Footsteps echo in the darkness. The sentry cries out, “Halt, who comes there?” The Yeoman Warder replies, “The keys.” “Whose keys?” “Queen Elizabeth’s keys.” “Pass then, all’s well.”
Aside from the monarch’s name, this is the exact exchange that has been spoken for centuries and forms part of the traditional ‘locking up’ of the Tower of London.
Set amidst the mighty battlements of this ancient historic fortress, the Ceremony of the Keys is one of the oldest surviving enactments of its kind. Although the monarch may no longer reside at the Tower, the Crown Jewels and many other invaluable objects still do, therefore its importance is still relevant today.
The ceremony of the keys is something I have wanted to see for years. Years ago, I knew someone in the RAF who had been part of the ceremony and had the official photos to prove it. I was so envious. Those of us of a certain age may remember the emotionally charged scenes in the final episode of Soldier Soldier (Series 4) when the Regiment performs the ceremony shortly after the death of one of their comrades.
Photography is not allowed at any point during the ceremony. Details of how to obtain tickets can be found here.