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London. The City / Сити

The City is often called the commercial and business heart of London. This is the area with lots of banks and offices. Every morning there are many clerks in suits hurrying to their offices. Very few people live there. Only some five thousand people live permanently in the City today, but nearly a million works there. In the day-time the streets of the city are crowded but late at night they are deserted. It is known as "the Square Mile" (its total area is 2.59 sq km = 1 sq mile).

The Royal Exchange, the Stock Exchange. Mansion House (official residence of the Lord Mayor), the Central Criminal Court ("The Old Bailey") and the Bank of England are in the City. In front of the buildings of the Bank there is a monument to the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo and brought fame and glory to England.

In the centre of the City there is the Tower of London and St. Paul's Cathedral.

The Tower of London is one of the most ancient buildings in London with very long history. For over 900 years the Tower has been a fortress and a royal palace, a prison and a place for execution, an arsenal, royal mint, menagerie and a safe for Crown Jewels. Now it is a museum.

The Tower of London had never had a chance to serve as a fortress and to resist an enemy's attack.

The Tower does not belong to the City historically. This fortress was built by William the Conqueror at the end of the 11th century. He built it right at the Gates of the City to keep the unruly Londoners in fear.

Later the kings began to use it as a royal residence. They used to spend a night before coronation there.

In the centre of the Tower of London there is the famous White Tower which is the most ancient part of the Tower and the oldest building of London. William the Conqueror built it right away after his successful invasion. It is not white of course, it became dark with age. Its walls are four metres thick and now this building is a museum.

The Tower is also known as Bloody Tower because it once became a state prison and a place for executions for the greatest political leaders of the country. Among them were Sir Thomas More - great scientist was beheaded there. Sir Walter Raleigh - the famous sea captain spent more than twelve years in its walls. Lady Jane Grey, who was the Queen of England for several days, was also kept here.

Only the ravens of the Tower remind of those dark years. Ravens have lived at the Tower of London for hundreds of years. There are six of them, according to the order of King Charles II. The state donates the money to feed the birds. All the visitors must be careful as the ravens are not tame and they do bite.

The ravens are taken particular care of because there is a legend that Great Britain will keep its might and glory until the ravens leave the Tower. If the ravens disappear. Great Britain will face a great tragedy. The Tower is guarded by the Yeomen Warders, who are often called "Beefeaters". They are dressed in traditional medieval clothes of Tudor times. They work as guides and tell this story to the visitors.

The name "Beefeater" is thought to originate from a French word "Buffetier". Buffetiers were guards in the palace of French kings and were responsible for the food in the palace. They are best known for their scarlet and gold dress uniforms which are worn on state occasions. They used to be monarch's private bodyguards. The buffetiers also used to guard the Tower and its prison.

Old traditions and ceremonies are kept up in the Tower of London. One of them is the Ceremony of the Keys. Every night for the last 700 years at 21.53 the Tower has been locked up in the Ceremony of the Keys. The chief Yeoman Warder locks various doors ceremonially.

At the ceremony the Chief Yeoman Warder coir.es out with a bunch of keys and an old lantern. The sentry calls: "Halt! Who comes there?" The Headwarder replies: "The Keys". "Whose keys?" - asks the sentry. "Queen Elizabeth's Keys" is the answer. After that the sentry says: "Advance. Queen Elizabeth's Keys. All's well."


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