Tower of London pulls up the drawbridge over coronavirus

Tower of London pulls up the drawbridge over coronavirus

LONDON, March 19 (Reuters) - It has withstood armed attacks and stood as a protector over the British capital for almost 1,000 years, but the Tower of London is being forced to close on Friday because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"With heavy hearts, we’re raising the drawbridge," said a statement on the Twitter site of the imposing fortress, once a foreboding prison and now home to the crown jewels and a popular tourist attraction.

"This extraordinary building has withstood a great deal in its 1,000 year history, and we'll bounce back from this too."

The Tower, along with Henry VIII's former home of Hampton Court Palace, and Kensington Palace, current residence of Queen Elizabeth's grandson Prince William and his wife Kate, are among six royal palaces which are closing down because of the virus.

"This is to protect the welfare of our visitors and our incredibly dedicated team," Historic Royal Palaces said in a statement.

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"Between them, the six extraordinary historic buildings in our care have witnessed 1,000 years of history, from the Black Death to the Great Fire of London. They have bounced back in the past — and so will we."

Guarded by the famous Beefeaters in their distinctive dark blue and scarlet uniforms, the Tower of London is also home to resident ravens. Legend has it that if the ravens ever leave, then the castle and the kingdom will fall.

"Of course we’ll be taking good care of the ravens in your absence. They’ll be safe in the fortress until we see you again," the Tower's Twitter feed said. (Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)