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Royal Navy ships pay Constable’s Dues at Tower of London today

PUBLISHED: 18:38 10 May 2013 | UPDATED: 18:38 10 May 2013

HMS Illustrious, HMS Edinburgh and HMS Blyth participate in Constable's Dues at the Tower of London as part of the 70th anniversary of the battle of the Atlantic.

HMS Illustrious, HMS Edinburgh and HMS Blyth participate in Constable's Dues at the Tower of London as part of the 70th anniversary of the battle of the Atlantic.

Historic Royal Palaces

A scene out of the 14th century was brought to life as navy ships docked at the Tower today to pay their dues.

HMS Illustrious, HMS Edinburgh and HMS Blyth participate in Constable's Dues at the Tower of London as part of the 70th anniversary of the battle of the Atlantic.HMS Illustrious, HMS Edinburgh and HMS Blyth participate in Constable's Dues at the Tower of London as part of the 70th anniversary of the battle of the Atlantic.

HMS Illustrious, Edinburgh and Blythe sailed up the Thames for the historic annual ceremony of the Constable’s Dues.

Normally only one vessel takes part, but this year there were three, as part of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.

During the Middle Ages, successive Kings believed it was their right to extract tolls from vessels on the Thames, and the Tower’s Constable was empowered to demand the tolls.

Past offerings have included barrels of rum, oysters, mussels and cockles. This year it was three barrels of wine.

The ship’s crew are challenged for entry to the Tower by the Yeoman Gaoler armed with his infamous axe. The captain and his shore party then march through the Tower to Tower Green, accompanied by Beefeaters in their red and gold State Dress and a Corps of Drums.

Participants then retire to the Queen’s House to sample the contents.

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