This piece originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.
For almost 1,000 years, the Tower of London has been an intimidating fortress on the River Thames. Originally designed as a castle for William the Conqueror in 1078, it’s hardly a cozy palace like Buckingham or Kensington. In the centuries that followed, a stone wall was erected around the gleaming Caen stone residence, and later a moat. An additional wall and series of towers rose up around the complex, making it virtually impenetrable by 1350.
During the Tudor Dynasty, the Tower of London gained its notorious reputation as a torture chamber. While the residence functioned as a state prison, it was also where Henry VIII imprisoned two of his six wives (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard) and where conspirator Guy Fawkes was tortured and executed. Even the Duke of Gloucester, best known as Richard III, is said to have held captive and murdered his nephews, 12-year-old Prince Edward and his younger brother, 9-year-old Richard. Skeletons found beneath a staircase in the tower in the 1600’s are thought to be those of the two young royals.