the book.