The Victoria Tower is the tallest tower in the Palace of Westminster. Named after Queen Victoria, it was for many years the tallest and largest stone square tower in the world, with a height of 98.5 metres (325 feet).
The tower was originally designed as a royal entrance and a repository for the records of Parliament, and is now home to the Parliamentary Archives.
On top of the tower is an iron flagstaff. From here either the Royal Standard (if the Sovereign is present in the Palace) or the Union flag is flown.
Due to the tower's prominent position and its part in royal ceremony, its architect Charles Barry designed particularly rich carving and sculpture for its interior and the underside of the entrance arch. These include statues of the patron saints of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, a life-size statue of Queen Victoria and two allegorical figures of Justice and Mercy.
The gateways of the tower were built wide enough to allow the Queen's Coach to drive through for State Openings of Parliament.
As Queen Victoria was the reigning monarch during the reconstruction of the Palace, the monogram VR appears throughout the Palace as do numerous other royal emblems, such as the Tudor rose and Portcullis.
The restoration of the Victoria Tower between 1990 and 1994 required 68 miles of scaffolding tube, and one of the largest independent scaffolds in Europe. Some 1,000 cubic feet of decayed stonework was replaced, and over 100 shields were re-carved on site by a team of stonemasons.
The Sovereign's Entrance and Norman Porch
At the base of the tower is the Sovereign's Entrance, which is used by the Queen whenever entering the Palace. The steps leading from there to the Norman Porch are known as the Royal Staircase and are the start of the processional route taken by the Queen. By tradition, this route is the only one the Sovereign is allowed to take when he or she comes to the House of Lords. The Norman Porch is so called, because it was originally intended to house statues of the Norman kings.