DECEMBER 21, 1951
PARIS, Thursday—Our two days in London were a great success from the sightseeing point of view.
Saturday morning we had a really wonderful visit to the Tower of London. Colonel Carkeet James, the Governor, showed us some interesting things in the Constable's office among them two early maps of the whole layout of the tower showing the old moat full of water, which now is grass, and the keys used in the daily ceremony of locking the tower. This office is in the King's House, where a great many important prisoners have been housed for varying lengths of time. The ravens obligingly strutted over the lawn.
We had most wonderful view of the crown jewels and plate because of the very few visitors, this being an off season. The traditional guards' costumes are colorful enough but in the office they showed us a photograph of the costume that is worn on special occasions. They weigh 150 pounds but they are a gorgeous sight.
We also saw the halberd, which always was carried in escorting prisoners. When they returned from trial the sharp side was pointed toward the prisoners if they had been convicted. And we saw the silver mace and various other objects of interest.
In the prison cell or dungeon in which Sir Thomas More spent so many months there is now a small collection of the remains of the bombs dropped on the tower during World War II. Sir Walter Raleigh's walk was pointed out and the little tower, called the Bloody Tower, in which the two little princes were murdered, houses the portcullis which is still in use.
We also saw the spot where Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey and other notables were beheaded and the little chapel where these people are buried.
I suppose one could call the Tower of London, as someone has characterized it, "the saddest place in the world," because it marks the end of so many failures. But I am not at all sure that it isn't a place of some inspiration. Some of the prisoners were there because they believed in something strongly enough to work for it, to go to prison for it and, if necessary, to die for it. Such belief is rather rare and should be honored. Even those who were failures were often quite magnificent in their courage as failures and in their ability to meet death calmly. Colonel James told me that Lady Jane Grey, who was after all, little more than a child when they came to tell her that her time had come, said calmly, "Yes, I think it is time." Then she went with no further complaint to lay her head on the block. That must have taken courage.
Some old friends of mine lunched with us and after lunch we went to St. Paul's Cathedral, drove through the city, and looked at some of the areas that now look nice and tidy. I remember them in 1942 when the rubble had not been cleared away. I wish the effects of war could be wiped out of men's minds as quickly as the bricks and mortar can be tidied up again.