Big cats prowled London's tower





Two lion skulls unearthed at the Tower of London have been dated to Medieval times, shedding light on the lost institution of the "Royal Menagerie". It also shows the relationship between England's early monarchs and the "king of beasts" was not just a symbolic one. The lions may have been among the first to turn up in Northern Europe since the big cats went extinct in the region at the end of the last Ice Age.

The menagerie was a popular tourist attraction, hosting exotic animals.


Lions were particularly prized as the living emblems of the royal arms of England, much like modern mascots
Jeremy Ashbee, English Heritage
The project is a collaboration between scientists from Liverpool John Moores University and London's Natural History Museum.

It was established by King John, who reigned in England from 1199-1216, and is known to have held lions and bears. It was finally closed in 1835, on the orders of the Duke of Wellington.

"The menagerie seems to have been a private collection for the king, a sign that he enjoyed good relations with foreign monarchs, who presented him with animals," said Jeremy Ashbee of English Heritage, curator of the Tower of London.

"Lions were particularly prized as the living emblems of the royal arms of England, much like modern mascots."




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