The Tower of London Menagerie
The Royal Menagerie is first [significantly] referenced during the reign of Henry III. In 1251, the sheriffs were ordered to pay fourpence a day towards the upkeep for the King’s polar bear; the bear attracted a great deal of attention from Londoners when it went fishing in the Thames. In 1254, the sheriffs were ordered to subsidise the construction of an elephant house at the Tower … lions were kept in the barbican known as Lion Tower. The royal collection was swelled by diplomatic gifts including three leopards from the Holy Roman Emperor. By the 18th century, the menagerie was open to the public; admission cost three half-pence or the supply of a cat or dog to be fed to the lions. The last of the animals left in 1835, relocated to Regents Park, after one of the lions was accused of biting a soldier.
Image: An African elephant arrived in late November 1254, a gift from the king of France, Louis IX, to Henry III of England. Matthew Paris (1200-1259) said of the beast, “We believe that this was the only elephant ever seen in England.” He drew the animal twice; the illustration posted here shows the elephant being fed by its keeper, “Henricus de Flor.” In 1258, about three years after it began its captivity in the Tower, the elephant died—apparently the result of being given too much red wine to drink.