The Duke of Orleans a Prisoner in the Tower
(From a MS. in the British Museum)


With Numerous Illustrations








To the English race the Tower of London will always be the most interesting of its Monuments; for it forms a group of buildings that for eight centuries has been the very heart of the English capital, and, since the victor of Hastings raised the great Keep—or White Tower—through all the succeeding centuries, the Tower has been closely connected with the history of England.

It would be vain to search any other city, Rome itself not excepted, for another such group of buildings, or to match the historic interest and splendid record of the ancient Norman structure. The Tower is indeed rife with interest; the most dramatic events of our country’s history during more than seven hundred years have been enacted within or near its walls.

To see it is to conjure up a vision of scenes, some brilliant and stately, some tragic and awful, but all full of deepest interest to the hearts and minds of Britons, to whom the history of their land is dear.

Although several works—some voluminous, such as the two ponderous quartos by John Bayley, published in 1825, and some more recent, such as the histories of the Tower by Britton and Brayley, and, more recently still, those by Lord de Ros and Doyne Bell—have appeared, I venture to think that in writing the present account of the Tower I have not undertaken a thankless or a useless task.

My object in giving the following book to the public has been a hope that to those who already know the Tower some fresh knowledge may perhaps be added to their acquaintance with that noble old pile; and that to those who do not know it, the admirable illustrations taken from the building itself by Messrs Colls, and the reproduction of oldxii views and scenes connected with the Tower from the days of Charles the First to those of Queen Victoria, will enable them to realise its incomparable historic interest.

Until the reign of Edward the Third the records of the Tower are miserably meagre and scanty. It would require a far more imaginative mind than I possess to infuse any life or movement or interest into them. It has been my humble intention merely to narrate in this work what is of undoubted authority as regards the history of the Tower, and were I even capable of adding colour to the dry chronicles of historical fact in these pages, it would be distasteful to me to try to enhance the interest of this narrative by setting down that which I have no good evidence for regarding as strictly true; or to attempt to adorn the dry facts, which the old chroniclers have given us, by imaginary incidents and tales for which there is no better evidence than that coming from the author’s imagination. An historical novel such as that most entertaining work the “Tower of London,” by Harrison Ainsworth, is a delightful effort of the writer’s imagination; but a book which professes to be a history must not be a hotch-potch of truth and fiction. That would be the worst of literary frauds. Feeling strongly on this matter, I must beg my readers to pardon the dulness of my records relating to the early history of the Tower, but I can assure them that what I have written is, as far as possible, accurate history; and, at the same time, beg them not to be disappointed if they find no flights of fancy in these pages.



The illustration at page 198 represents the Byward Tower, not Middle Tower.

The Tower of London
(From a Sketch by H. Colls.)




Nothing has come down to us of any authentic value regarding ancient London until Tacitus writes of Londinium as a place celebrated for the numbers of its merchants and the confluence of traffic. In the days of the Roman occupation St Albans, then called Verolanium, was a far more important place than Roman Londinium; and, perhaps, it was Verolanium whereto Cæsar marched in his second descent on Britain in B.C. 54, and which he described as a place “protected by woods and marshes.” Such a description would equally apply to Londinium, and, for aught we can know to the contrary, the town Cæsar describes as being surrounded by woods and marshes may have been our capital.

To the north of Roman London stretched vast primeval forests, and where St John’s Wood now stands, the wild boar roamed in trackless thickets. Marshes lay to the west and south, on the sites of Westminster and Southwark; a less likely place for the situation of a great capital, with the exception of St Petersburg, could not be found in Europe. On what is now Tower Hill stood a Celtic fortress, protected by the Thames on the south, and by forests and fens on the north. This fortress was admirably placed, protecting the approach from the seaward side of the river, and guarding against any attack from the land side. The2 Romans were evidently of this opinion, for after conquering the woad-stained Britons, they erected a fortalice, defended by strongly fortified walls, upon the same site.

This Roman fortress was the origin of the Tower of London.

Roman London, or rather Augusta, for so it was originally termed by the Romans, began at a fort named the Arx Palatina, overlooking the river a little to the south of Ludgate, a wall defended by towers, running in a south-easterly line along the river bank to another fort on the present site of the Tower, which was also named the Arx Palatina. Thence the wall took a northerly direction, reaching as far as the present Bishopsgate; it then turned due west to Cripplegate; then south by Aldersgate to Newgate, meeting the first wall at Ludgate. Roman London was indebted to the Emperor Constantine for these defences.[1]

Theodosius is supposed to have restored this wall in the reign of Valentinian, but we have no further records of any work upon it until A.D. 886, when Alfred the Great repaired it as a protection against the Danish invaders.[2]

The late Sir Walter Besant is my authority for saying “that there is a large piece of the Roman wall, extending 150 feet long, built over by stores and warehouses immediately north of the Tower, just where the old postern used to be, and where the wall abutted on the Tower.” It should be remembered, when judging of the circumference of the Roman wall, that London covered little more 3ground in those days than does Hyde Park at present: from Ludgate to the Tower the Roman wall extended only about a mile in length, and three and a half miles from the Tower to Blackfriars.

There are many fragments of this old Roman wall still above ground, and until 1763 a square Roman tower, built of alternate layers of large square stones with bands of red tiles, one of the three that guarded the wall, was still standing in Houndsditch. In 1857 a portion of the Roman wall was discovered near Aldermanbury postern, whilst a portion of a Roman bastion is still to be seen at St Giles’s Church, Cripplegate; another fragment being visible in a street called London Wall Street. There are more Roman remains at the Old Bailey and near George Street, Tower Hill. Fragments are also visible near Falcon Lane, Bush Lane, Scott’s Yard in Cornhill, and in underground warehouses and cellars near the Tower. In the Minories there are yet more remains of this ancient Roman wall. In Thames Street, oaken piles, which were the foundation of the wall, have been discovered. They supported a layer of chalk and stone courses, upon which rested large slabs of sandstone cemented with a mixture of lime, sand, and powdered tiles. The upper part of the wall was coated with flint, and this again was strengthened by rows of tiles.

The most interesting of these remains, however, is in the Tower itself—a fragment of the Roman fort or Arx Palatina (the place of strength), which was laid bare some few years ago when some buildings abutting on the White Tower were removed. It is built of the same materials as the fragments of the Roman wall, and shows that William the Conqueror not only erected the most formidable fortress in his newly-conquered country upon the site chosen by the Romans, but that he also incorporated the remains of their handiwork in his building. Whether Alfred the Great restored the Arx Palatina as well as the wall we do not know, but even if the fort were ruined, the fragment now at the base of the White Tower would have shown the Con4queror the value and importance of its defensive position, protecting as it did the eastern end of the city, and guarding the seaward entrance of the Thames. William’s site, however, covered part of the land belonging to the ancient boundary of the Roman occupation, and to provide the necessary space he pulled down a large portion of the Roman wall between the spot where the White Tower now stands and the river front of the fortress.

In the days of our first Norman kings, a single square tower or keep, usually situated on a hill surrounded by an artificial ditch or moat, was considered sufficient protection. One might give a long list of such towers or keeps both in England and Normandy, for William the First, not content with overawing the Londoners with his great tower in their city, built others at Dover and at Exeter, at Nottingham and at York, at Lincoln and at Durham, at Cambridge and at Huntingdon. Under Duke Rollo and his immediate successors the Normans built their fortresses by the side of navigable rivers, on islands, or near the sea, since these fortresses were not merely destined as defences, but also for places of safety. They were, in fact, places of refuge for the people of the surrounding country, who fled to them with all their possessions, and particularly their live stock, at the approach of an enemy. By their situation, safety, if necessary, could be obtained by taking flight on the neighbouring river or sea.

In Normandy—at Fécamp, at Eu, at Bayeux, at Jumiége, and at Oisel, to name but a few of these Norman keeps—this custom obtained. At Rouen, as in London, the principal fortress built by the Norman duke stood by the riverside, and not on the hills at the back of the town. None of these places mentioned above were stronger or more imposing than the great Norman keep in London, known for centuries as the White Tower, receiving that title at first, probably from the whiteness of its stone, and in later times from the continued coatings of whitewash which it received. Of the many castles in Normandy and Touraine5 of the same period as the White Tower, that of Loches resembles it most nearly in size and form. Loches is now almost a ruin, as are most of the Conqueror’s castles, but the great White Tower remains intact despite the storms, sieges, and fires through which it has passed during eight centuries. It is still the Arx Palatina of London and of the British Empire.

Although in situation the Tower cannot compare with such grandly-placed castles as Dover or Bamborough, Conway or Carnarvon, or vie in beauty of scenery with Warwick or Windsor, it remains the most historic building in our land; not even the mausoleum fortress of Hadrian in old Rome can compete in interest with the Norman fortress—palace—and State prison of London; Edinburgh Castle alone approaches it as regards its influence on the history of the capital it defended, for the northern fortress was also the home of its national sovereigns for centuries, its country’s chief prison, the store-house of its regalia, and its city’s strong place of defence; and, like the Tower, it has been guarded from its foundation up to the present time without a break, by its country’s armed defenders.

Every part of the Tower of London is pregnant with history and tradition. The proudest names of England—Howard and Percy, Arundel and Beauchamp, Stafford and Devereux—gain added interest from their association with the Tower and its story. Above all, it is for ever honoured as having been the last home of Eliot, of Russell, and of Sidney; it has been sanctified by More and Fisher, “Martyrs,” as a writer on the Tower has well said, “for the ancient, as also was Anne Askew for the purer faith.” And to Anne Askew’s name I would add that of Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, one of the first and noblest of English martyrs.

When William lay dying in the Priory of Saint Gervais, near Rouen, in the summer of 1087, the Great White Tower which he had built in London had been in existence for some ten years. Probably only that tower was then com6pleted, with the great ballium wall between the Keep and the river. Stowe, the earliest English writer on antiquarian subjects, writing in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, has told us in his priceless “Survey of London,” that the White Tower was completed in 1078. Its architect, Bishop Gundulf of Rochester, was not consecrated until 1077, and was then occupied in building Rochester Cathedral and a portion of Rochester Castle; the keep, which still rears its ruined walls over Rochester and the Medway, was not built until a century later. In Mr G. J. Clarke’s work on “Mediæval Military Architecture”—a work as important to students of English architecture of the Middle Ages as is that of Viollet le Duc to French architecture—we are told that Gundulf died about the year 1108, at the good old age of eighty-four, in the reign of the first Henry. Possibly the Palace at the Tower and even the Wakefield Tower had been commenced by Gundulf, as well as some buildings of the inner ward, but this is uncertain. These buildings would include the great curtain wall extending from the Wakefield Tower to the Broad Arrow Tower, and the cross wall of the Wardrobe Gallery, and the building known as Coldharbour, these being the buildings which formed the nucleus of the palace of the Norman kings.

The Wardrobe, the Lanthorn, and Coldharbour Towers have perished; the Lanthorn Tower has been rebuilt. In 1091, according to Stowe, the White Tower was, “by tempest and wind sore shaken,” so much so that it had to be repaired by William Rufus and Henry I. In the same year that Rufus built the Great Hall at Westminster he surrounded the Tower with a wall, causing his subjects much discontent thereby, especially as he forced them to work at these defences.

Sir Walter Besant recommended—and no one spoke with higher authority on aught appertaining to old London and its history—any one who desires to make himself acquainted with the appearance of the Tower in the days of Queen Elizabeth, to study the plan drawn up by Haiward and7 Gascoigne in 1597, which they styled “A True and Exact Draught of the Tower Liberties.” In that plan it will be seen at a glance that the fortress, palace, armoury, arsenal, and State prison of England’s capital, had its principal entry towards the west—in fact, that the western approach was the only entrance by land, the eastern entrance, known as the Iron Gate, being but seldom used. Supposing that the visitor of Elizabeth’s day had passed through the no longer existing Bulwark Gate, he would next pass under another gate, called from its proximity to the menagerie of wild animals, the Lion Gate, which was connected by a walled causeway over the moat, about a hundred feet in width, with the Lion Tower, which has disappeared; from the Lion Gate, which has also been pulled down, the scarp would be reached.

Plan of the Tower in 1597
by Haiward and Gascoyne.

The Lion Tower, with its barbicans and tête-du-pont, had the honour of a moat to itself, but all this has disappeared, Lion Gate, tower, barbican, tête-du-pont, have all vanished with the lions and other wild beasts which were kept here from the days of the Norman kings until the year 1834, when they were removed to Regent’s Park and formed the nucleus of the Zoological Gardens.

Henry I. had kept some lions and leopards at his palace of Woodstock, and on the occasion of Frederic II. of Germany sending three leopards to Henry III., these animals were sent to the Tower. Besides lions and leopards, an elephant and a bear were also about that time in the Tower menagerie. In 1252 the Sheriffs of London were ordered to pay fourpence a day for the keep of the bear, and also to provide a muzzle and chain for Bruin while he caught fish in the Thames. During the reign of the three first Edwards, the lions and other animals had food given them to the value of sixpence a day, their keeper only receiving three half-pence per diem. One of the Plantagenet Court officials held the office, and was styled “The Master of the King’s Bears and Apes.” In old views of the Tower can be seen the circular pit or pen in which,8 down to the days of James I., bear-baiting took place—to watch this brutal “sport” being one of this not altogether admirable monarch’s favourite amusements.

In his account of a visit paid to the Tower in the reign of Elizabeth, the German traveller, Paul Hentzner, writes of the Royal menagerie as follows:—

“On coming out of the Tower we were led to a small house close by, where are kept variety of creatures—viz. three lionesses, one lion of great size, called Edward VI., from his having been born in that reign; a tyger; a lynx; a wolf excessively old; this is a very scarce animal in England, so that their sheep and cattle stray about in great numbers, free from any dangers, though without anybody to keep them; there is besides, a porcupine, and an eagle. All these creatures are kept in a remote place, fitted up for the purpose with wooden lattices at the Queen’s expense.”

Hentzner, who visited England as tutor to a young German nobleman, gives a vivid account of what was considered most noteworthy in London in the days of Elizabeth, and in this the Tower looms large. His Journal was translated into English from the German and published by Horace Walpole, who had it printed at Strawberry Hill. We shall meet with Hentzner again in the White Tower.

Early in the eighteenth century there were eleven lions in the Tower, and in the Freeholder Addison alludes to the Tower menagerie; later on, Dr Johnson would growlingly inquire of newly-arrived Scotchmen in the metropolis, “Have you seen the lions?” In the place where formerly lions roared and bears were baited, the ticket office and visitors’ refreshment rooms now stand. In France or Germany here would probably be an attractive restaurant or café; but in these matters we English are woefully behind our neighbours, and it would be as difficult to find an appetising luncheon in the Tower as it is to understand why the art of cooking is so neglected in our country.

Near here, in 1843, when the moat of the fortress was drained of its waters and cleared of its rubbish, many9 stone cannon shot were found, shot which had probably been used when the Yorkists besieged the Tower in 1460 and cannonaded it from the other side of the Thames. In Elizabeth’s day this portion of the fortress was named the Bulwark or the Spur-yard—the origin of the latter term is not known.

The Byward Tower.

The moat, some hundred feet wide at its widest, was formerly flooded with the waters of the Thames, and is now used as a parade and playground for the garrison. It dates back to the Norman Conquest, and was deepened by William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely in the reign of Richard I. Death was the penalty for bathing in its waters in the reign of Edward III.—a severe law, but one may hope that a sentence so severe for so apparently trivial an offence was not actually enforced; perhaps death was the result of some one having taken his bath in the Tower moat in the unsanitary days of Edward III. When the Duke of Wellington was Constable of the Tower, he had the moat filled up to its present level, and the river waters which had, daily, during eight centuries supplied it by their ebb and flow, ceased to encircle the old walls. Doubtless the fortress gained in healthiness by the change, but from a picturesque point of view the general effect of the building has been greatly lessened since the days when the old walls and bastions were reflected by the waters of the moat, nor can its towers and turrets appear so effective as when they were mirrored in surrounding water.

Four bridges with their causeways spanned the moat. To the west stood the Lion Gate bridge; a second was (and still is), that of the Middle Tower; the third faces the river at Traitor’s Gate under St Thomas’s Tower; and the fourth is that at the eastern extremity of the fortress, near to a dam which connected the tower above the Iron Gate with the tower formerly called Galleyman’s Tower, or “the tower leading to the Iron Gate.”

Middle Tower, the first by which the present visitor10 to the Tower enters the fortress, has been greatly modernised in its upper part. Since the destruction of the Lion Tower it has become the first gate of the Citadel, its name having been gained by its original position between the Lion and Byward Towers, to the latter of which it formed the outwork: it protects the western and landward approach to the fortress. Originally the Middle Tower was coated with Portland stone. It has a double portcullis, which can still be used if required. In front of this Tower, in mediæval days, stood a drawbridge, of which however, no trace remains, the moat now being spanned by a bridge of stone 130 feet in length and 20 feet in width at its narrowest part.

It was in front of this gateway that Elizabeth, on returning a Queen to the Tower, which she had left five years before a prisoner, alighted from her horse and kneeling on the ground returned thanks to God, “who had,” as Bishop Burnet writes in his “History of the Reformation,” “delivered her from a danger so imminent; and for an escape as miraculous as that of David.” To the right of the Middle Tower a road leads to Tower Wharf, from whence one of the most striking views in the whole of London is seen. Before the spectator stretches the famous “Pool,” that wide space of ever-shifting water on which rides all the shipping of the mighty river. It is a view which combines past and present; all the stir, the toil and traffic of the Thames lies before one, and for background rise the pinnacles, towers, and embattled walls of the grim old fortress, looking down on the ever-changing but time-defying stream.

Returning to the Middle Tower, and passing along the causeway which spans the moat, the Byward Tower is reached. The Byward Tower forms the gatehouse of the Outer Ward of the Tower, and dates back to the reign of Richard II. In form this tower is rectangular, it has three floors, and rejoices in a portcullis which, like that of the Middle Tower, could still be worked. In the11 time of Henry VIII. the Byward Tower was known by the name of the Warding Gate. Upon the right-hand side of the entrance there is a fine vaulted chamber, some 15 feet in size, which is supposed to have been used as an oratory during the Middle Ages. It is now occupied by the Warders of the Tower, and is called the Warders’ Parlour; with its loopholed windows and ancient stone fireplace, it is one of the best preserved interior portions of the fortress. There is a corresponding chamber on the opposite side of the gateway. Attached to the Byward Tower, on its south-eastern side, is a low tower intended to protect the postern bridge which here crosses the moat towards the river side. It has an old oak door, half hidden by a sentry box, over which is a vaulted roof dating from the reign of Richard II., and this, with the narrow tortuous passage, forms a picturesque corner of the Tower buildings.

Postern Gate in the Byward Tower.

To mention the Warders of the Tower necessitates something more than a passing allusion to that most worthy body of veterans, since the Warders of the Tower of London belong to the most interesting of the old fortress’s institutions. Yeomen-Warders is the proper designation of the forty or so old soldiers who guard the Tower, who show and describe its different parts to visitors, and whose civility and patience are matters for the highest encomium. Originally these guardians were employed by the Lieutenant of the Tower to guard the prisoners committed to the State prison under his charge. But in the reign of Edward VI. the Duke of Somerset, after his liberation from the Tower, caused those warders who had had charge of his person during his imprisonment to be appointed, as a reward for their attention, extra Yeomen of the Guard. And from that period dates, with some modifications, the costume still worn by the Tower Yeomen. The Warders of the Tower are all picked men, and have all been appointed to their posts for good service in the Army. In the old days when the State trials were12 held at Westminster Hall the “Gentleman-Gaoler”—as that Warder was named whose affair it was to escort and guard the State prisoner to and from his trial, and who carried the processional axe (still kept in the Queen’s House) before the prisoner with the edge turned away from him on the journey to Westminster, and almost always with its edge towards him as he returned, as a sign that he was condemned to die—was the principal of the Tower Warders. The office is still maintained, inasmuch as he takes the front place on State occasions of ceremony, when the old axe is taken from its honoured repose in the Lieutenant’s study in the Queen’s House.

The Warders of the Tower must not, however, be confounded with the Yeomen of the Guard, the latter of whom are more usually known by the name of Beefeaters, and who, in their picturesque and striking uniform, make so effective a display on State occasions, such as the Levées at St James’s Palace, and State balls and concerts at Buckingham Palace. Whether the designation “Beefeater” originated from a supposed, but non-existent French word “buffetier” or not is a matter of no importance; but what is interesting is the fact that this body of men, with the exception of the Pope’s Swiss bodyguard, are the only set of attendants belonging to a European Court who retain a costume similar to that worn by their predecessors over three centuries ago.

Passing under the Byward Tower the Inner Ward is reached, into which entrance was gained from the river by Traitor’s Gate, the steps to that famous portal running below St Thomas’s Tower. Formerly cross walls, guarded with strong gates, defended the Inner Ward, but these have long since disappeared, together with the grated walls which shut in the passage across the Ward from Traitor’s Gate to the Bloody Tower.

As recently as the year 1867 this portion of the Inner Ward was covered with storehouses, engine-rooms and the lodgings of the warders, and most of these buildings,13 according to Lord de Ros, were in a state of total dilapidation, “the result of many years of neglect on the part of the former Board of Ordnance.” Since that time a great improvement has been made here, as well as in other parts of the fortress: of these improvements a list is given in the Appendix.

Yeoman Porter of the Tower.

Bounded by the Bloody and St Thomas’s Towers ran a narrow street called Mint Street, from the adjoining building occupied by the offices of the Mint, which consisted of a row of mean houses that hid and defaced the fine old Ballium wall of the fortress. Regarding this Ballium wall, Lord de Ros, in his account of the Tower, explains the word “Ballium” as “a military term,” but wishing for some further knowledge as to the meaning of the word, I referred to my learned friend Mr W. Peregrine Propert of St David’s, who informed me that it was probably derived from the French term “bailler,” meaning “to deliver possession, to lease, to hold, keep, contain.” The Latin form Ballium would accordingly mean something that is held, contained, or enclosed. Castles in ancient times were usually enclosed by several circuits of walls, fences, or ramparts. Sometimes there was a ditch or moat built outside these defences, as was the case in the Tower of London. The space between these walls was called the “Ballium.” On the site of the prison of Newgate stood a Roman fortress which was no doubt surrounded by ramparts, and the space so defended has retained its old appellation Ballium in the present term Old Bailey. “It is quite natural,” adds Mr Propert, “to suppose that if one wall disappeared the remaining wall would be called the ballium popularly: in the same manner a wall in the Tower of London might be called a Ballium, though not correctly according to its etymology.”

The Ballium wall at its highest is some forty feet high, and dates probably as far back as the Conquest; it is, therefore, one of the most ancient parts of the Tower, and coeval with the White Tower. It commences at the Main14 Gate of the outer rampart at the Bell Tower, and forms the angle of the Queen’s or Governor’s House, whence it runs for some fifty yards to the north-west until it joins the Beauchamp Tower: this tower forms a bastion near the centre of the Ballium wall. To the right the restored Tower of St Thomas overlaps the Traitor’s Gate. This tower dates back to the reign of Henry VIII., and was entirely rebuilt in 1866 by Salvin, only a portion of the interior retaining the walls of the original building.

Among a crowd of dingy wine-shops, offices, storehouses, and buildings which, according to good authority, were mostly “in a condition of ruin and dilapidation,” stood the old Mint, of which some account must here be given:

In the twenty-first annual account of the Deputy Master of the Mint for the year 1890 is the following account of the Mint when it was still within the Tower walls:—

“Among the old records of the Mint a discoloured parchment has been discovered, which is described as ‘An exact survey of the ground plot or plan of His Majesty’s Office of the Mint in the Tower of London.’ It bears the date February 26, 1700, and is of special interest as having presumably been prepared by order of Sir Isaac Newton, who was appointed Master of the Mint in 1699, having previously held the office of Warden.... The Mint buildings were situated between the rampart, which is bounded by the moat, and the inner ward or ballium of the fortress, which they entirely surrounded, except on the river frontage.... There are ample data as to the nature of the machinery and appliances which filled the various workrooms at the time when the plan was prepared. The more important machinery would be the rolling mills. The rolling mills were drawn by horsepower, and the rolls were of steel and of small dimensions. The coining presses were screw presses, and must have been the same as were introduced by Blondeau in 1661, 15under the direction of Sir W. Parkhurst and Sir Anthony St Ledger, Wardens of the Mint, at a cost of £1400. Blondeau, who greatly improved the system of coining, did not, however, invent the screw press, as Cellini described it accurately in 1568.”

The Wakefield and Bloody Towers.

In 1698 Sir Isaac Newton writes from the “Mint Office, October 22nd,” as follows:—“Sir, Pray let Mr James Roettier have the use of the great Crown Press in the Long Press Room for coyning of the Medalls, and let some person whom you can confide in, attend to see that Mr Roettier make no other use of the said press room than for coyning of medalls.—To Mr John Braint, Provost of the Moniers.”

Sir Isaac was evidently suspicious of the uses that Roettier might make of the Crown press, and not overconfident of the honesty of the old Dutch medallist. We shall have more to say regarding Roettier when describing the Tower under the Stuart king’s Restoration.

It is uncertain if Sir Isaac Newton occupied the house of the Master of the Mint in the Tower, although it is recorded in the Conduit MSS. that Halley once dined with Sir Isaac at the Mint. At the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth, Newton had a house in Jermyn Street, St James’s. The lodgings in the Tower of the Master of the Mint were immediately to the north of the Byward Tower, whilst those of the Warden were to the left of the Brass Mount, on the north of the Jewel or Martin Tower.

The debasement of the coin of the realm, especially during the reigns of the Tudor Sovereigns, caused great loss to the State, the matter becoming so serious that Latimer denounced this criminal practice from St Paul’s Cross, Sir John Yorke being then Master of the Tower Mint. In 1550–51 it is recorded that there was “great loss, 4000 weight of silver, by treason of Englishmen, which he (Yorke) bought for provision for the minters. Also Judd, 1500; also Gresham, 500; so that the whole16 came to 4000 pound.” There is a letter to the Treasurer, dated 22nd August 1550, ordering him “to waie and cause to be molten downe into wedges all such crosses, images, and church and chapelle plate of Gould as remains in the Towere.” This letter was accompanied by a warrant signed by Henry VIII. for “VIJM pounds appointed to be delivered to Sir John Yorke for such purposes as his Lordship knoweth.” This act of spoliation of all the Church treasure in the Tower by the rapacious Henry, accounts for none of the plate in the Chapel of St Peter’s dating further back than the reign of Charles I.

The famous Traitor’s Gate is perhaps the most historic plot of ground in England, for here some of the noblest of our race have played the last scene but one of their lives. More tragic pathos attaches to this black water-gate than to the Bridge of Sighs in Venice; it is more deeply dyed with gloom than the glacis of Avignon, the dungeons of St Angelo, or the Austrian Spilberg. But a few steps had to be traversed by the prisoners, when landed at these steps, before they entered the Bloody Tower on the opposite side of the Ward, not to pass thence until the day of their execution. The Traitor’s Gate was the principal of the Barbicans or water-gates of the fortress; it commanded the passage between the Thames and the moat. The stone arch which spans Traitor’s Gate springs from two octagonal piers, and is 61 feet across. On the old steps, that can still be traced below the modern stone stairs by which they are overlaid, many an illustrious victim landed from the barge, in which the prisoners of State were generally taken to and from their trial at Westminster.

Within one of the circular turrets over the Gate, on the south-east, are the remains of an oratory, the piscina being still visible in the wall. It was before this tower, on the night of St George’s Day 1240, that the gateway with the adjacent wall of St Thomas’s Tower suddenly fell to the ground. In the following year, on the same anniver17sary, the newly-built tower and gate again fell prone. That such a catastrophe should occur twice on the night of the 23rd of April was attributed by the Londoners to supernatural causes; and rumour spread that on that very night (Mathew Paris is the authority) the spectre of an Archbishop, crozier in hand, had appeared to one of the Tower priests whilst standing near St Thomas’s Tower. After gazing sternly at the priest and on the walls of the tower then rebuilding, the spectre struck the stones with his crozier, exclaiming, “Why build ye these?” and down fell the newly-erected tower and wall. The spectre was supposed to be St Thomas of Canterbury, from whom the tower took its name, but after the building had arisen for the third time, the restorer has been the only person who has meddled with them.

North, or inside, view of Traitor’s Gate.
being the principal entrance of the Tower of London, from the River, and through which state prisoners of rank and dignity were formerly conveyed to the Tower.

A passage connected this tower with the Wakefield Tower, on the right of the Bloody Tower, and was restored by Salvin, to enable the Keeper of the Regalia, who has his quarters in St Thomas’s Tower, to pass into the Wakefield Tower, where the jewels are kept, without leaving the building.

The Wakefield Tower and its companion, the Bloody Tower, form one block of buildings. According to recent authorities this tower is principally the work of the reigns of Stephen and of Henry III. Formerly it was called the Record or Hall Tower, and for many centuries contained the documents relating to the fortress, now kept in the Record Office in Chancery Lane. Its second name of Hall Tower was probably given to it because of its proximity to the great hall of the Palace, which was destroyed by Cromwell, where the courts of justice met in the Middle Ages. Its present name is no doubt derived from the prisoners who were taken at the battle of Wakefield in December 1460, when the Lancastrians, led by Warwick, defeated the Yorkists. The unhappy Yorkists were interned in a vaulted chamber in the basement of the tower; and here18 also another civil war, that of 1745, brought a shoal of Scottish prisoners into this dismal dungeon when the mortality amongst them was terrible. Salvin restored the tower, without and within, in 1867. Some frescoes on the walls of the rooms on the first floor could still be traced up to that time, but nothing of these most interesting relics of early English art have been left by the restorers.

The dungeon in the basement, where the Yorkist and Jacobite soldiers were placed at an interval of nearly three centuries, is octagonal in form, 23 feet in width, by 10 feet high. Its walls are 13 feet in thickness, the present beautiful vaulted stone roof being a copy of the old one. The Government of George II. behaved to the poor Highlanders brought here after Culloden, much as did the Indian perpetrators of the Black Hole of Calcutta tragedy, for between sixty and seventy prisoners were crammed into this single chamber. It is little wonder that half of them speedily died; the survivors were transported as slaves to the West Indies. The Regalia is kept in the upper chamber of this tower and is probably the greatest attraction to the majority of the visitors to the Tower of London, for gewgaws always attract a crowd.[3]

Of the half-dozen crowns, with the sceptres and orbs, and other State ornaments kept in this chamber, one or two articles only, date back earlier than the days of Charles II. The oldest of these is a silver-gilt “anointing spoon” which belonged to the Ampulla or Golden Eagle, and was used to anoint the sovereign with the holy oil at his or her coronation; a salt-cellar which is said to have belonged to Queen Elizabeth, and which is certainly a handsome specimen of chased silver of the Renaissance period. The coronation spoon is of pure gold, and has four pearls placed in the broadest part of the handle, on which also are remains of some enamelling. An arabesque 19is engraved on the bowl; a ridge runs down the centre forming two depressions in the metal, and into these hollows the Archbishop dipped his finger before anointing the sovereign. The Ampulla, the vessel which contained the oil, is also fashioned in gold, in the shape of an eagle, the head, which served as a lid, being loose. The Imperial crown, a terrible thing in form, although covered with handsome jewels, was entirely reconstructed for George IV. at his coronation, and is worthy of that monarch’s taste.

The Jewel House
Doorway of the Jewel House

In the reign of Henry VIII. the Keeper of these jewels was for a time Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, who received fifty pounds a year for the office, besides many perquisites connected with the charge. In 1623, Charles I., starting with the Duke of Buckingham on his quixotic journey to Spain, is said to have carried with him jewels belonging to the Crown to the value of sixty thousand pounds.

During the Commonwealth the Crown was broken up and the Crown jewels dispersed. At the Restoration, Sir Gilbert Talbot was the Keeper of the Jewels, and it was then, for the first time, that the public were allowed to see the Regalia. Whilst Talbot was Keeper and Edwards sub-Keeper, Blood’s almost successful attempt to carry off the Crown occurred. Far more interesting than the Regalia is the chamber in which it is placed. It is octagonal in shape, 30 feet in diameter, with bays opened into the walls. The beautiful carved ceiling is a modern copy of the original. In the bay on the north-eastern side are two deep recesses, that under an archway being the original entrance into the chamber and connecting it with the palace; it is now walled up. The recess to the south-east was formerly an oratory, and is mentioned in the Tower records in the year 1238.

Tradition points to this room as being the scene of the murder of Henry VI. by Richard III., who is supposed to have entered through the passage from the Palace, and finding Henry praying in the oratory stabbed him to death,20 “punching his anointed body full of deadly holes,” as Shakespeare puts it in “Henry VI.

Before describing the Inner Ward, which is entered after passing under the Bloody Tower, of which the black portcullis still shows its jagged teeth, one would do well to turn and look back from under the curiously groined roof of the old gateway, with lions’ heads carved in the spandrels, towards Traitor’s Gate. This is perhaps the most suggestive view of any within the Tower, the least changed, and full of historical reminiscences. Through this archway have passed all the State prisoners that the old fortress has drawn into its grim maw—prelates, queens, and princes, statesmen, judges, courtiers, and soldiers of all degrees—the patriot willing to lay down his life for the “old cause,” as Algernon Sidney called his policy—and the favourite of some fickle royal master, thrown aside and allowed to perish by a Henry, an Elizabeth, or a Charles. For five centuries this old Tower has seen pass beneath its black walls many who have helped to make the history of our race; this pathway has been their Via Crucis.

A very old tradition, dating certainly as far back as the reign of Elizabeth, gives the epithet of “bloody” to this tower. It has always been known as the place where the sons of Edward IV. were murdered by their uncle Richard in 1483. Although there is no historical evidence to prove that this was the scene of that event, local tradition in a place like the Tower is not a factor to be despised, for the story of the crime and its locale cannot have been handed down at an interval of less than a hundred years from the time of the occurrence. Until the reign of Elizabeth the Bloody Tower was called the Garden Tower, from a garden which lay on its western side, belonging to the Constable’s House or Lodging, to give its old style, the building now known as the King’s or Governor’s House; this garden has long ceased to exist.

The Bloody Tower.
looking towards Traitor’s Gate.

The Bloody Tower is a building of three storeys, with21 an elevation of 47 feet. Worthy of notice is the portcullis which, like that of the Byward Tower, is still in working order: these two are said to be the only remaining portcullises in England still capable of being used. Mrs Hutchinson, the wife of the Parliamentary Colonel, refers to this portcullis. She shared her husband’s imprisonment here in 1663, “in a room,” she writes, “where it was said the two young princes, Edward V. and his brother, were murdered; the room that led to it was a great dark room with no window, where the portcullis to one of the inner gates was drawn up and let down.” Among other prisoners who have lingered in the Bloody Tower were Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, Jane Grey’s father-in-law, Archbishop Cranmer, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Thomas Overbury, who was slowly poisoned. It was from the window over the gateway on the north side that Archbishop Laud, himself a prisoner, gave Strafford his supreme blessing as the great Earl was led out to die; and in this tower the brutal Judge Jeffreys died of delirium caused by drink and despair. The only prisoner here now is a small bird whose cage hangs from out a window of this gloomy gaol.

Of all the illustrious prisoners who have been immured here Sir Walter Raleigh is the most interesting. The steps which lead to the first floor of the prison tower open on an arched door, through which he must often have passed; they are as old as the Tower itself, which dates back to Richard III. or Richard II. In the Elizabethan survey of the Tower a walled garden is shown on the plan, facing the north. This was the garden which helped to soften the long imprisonment passed by Sir Walter, and here he whiled away many of the weary hours of his long captivity tending his flowers, or distilling essences in a little garden house which he had built himself. These occupations and the composition of his huge fragment, the famous “History of the World,” which he wrote in the Tower, must have been Raleigh’s greatest consolations during the22 fourteen long years he passed in the fortress. Raleigh also had the company of his family during one period of his imprisonment, and he was also allowed to have some of the natives he had brought back from Guiana to attend upon him. As the years of his imprisonment increased so did his troubles, and he suffered cruelly from rheumatism and palsy whilst in the Bloody Tower, and in 1606 it was found necessary, if his life was to be preserved, to change his prison. For Raleigh’s memory, among other reasons, the interior of the Bloody Tower is well worth visiting, although the rooms have been modernised. They are now occupied by one of the warders and his family. One chamber is pointed out as that in which the little York princes were smothered. This room has been divided into two, but there is nothing to show that the walls and the ceiling are not the same as those which were there when the murderers entered, having presumably passed through a window at the end of a passage which opens out on to the terraced wall overlooking the river.

Within the Inner Ward, by the side of the Wakefield Tower, stood, until the summer of 1899, an ugly building called the Main Guard, and it is in front of this building that the ceremony of receiving the Tower keys takes place nightly. Every evening just before midnight the Chief Warder and the Yeoman Porter meet together and proceed to the main guard-room. The Yeoman Porter carries in his hand his bunch of great keys, and on arriving at the guard-room he asks for “The escort of the keys.” This escort consists of a Beefeater (a sergeant) and six private soldiers. The sergeant carries a lantern, and the whole party then proceeds to the outer gate, where the soldiers assist the Yeoman Porter to close it. The latter then takes his keys and locks the gate, after which the procession is reformed for the return. As the party passes the sentinels on its way back, the latter challenges it with, “Who goes there?” The Yeoman Porter makes answer “The keys!” To this the sentry calls out “Advance King Edward’s23 Keys!” and the escort proceeds onward to the Main Guard. When this is reached the same ceremony is gone through, at the conclusion of which the officer of the guard and the escort salute the keys by presenting arms, after which the Yeoman Porter cries “God preserve King Edward!” The keys are then carried by the same guardian to the King’s House, or, as it is sometimes called, the Governor’s House, and placed for the night in the Constable’s office. Probably few know that, with the exception of the Sovereign and the Constable of the Tower, the password of the fortress is known only to the Lord Mayor of London, the word being sent to the Mansion House, quarterly, signed by the monarch. This is a survival of an ancient custom.

Groining in Ceiling of the Bloody Tower.

In early days a building, with towers attached, stood between the Main Guard and the White Tower, which is called in the old plans of the fortress “Cold or Cole Harbour.” When in 1899 the Main Guard was pulled down the old wall of Cold Harbour was laid bare, and at the same time a well with a stone lining to it, and a subterranean passage were discovered. The subterranean passage ran to the east of the Wakefield Tower and opened out towards the river front at the eastern side of St Thomas’s Tower, at a depth of five feet below the actual surface of the ground; it was six feet high, and so narrow that only one person could pass along it.

In Gascoyne’s plan of the Tower, Cold Harbour is shown with two tall circular towers, with a gateway between them, and stands at the south-western side of the White Tower. But as far back as the reign of James II. this building had disappeared. The origin of the name “Cold Harbour or Cole Harbour” has been a puzzle to antiquarians. The name is found in many localities throughout the south of England, and is always found in places near the Roman Road, a circumstance which has given the possible derivation of the name from Collis Arboris or Colles Arborum. And the site24 of Cold Harbour in the Tower might, with every probability, have been a wooded knoll or hillock by the side of the river when the Romans ruled in Britain. That Cold Harbour, or rather its two towers, were of some height is shown by the complaint made in 1572 against the Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir Owen Hopton, for allowing his prisoners to meet and walk on the “leads of Cole Harbour.” About the same time Lord Southampton, Shakespeare’s friend, when a prisoner in the Tower, was once seen “leaping upon the tower, his wife being on the opposite side of the ditch,” or the moat as we should call it.

To the left, and facing the Main Guard, lies the Tower Green, known also as the Parade. It has buildings upon its three sides. On the southern side the King’s House,[4] formerly called the Lieutenant’s Lodging, with its old gables, is a conspicuous feature. This building is carried on to the western side of the Green by a row of houses whose fronts have been modernised out of all semblance to their respectable antiquity; the northern end of the Green is closed by the walls of the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Homely as is the appearance of the King’s House, it is here that, should the reigning monarch of England ever return to lodge in the fortress, he or she would dwell, for it is the largest of the dwelling-houses within the Tower since the old Palace was pulled down. To those who have had the privilege of being taken over this house by its present occupier, General George Milman, the memory of its quaint old rooms, some panelled with wainscotting, and all made interesting by a collection of prints, and views, and portraits of places and people connected with the history of the fortress, will be a lasting and a pleasant one. No worthier guardian has held the honoured post of Lieutenant of the Tower, or taken a deeper interest in the venerable monument over which his Sovereign placed him, than the present occupant of the post.


The Lieutenant of the Tower ranks next to the Constable of the fortress. In the reign of Richard II. the Lieutenant received twenty pounds a year, and was entitled to the following perquisites. From every prisoner committed to the Tower having property of a hundred marks a year he received, “for the sute of his yrons” forty shillings, and from poorer or richer prisoners in proportion. From every galley coming up the river he received a “roundlett of wine” and of “daynties a certain quantity.” In the time of Elizabeth the Lieutenant received two hundred marks a year; in the eighteenth century this sum was increased to seven hundred pounds a year, besides valuable perquisites. The office of Constable of the Tower ranks high amongst military honours. Its roll of names include, since the death of the Iron Duke in 1852, those of Lord Combermere, Sir John Burgoyne, Sir Fenwick Williams, Lord Napier of Magdala, and Sir Daniel Lysons.

With its many gables, the old flagged court before it, bordered by sycamores, the King’s House forms a pleasing contrast to the blackened walls and towers which are round about it. The building looks a place of ancient peace, and seems rather to be a portion of some venerable college than of a mediæval fortress. The Green, formerly divided into three portions, of which one was a garden, the second a parade ground, and the third (that nearest to St Peter’s Chapel) a burying-ground, is now a single space in which seats are placed for the weary sightseer. It is a pleasant place wherein to pass a few moments day-dreaming on the scene around, and its strange contrast between the past and the present. On the ground floor of the King’s House is kept that interesting relic of the Tower and its story, the processional axe. This is the famous weapon which was carried to and from State trials by the Gentleman Warder. The axe’s head is peculiar in form, 1 foot 8 inches high by 10 inches wide, and is fastened into a wooden handle 5 feet 4 inches long. The handle is orna26mented by four rows of burnished brass nails running perpendicularly down the sides, giving the weapon a strong resemblance to the decorated boat-hooks used in Venice for holding the gondolas at the landing-stages.

In the photograph which, by the kindness of General Milman, I was permitted to have taken of the axe, the background is formed by the masonry of the Bloody Tower, which has the appearance of a grisly pile of human skulls, a not inappropriate circumstance. Although the processional axe was only used as an emblem of law and justice, it is closely connected with many a Tower tragedy. It is not known when this axe was first used in those solemn processions when it preceded the prisoner to and from trial, nor is its age certain. It was last used at the State trials of the Jacobite lords in the years 1746 and 1747. It is now kept in the study of the Lieutenant of the Tower, whence it is only removed on such State occasions as the installation of a new Constable.

On the first floor of the King’s House, overlooking the Thames, is the Council Room in which Guy Fawkes was examined before Cecil and the Council of State. It was on this occasion that Cecil wrote to James I. that Guy Fawkes “was no more dismayed than if he were taken for a poor robbery in the highway.” Fawkes was not, as is sometimes stated, tortured in this room, for torture was only applied in the dungeons below the White Tower, which fact should disprove the legend that the cries of the tortured conspirator are heard on stormy nights proceeding from the Council Chamber. But there is another legend connected with this part of the Tower, to the effect that the shadow of an axe is sometimes seen spreading its form on Tower Green, and appearing on the walls of the White Tower. Indeed, a likelier or a more proper place for ghostly visitations of all kinds than the Tower can hardly be found anywhere in the world, if it be true that ghosts “do walk.” For this reason it is disappointing that there are so few legends of apparitions to chronicle, and of these few the following have the27 best authentication. In Notes and Queries for September 1860, some letters appeared relating to Tower ghosts, and amongst them Mr E. Le Swifte (the same individual, I believe, who so courageously saved the Regalia during the great fire in the Tower in 1841, when the Armoury was destroyed) writes an account of a ghostly visitant which appeared to his wife and himself in the Martin Tower, where the Regalia, of which he had charge, were then placed. Swifte was appointed to the post of Keeper of the Crown Jewels in 1814, which he held until 1852, living with his family in the Martin Tower. One evening in the month of October 1817, whilst at supper, his little son and his wife’s sister were startled at seeing an apparition, “like a glass tube” of the thickness of Mrs Swifte’s arm, which hovered between the ceiling and the supper table. It seemed to contain, adds Swifte, “a clear fluid.” This spectral shape appeared for a few moments, causing the family the greatest alarm. Shortly afterwards, one of the sentinels outside the Martin Tower saw a “huge bear issuing from underneath the door of the Tower.” The man fell down in a swoon and was taken to the guard-house room. The poor fellow actually died of the fright.

The Council Chamber in the Governor’s House.

Above the chimney-piece of the Council Chamber is a life-size coloured alto-relievo head of James the First; between this and the window, on the same wall, is a highly ornate stone tablet in the style of an altar tomb of the period, adorned with a row of heraldic shields bearing the coat-of-arms of the members of the Council who examined Guy Fawkes, amongst whom are those of Sir Edward Coke, the Attorney-General, and of Sir William Wade or Waad, the Lieutenant of the Tower, by whom the tablet was erected in honour of King James. Wade was the Lieutenant who was so cordially disliked by Sir Walter Raleigh, who called him “that beast Waad.” Below the shields is a fulsome inscription in English, Latin, and Hebrew, describing the Gunpowder Plot and its discovery.

Adjoining the Council Chamber is the room from which28 Lady Nithsdale succeeded in helping her husband to escape from the Tower, where he had been in prison for the part he had taken in the rebellion of 1715. The escape, which is described in the chapter dealing with the Tower under the Georges, was effected on the day before that on which Lord Nithsdale was to be executed. The unfortunate Duke of Monmouth was a prisoner in this building in 1685, between his capture after the Battle of Sedgemoor and his death on Tower Hill. Here also, during the days when the Stuarts reigned, and even earlier, it was customary to send to the care of the Lieutenant those prisoners of State whose position and importance made it desirable that they should be under the eye of the chief officer in the fortress, who was made personally responsible for their safe keeping. To this class of prisoner belonged Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, and mother of Henry Darnley. In an upper chamber of the King’s House is an inscription on a stone let into the wall above the fireplace, on which it is written that the Countess was “Commyedede prysner to this Lodgynge for the marege of her sonne, my Lord Henry Darnle and the Queene of Scotlande,” a list of servants “that doe wayte upon her noble grace in thys place” is also given upon the stone. This unlucky lady was a prisoner in 1565 for no fault, save that she was the mother of Queen Mary of Scotland’s husband. After passing many years in captivity, her cousin Elizabeth allowed her, after her release from the Tower, to die in poverty. Lady Lennox is commemorated by a stately monument in Henry the Seventh’s chapel in Westminster Abbey, for Elizabeth, with that strange inconsistency for which she was remarkable, after imprisoning the poor lady, and allowing her to die in misery after her release, erected a costly tomb to her memory. It was, indeed, a case of being asked for bread and according a stone.

At the south-western corner of the King’s House is the Bell Tower, a passage leading into it from the first floor of that building. A bell which formerly hung in a wooden29 turret on this tower gave it its name—the turret still remains, but the bell is kept in the upper storey. In the Tower regulations of 1607 it is ordered that: “When the Tower bell doth ring at nights for the shutting in of the gates, all the prisoners, with their servants, are to withdraw themselves into their chambers, and not to goe forth that night.” This bell was also the alarm bell of the fortress.

Prison in the Governor’s House.

The Bell Tower, which dates from the time of Richard I. or Henry III., is an irregular octagon, being 60 feet in height and 30 in diameter. The lower portion is of solid masonry, the walls varying from 9 to 13 feet in thickness. There are only two floors or storeys in the Tower, the lower with a fine vaulted ceiling. The room in the upper storey is a circular chamber, 18 feet across, with walls 8 feet in thickness. This prison is reached by a narrow staircase from the King’s House, and is lighted by four windows. Bishop Fisher was imprisoned in the upper chamber in the reign of Henry VIII., Sir Thomas More being confined in the one below. Both were harshly treated, and the poor old bishop suffered terribly from the cold. In the lower chamber, where More passed many solitary hours, even debarred from the consolation of his books, there now stands a large model of the Tower. Near the door of the upper prison a much defaced inscription can be seen on the wall, cut by the Bishop of Ross, who was a prisoner here in the time of Elizabeth. Felton, the murderer of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, is also believed to have been a prisoner in the Bell Tower.

Between the King’s House and the Beauchamp Tower, and facing Tower Green, is a row of modernised houses occupied by the Yeomen of the Guard, the Yeoman Jailor, and other officials connected with the fortress. All these houses have been refaced, and one regrets the bad taste which, in former years, allowed every appearance of age to be ruthlessly swept away from these buildings; and this is a regret that is ever present when visiting the Tower. The most glaring instance is the Beauchamp Tower, which,30 next to the White Tower, would have been the most interesting of the many interesting buildings here, had it not undergone what architects call “a thorough restoration” half-a-century ago. But the interior walls bear the record of many notable captives who, while waiting their fate, carved their name, their escutcheon, or some pious prayer upon the stones. Nearly all the most important prisoners of State during the reigns of the Tudors were imprisoned here, as the walls of the large prison room on the first floor still show. They are literally covered with inscriptions and devices. Some of these, however, have been brought from other places in the fortress, and therefore do not properly belong to the Beauchamp Tower, which is to be regretted, since they lose their interest by being removed from their original sites. Outwardly the Beauchamp Tower has now as modern an appearance as either the Norman or Winchester Towers at Windsor—spick, span, and spruce looking, more like a modern imitation of some mediæval tower than the actuality; the glamour of the old walls has been entirely destroyed.

For many years the prison room on the first floor of the Beauchamp Tower was the mess room for the officers of the garrison, and General Milman remembers dining there frequently when on duty at the Tower, the walls and inscriptions being covered by cupboards and furniture.

This tower takes its name from Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who was confined here in 1397. It was also known by the name of the Cobham Tower, from Lord Cobham and his sons having been imprisoned in it in Queen Mary’s reign for the part they had taken in Wyatt’s rebellion. The tower forms a semicircle and has three floors, the well staircase by which it is entered from the Green communicating with each floor and rising to the roof, which is battlemented. The large window facing the Green is modern, dating from the “restoration” of the building in 1854 by Salvin, but the cross window is of the time of Edward III., and is contemporary with the original31 structure. The principal prison chamber was the one on the second floor, and this contains the most noteworthy inscriptions. Close to the entrance door the name “Marmaduke Neville” is cut in the wall: this Neville is believed to have been imprisoned here in the reign of Elizabeth for having plotted for Queen Mary of Scotland. On the right of Neville’s signature appears the name of “Peverel,” with an elaborate device of a crucifix with a bleeding heart in the centre, and the Peverel shield. Nothing is known regarding this Peverel, but one sees the name with interest, associated as it is with Sir Walter Scott’s romance. Sir Walter made a careful study of this inscription, and the picturesque name doubtless attracted him and led to its forming part of the title of one of his immortal novels. Within the prison room on the ground floor, the first name of historical importance to arrest attention is that of Robert Dudley, carved on the left-hand side of the entrance. This sign manual of Elizabeth’s favourite, the unscrupulous Earl of Leicester, was probably cut by him when he was in this tower in 1554. Four of his brothers were also imprisoned with him, all of whom were released on Mary’s accession to the throne. In the prison chamber on the floor above there is another record of Robert Dudley and his brothers. This is an elaborately carved “rebus,” representing an oak tree for Robert (Robur), on which are acorns, with the initials R. D. carved beneath. Above the fireplace, which is, I fear, a restoration, appears an inscription of great interest, a pious Latin prayer with the illustrious name of Arundell cut in large letters, and dated June 22nd, 1587. This was the handiwork of the unfortunate Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, the son of that Duke of Norfolk who was beheaded in 1573 for his wish to marry the Queen of Scots. The fate of Philip Howard’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, who were all beheaded, weighed, not unnaturally, upon their descendant, and, being a zealous Roman Catholic, his position was one of great danger after the death of Tudor32 Mary. On Elizabeth’s accession Arundel made an ineffectual attempt to seek safety abroad, but was captured and placed in prison, where he remained until his death in 1595. Another inscription cut by him in this tower appears above some steps leading to the third storey: it is in Latin, and rendered into English, runs: “It is a reproach to be bound in the cause of sin; but to sustain the bonds of prison for the sake of Christ is the greatest of glory. Arundell, 26th May 1587.”

The Beauchamp Tower.

The late Duke of Norfolk printed, from the original MSS. kept at Arundel Castle, in 1857, a record entitled “The Lives of Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, and of Anne Dacres his wife.” At the close of the book we read that “Whilst he (Arundel) was prisoner he was not only an example, but a singular comfort to all Catholicks. No one ever heard him complain either of the loss of his goods, or of the incommodities of the prison, or the being bereaved of his liberty; and such as he heard complain or understood to be aggrieved, he endeavoured by his words and courteous usage to comfort, strengthen, and confirm. His delight was in nothing but in God, and the contemplation of heavenly things; much of the money which the Queen did allow him for his maintenance (for to every prisoner in the Tower something is assigned, more or less according to each man’s degree) he gave to the poor, contenting himself with a spare and slender diet.” Lord Arundel rests in that most beautiful of England’s mausoleums, the chapel at Arundel.

In this chamber are more memorials of the family of Dudley—one an elaborate carving commemorating the magnificent Leicester and his four brothers, John, Ambrose, Guildford, and Henry. Within a frame formed by a garland of roses, geraniums, honeysuckles, and oak sprigs, are a bear and a lion supporting a ragged staff, the Dudley crest, with these lines beneath—

“You that these beasts do wel behold and se,
May deme with ease therefore here made they be,
With borders eke wherein four brothers names who list to serche the ground.”


One line is missing, but the Rev. R. Dick, in his interesting work on the Beauchamp Tower, thus completes the verse with the words, “these may be found.”

Prison in the Beauchamp Tower.

Of these four Dudley brothers, John was the eldest of the Duke of Northumberland’s sons, and became Earl of Warwick. It was he who helped his father in his attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne, and was imprisoned here until his death in 1554 in consequence. He was succeeded in the earldom of Warwick by his brother Ambrose, who is represented by the acorn in the garland on the wall; the rose stands for Robert, the geranium for Guildford, and the honeysuckle for Henry. All these suppositions are from Mr Dick’s work on the inscriptions, and whether correct or not, they are at any rate ingenious, and explain the lines.

On the left of the second recess in this room is written in the stone “I.W.S. 1571. Die Aprilis. Wise men ought circumspectly to see what they do—to examine before they speake—to prove before they take in hand—to beware whose company they use, and above all things, to whom they truste—Charles Bailly.” Bailly was a young Fleming who had been involved in one of the many plots to free Mary Stuart from her captivity; to judge from the above inscription he had reason to regret the company he had kept, and those in whom he had trusted. Near Bailly’s inscription, but outside the recess, is the name of John Store, Doctor. Store was one of the few of those who suffered death after imprisonment in the Tower, whose fate was merited. He was a bigoted Roman Catholic priest, whose intolerance and severity towards the Reformers procured him the office of Chancellor to the University of Oxford under Mary Tudor. He is said to have out-Bonnered Bonner in his persecutions of those of the Reformed faith who fell into his hands. When Elizabeth came to the throne Store fled to the Netherlands. But he was brought back, imprisoned in the Beauchamp Tower in 1571, and ended his career on the gallows at Tyburn.


There are several inscriptions in this chamber relating to the family of Pole, or, as the name is spelt on the walls, Poole. One of these is in the third recess in a loophole—E. Poole. This is Edmund Pole, a great-grandson of the murdered Duke of Clarence; he and his brother Arthur were here in 1562, being both involved in one of the real or imaginary plots against Elizabeth. Edmund Pole has engraved here that most consolatory of the Psalms, the cxxvi.—“Die semini in lachrimis in exilititiane meter.” In another recess is “A. Pole, 1564. I.H.S. To serve God. To endure penance. To obey fate is to reign.” Both brothers ended their sad lives in this prison. One name carved in this chamber has a deeper pathos than any inscription could convey; it is that of “Jane,” and it appears in two places in the Beauchamp Tower. One would like to think it inscribed by that peerless Jane Grey herself, but, as she was not imprisoned here, it was probably the handiwork of her husband, Guildford Dudley, or some adherent to her cause and sharer in her misfortune.

The name of Thomas Fitzgerald in one of the recesses records that it was here that the ninth Earl of Kildare with five of his uncles was imprisoned, having been inveigled from Ireland by Henry VIII. They were executed at Tyburn in 1538 for being concerned in a series of wild deeds in Ireland, amongst which the murder of the Archbishop of Armagh was the chief. Here, too, is the name of Thomas Cobham, with the date 1555, he being one of three brothers of that name who were placed in the Beauchamp for taking part in Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion.

The earliest date in this tower is 1462, which is cut by the side of the name of Thomas Talbot. In all there are ninety-one names on the walls, of which I have noted the most important only.

To the north, and attached to the Beauchamp Tower, is the Chaplain’s house, with an uninteresting modernised front facing the Green, and but a few paces distant is a small35 paved plot of ground railed in by order of Queen Victoria. This little plot marks the site of the scaffold, and, above all things, it is sanctified by the memory of Lady Jane Grey. The first victim to suffer death on this spot was Anne Boleyn in 1538, and the last, Essex, the favourite of Elizabeth, in 1601. Here, too, in 1541, the venerable Countess of Salisbury was literally butchered; in the following year Catherine Howard was beheaded with her companion in misfortune, if not in guilt, Lady Rochford. Lord Hastings, Richard III.’s victim, was, I imagine, beheaded immediately beneath the walls of the White Tower, for the description of his sudden end shows that the site of Jane Grey’s scaffold was too distant for Richard Crookback to have glutted his eyes with Hastings’s death.

Prison Chamber in the Beauchamp Tower.

In former times the ground around the site of the scaffold on the Green was a place of burial, being the churchyard of the Chapel which faces it. “With the exception of the Abbey Church of St Peter’s at Westminster,” writes Mr Doyne Bell in his interesting monograph on the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower (a most appropriate title for a building of such tragic memories), “there is no ecclesiastical edifice in the United Kingdom in which (so far as it has been used as a place of sepulture) is contained so much historical interest as the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London. Within its walls have been received the mortal remains of many, whose names, though not recorded on the stones of the pavement, must yet ever live in the pages of English history.” Macaulay in a well-known passage has called this chapel “the saddest spot on earth,” and in a less well-known passage has expressed his disgust at the vandalism which had “transformed this interesting little church into the likeness of a meeting-house in a manufacturing town.” Since the historian expressed this well-merited indignation at the treatment accorded to St Peter’s Chapel, the fabric has undergone a much needed restoration, happily not in the36 bad sense of that term, since it has been restored as much as possible to its condition in the middle of the sixteenth century. This restoration has been mercifully undertaken and skilfully executed, externally as well as internally, in every detail.

As far back as the reign of John, or even that of Henry I., a church stood on the site of St Peter’s Chapel. In the reign of Henry III., a Royal warrant, of the year 1241, was issued by that monarch at Windsor, directing that the Royal pew in St Peter’s should be repaired for the use of the King and Queen, and instructions were given for the refurbishing of a tabernacle with carved figures of St Peter, St Michael, and St Katherine. Of this church only a few vestiges remain in the crypt of the present chapel, which was built by Edward III. In a warrant dated from Fotheringay in July 1305–6, that King orders Ralph de Sandwich, Constable of the Tower, “to be reimbursed for various expenses incurred by him in the construction of our new chapel within the Tower.”

St Peter’s consists of a nave and a single aisle on its northern side; in length it is 66 feet, in width 54, and in height 25.

As Mr Doyne Bell points out, the peculiar dedication of the church to St Peter in Chains shows that it has been used since its foundation as a church more for the use of the prisoners in the fortress than for the sovereigns and their courts, whose place of devotion was the chapel of St John in the White Tower. With the exception of the church in Rome dedicated to St Peter ad Vincula, there is no other church besides this one in the Tower, so named. To those who see this building for the first time its general aspect must cause disappointment, so small and almost mean does it appear, and like a hundred similar churches scattered all over the country. But St Peter’s has undergone endless changes and alterations, and comparatively little is left of the building of Edward III. The exterior of the building belongs to the Tudor period.37 Before the last restoration, in 1867, Lord de Ros wrote, “It is inconceivable what pains have been taken in comparatively modern times to disfigure this interesting chapel.” But this reproach cannot be applied to the latest restoration, which was done with extreme care and good taste.

Interior of Sᵗ. Peter’s Chapel.

The larger portion of the present building dates from the reign of Henry VIII., when many alterations were made, the windows, with the exception of the one over the west door, the arches in the interior, and the timbered roof, being then placed as we see them now.

The list of interments in this chapel commences with the reign of Henry VIII. This list is one of the most interesting things in connection with the chapel.

When the Reformed Faith ousted Popery the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London over this chapel ceased, and it has ever since remained a benefice donative over which the Bishop has no power of visitation or deprivation, since the Tower itself is extra-parochial. Private marriages could be solemnised at St Peter’s, and in Ben Jonson’s “Every Man in his Humour,” this privilege is alluded to. One unlucky curate of the chapel, however, was sent to prison in James the First’s reign for having performed marriages and christenings in the chapel, and only secured his liberty through the influence of Sir William Waad, the Lieutenant of the Tower. Another clergyman named Hubbock and his son were excommunicated in 1620 by Laud for committing the same offence. Later on, however, the right of solemnising marriages and christenings in this chapel was allowed, and still continues.

Samuel Pepys has described in one of his vivid word pictures a visit he paid to the chapel after the Restoration, when he occupied one of the hideous pews that then choked the floor, and which were only removed a few years ago. “February 28, 1663–4. Lord’s Day. The Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir J. Robinson, would needs have me by coach home with him; where the officers of his regiment dined with him. I did go and dine with him,38 his ordinary table being very good, and his lady a very high carried, but a comely big woman, I was mightily pleased with her. After dinner to chapel in the Tower with the Lieutenant, with the keys carried before us; and I sat with the Lieutenant in his pew in great state. None it seems of the prisoners in the Tower that are there now, though they may, will come to prayers there.” With a monstrous gallery built in the reign of George II. for the use of the troops of the garrison, with the ugly square wooden pews, in one of which Pepys sat “in great state”; with the pavement all broken and defaced, with walls and columns whitewashed, and with the handsome carved Tudor ceiling coated with lath and plaster, it is no wonder that to any one with a respect for antiquity or love of beauty, St Peter’s in the Tower must have presented a sad spectacle before its restoration. And it was not until 1862 that any steps were taken to remove what was nothing less than a public disgrace. The improvements were commenced by re-opening the old doorway at the west end, which had been bricked up, the window of Edward I.’s time was also restored, the broken fragments having been collected and replaced in their original position. The lath and plaster which for a century or more had disfigured the ceiling were removed, and the finely carved old chestnut beams once more uncovered.

Further improvements were carried out during the time that Sir Charles Yorke was Constable, in the year 1876. Sir John Taylor, the head of the Office of Works, drew up the plans of this restoration, and, aided by Mr Salvin, the work of renovation commenced. There was much to be done, and it was certainly done well. The pews were the first excrescence to be removed, and the pavement, which was as uneven as that of St Mark’s at Venice, was taken up and a new one laid down. During this operation it was discovered that the ground had been used as a general place of burial, for besides those whose mutilated bodies had been placed under the pavement after execution,39 large numbers of other individuals had been interred here, and at a very shallow depth below the pavement. It was deemed necessary to remove these remains to the crypt before the new floor could be placed. Great care was taken to identify any remains of the illustrious dead, but in most cases it was impossible to do so owing to the ground having been so much disturbed and the bones scattered. Even greater care was taken when the floor of the chancel was reached, for it was known that the bodies of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and of the Dukes of Northumberland and Somerset had been buried there. In 1877 the restoration of the Chapel was completed. Many interesting discoveries had been made, and needless to say, but for its state of decay, none of the poor fragments of mortality of the victims of their own ambition or the tyranny of monarchs, would have been disturbed. It was necessary to identify what remained of poor Anne Boleyn in order that above her bones the tombstone should bear its record of what lay below. “The forehead,” writes Mr Doyne Bell, “and lower jaw were small and especially well formed. The vertebrae were particularly small, especially one joint (the axlas), which was that next to the skull, and they bore witness to the queen’s ‘lyttel neck.’” The remains of another of Henry’s victims were found lying in the chancel, and belonged to the old Countess of Salisbury, Margaret Clarence. Near these some bones were found which were believed to have been those of Queen Catherine Howard, but her body, having been placed in quicklime, few traces of it remained. In this “dread abode” were also laid bare the bones of the Duke of Northumberland, and a portion of the Duke of Monmouth’s skeleton.

Near the entrance door is a memorial tablet on which a list of the most notable persons buried within the chapel is engraved—a list of thirty-four persons, commencing with Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, buried here in 1534, and ending with Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, in 1747.40 The old antiquarian, John Stowe, thus sums up with brief simplicity the illustrious dead that lie under the pavement of the chapel. “Here lieth before the high altar in St Peter’s Church, two Dukes between two Queens, to wit, the Duke of Somerset and the Duke of Northumberland, between Queen Anne and Queen Katherine, all four beheaded.” No record that Lady Jane Grey and her husband were interred in St Peter’s exists. It would not be easy to find a place in which so many remarkable dead are grouped together as in this little spot of English ground. Beneath our feet lies all that was mortal of what was once Northumberland and Somerset, Arundel and Norfolk; gentle Anne Boleyn and saint-like Jane Grey’s calm presence seem to linger near their graves: here, too, the once brilliant Monmouth moulders before the high altar; and hard by rest the faithful little band of Jacobites—Kilmarnock and brave Balmerino, and the wily old fox, Simon Fraser of Lovat.

One of the earliest and handsomest monuments in St Peter’s is that to Sir Richard Cholmondeley and his wife Elizabeth. The knight and his lady are lying side by side, sculptured in alabaster. Sir Richard, who was Lieutenant of the Tower in the reign of Henry VII., wears plate armour, his hand rests on his helmet, his feet on a lion; round his neck he wears the collar of SS. As was then the custom, this monument has been painted and gilded, traces of its decoration still remaining. This tomb was opened in 1876, but was found to contain only some fragments of the stone font of the chapel of Edward the Third’s time. Sir Richard had been knighted for his conduct on the field of Flodden. During his Lieutenancy of the Tower a riot broke out between the Londoners and some of the Lombard merchants, and Sir Richard, who seems to have been cursed with a bad temper, by way of quietening the brawlers, discharged the guns of the fortress against the city. Hall, in his chronicle, quaintly notices this act of the Lieutenant as follows:—


“Whilst this ruffling continued, Syr Richard Cholmly Knight, Lieutenant of the Tower, no great friende of the citie, in a frantyke fury losed certayn pieces of ordinance, and shot into the citie; whiche did little harme, howbeit his good will apeered.” This choleric knight died in 1544.

Monument of Sir Richard Cholmondeley and his Wife in Sᵗ. Peter’s Chapel.

On the north side of the chancel is a handsome double monument to the memory of Sir Richard Blount and to his son Sir Michael; both these Blounts were Lieutenants of the Tower. Sir Richard, clothed in armour, is represented as praying; behind him kneel his two sons, whilst facing him, upon their knees, are Lady Blount and two daughters. Sir Richard died in 1564. Sir Michael, whose effigy, also clad in armour, was placed near that of his father thirty-two years later, and his family, consisting of his wife, three sons and one daughter, are also devoutly kneeling. Below the Blount monument is a little inscription to the memory of Lyster Blount, a child of two years old: it ends with these hopeful words, “Here they all lye to expect ye coming of our sweet Saviour Jesu. Amen, Amen.”

Against the south wall is a black marble tablet inscribed to the memory of Sir Allen Apsley,[5] who was Lieutenant of the Tower in the time of James and Charles the First. 42His daughter was that Mrs Hutchinson whose name will be remembered by her admirable memoirs of her husband Colonel Hutchinson, who was imprisoned in the Bloody Tower, where she shared his imprisonment. Sir Allen died in 1630. The first Earl Bathurst (Lord Chancellor) was descended from him, and it was he who built Apsley House. On the same wall are mural tablets to the memory of Sir John Burgoyne, Field Marshal and Constable of the Tower, who died in 1871, and is buried in the crypt of the chapel; also to Lord De Ros, the last Deputy-Lieutenant of the Tower, who died in 1874, and to whose book on the fortress allusion has often been made in these pages. Among other good work done by Lord de Ros was to replace the tombstone of brave old Talbot Edwards, who so nearly lost his life in defending the Crown jewels when they were seized by Blood. This stone, which had been cast aside and lay among a heap of rubbish in front of the Beauchamp Tower, after being used as a paving-stone up to the year 1852 in front of the houses which up to that time had almost hidden that tower from the Green, was replaced in the chapel. It bears the following inscription: “Here lieth ye body of Talbot Edwards, Gent.: late Keeper of his Ma’ᵗˢ Regalia who dyed ye 30 of September 1674, aged 80 years and 9 moneths.” Neither in life nor in death was this brave old Keeper of the Crown well treated. Charles the Second settled a handsome pension on the scoundrel Blood—hush-money probably, for it is within the bounds of possibility that Charles was a party to Blood’s attempt—whilst the sole reward of honest old Talbot Edwards, who was half-killed in guarding the treasures of which he had charge, was the consciousness of having done his duty. The Communion plate dates from the reign of Charles the First and Charles the Second, and it is singular to find that instead of the sacred initials being engraved on these vessels only the Royal monogram of C. R. with a crown appear upon them. Severely simple in shape and43 devoid of any ornament, this Sacramental plate is historically interesting, for these cups and plates have been used at the solemn hour when the Blessed Sacrament was administered to more than one illustrious prisoner on the eve of his execution. There is good reason for believing that Monmouth and William, Lord Russell used these sacred vessels shortly before mounting the scaffold.

Tomb of the Blount Family in Sᵗ. Peter’s Chapel.

At the back of the chapel of St Peter, and at the north-western angle of the Inner Ward, stands the Devereux Tower, which contains two storeys, the lower one being of massive masonry. This tower dates from the reign of Richard the First. In the Elizabethan survey of the fortress it is named Robyn the Devylls Tower, and in later times it was known as the Develin Tower, and as such it appears in Haiward’s plan. No record has come down as to the meaning of these names, but the present appellation dates from the reign of Elizabeth, when Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was a prisoner there. The upper part of the tower is modern, and modern windows have taken the place of the old loopholes in the 11 feet thick walls, a change which has destroyed the character of the building; formerly it was most gloomy and forbidding. A small winding staircase within the tower leads to a couple of prisons constructed in the thickness of the Ballium wall. A secret passage is supposed to have led thence, to the Flint Tower which stands to the east of the Devereux Tower, communicating also with the vaults under St Peter’s Chapel. Nothing remains, however, in the present modernised state of these passages and prisons to indicate their former appearance. Early in the nineteenth century the lower floor of the Devereux Tower was used as a kitchen and other offices connected with the ordnance; the upper portion was occupied by the Master Furbisher of the Small Arms. The old kitchen, beneath which is a dungeon, has a fine vaulted ceiling.

The Flint Tower lies due east, at a distance of 90 feet44 from the Devereux Tower, but as it was found to be in an entirely ruinous state in 1796, the old fabric was pulled down and the present ugly brick tower rose in its place. The old tower had been known by the unflattering name of “Little Hell,” probably from the noisomeness of its dungeons, and it had the evil reputation of having the worst prisons in the fortress. Another 90 feet from the Flint Tower stands the Bowyer Tower, of which only the base is ancient, the remainder of the building being modern; this tower dates from the reign of Edward the Third, and it was here that the Duke of Clarence is traditionally said to have been drowned in a butt of Malmsey (Malvoisie) wine. According to those learned historians of the Tower, Britton and Brayley, who wrote in the early part of the nineteenth century, there was a vault in a dungeon in this tower closed by a trap door, which opened on a flight of steps; from these steps a narrow cell led into a secret passage made in the thickness of the Ballium wall. This was one of the many secret passages which ran below ground, and of which, as has already been noticed, an important one was discovered when the Main Guard building was demolished in 1899. Mr G. J. Clark, a great authority in these matters, has stated his belief that there were several of these secret passages in the fortress. One of these, he thinks, ran between the White Tower and the King’s House, and Father Gerard’s account of the way he was led to and from the White Tower and the Governor’s or King’s House points to an underground passage between those buildings. It has been surmised that a subterranean passage led from out the Tower below the Thames to the Southwark side of London; in the Beauchamp Tower a secret passage was discovered in the thickness of the Ballium wall, where persons might have been placed to watch and overhear all that went on within the tower.[6]


The Bowyer Tower was so named because it was the dwelling of the royal maker of bows, and the place where he turned out the Long Bow, as well as the Cross Bow, and many other mediæval weapons of destruction, such as the Balistar, the Scorpion, and the Catapult. In 1223 one Grillot made here the “balistar corneas,” as that mysterious weapon is described in an old record, and for his labour he was rewarded by the gift of a new gown for his wife.

Next to the Bowyer Tower stands the Brick Tower, but it has been modernised. In shape this tower resembles a horse shoe; it is 40 feet in diameter. Between this tower and the Martin Tower the curtain wall extends some 60 feet, the sally-port stairs being passed between the two towers. As has been the general fate of most of the towers, the Martin Tower is externally entirely modern, whilst the interior has been casemated. At one time the Regalia was kept here, having been brought in 1644 from their former resting-place in a small building on the south side, and close to, the White Tower, called the Jewel House, where they had been kept, when not in pawn, from the time of Henry III. In the reign of Edward III. these jewels are referred to as being in “la Tour Blanche,” and in the same reign there is also a reference to the “Tresorie deinz la haute Toure de Londres.” It was from the Martin Tower that Blood attempted to steal the Regalia.

The Martin Tower forms the north-east angle of the Inner Ward, and its basement floor, where the Crown jewels were formerly kept, now serves as a kitchen for the warder and his family, who occupy the tower. The most ancient part of the Martin Tower dates from the reign of Henry III., but Sir Christopher Wren, who spoilt the ancient appearance of many parts of the Tower, played especial havoc here. The old windows were removed and replaced by ugly stone-faced ones, which was also done in the White Tower, where, with scarcely one46 exception, the original Norman windows have been destroyed and Wren’s incongruities substituted for them.

Placed on the ground at the base of the Martin Tower is a handsome architrave of stone, in alto-relievo, representing the Royal coat-of-arms in the time of William III., blended with military trophies such as helmets, kettledrums, and cannon—

“The shrill trump, the spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war.”

This is one of Grinling Gibbons’s most spirited designs, graceful in its lines, sharp and refined in its moulding. This sculpture is all that remains of the great Store House, built in the reign of William III. and destroyed by fire in 1841.

Beyond the Martin Tower, the Ballium wall takes a slanting course to the south and river side of the fortress, to where, about 100 feet south of the Martin Tower, stands the Constable Tower, modern from roof to base. It was so named in the reign of Henry VIII. because it was occupied by the Constable of the Tower. During the reign of Charles I. it was used as a prison. “In form,” writes Brayley, “it closely corresponds with the Beauchamp Tower, but it is of rather smaller dimensions; the interior has been modernised, and the windows greatly enlarged.” South of the Constable Tower, and next to it, is the Broad Arrow Tower, which in Tudor times was known as “the tower at the east end of the Wardrobe.” Until some thirty years ago this tower was entirely hidden by an ugly row of barracks. It was used as a prison throughout the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth, and there are a few signatures still to be seen on the walls of a room on the first floor. Unfortunately, repeated coats of whitewash have almost obliterated all the inscriptions. A list, however, of these as they appeared in 1830 is given by Britton and Brayley. Amongst them are the names of “John Daniell, 1556”; “Giovani Battista, 1556”; “Thomas47 Forde, 1582”; “John Stoughton, 1586”; and “J. Gage, January 1591.” Little is known of any of the above men except that Daniell was mixed up in a plot against the Queen, and to rob the Exchequer, in the reign of Mary, and was hanged on Tower Hill. Forde was a priest, and was executed for denying Elizabeth’s supremacy in the Church; and Stoughton and Gage are also supposed to have been priests. Of the Italian, Battista, no record has come to us. Near the top of this tower a small doorway opens on to the platform that runs along the Ballium wall. Close to this doorway is a narrow cell 6 feet deep and 3½ feet wide, with only one small loophole to admit air and light.

The building known by the name of the King’s Private Wardrobe stood close to this tower, as well as another tower called the Wardrobe. Both these buildings were cleared away before the reign of James II., their sites being now covered with offices or stores. The Royal robes, armour, and probably the Royal upholstery, such as tapestry, hangings, etc., were kept in the Wardrobe buildings, which were connected with the Palace.

The Salt Tower forms the south-east angle of the Inner Ward. In the reign of Henry VIII. it was called Julius Cæsar’s Tower, although it had no more connection with Julius Cæsar than with Sardanapalus. It is circular in shape, and has three floors, which are connected by a small winding staircase. Upon the first floor is a fine chimney-piece decorated with scroll mouldings. The upper storey was used as a powder store; but, having fallen into decay, it was restored in 1876. The Salt Tower is probably one of the oldest buildings in the Tower, dating as far back as the reign of William Rufus. It possesses a vaulted dungeon with deep recesses in the walls. In a prison on the first floor are some inscriptions cut into the wall, and amongst them is a very elaborate device representing a sphere intersected by lines radiating from the signs of the Zodiac. Above the sphere is this inscription, “Hew:48 Draper : of Brystow: made : thys : Spheer : the : 30 : day : of : Maye : Anno : 1561.” Draper was imprisoned on a charge of sorcery and magic.

One of the most interesting escapes from the Tower is closely connected with this place, and although the story of adventures that befell a poor Jesuit priest named Father Gerard, in the reign of Elizabeth, is a long one, it deserves being told in some detail, for the manner of his escape from the fortress is one of the most curious records of prison-breaking. Father Gerard, together with many other Roman Catholic priests, was hunted down as a criminal of the deepest dye, and being captured, was clapped into the Salt Tower, in a prison on its upper floor, the charge against him being that he was concerned in a plot against the life of the Queen. He was examined on the day of his arrival in the Tower by the Lords of the Council in the Governor’s Lodging—now the King’s House, and in the same room in which Guy Fawkes was afterwards interrogated. Amongst Father Gerard’s judges were the Attorney-General, Sir Edward Coke, Sir Francis Bacon, and Sir William Waad. Questioned as to the plot, in which another priest, Father Garnet, was involved, Gerard refused to give any information. He was told that if he persisted in his silence he would be tortured, and an order was produced by which they were given permission (for torture has always been illegal in England) if necessary “to prolong the torture from day to day as long as life lasted.” The threat failing in its effect Gerard was taken to “the place appointed for the torture,” and, to quote his own words, “We went in a sort of solemn procession, the attendants preceding us with lighted candles because the place was underground (the subterranean passage under the White Tower) and very dark, especially about the entrance. It was a place of immense extent, and in it were ranged divers sorts of racks, and other instruments of torture. Some of these they displayed before me, and told me that I should have49 to taste them. They led me to a great upright beam or pillar of wood, which was one of the supports of this vast crypt.”

Father Gerard was then hung up by his hands, these having first been placed in iron gauntlets which were attached to an iron rod fixed in the pillar. A stool upon which he stood was taken from under him, and he hung by his wrists, the whole weight of his body depending from them. He was a heavy man, and his sufferings were acute. Whilst in this position the Commissioners looked on, pressing the suffering man with questions, but receiving no reply they left him, and for the next hour the wretched priest hung suspended by his tortured wrists. He fainted several times from the anguish; later in the afternoon Sir William Waad returned and again tried to obtain some confession from Gerard, but when nothing could be wrung from him, Waad turned on his heel in a rage, crying, “Hang thou then, till you rot.” Raleigh’s description of the Lieutenant of the Tower as “that beast Waad” had certainly some justification. When the tolling of the bell in the Bell Tower gave the signal that the fortress would be closed, the Commissioners were obliged to leave the Tower, and the poor, tortured, half-dead priest was taken down, and, scarcely able to crawl, was led back to his prison in the Salt Tower. On the following day Gerard was again taken to the Lieutenant’s Lodging, where Waad informed him that he had been with “Master Secretary Cecil,” who knew for a fact that Father Gerard had been mixed up with other plotters in schemes against Elizabeth’s life, and that more details would have to be given by him on this matter. Again Gerard refused to say anything that could compromise others, upon which Waad summoned a terrible personage, the chief superintendent of the torturers of the prison, to whom Sir William said, “I deliver this man into your hands. You are to wrack him twice a day until such time as he chooses to confess.” Thereupon, says Father Gerard, they went50 down again to the torture chamber with the same solemnity as on the previous day, and he was again subjected to the torture of the gauntlets, made additionally painful from the swollen state of his hands and wrists. He swooned repeatedly, and was revived with some difficulty. All through these hours of agony he refused to give one name, or to make any kind of confession of guilt, and Waad swore and raged in vain. As long, Gerard declared, as he lived he would say nothing. For the third time he was tortured and hung up by the wrists. But when Waad at length saw the futility of torturing him to death he ordered him to be taken back to his prison, whence, as we shall see, he effected his escape.

Another Roman Catholic, named John Arden, who was a fellow-prisoner of Gerard’s at this time, was confined in the Cradle Tower, a small tower in the Outer Ward standing on the Ballium wall some 100 feet south of the Salt Tower and facing the Thames. The two prisoners were sufficiently near to see each other from their respective prison windows, the space between the two towers being then occupied by the Privy garden of the Palace. Father Gerard persuaded his gaoler to allow him to pay Arden a visit in his prison, and the two men, laying their heads together, concocted the following plan. By writing to their friends outside the tower in orange juice, which caused the letters to be invisible unless subjected to a treatment known to the initiated, Father Gerard succeeded in getting a thin cord with a leaden weight attached to one end. It was further planned that upon a certain night a boat should be brought to a certain place by the river bank opposite the Cradle Tower. On this particular evening Father Gerard lingered late in Arden’s prison, and when the pre-arranged hour came they slung the lead at the end of the line across the moat. This was caught by their friends in the boat, and a stout rope having been fastened to the line, the two prisoners hauled it over the roof of the Cradle Tower from the boat, and made it fast. Gerard was51 the first to descend from the roof, swarming along the rope in the darkness; and he reached the boat in safety. For three weeks after the torture of the gauntlets, his hands were paralysed, and it was five months before the sense of touch returned to them.

Next to the Salt Tower in the Inner Ward stands the Lanthorn Tower, which has been entirely rebuilt. In former days this tower communicated with the exterior rampart by an embattled gateway; it faces the river and stands half-way between the Salt and the Wakefield Towers. In Henry VIII.’s time the Lanthorn Tower was called the New Tower, and then formed the end of the Queen’s Gallery in the Palace, “over the Kyng’s bede-chamber and prevy closet,” as the survey taken in that reign describes it. This tower had been almost destroyed in a fire in 1788, and what remained was removed, only the basement vault being left. This basement was used as a cellar by the keeper of the soldiers’ canteen, which stood on the opposite side of the way: to such base uses had the old tower of the Palace adorned by Henry III. fallen. Henry III. built the Ballium wall and fortified it with this tower, which he fitted up splendidly for his own habitation, and whose chambers he decorated with frescoes; the subject of one of these was the story of Antiochus. The tower was circular in shape, and surmounted by a small turret, as can be seen by referring to Haiward and Gascoyne’s plan. After the fire of 1788 a huge unsightly warehouse was built on its site, blocking out the fortress from the river front. This monstrosity was only removed some five-and-twenty years ago. The present building is as nearly as possible a reproduction of the original tower of Henry the Third, by Salvin, who also carried out the building of the handsome curtain wall of the Inner Ward, commencing at the Salt Tower and terminating at the Wakefield Tower.

In an interesting article in the Nineteenth Century, Mr A. B. Mitford says that, although it was impossible to52 give back the stones that prated of the wars of the Roses, “the old towers and walls rose again as nearly as possible similar to their predecessors as the skill of man could make them,” under Salvin’s superintendence. There is a view of the old Lanthorn Tower before its destruction in 1788, in a rare print of the early part of the eighteenth century, which is here reproduced.

The Outer Ward

The Outer Ward forms a strip of ground varying in breadth from 20 to 100 feet, its wall forming the scarp of the moat. It is defended by bastions to the north-east and north-west, which are 80 feet in diameter, that to the north-east being called the Brass Mount Battery, that to the north-west, Legge’s Mount, so named from George Legge, first Earl of Dartmouth, who was Master-General of Ordnance in the reign of Charles II. The Brass Mount probably derived its name from the cannon with which it was mounted. Between these bastions is a more modern one, called the North Bastion. These three bastions defend the north side of the fortress. Of the five towers which protected the Palace on the river front, the Byward and St Thomas’s Towers have already been described. There remain the Cradle, the Well, and the Develin Towers to notice.

The Cradle Tower stands parallel with the Well Tower on the outer or curtain wall. It was through an archway in the Cradle Tower that the principal entrance from the river lay in former times. From the top of the tower a square-shaped turret rises on the western side. The Cradle Tower dates from the reign of Henry III., and prisoners were landed here as well as at Traitor’s Gate, entering the fortress over a drawbridge. Its upper chambers, which were in the form of the letter ⏉, are believed to have formed part of the Palace. The present tower is altogether modern, having been rebuilt from the foundations in 1878.53 The next tower on the curtain wall is the Well Tower, also entirely rebuilt. It is rectangular, and forms a portion of the curtain wall. Its basement lies below the level of the Inner Ward, and within it is a vaulted chamber 11 feet high by 14 feet wide, from which a well staircase leads to an upper room, and thence on to the rampart.

The last of these towers at the eastern end of the fortress is the Develin Tower. In 1549 it was known as Galligman’s Tower, and in the plan of the Tower in 1597 it is called the “tower leading to the Inner Gate.” Formerly, it was used as a powder magazine.

The White Tower

In the days of the Plantagenets, “La Tour Blanche” owed that appellation to its having been frequently whitewashed. The earliest of these whitewashings took place in the reign of Edward III., since whose reign it is impossible to guess how often the grim old building has been externally whitened. In an illumination taken from an old French MS. made in the reign of Henry V., and preserved in the Harleian collection in the British Museum, of the poems of Charles of Orleans, the vivid whiteness of the old Norman White Tower stands out in bold relief surrounded by the dark towers and walls of the fortress. And after half-a-thousand years of London grime and smoke, the White Tower remains the same “Tour Blanche” of the days of the Plantagenets.

The old Norman keep of the Tower has changed but little in outward aspect since it was limned in the old illumination of the MS. of Charles of Orleans, some six centuries ago. The general features are the same, and even the little leaden roofs of the four turrets at the angles, appeared then much as they do to-day. No one has been able to inform me as to the period when the leaden tops first capped the masonry of this tower. Two great authorities on the history of the Tower—Professor Freeman and Mr Clark—54have told us how Norman William, on crossing the Thames, found that London was protected on its landward side by a Roman wall—the defences of ancient Augusta—a wall strengthened by mural towers, and an external moat. Of these relics of ancient Augusta, a fragment is to be seen at the eastern end of the White Tower. According to both historians, the building of the White Tower was commenced in 1078. When a tramway was run from the river wharf, some years ago, to the base of the White Tower for the shipment of stores, the engineers had to excavate some 20 feet of solid masonry into the Norman keep, such was its huge strength and solidity. Freeman always writes with enthusiasm of the Tower—“the mighty Tower of London,” he loves to call it; and when he wrote of the Tower, he had the White Tower in his mind. Regarding the builders of the White Tower, Freeman quotes the following Latin text from Hearner’s “Textus Roffensis”—“Dum idem Gundulfus, ex praecepto Regis Wilhelmi Magni, prœesset operi magnae turris Londoniae, et hospitatus fuisset apud ipsum Ædmerum.” The name Tower, and not Castle, adds Freeman, belonged to the fortress of Gundulfus from the first.

It will be necessary here to give some figures and proportions of this ancient keep. Its height is 90 feet from ground to battlements. The Keep has four turrets, three being circular, and one square. The windows were much modernised by Sir Christopher Wren, but those in the upper storey are the least altered; only one pair of these, however, have been left in their original state. It was from this window that Bishop Flambard is said to have made his escape. A stone staircase, 11 feet wide, and built in the circular turret on the north-east of the Keep, communicates with all the floors and leads to the roof. The basement of the Keep is a little below the level of the soil on the north side, and is flush with it on the south side. The walls are from 12 to 15 feet thick, the internal area being 91 feet by 73 feet. The large chambers have timbered ceilings, and55 the smaller are stone-vaulted. Formerly, the basement and the prison within it could only be reached from above, by the staircase running through the circular turret. The great western chamber is 91 feet long by 35 feet in width. In the vault or sub-crypt under the Chapel of St John there is a prison called “Little Ease,” and here Guy Fawkes is supposed to have passed his last fifty days on earth. It opens into a great dungeon which is 47 feet long by 15 feet broad. Formerly, this place was in total darkness, and could have had but little air; at its eastern end it terminates in a semicircle. It was here that in the reign of King John some hundreds of Jews were imprisoned with their families. In later times it was fitted up into a powder magazine, and it is not many years since it was cleared of “villainous” saltpetre. Its walls have been coated with brick, and the ceiling refaced and vaulted, whilst passages have been pierced through its eastern and western extremities. A well 6 feet wide, its sides lined with ashlar stone, which may be of Roman origin, has been found in the floor of this vault, near its south-western angle.

Stone Staircase in the White Tower.

On the second floor of the White Tower the walls are 13 feet in thickness, the cross walls being 8 feet. On this floor are five openings communicating between the eastern and the western chambers. The latter is 92 feet long by 37 broad; a vaulted passage 2 feet 10 inches wide being constructed in the thickness of the wall. The eastern chamber is 68 feet long and 30 wide. There is a recess in the north wall which communicates with the exterior of the tower by a double flight of stone stairs facing the river front. And it was at the foot of these steps that the bones, supposed to be those of the little Princes, were discovered in the reign of Charles II. They were subsequently taken to Westminster Abbey. The present stairs are modern. An ancient door, 3 feet in width, opens from this chamber on to a short passage, 5 feet in width, cut in the thickness of the wall, which leads to the well staircase communicating with all the floors. Another56 door in the south wall leads into the crypt of St John’s Chapel, which is 13 feet 6 inches broad by 39 feet in height; at the east end it is apsidal. Near the apse is a passage 2 feet wide which leads into a vaulted cell 8 feet long by 10 wide. This cell has no windows, and when, in former times, the door, which has been removed, was closed, this dismal prison was plunged in total darkness. It has been asserted, without any foundation, that this cell was that in which Raleigh passed his first imprisonment in the Tower. There is not a shadow of proof to corroborate this. It was probably used in the early years of the fortress as a strong-room for the safekeeping of the church treasure. Although no proof exists as to the imprisonment of Raleigh in this black hole, prisoners were confined here in the days of the sanguinary Queen Mary, as is shown by some half-obliterated inscriptions which can still be seen on the sides of the doorway leading from the crypt to the cell. In one of these the following words have been traced—“He that endureth to the ende shall be saved. M. 10. R. Rudston. Dar. Kent. Ano. 1553.” “Be faithful unto deth, and I wil give the a crowne of life.—J. Fane. 1554.” Also the following:—“T. Culpeper of Darford.” These persons were implicated in the Wyatt insurrection. Lord de Ros mentions rather vaguely in his book on the Tower, an inscription which was discovered about 1867 “in the vault of the White Tower,” of which the following is a copy:—“Sacris vestibus indutus dum sacra mysteria servans, captus et in hoc augusto carcere indusus.—R. Fisher.”

Until some thirty years ago this crypt was used as an armoury, and here many may remember having seen a figure of Queen Elizabeth, mounted on a wooden steed, in a dress supposed to have been worn by her when she returned thanks at St Paul’s for the destruction of the Armada. (This is now in the lower gallery of the White Tower.)

The rooms on this floor of the tower are 15 feet high,57 with wooden ceilings, which are supported by massive wooden pillars placed in double rows. These wooden columns are comparatively modern, and were probably placed here when the rooms were converted into an armoury, store rooms, and record offices. They are now filled with small-arms, and the roofs are supported by beams strengthened with iron girders. The ancient fireplaces still remain in the eastern wall.

On the second floor of the White Tower are three great chambers. That to the west is 95 feet by 32; that to the east 64 feet by 32; they are 15 feet high. St John’s Chapel, which is on the second floor, forms its cross chamber, and rises through the roof to the top of the tower. A mural passage at the extremity of the western chamber leads to the west end of the south aisle. Mr Clark believes that this was formerly a private entrance from the Palace into the Chapel, being connected with the State rooms of the Tower, one of which is still called the Banqueting Hall.

The fourth floor of the Keep is called the State Floor, and is divided into three chambers 28 feet in height. The room to the west, which is called the Council Chamber, was the scene of that episode at the commencement of the reign of Richard III., immortalised by Shakespeare, when that monarch accused Lord Hastings of treason and had him taken out to instant execution (Richard III. Act iii. Scene 4). This chamber is 95 feet long by 46 wide. Within the exterior walls runs a vaulted passage communicating with the stairs in the north-eastern turret. It was in this passage, which is only 3 feet in width, that the soldiers were concealed when Richard had planned Hastings’s death. In Norman times this chamber was used as a State prison, and it was from one of its windows that Bishop Flambard let himself down by a rope. It was also the prison of Charles of Orleans in the reign of Henry V., and had probably served the same purpose in the reign of Edward III., and may have held in its walls58 both King John of France and David, King of Scotland; here, too, the brothers Mortimer were probably imprisoned in 1324.

It is not easy to picture in one’s mind the appearance of this place when used as a State prison, or as a Council Chamber, for the only view of the interior of the Tower that has come down to us from the Middle Ages is the little illumination in the Harleian MSS., which has been reproduced in this work, in which Charles of Orleans is seen writing in this chamber surrounded by his guards.

The earliest account of the interior of the Tower occurs in Paul Hentzner’s description of his visit in the reign of Elizabeth. “Upon entering the Tower,” he writes, “we were obliged to quit our swords at the gate and deliver them to the guard. When we were introduced, we were shown above a hundred pieces of arras belonging to the Crown, made of gold, silver, and silk; several saddles covered with velvet of different colours; an immense quantity of bed furniture, such as canopies, and the like, some of them most richly ornamented with pearl; some royal dresses, so extremely magnificent as to raise one’s admiration at the sums they must have cost. We were then led into the armoury.” But I will reserve what Hentzner said about the arms and the armour until later. This intelligent German traveller pertinently remarks: “It is to be noted, that when any of the nobility are sent hither on the charge of high crimes punishable with death, such as treason, etc., they seldom or never recover their liberty.”

With the exception of the Lady Chapel at Durham Cathedral, St John’s Chapel in the White Tower is the most beautiful of the Norman chapels in England, and it was owing to the excellent advice given by the Prince Consort that this splendid relic of Norman times has received, if not its former splendour, something of its pristine condition. Although no attempt has been made to re-decorate its walls and interior, it is now cleansed of the59 rubbish which covered its floor, until the Prince called attention to the desecration with which it was treated until the middle of the nineteenth century.

Interior of Sᵗ. John’s Chapel.

Inclusive of the semicircular apse at its east end, the Chapel is 55 feet 6 inches long by 31 feet wide. It is divided into a nave and two aisles, which have four massive pillars on either side with varied capitals, supporting thirteen arches. The pillars are 2 feet 6 inches in diameter and 6 feet 6 inches high, not inclusive of their bases, which are 20 inches high, giving the pillars from the floor to the top of the capitals a height of 10 feet. Each capital is cut out of a solid block of stone. The stone ceiling of the nave is barrel shaped. The triforium is 7 feet 6 inches in diameter. The upper gallery was formerly used by the royal family, and communicated with the State rooms of the Palace. It is probable that the walls of this chapel were decorated with mural paintings and hung with tapestry, the windows to the east glowing with figures of saints and angels. Henry III., in 1240, ordered three stained glass windows for the chapel, and in one of these, that looking to the north, was pictured “a little Mary holding her child.” In the two others, looking to the south, “the Holy Trinity, with St John, Apostle and Evangelist.” The rood screen and Cross were also ordered by this King, and “two fair images” to be set up and painted, “et fieri faciatis et depingi duas ymagynes centius fieri possint in capella.” The latter were probably representations of St Edward holding a ring which he presents to the Patron of the Royal Chapel.

When the Reformation came in 1550, St John’s Chapel was despoiled of all its artistic treasures by order of the Government. Its frescoes were coated over with whitewash, its stained glass windows were destroyed, and all its ecclesiastical ornaments were removed; in later times the Chapel became a repository for the Tower records. It was during Lord de Ros’s Governorship in 1857 that the accumulated lumber of centuries was, as has already been60 said, in consequence of Prince Albert’s wish, cleared away from the Chapel. It had actually been proposed to turn this beautiful building into a military tailor’s warehouse. Such was the honour bestowed on this sacred and beautiful English building comparatively only a few years ago. But in recent years it must be admitted that we have shown a more enlightened regard towards the relics connected with the history of our country, none of which is of greater interest, or more worthy of regard and veneration, than the old Norman Chapel of St John’s in the Tower.

Royal scenes of pomp and mourning this ancient building has beheld within its mighty walls. All our Norman and Plantagenet kings here worshipped a God whose laws they seldom obeyed. Here lay in state the corpse of the White Rose of York, Elizabeth, the Queen of Henry VII.; and here, those upon whom the honour of knighthood was to be conferred, passed their solemn all-night vigil, watching their armour.

The summit of the White Tower covers a space of 100 feet on the eastern side, by 113 on the north and south. The four turrets, the most conspicuous points in any view of the Tower, rise 16 feet above this leaden field, and each is crowned with pepper-box-shaped roofs made of lead. The turret crowning the south-eastern angle contains a chamber traditionally known as the prison of Joan of Kent. In the early years of the eighteenth century it was used as an observatory by Flambard, the Astronomer-Royal, and a contemporary of Isaac Newton, some years before the great Observatory was built at Greenwich.

Although cannon were mounted on the roof in Tudor days, the platform could not have supported very heavy artillery, as it was only built of shingle. As I have said elsewhere, no record has come down to us of the time when the turrets with their little pepper-castor tops were first placed there, but the Harleian MSS. prove that similar ones existed as far back as the reign of Henry V.


There is much difference of opinion as to the original mode of entrance into the White Tower. Probably the principal entrance lay on the south and river side of the Keep, near its western angle, for on the second floor there is a large opening on the exterior of the masonry which has parallel sides, and was doubtless formerly used as a doorway. Near this opening, and on the eastern side of the Keep, is a small door opening into the base of the well staircase. Both Mr Clark and Mr Birch believe that these doors formerly communicated with a building which stood on the south of the White Tower, having its outer entrance at the east end. This building would probably date back to the days of the Normans.

The main entrance of the White Tower opened out on the first floor of the Keep, whence a turnpike staircase led up to the second floor, and downwards to the basement with its dungeons. The mural corridors or passages in the thickness of the walls which encircle the State rooms, are so narrow that only one person could pass along them at a time, which would have been of great advantage in case of an attack on the building, for a small number of men could have defended the White Tower against a host of besiegers. The Normans showed a rare skill in the strategic construction of their strongholds. For instance, in the ruined Castle of Arques near Dieppe, a contemporary building, the plan of its Keep resembles in structure that of the White Tower. These Normans were master builders, and the skilful manner in which they concealed the entrances to their fortresses is well worth study. Their keeps were generally rectangular, and in no instance is the entrance of these towers on the ground floor, or in a conspicuous part of the building. At the Castle of Arques the entrance to the Keep is carefully concealed, as was the case with the White Tower, and is fully 30 feet above the level of the ground, besides being hidden and protected by a massive and lofty wall which forms a part of the Keep. A tortuous passage leads into the heart of the62 building, but before it could be entered, a very long and almost perpendicular staircase had to be mounted. This staircase commenced in the thickness of the wall of one of the outer counter-forts, placed at the northern angle of the fortress, which wound along the inner face of the Keep, giving access to a landing, beyond which was the passage that led into the fortress. Before the kernel of the Keep could be reached, another narrow passage, cut out of the thickness of the wall, had to be passed; this passage was on the level of the first floor. This style of defensive construction was introduced by the Conqueror and his clerical architect, the quondam monk of the Abbey of Bec in Normandy, who ended his life as Bishop of Rochester; and to these two men we owe the solidity and time-defying strength of the great Norman White Tower.

In order to complete this Norman system of defensive architecture it was necessary to suppress all unnecessary openings, such as windows, in the lower stages of the massive square towers. Consequently, the Norman windows, which were only narrow slits in the masonry, called by the significant name of meurtrières, from the use made of them by the besieged to hurl missiles or pour boiling oil, or lead, upon the enemy beneath, were always restricted in numbers, and were always placed in the upper parts of the Keep. For this reason Sir Christopher Wren, by placing the large windows with their stone facings, now in the White Tower, completely destroyed one of the most characteristic features of its Norman workmanship, an extraordinary act of vandalism for so great an architect. In our day Salvin restored some of the Norman windows on the western side of the White Tower—those belonging to St John’s Chapel—and one regrets that he did not carry out the restoration throughout the building, for in looking at any representation of the White Tower taken before the Great Fire, one sees how much the old Norman Keep has lost in character by Wren’s tasteless substitution of Carolean for Norman windows.


Of the prisoners of State who passed weary years within the White Tower, mention has already been made of Charles of Orleans. Stevenson’s description in his “Familiar Studies of Men and Books,” relating to the imprisonment of the Duke, gives a perfect word-picture: “In the magnificent copy of Charles’s poems, given by our Henry VII. to Elizabeth of York on the occasion of their marriage, a large illumination figures at the head of one of the pages which, in chronological perspective, is almost a history of his imprisonment. It gives a view of London with all its spires, the river passing through the old bridge, and busy with boats. One side of the White Tower has been taken out, and we can see, as under a sort of shrine, the paved room where the Duke sits writing. He occupies a high-backed bench in front of a great chimney: red and black ink are before him, and the upper end of the apartment is guarded by many halberdiers, with the red cross of England on their breasts. On the next side of the tower he appears again, leaning out of the window and gazing on the river. Doubtless, there blows just then ‘a pleasant wind from out the land of France,’ and some ships come up the river, ‘the ship of good news.’ At the door we find him yet again, this time embracing a messenger, while a groom stands by holding two saddled horses. And yet further to the left, a cavalcade defiles out of the Tower; the Duke is on his way at last towards ‘the sunshine of France.’”

Referring to his imprisonment in England at the trial of the Duke d’Alençon, the Duke said, “I have had experience myself, and in my prison of England, for the weariness, danger, and displeasure in which I then lay, I have many a time wished I had been slain at the battle where they took me.”

It was one of Joan of Arc’s hallucinations that could Charles of Orleans be delivered from his captivity in England and restored to France, that country would be delivered from its conquerors. She declared that he was64 specially favoured by the Almighty, and longed with all the strength of her great heart to restore him to her native land, and said that if there was no other way of freeing him, she would herself cross the sea and bring him back with her. When, after many years, Charles of Orleans was released, the heroic girl had met her martyrdom nine years before. It is a strange coincidence that whilst the Keep of the Tower held the French poet prince within its walls, another Royal captive, James the First of Scotland, was whiling away the days of his imprisonment by writing verses in the Keep of Windsor Castle.

Until quite recently, the collection of arms and armour stored in the White Tower and the adjacent galleries was in a disgraceful state of neglect, and even in a worse condition than that of mere neglect, for the custodians, in their ignorance, gave names and titles to the arms and armour which must have caused infinite amusement to visitors who possessed any knowledge of the subject. The middle-aged may recall the rows of so-called English kings, beginning with the Plantagenets and ending with the Stuarts, seated on wooden horses. If I mistake not, one of these was dubbed Edward I., and yet another mythical gentleman on his wooden steed played the rôle of a “Royal Crusader.” These things were as genuine as Mrs Jarley’s Waxworks. “Previous to the year 1826,” write Britton and Brayley in their history of the Tower, “nothing could present a more incongruous mass of discordant materials than the Horse Armoury of the Tower of London. Armour of the time of Edward the Sixth was ignorantly appropriated to that of William the Conqueror: foot soldiers were ranged between the horsemen, and those humble ciceroni, the warders, ascribed to the various implements of war names and uses, alike unknown, either in ancient or modern warfare.” But better times were at hand, and a great authority on ancient armour, and the owner of the finest collection of it in England, Dr S. R. Meyrick, undertook to arrange the armour in the Tower. Another expert in armour, J. R. Planché, Somer65set Herald, and author of an able history of British costume, as well as of many clever burlesques and extravaganzas, drew up a catalogue. But a huge mass of rubbish and spurious armour were allowed even then to remain amongst the historic and genuine specimens. It is only since Lord Dillon undertook the great task, on which he is still engaged, of entirely re-arranging and re-cataloguing the arms and armour in the White Tower, that it can be properly studied and appreciated. The new catalogue, which will be a work of historic importance, is still unpublished, but from the accounts Lord Dillon has written of the collection, and which is published in the excellent “Authorised Guide” to the Tower and its contents, I am indebted for much of the following information.

Horse and Foot Armour (XVIᵗʰ. Century)

Although not to compare in extent or importance with the great collections of Madrid, Vienna, or Turin, the armour in the White Tower must be, to an Englishman, of great interest, for, although none of the suits of armour date further back than the fifteenth century, and but very few single pieces are of an earlier epoch, there are among the former, suits of great beauty and of high historic value, and it is the only national collection of armour that England possesses. As far back as the year 1213 arms and military stores were kept in the White Tower. In that year Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, was commanded to surrender with the fortress “the arms and other stores within”; in the second year of Henry the Third’s reign, a mandate was issued to the Archdeacon of Durham to send to the Tower “twenty-six suits of armour, five iron cuirasses, one iron collar, three pair of iron fetters, and nine iron helmets.” In the reign of Edward II. we find that a certain “John de Flete, Keeper of the Wardrobe in the Tower,” was ordered to deliver up all the armour therein to John de Montgomery. This armour had belonged to Montgomery’s father.

Various documents are extant relating to armour in the Tower during the reign of Richard II., and in those of the fourth, fifth, and sixth Henrys. There is, in the library of66 the Society of Antiquaries, an inventory in MSS. of the arms and ammunition kept in different castles in the kingdom, written in the first year of the reign of Edward the Sixth. In this work particular mention is made of some “brigandines” in the Tower. These were military jackets. Other offensive and defensive weapons are enumerated, such as targets, pole-axes, “great holy water sprinklers” (a kind of stave with a cylindrical-shaped end, “and with a spear-point at the top,” according to Meyrick). In the reign of Elizabeth, we hear of cross-bows and arrows in the Tower, of “bow-stones” and of “slurbowes,” as well as half-a-dozen different kinds of armour.

At the beginning of this notice of the White Tower, I mentioned Paul Hentzner’s description of the armour he saw. He writes as follows:—“We were next led into the armoury, in which are these peculiarities: spears, out of which you may shoot; shields, that will give fire four times; a great many rich halberds, commonly called partuisans, with which the guard defend the royal person in battle; some lances, covered with red and green velvet, and the body-armour of Henry VIII. Many and very beautiful arms, as well for men as for horses in horse fights—(Hentzner probably means tournaments);—the lance of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, three spans thick; two pieces of cannon—the one fires three, the other seven balls at a time; two others made of wood, which the English had at the siege of Boulogne, in France. And by this stratagem, without which they could not have succeeded, they struck a terror into the inhabitants, as at the appearance of artillery, and the town was surrendered upon articles; nineteen cannons of a thicker make than ordinary, and in a room apart, thirty-six of a smaller; other cannon for chain shot, and balls proper to bring down masts of ships; cross-bows, bows and arrows, of which to this day the English make great use in their exercises; but who can relate all that is to be seen here. Eight or nine men, employed by the year, are scarce sufficient to keep all the arms bright.”

German Armour (XVIᵗʰ. Century.)


One cannot help wishing that Hentzner had told us more about the Tower itself as it looked in Elizabeth’s days, and less about the armour.

Charles the First had a survey written of the arms and armour in the Tower when he succeeded to the Throne, but during the Civil War much of it disappeared, in common with most of the Royal possessions in that troubled time. After the Restoration, William Legge, Lord Dartmouth, who had been deprived by the Commonwealth of his post of “Master of the Armouries,” was reinstated, and he had an inventory of the armour in the Tower drawn up in 1660. There is an interesting list in Britton and Brayley’s Tower book of the different officers to whom the making of the military stores in the Tower had been entrusted, up to the time of Charles II., when the employment of the following ceased:—There was first the “Balistarius,” who lodged in the Bowyer Tower, and who provided the cross-bows. In the reign of Henry III. this officer received a shilling a day and “a doublet and surcoat furred with lambskin” once a year. The “Attiliator Balistarum” provided the harness and accoutrements for the cross-bows: and received “seven pence halfpenny per diem and a suitable robe every year.” Then came the “Bowyer,” an inferior Balistarius; he also received a robe annually. After him came the “Fletcher,” or maker of the flêches or arrows. This craftsman supplied arrows to the whole army. To him succeeded the “Galeator,” the maker of helmets and head-pieces, and after him the Armourer, who made and supervised all the armour and military accoutrements in the Tower. But the greatest of these was the Master of the King’s Ordnance, who, as far back as the reign of Edward the Fourth, provided all warlike stores for the Army and also the Navy. He received eleven shillings per diem, and his clerk and valet were each paid sixpence per diem, which, according to the present value of money, would be about five pounds a day for the master, and five shillings68 for the two men. At the close of the reign of George the Third the following officers formed the Board of Ordnance:—First came the Master-General, chosen from among the Generals of the Army, “who by virtue of his office was Colonel-in-Chief of the Artillery and Engineers.” Next to him came the Surveyor-General, the head of all the store departments. Beneath him ranked the Clerk of the Ordnance; then the Store-keeper, the Clerk of the Deliveries; and, closing the list, a Treasurer and a Paymaster, both attached to the Ordnance Office.

Returning to the White Tower and its memories, the changes and revolutions that its massive walls have witnessed, rise before the mind. Merely glancing at the changes of fashion, as seen in the suits of armour in its armoury, one is carried back to the Middle Ages. And although the armour is all of a later time, the Norman barons in their steel-ringed surcoats and pointed helmets, as they are portrayed on the Bayeux tapestry, have been seen here. All the chivalry of England, from the time of the Normans down to our present Guardsmen with their bearskin head-dresses, are closely bound up with the old Norman fortress, and it should be remembered that from the end of the eleventh century up to the present day the Tower has always retained the rank and position of chief fortress and depository of arms in the realm, and so may still be regarded as the “Arx Palatina” of the British Empire.

The oldest armour in the Tower are some “bassinets” of the second half of the fourteenth century. Until the death of Henry VIII., the royal collection of armour was kept in the Palace at Greenwich, and the possessions of that monarch now form by far the finest portion of the Tower Armoury, consisting of several splendid suits of armour given him by the Emperor Maximilian. The best armour was made in Italy and Germany, and Henry, who loved a fine suit of armour almost as much as a handsome woman, had a number of skilled armourers sent69 to England to work for him. As we see by Hentzner’s narrative, foreigners of distinction were shown the collection of armour in the Tower as one of the principal sights of London. During the Civil War a great deal of the armour was carried away from the Tower, and but little of it was returned, even when the Restoration had become an accomplished fact.

Nuremberg Armour (XVIᵗʰ. Century.)

The collection now occupies the two upper floors of the White Tower. On the lower floor are kept the more modern weapons and the Oriental armour, of which there is a great quantity. On the upper floor the far more interesting of the earlier weapons, and all the suits of foot and horse armour, are ranged along the walls and in rows down the middle of the hall, making an imposing show of mounted and unmounted mail-clad figures of men and horses.

In the lower floor we will only take a glance at the Indian and Oriental arms and at the modern European weapons, as these are of little historical interest. There are, however, amongst them some relics of the so-called “good old days” worthy of inspection. These consist of a grim collection of instruments of death and torture. Here, for instance, are the thumbscrews, the bilboes, and the Scavenger’s Daughter—in the last the victim was almost bent double in its iron embrace. Here, too, is an iron collar, very massive, with a row of iron spikes within its ring, which, when fastened round the sufferer’s neck, must speedily have caused death. This horrible instrument is incorrectly stated to have been taken in one of the ships of the Armada, but Lord Dillon vouches for its having been used in the Tower long before the Spanish ships were seen in the Channel. Here, too, is a small model of the rack, the most general form of torture employed in the Tower during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when even women were cruelly torn almost limb from limb by its cords and pulleys. This toy rack does not give so vivid an impression of the torture as70 does a small wood-cut from Fox’s “Book of Martyrs.” Here is also the block, with the axe. The latter was kept here as far back as the year 1687, so it is uncertain whether it is the axe that was used for the execution of the Duke of Monmouth and William, Lord Russell, but it is probable that it was the one used for beheading the rebel lords after the two Jacobite risings in Scotland, and it was undoubtedly used for decapitating Lord Lovat in 1747.

As regards the block, it appears to have been the custom for a new one to be made for each State execution, and although there is more than one mark made by the axe on the top of this block, it does not follow that it was used for more than one execution.

The upper floor is reached by a staircase in the south-eastern corner of the Tower. On reaching this upper floor a collection of spears of all sorts and sizes is seen. Among these is a formidable-looking weapon called a “holy water sprinkler,” which consists of a staff with a wooden ball at the top, covered with long iron spikes. Another sinister-looking weapon is the “Morning Star,” so named by the Germans, and certainly calculated to raise up many a star before the eyes of anyone who had the misfortune to be struck by it. Besides these there is a goodly array of partisans, halberds, and pole-axes. In the centre of this gallery is an equestrian figure clad in sixteenth-century armour which was made at Nuremberg, where the best armour in Germany was manufactured. The whole of the knight’s armour, as well as the panoply of the horse, is ornamented with that quaint device, the Burgundian cross “ragule,” and also the flint and steel pattern, the same that appears on the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece: from these ornaments and devices it follows that this armour was made for one of the Burgundian princes, perhaps for the Emperor Maximilian, it having been given to Henry VIII. by that monarch.

There are many suits of armour which, until Lord71 Dillon re-arranged and classified the collection, passed as genuine, and among them is a sham suit of armour worn by Lord Waterford at the famous Eglinton tournament—a tourney which ended by the competing knights taking shelter from the rain under their umbrellas. Another splendid specimen of the German armourers’ work is the fluted suit for man and horse belonging to the early part of the sixteenth century. Two other suits of armour which are placed in the centre of the gallery belonged to Henry VIII.; they are of prodigious weight, and as they were intended for fighting on foot, it must have required considerable physical strength to walk when clad in this ponderous habiliment: it certainly would have been impossible for its wearer to run away with it upon his back. Lord Dillon believes that both these suits are of Italian or Spanish workmanship; one of them is made up of 235 separate pieces. Besides these, two other suits of Henry VIII.’s armour are in the collection; one of them still retains traces of gilding, and must have shone resplendently when worn by the bluff king.

Horse and Foot Armour (XVIIᵗʰ. Century.)

Regarding the equestrian suit of armour in the centre of the gallery, Lord Dillon thinks “that it is one of the finest in existence.” It was made at Augsburg by the famous German armourer Conrad Sensenhofer, and was given to Henry by the Emperor Maximilian in 1515. It is covered with devices, such as roses, pomegranates, and portcullises—the badges of Henry and Catharine of Arragon—the letters H and K stand out in bold relief on the horse armour. Engraved within panels are representations of scenes from the lives of St George and St Barbara. No finer example of the great German’s art workmanship than this truly Imperial suit can be seen, not even in the great German, Spanish, and Italian collections.

Close to this stands a curious shield, one of eighty similar ones made for Henry VIII., with a pistol in the middle. Worthy of note is a helmet with a mask attached, also a gift to Henry from Maximilian. It was formerly72 known as Will Somers’s mask (the King’s Jester), but recent research does not show that Somers ever used this ugly vizor. Here, also, is a very gorgeous suit of gilt armour which belonged to the Earl of Cumberland, one of Elizabeth’s smartest courtiers, who fitted out at his own expense no less than eleven expeditions against the Spaniards. Noticeable, too, are the quaint double weapons—staves with pole-axes and gun-barrels attached; one of these has three barrels, a kind of gigantic early revolver which was called King Harry’s Walking-Stick. Here are also ancient saddles used for tournaments. One of these belonged, and was probably used by Charles Brandon, Henry VIII.’s brother-in-law: much horse armour besides these tilting saddles is to be seen here,—“chaufons” and “bards” made of leather, known by the name of “cuir bouall,” and “vamplates,” worn when tilting to protect the hand, and into which the tilting spear was fastened. More suits of armour for men and horses are those which belonged to the Earl of Worcester in Elizabeth’s time, and a still richer one, once worn by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, bearing all over it the badge of the rugged staff, and the double collars of the English order of the Garter and the French one of St Michael. The armour of another of Elizabeth’s favourites is here, a suit which is believed to have belonged to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. To come to later times, and the House of Stuart, the most conspicuous of the armour of that period is a gilt suit which belonged to Charles I., but very inferior in workmanship and artistic excellence to the earlier work of the German armourers. There is also a small suit of armour made for Charles I., when a child. Here, too, are models of cannon made for Charles II., when he was Prince of Wales, and a richly decorated suit of armour given to Henry, Prince of Wales, by the Prince de Joinville.

Of all this display of arms and armour in the Tower, of which I have but touched upon the chief objects of historical and artistic interest, the “processional” axe is, to73 my mind, by far the most interesting in regard to the Tower and its history, for it is the outward and visible sign of the part the “great axe,” as Shakespeare called it, has played in our country’s history, the symbol of its highest justice, whether it appeared with its edge turned towards or turned away from the prisoner: and what scenes in English history has not that steel reflected in its impassive surface. This axe is in itself an epitome of the history of the Tower, and consequently of England.

Horse and Foot Armour (XVIIᵗʰ. Century.)

Beneath the western wall of the White Tower is a varied park of artillery. Here, placed side by side, are cannon taken from out the wreck the Mary Rose, a warship lost off Spithead in 1545, with others from the Royal George, which sank in the same place in 1782. Here is a Portuguese cannon made in 1594 and taken at the siege of Hyderabad in 1843; and guns made for Napoleon at Avignon, with the crowned N engraved upon them. What is curious amongst the old English cannon of the sixteenth century, is their being made of iron bars welded together and bound round with iron hoops. One of these belonged to the Mary Rose, and still holds within its barrel a stone shot. Here is also a breech-loading cannon made early in the sixteenth century, and two triple brass guns made for Louis XIV. bearing his device of the sun and the motto, “Ultima ratio regum.” The old French and English mortars are also of interest, the earliest of the latter being dated 1686; one was used by William III. at the siege of Namur in 1695. There is a French mortar made by Keller, Louis’s gun-founder at Douai, in 1683. In 1708 there were sixty-two guns on Tower Green and the river wharf: the latter were fired on festivals; they are now used for saluting from “Salutation Battery,” which faces Tower Hill. Amongst these weapons of destruction one is almost certain to find a pair of venerable ravens hopping about; they are a pair of weird and eerie fowls, and one might imagine the spirit of some guilty wretch had been re-incarnated under their black feathers.


In Mr W.H. Hudson’s book, entitled “Birds of London,” these and other birds are described as follows:—“At the Tower of London robins occasionally appear in autumn, but soon go away. The last one that came, settled down and was a great favourite with the people there for about two months, being very friendly, coming to window-sills for crumbs, and singing every day very beautifully. Then one day he was seen in the General’s garden wildly dashing about, hotly pursued by seven or eight sparrows, and, as he was never seen again, it was conjectured that the sparrows had succeeded in killing him. The robin is a high-spirited creature, braver than most birds, and a fair fighter, but against such a gang of feathered murderous ruffians, bent on his destruction, he would stand no chance.

“The Tower sparrows, it may be added, appear to be about the worst specimens of their class in London. They are always at war with the pigeons and starlings, and would gladly drive them out if they could. It is a common thing for some foreign bird to escape from its cage on board ship and to take refuge in the trees and gardens of the Tower, but woe to the escaped captive and stranger in a strange land who seeks safety in such a place! Immediately on his arrival the sparrows are all up against him, not to ‘heave half a brick at him,’ since they are not made that way, but to hunt him from place to place until they have driven him, weak with fatigue and terror, into a corner where they can finish him with their bludgeon beaks.”

It is worthy of notice that no mention is made of the Tower in Domesday Book, London being altogether omitted from that work. Of all the Norman strongholds and castles which rose in London along the river-side, of Montfichet, Baynard’s Castle, the old Palace at Blackfriars, or of Tower Royal, Stephen’s palace in Vintry Ward, no trace remains, and of them all the great Norman keep of the Conqueror remains little altered in outward form from what it was eight centuries ago.

Horse and Foot Armour (XVIIᵗʰ. Century.)


Tower Hill

Tower Hill, which lies to the north-west of the Tower, is more closely allied with the history of the fortress than any other spot within the City boundaries, and the short space intervening between it and the entrance gate of the Tower was, in most cases, the final journey of the State prisoners condemned to death. Writing of Tower Hill, Stow, the antiquary, says it was “sometime a large plot of ground, now greatly straightened by encroachments (unlawfully made and suffered) for gardens and houses. Upon the hill is always readily prepared at the charge of the City, a large scaffold and gallows of timber, for the execution of such traitors or transgressors are as delivered out of the Tower, or otherwise, to the Sheriffs of London, by writ, there to be executed.”

Hatton, however, describes Tower Hill in the reign of Queen Anne as “a spacious place extending round the west and north parts of the Tower, where there are many good new buildings, mostly inhabited by gentry and merchants.”

The Sheriffs of London and Middlesex were responsible for State prisoners so long as they were within the City and county boundaries, and when such prisoners were taken through the streets of London from the Tower, the Sheriffs received them from the Lieutenant of the Tower at the entrance to the City, and gave a receipt for their persons.

The City officials, too, were responsible for the scaffold on Tower Hill, but in the reign of Edward IV. this scaffold was erected at the charge of the King’s officers. Constant quarrels and disputes, however, arose on the subject of the boundaries between the City and the Lieutenant of the Tower, until the charge of Tower Hill was finally vested in the City. In the view of the Tower and its surroundings, to which I have so often referred, made by Haiward and Gascoyne in 1597, the scaffold is shown standing some76 distance to the north of Tower Street: its site is now a pleasant garden, the place of execution being recorded by an inscription on a tablet placed on the grass plot within the railings.

Tower Hill is almost entirely associated with the shedding of blood, with the masked executioner, his block and axe, and has little historical interest besides, save that Lady Raleigh lodged in a house on the Hill with the child born to her in the Tower, after James I. refused to allow her to share her husband’s imprisonment. William Penn, the Quaker, and founder of Pennsylvania—which he mortgaged for £6600 in his old age—was born on Tower Hill in 1644; Otway the poet died at the Bull public-house, it is supposed of starvation; and it was at a cutler’s shop on Tower Hill that Felton bought the knife with which he mortally stabbed George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, at Portsmouth.

Stained Glass in the Tower

Of all the richly coloured windows placed in the chapel of St John in the White Tower by Henry III. and the brilliant glass in the church of St Peter ad Vincula, very little now remains, and the only coloured glass to be found in the Tower at the present day, as it was originally placed, is in the window of a little room used as the library for the Tower warders close to the Byward Tower—this room in one respect resembles the most famous library in the world, that of the Vatican, from the fact that no books are visible, they being all put away in cupboards—and this consists only of two royal badges in coloured glass. These royal arms appear to be of the time of James I., and although they have been much restored, that containing the three feathers of the Prince of Wales retains much of its old glaze and is a good example of emblazoned glass of the period. It may possibly have been intended for the cognisance of Prince Henry, or Charles I., when Prince of Wales.


A quantity of stained glass panels were found in the crypt of St John’s Chapel, in which some interesting and valuable fragments, mostly incomplete in themselves, of heraldic glass of the sixteenth century and of small pictorial subjects, were mixed with modern and valueless glass of subordinate design. The whole was carefully examined by Messrs John Hardman, who separated the ancient from the modern glass, and using delicate leads to repair the numerous fractures of the former, and setting the various fragments in lozenges of plain glass, filled the right windows of the chapel with the following subjects:—

The first window in the south front, entering from the west, a coat of arms, with the words “Honi soit qui mal y pense” around it on the upper portion; a sepia painting in the centre, representing the Deity and two angels appearing to a priest, with flames rising from an altar. In the lower portion is another sepia painting with the Deity depicted with outstretched arms, one hand on the sun, the other on the moon, and the earth rolling in clouds at the feet. This is generally supposed to be emblematical of the Creation, but has been suggested as representative of the Saviour as the Light of the World.

The second window has a head and bust near the top, with a peculiar cap and crown. The centre is a sepia representing the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and the guardian angel. At the bottom there is another sepia, depicting a village upon a hill, probably a distant view of Harrow.

The third window has at the top a figure of Charles I. in sepia; in the centre a knight in armour, skirmishing, and at the bottom what appears to be a holly-bush with the letters H. R.

The fourth window has a negro’s head with a turban in the upper portion; in the centre a sepia of Esau returning from the hunt to seek Isaac’s blessing, Rebecca and Jacob being in the background. Near the bottom is another sepia of the exterior of a church, probably Dutch.


The fifth window, and the last of the series facing south, has a coat of arms and motto like those in the first window; in the centre, a sepia of the anointing of David by Samuel, and near the bottom Jehovah in clouds, with the earth and shrubs bursting forth. This is probably emblematical of the Creation.

The south-east apsidal window has the coat of arms and royal motto as before, with two smaller coats of arms and the same motto below, a royal crown and large Tudor rose being near the bottom.

The eastern window (in the centre of the apse) has a crown with fleur-de-lys and leopards at the top, and in the centre the small portcullis of John of Gaunt and the wheat-sheaf of Chester. These are by far the best heraldic devices in the whole series of windows.

The north-east window has a very imperfect coat of arms with fleur-de-lys and leopards, as well as two other coats with the royal motto. There is also a device which might be taken to represent the letter M, but which is probably the inverted water-bottles of the Hastings family. Daggers are quartered upon the other coats of arms. At the bottom of this window is a Tudor rose and several fragments of glass much confused.

The glass has been placed in the windows with great care, the subjects being made as complete as the broken fragments permitted. Each of the eight windows is ornamented with leaded borders.




Henry the First was the earliest of our kings to make use of the Tower as a State prison—Randulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham, having the distinction of being its first prisoner. Henry, it appears, in order to curry popularity at the beginning of his reign, had Flambard arrested, the Bishop—hated by the people for his rapacity—being accused of illegally raising the funds needed for the building of the fortress which was destined to become his prison. He was imprisoned with the King’s sanction, but nominally by the will of the House of Commons, and thus inaugurated the long line of prisoners of State which, from the reign of Henry the First until the early years of the nineteenth century, the Tower never lacked.

Flambard had been the principal minister of Henry’s predecessor, William Rufus. The Saxon chronicler, Vitalis, recounts that the Bishop was allowed while in the Tower, to keep a sumptuous table for himself and his servants, a privilege which enabled him to escape from his prison in the following manner. He obtained a rope which had been hidden in a wine cask, and after liberally regaling his keepers, whom he succeeded in fuddling with much wine, he made fast the rope to a pillar of a chamber in the White Tower, or to the bar of a window, and let himself slide down, reaching the ground in safety. It was a wonderful feat Flambard performed, for he held his pastoral staff in his hand as he descended the side of80 the Tower. The rope proved too short and the Bishop had a fall of several feet, but apparently without being the worse for it. A swift horse, provided by his friends, took him to the coast, whence he succeeded in reaching Normandy. Some years after his escape he returned to his see at Durham, where he completed that splendid cathedral, also building many other churches and castles, amongst the latter being Norham Castle, whose stately ruins have been sung by Sir Walter Scott.

It is uncertain whether any of the Norman kings before Stephen made the Tower a place of residence. But in 1140 that monarch, during a gloomy period of private and public affairs, retired to the Tower with a large retinue and kept his court there during Whitsuntide.

“Early in the year,” writes Freeman in his “History of the Norman Conquest,” “after Matilda’s landing, an attempt had been made to make peace. At Pentecost the King held, or tried to hold, the usual festival in London; but this time his court was held to the east and not to the west of the city, not in the hall of Rufus, but in the fortress of his father.”

The custody of the Tower appears, soon after its completion, to have been made an hereditary office, granted by the sovereign to the family of Mandeville. In this year of 1140 the Tower was in the keeping of Geoffrey, grandson of that great Geoffrey de Mandeville, who had accompanied the Conqueror to England, and who had greatly distinguished himself at the Battle of Hastings. Stephen created the grandson Earl of Essex, but being himself taken prisoner soon afterwards at the Battle of Lincoln, the Empress Matilda gained de Mandeville over to her party, during Stephen’s captivity. By a charter, dated from Oxford in 1141, Matilda confirmed the Earl in all the possessions which he had inherited, whether in lands or fortresses, the custody of the Tower being included therein, Essex being given a free hand to strengthen and fortify it. A subsequent charter of the81 same year gave him the special charge of the Tower, “with all lands, liveries, and customs thereto appertaining” (Dugdale’s Baronage). According to Leland, de Mandeville constantly added to the fortifications of the Tower, but when he was defeated and taken prisoner at the Battle of St Albans he was obliged to surrender the Constableship into the hands of Stephen.

In 1153 the Tower was held for the Crown by Richard de Lucy, Chief Justiciary of England, in trust for Henry, Duke of Normandy, to whom, after Stephen’s death, it reverted.

Matilda had offended the Londoners by refusing to abolish her father’s laws, and by also refusing to restore those granted by Edward the Confessor, and, rising in arms, they drove the Empress from the city. Stephen having recovered his liberty, Matilda’s power ceased shortly afterwards. After her flight the Londoners laid siege to the Tower, but it had been so strongly fortified by de Mandeville that he was not only able to defy the besiegers’ uttermost efforts to effect its capture, but was able to make a sortie as far as Fulham, where he took the Bishop of London prisoner, “as then lodged there, being of the contrary faction” (Holinshed).

It is doubtful whether Henry the First ever lived in the Tower, or whether he added to its fortifications. Thomas à Becket is supposed to have wished to have been made Constable of the fortress as well as of Rochester Castle, which latter he is known to have held.

FitzStephen, in the reign of Henry the Second, describes the “Arx Palatina” as being then, “great and strong with encircling walls rising from a deep foundation, and built with mortar tempered with the blood of beasts.” Probably the sanguinary aspect of the mortar used in the Tower buildings was owing to the use of pulverised Roman red tiles and bricks, of which a large quantity were most likely pounded into mortar.


When Richard Cœur de Lion left England for the Holy Land he entrusted the charge of guarding the Tower to Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, who was his Chancellor. This Bishop strengthened the fortress and deepened the moat. He had good reason for his work upon the fortress, for John, taking advantage of his brother’s absence, besieged the Tower; but the Bishop, thinking discretion the better part of valour, yielded up his trust without attempting to defend it, and fled for safety to Dover Castle. John made over the Tower to the confederated nobles under the Archbishop of Rouen, who occupied it until Richard’s return from the Holy Land.

In 1215, the Barons, who were then up in arms, aided by the London citizens, besieged the Tower, but although it was poorly garrisoned, their attacks were repelled. A year later, whilst the civil war was waging between John and his barons, the Tower was handed over to the French prince Louis by the rebellious nobles, who had invited him to take John’s place as King of England, but Louis does not seem to have taken kindly to the position, and speedily returned to his own land. In 1217, Henry III. was reigning in undisputed possession of the realm, and to him belongs the credit of having done more towards making the Tower worthy of a royal abode, than any of his predecessors or successors upon the English throne. The most stately of its buildings, after the Great Keep, are due to his love of art and architecture. The Royal Chapel, the Great Hall, and the Palace chambers, which he either built or decorated, are frequently mentioned in the chronicles of Henry’s reign, and were the outcome of his taste and love of magnificence.

In 1232 the Tower was given into the custody for life to the famous Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent. His constableship, however, was brief, he being supplanted by Peter de Roches, Bishop of Winchester, and imprisoned in the fortress he had formerly governed.

It was during the reign of Henry III. that the newly-83built tower over the Traitor’s Gate twice fell. The first time this happened was on the night of St George’s Day (23rd April) in 1240, and on the same anniversary in the following year the structure again sank into the moat. According to the historian Mathew Paris, the spirit of St Thomas à Becket was the cause of both these mishaps, the Saint returning from the home of the Blessed to the rescue of his beloved and persecuted London citizens, who had looked on the ever-increasing fortifications and massive walls of the royal stronghold, with much the same distrust and irritation as the fortress of the Bastille caused the Parisians.

Four years later, the son of the great Welsh chieftain and patriot, Llewellyn, was killed whilst attempting to escape from the White Tower in a similar manner as that by which Bishop Flambard had succeeded in ending his captivity. Mathew Paris relates that the unlucky Welsh prince was discovered at the foot of the White Tower with “his head thrust in between his shoulders.” The rope by which he had hoped to escape had broken, and he had been dashed to death in the fall.

During his long and agitated reign Henry III. was frequently obliged to take shelter within the Tower from his rebellious subjects. When Simon de Montfort and the Barons rose against his rule and encamped themselves near Richmond, Henry took refuge in the Tower with his eldest son Edward’s wife, Eleanor of Provence. Edward had been fighting Llewellyn in Wales, and hearing of the dangerous situation of his wife and father, hurried back to London, throwing himself into Windsor Castle. Eleanor of Provence made an attempt to join her husband at Windsor, but the London citizens were strongly on the side of the rebels, and when the Princess’s barge reached London Bridge on its way down the river it was stopped by a rabble who pelted it with stones, mud, and rotten eggs, and heaped the foulest abuse upon its royal occupant, who was forced to take shelter once more in the Tower.84 Edward is believed never to have forgiven the Londoners for this treatment of his wife, and his harshness to the city during his reign was probably due to this incident.

Two years afterwards the mutinous Barons seized the Tower, which they occupied until the Battle of Evesham, in 1264, enabled Henry to return to his favourite stronghold. Once again the King was driven into war by Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, who summoned Otho, the Papal Legate, then within the Tower, to surrender it into his hands, declaring that the Tower “was not a post to be trusted in the hands of a foreigner, much less of an ecclesiastic.” The Legate defied the Earl to do his worst, and refused to surrender either the fortress or himself into Gloucester’s keeping. This priest appears to have been not only brave, but somewhat rash, for although the city was at that time in the power of de Clare, he left the Tower when a siege was imminent, and preached a sermon at St Paul’s, inveighing against the Earl. A siege ensued, during which, according to Matthew of Westminster, a number of Jews, then within the Tower, defended one of its wards with great courage, and the King’s army arriving opportunely, the fortress was saved from falling into the hands of the Earl.




At the close of Henry’s troubled reign we find the Tower in the keeping of the Archbishop of York, a post he held while the young King, Edward the First, was absent upon an expedition in Palestine. Although this monarch was not often at the Tower, he added to its buildings, and strengthened its fortifications, which, after the two sieges they had lately undergone, no doubt stood much in need of repair, and it was during his reign that the fortress became the recognised place of incarceration for State prisoners, and the principal prison in the realm. The dungeons beneath the White Tower were crowded with hundreds of unfortunate Jews in 1278,—a strange way, it seems, of repaying these people for the courage and loyalty some of their brethren had so recently displayed in the reign of the King’s father, in defending the same fortress against the King’s enemies. These Jews—there were some six hundred of them—were imprisoned in the Tower on the charge of clipping and defacing the coin of the realm.

The prisons were often filled after Edward’s campaigns, many captives being brought from Wales and from Scotland. Amongst the latter, after the defeat of the Scottish army at Dunbar in 1296, was King Baliol, with the Earls of Athol, Sutherland, Menteith, Ross, and others, Baliol’s son, Prince Edward, with other Scottish chiefs and knights, being added to the former batch of State prisoners in the following year.


It was in 1305 that one of the greatest heroes of that or any other period was brought a prisoner to London, and one would give much to know with any certainty whether William Wallace was imprisoned or not in the Tower, and where he spent the last days of his glorious life. But it is a matter of uncertainty whether he ever entered the walls of that fortress. He appears, when brought to London, to have been lodged in a citizen’s house in Fenchurch Street, whence he was taken to his trial at Westminster Hall; there he was impeached, and, as Holinshed has it, “condemned and thereupon hanged at Smithfield.” Had Wallace been imprisoned in the Tower, Holinshed would probably have recorded the fact. The manner of the hero’s death will ever remain a stain upon England and upon the memory of his judges. He was treated worse than a common felon; dragged in chains to the gallows, and killed with every detail of barbarous cruelty. Three other distinguished Scottish prisoners were imprisoned in the Tower in 1306, after the battle of St John’s Town, before their execution. These were the Earl of Athol, Sir Simon Fraser, and Sir Christopher Seton. Their heads were placed on the turrets of the White Tower.

Not only did the dungeons of the Tower hold the King’s enemies in this reign, but also many of his clergy and judges. Of the former was the Abbot of Westminster, with a following of eight of his monks, who were imprisoned upon the charge of having robbed the King’s Treasury to the amount of one hundred thousand pounds—a prodigious sum in those days. Among the judges imprisoned in the Tower at this time (1289) were Ralph de Hengham, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, and the Master of the Rolls, Robert Lithbuy, with others, charged “with criminal partiality in the discharge of their offices”; they were only released after paying heavy fines.

The succeeding monarch Edward II., frequently87 occupied the Tower, leaving his queen and children within the fortress for safety in 1322, whilst he invaded Wales; and it was in the Tower that his eldest daughter was born—Jane of the Tower, as she was styled on account of the place of her birth. She lived to marry David Bruce and to become Queen of Scotland in 1327. During this reign the once powerful order of the Knights Templar fell into unspeakable ruin, the Tower becoming the prison of all the knights of the order who had been arrested south of the Tweed, their Grand Master dying there. Besides these there were many prisoners of note taken in Scotland and Wales, and mention is made of a woman having been imprisoned there for the first time. The lady who gained this unpleasant celebrity appears to have richly deserved her incarceration. On the occasion of a visit made to the shrine of St Thomas at Canterbury by Queen Isabella and her retinue, the royal pilgrim, on her return journey to London, was obliged to crave the hospitality of the châtelaine of Leeds Castle in Kent. Lady Badlesmere, for such was the name of the lady of the Castle, not only refused to admit the royal party, but gave orders for it to be attacked, and several of the Queen’s servants were killed. As a result of this conduct upon the part of the strong-minded Lady Badlesmere, Leeds Castle was taken, its governor hanged, and the inhospitable lady herself was conveyed to London, and occupied a prison in the Tower.

Amongst the Welsh prisoners in the Tower towards the close of Edward’s reign were the two Lords Mortimer of Wigmore and of Chirk, the former of whom, making his escape and gaining France in safety, returned at the head of an army. Edward had thrown himself into the Tower, but fled to Wales when he heard that Mortimer and the Queen—his most implacable enemy—were in arms against him. The King was captured, and soon afterwards murdered at Berkeley Castle. Meanwhile Mortimer had seized the Tower and beheaded the Bishop88 of Exeter, whom Edward had left in charge, had taken the keys from the Constable, Sir John Weston, and, releasing the prisoners, gave the Tower into the keeping of the citizens of London. After Edward the Second’s murder, his son, the young King Edward the Third, was kept in a state of semi-captivity in the Tower by his mother, Queen Isabella, and her paramour Mortimer. Edward, however, soon showed the strength of his character, and, after capturing Roger Mortimer and his sons at Nottingham in 1330, carried them to the Tower, where they were promptly hanged.

The French and Scottish wars waged by the third Edward brought many State prisoners to the Tower. From France came the Counts of Eu and Tankerville, taken at the close of the siege of Caen in 1346, together with three hundred burghers of that town. From Scotland came David Bruce, with a large following of his nobles, Sutherland, Carrick, Fife, Menteith, Wigton, and Douglas, captured by Percy at the Battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346. Froissart and Rymer describe the huge escort of twenty thousand armed men which guarded the captive Scottish King, mounted on a black charger, on his arrival at the Tower on 2nd January 1347, how the streets were crowded with eager sightseers, the City companies drawn up clad in their richest liveries, and Sir John Darcy, the Constable, receiving the King at the Tower gate. Bruce remained a prisoner in the fortress until he was liberated on the payment of an immense ransom, the companions of his imprisonment being the brave defender of Calais, Jean de Vienne, with twelve of its principal citizens, after the siege and capture of that city. Eleven years later, in 1358, another sovereign was a prisoner in the Tower, John, King of France, with his son Philip, remaining there for two years after the Battle of Poitiers, until the Treaty of Bretigny set them free in 1360.

A minute survey of the Tower had been made in 1336,89 and in the following year orders were given by Edward for repairs therein, “on account,” the King said, “of certain news which had lately come to his ears, and which sat heavy at his heart; the gates, walls, and bulwarks shall be kept with all diligence, lest they be surprised by his enemies.” He ordained that the gates of the fortress should be closed “from the setting till the rising of the sun.” But in spite of these royal commands, it appears that the Tower was allowed at this period to fall into disrepair; for, three years after these orders had been issued by Edward, we find him, on his second return from warring in France, landing secretly one November night at the Tower, and finding the place so ill-guarded that he had the Governor and some of the other officers imprisoned, amongst them being the Lord Chancellor, who combined that office with the Bishopric of Chichester. About this time Edward’s Queen, Philippa, was brought to bed of a daughter in the Tower, but the little Princess, who was named Blanche, died in her infancy, and was buried in the Abbey Church of Westminster.




As I have pointed out in the Introduction to this book, reliable historical details regarding the Tower are very meagre up to the date of the reign of Edward III., but with the reign of Richard II. the story of the Tower becomes of interest. Holinshed describes at some length the splendours of the new King’s coronation. How the youthful monarch, who was “as beautiful as an archangel”—as the life-size portrait of Richard in Westminster Abbey proves—clad in white robes, issued from the Tower surrounded by a vast retinue of knights and nobles. He tells us of the streets through which the royal cortege took its way to the Abbey, all adorned with tapestry, the conduits running with wine, and the pageants performed in the principal thoroughfares. Shortly after this Wat Tyler’s Rebellion broke out, and the young King with his mother sought refuge in the Tower. How the revolt ended is too well known to require telling here at length—how the mob surged angrily round the fortress, “at times,” as Froissart writes, “hooting as loud as if the devils were in them,” how Lord Mayor William Walworth advised Richard to sally forth and himself attack the rebel rout while they were asleep and drunk, and how the young sovereign decided to meet them at Mile End. How during his absence some of the rioters broke into the Tower, massacred the Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon of Sudbury, who, with Sir Robert Hales and some of the courtiers, had taken refuge in the Chapel in the White Tower, and91 how these were butchered; of the pillage of the royal apartments and the insults which the King’s mother, the widow of the Black Prince, was compelled to endure—all this has been told scores of times since old Froissart wrote his veracious account of these violences which read like a page from the French Revolution of 1789.

Yet, often as this tale has been told, it has never been more vividly described than by the pen of George Macaulay Trevelyan, who in this, his first work, “England in the Age of Wycliffe,” has given grounds for believing that the literary mantle of his father and of his famous great-uncle has descended upon him. In this book are the following passages relating to the peasant rebellion in 1381. Of those who had taken shelter in the Tower in those days of terror, Trevelyan writes: “There was but one ark of safety, where many whose blood was sought had already taken refuge. Gower compares the Tower of London during this terrible crisis to a ship in which all those had climbed who could not live in the raging sea. It had been the King’s headquarters for the last two days. It was from the Tower steps that he had been rowed across to the conference at Rotherhithe. His mother was with him in the famous fortress, as were Treasurer Hales and Chancellor Sudbury, for whose heads the rebels clamoured; his uncle Buckingham and his young cousin Henry, who was destined to depose him; the Earls of Kent, Suffolk, and Warwick; Leg, the author of the poll-tax commission, now trembling for his life; and, last but not least, the Mayor Walworth. But the noblest among them all was the tried and faithful servant of Edward III., the Earl of Salisbury, a soldier who had shared in the early glories of the Black Prince, a diplomatist who had dictated the terms of Bretigny to the Court of France; he seems to have held aloof in his old age from the intrigues of home politics, but in the imminent danger that now threatened his country he acted a part not unworthy of the name he bore. One man was absent92 from this assembly of notables, who, if he had been present, would assuredly never have left the Tower alive. John of Gaunt had good reason to be thankful that, during the month when England was in the hands of those who sought his life, he was across the Border arranging a truce with the Scots.

“By the evening of Thursday, a great mob was encamped on St Catherine’s Hill, over against the Tower, clamouring for the death of the ministers who had there taken refuge. Sudbury was the principal victim whom they demanded. The most horrible of all sounds, the roar of a mob howling for blood, ever and again penetrated into the chambers of the Tower, where prelates and nobles ‘sat still with awful eye’ (Froissart). The young King, from a high turret window, watched the conflagrations reddening the heavens. In all parts of the city and suburbs, the flames shot up from the mansions of those who had displeased the people. Far away to the west, beyond the burning Savoy, fire ascended from mansions in Westminster; away to the north blazed the Treasurer’s manor at Highbury. Close beneath him lay the rebel camp, whence ominous voices now and again rose. Returning pensive and sad from these unwonted sights and sounds, the boy held counsel with the wisest of his kingdom, shut up within the same wall.”

Then follows the account of the attempted escape from the Tower of the Archbishop during the following night, or rather in the early dawn of the next day. Sudbury had resigned the Great Seal into Richard’s keeping; but this had no effect in calming the rage of the mob. In vain did the Archbishop attempt to break from his prison; but as he appeared on the Tower stairs, he was seen by the rebels from St Catherine’s Hill, and obliged to return. Trevelyan then goes on to describe the interview between Richard and his rebellious subjects at Mile End, when the young monarch conceded their demands, and granted them a general pardon. But meanwhile a great tragedy had taken place within the fortress. “The rebels,” continues Tre93velyan, “broke into the Tower. Authorities differ as to the exact moment; some place it during, and some after, the conference at Mile End. But it is, unfortunately, certain that no resistance was made by the very formidable body of well-armed soldiers, who might have defended such a stronghold for many days even against a picked army. These troops were ordered, or at least permitted, by the King to let in the mob. It appears that part of the agreement with the rebels was that the Tower and the refugees it contained were to be delivered over to their wrath. The dark passages and inmost chambers of that ancient fortress were choked with the throng of ruffians, while the soldiers stood back along the walls to let them pass, and looked on helplessly at the outrages that followed. Murderers broke into strong room and bower; even the King’s bed was torn up, lest someone should be lurking in it. The unfortunate Leg, the farmer of the poll-tax, paid with his life-blood for that unprofitable speculation. A learned friar, the friend and adviser of John of Gaunt, was torn to pieces as a substitute for his patron. Though the hunt roared through every chamber, it was in the Chapel that the noblest hart lay harboured. Archbishop Sudbury had realised that he was to be sacrificed. He had been engaged, since the King started for Mile End, in preparing the Treasurer and himself for death. He had confessed Hales, and both had taken the Sacrament. He was still performing the service of the Mass, when the mob burst into the Chapel, seized him at the altar, hurried him across the moat to Tower Hill, where a vast multitude of those who had been unable to press into the fortress greeted his appearance with a savage yell. His head was struck off on the spot where so many famous men have since perished with more seemly circumstance. The Treasurer Hales suffered with him, and their two heads, mounted over London Bridge, grinned down on the bands of peasants who were still flocking into the capital from far-distant parts.”


Richard was again forced to take refuge in the Tower in 1387, in consequence of a revolt led by his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, and other disaffected nobles, who, out of patience with the King’s misgovernment, and detesting his ministers, who had alienated Richard from the more respectable of his subjects, succeeded in depriving him of legislative power. The government of the country was placed in the hands of a commission appointed by Gloucester, whereupon Richard flew to arms and summoned a Parliament which met at Nottingham. Gloucester and his adherents took the field with an army forty thousand strong, and in an action fought between them and the King’s army at Radcot Bridge, the latter was defeated. Richard once more took shelter with his family in the Tower, the fortress being besieged soon afterwards. A truce, however, was called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and negotiations were arranged for a meeting between the King and his nobles, of whom, after Gloucester, the Earls of Derby and Nottingham were the principal leaders. A conference was held in the Council Chamber of the White Tower, and some kind of agreement was arrived at, Richard returning to his palace at Westminster as soon as the proceedings terminated.

The King’s most unpopular ministers were impeached, some of them being executed, one of them being his greatest friend, Sir Simon Burley, a valiant soldier who had been appointed Richard’s governor by the Black Prince. Despite the tears and entreaties of Queen Anne, Burley was beheaded on Tower Hill. His death was never forgiven by the King; he had been a loyal and devoted friend and subject both to Richard’s father and to himself, and he had served with great distinction throughout the wars of Edward the Third’s reign. His execution was terribly revenged by Richard when he was able, once more, to act for himself.

Three years later, the Tower witnessed brighter scenes. Froissart tells us in his inimitable manner of a splendid tournament held in Smithfield, and commencing with a95 State procession which left the Tower, and in which the King, his Queen, and the whole Court presented an imposing sight. But Richard was biding his time to avenge the death of his old friend Burley, and these brave shows and festivities were only used as a cloak for designs he had meditated carrying out from the day of Burley’s execution by his rebel subjects. The time at length arrived—in 1396. His “good Queen,” Anne of Bavaria, was dead, and Richard had taken as his second wife and Queen, Isabel of France—daughter of the mad King Charles—who was lodged in the palace at the Tower until her coronation. In the following year (1397) Richard obtained his revenge.

This was a coup d’état—I have the authority of Mr Gardiner for using the French term—by which he summarily arrested his uncle Gloucester, with the Earls of Warwick and Arundel. The shrift of these enemies of the King was a short one. The Duke of Gloucester[7] was taken to the Castle of Calais, and there he died, probably by the King’s orders; the Earl of Warwick had received an invitation to meet the King at dinner at the palace of the Lord Chancellor, Edmund de Strafford, who was also Bishop of Exeter, which was in the Strand, near Temple Bar, with gardens running down to the river. When the dinner was ended, Warwick, on rising to take leave, was arrested, hurried to a barge, rowed up to the fortress, and placed in the tower which bore his family name. After a time, he was removed from the Beauchamp Tower to the castle rock of Tintagel in Cornwall, and thence to the Isle of Man, the King sparing his life, probably because of the public indignation that would have been roused by the execution of one who had, more than any other of the great nobles of his day, distinguished himself so highly in the French wars.


Arundel was brought to trial, pleading not guilty, and offering to prove his innocence of the charges brought against him by the ordeal of battle. No mercy, however, was shown him, and he was beheaded the same day that his sentence was pronounced. His death was lamented by many who knew his worth; he was a gallant soldier, and ten years before this fate befell him had commanded an English fleet which had defeated a French one. He was one of the greatest sons of the most illustrious house in the kingdom, and his prowess on land was as renowned as his success upon the sea.

On his way from the Tower to the scaffold on Tower Hill, Arundel asked that the cords with which his hands were tied might be loosened, in order that he might bestow the money he carried about him upon the people through whom he passed on his way to death. He was accompanied to the scaffold by the Earl of Nottingham, who was his son-in-law, and by Thomas Holland, the young Earl of Kent, his nephew, who apparently came to triumph over his downfall rather than to sympathise in the tragedy, for he is reported to have said to them, “It would have been more seemly of you to have absented yourselves from this scene. The time will come when as many shall marvel at your misfortunes as you do at mine,” a prophecy soon afterwards fulfilled.

Arundel’s body was buried in the Church of the Austin Friars in Broad Street in the City, a building once filled with splendid monuments to the illustrious dead, but of which no single one now remains. Among these monuments were those of Hubert de Burgh, of Edward Plantagenet, Richard the Second’s half-brother, and many others, but none more illustrious, both by birth and renown, than Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel. Whatever his relatives may have felt concerning the Earl’s death, the great body of the people lamented and mourned him bitterly, regarding him as a martyr; and so much so, that they flocked in crowds to the church of Austin Friars97 expecting miracles to be performed at his tomb. Richard, although outwardly rejoicing at the great Earl’s death, is said to have had his nights disturbed ever after by fearful dreams, and his mind haunted by the wraith of Fitzalan.

Side of the Scaffold on Tower Hill.

After this sanguinary act of vengeance Richard seems to have lost all self-control. Mr Gardiner writes that, “It is most probable that, without being actually insane, his mind had to some extent given way.” However that may be, it is certain that after the deaths of Gloucester and Arundel, Richard knew no peace; and in three short years he, too, lay in a bloody grave.

Richard dissolved Parliament the year after the murder of Gloucester and the execution of Arundel, appointing a Committee of twelve peers and six commoners, his personal adherents, to carry on the government of the country with himself. Like the first Charles he attempted to rule the realm without a Parliament, and by this act of autocracy destroyed himself. The Duke of Norfolk and Henry of Hereford had been banished during that memorable tournament at Coventry, which Shakespeare has immortalised in his great tragedy, and during the two succeeding years Richard ruled the land, a half-crazed despot.

In 1399 Hereford, who by his father’s death, “old John of Gaunt, time-honoured Lancaster,” had become Duke of Lancaster, returned to England from his banishment, having heard that the King had seized all his father’s lands; and, in returning to claim his own, it chanced that he obtained the realm of England from his cousin Richard.

When Lancaster landed at Ravenspur in Yorkshire, Richard had betaken himself to Ireland, whence he returned in hot haste to England: he found his situation already desperate. Events moved swiftly, and on the 2nd of September 1399, Richard was taken a prisoner to London and placed in the Tower.


“Men’s eyes
Did scowl on Richard; no man cried God save him;
No joyful tongue gave him his welcome home;
But dust was thrown upon his sacred head:
Which with such gentle sorrow he shook off,
His face still combating with tears and smiles,
The badges of his grief and patience,
That had not God, for some strange purpose steel’d
The hearts of men, they must perforce have melted,
And barbarism itself have pitied him.”

The day after the gates of the fortress closed upon him, Richard’s deposition was read in Parliament. Twenty-two years had passed since he had left the Tower for his coronation, surrounded by all the pomp of this world—himself the brightest figure in a brilliant pageant; he was now throneless, a prisoner in the power of his cousin; a broken-down and prematurely aged man, although still in the prime of life.

“On St Michael’s Day (September 29) a deputation of prelates, barons, knights, and lawyers proceeded on horseback to the Tower, where they alighted; King Richard came to them in the hall (probably the Council Chamber in the White Tower) when they were assembled. He was apparelled in his robes, the crown on his head, the sceptre in his hand. Standing there alone, he then spoke: ‘I have been King of England, Duke of Aquitaine, and Lord of Ireland about twenty-two years, which royalty, lordship, sceptre, and crown I resign here to my cousin, Henry of Lancaster, and I entreat him here in presence of you all to accept this sceptre.’ He then tendered the sceptre to the Duke, who, on receiving it, handed it to the Archbishop of Canterbury. King Richard next raised the crown from off his head, and said: ‘Henry, fair cousin, and Duke of Lancaster, I present and give to you this crown and all the rights dependent on it,’ and the Duke, accepting it, delivered it also to the Archbishop.” (From “The Story of the House of Lancaster,” by G. H. Hartwright.)


After the final tragedy in Richard’s dungeon at Pomfret Castle, his corpse rested one night in the Tower, with the still beautiful face exposed, until the following day, when it was placed in St Paul’s.

Shakespeare has dealt leniently with the character of Richard of Bordeaux. Doubtless the tragedy of his life made Shakespeare kinder to his memory than was warranted by sober history, for Richard was one of the worst of our English kings. The son of the heroic Black Prince and the grandson of Edward the Third, with the blood and traditions of Richard the Lion-Hearted, Richard inherited none of their great qualities, and was content to fritter away his life in petty acts of tyranny and oppression. England had been used to victory during the great reigns of the first and third Edwards; under Richard, the only success of the national arms was the defeat of the French fleet by Arundel, and Arundel was put to death by Richard. Proud, passionate, and tyrannical, the Black Prince’s son threw away the love, respect, and loyalty which, for the sake of his father’s memory, he had possessed to the fullest upon his ascent to the throne. And although he was only thirty-four at the time of his death, he had lived long enough to see the heartfelt affection of his people turn to dislike and contempt. But the glamour of his personal beauty, combined with the tragedy of his fall, inspired the greatest of our dramatists to perpetuate his memory in a manner which will ever touch the human heart.

“Sunt lacrymae rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt.”




Neither of the succeeding reigns—those of Henry IV. and of Henry V.—have left many traces upon the history of the Tower, although both these sovereigns occasionally lived within its walls, but in those days the fortress had become less of a Palace and more of a State prison. There was a picturesque ceremony, however, in the Tower on the eve of Henry the Fourth’s coronation, when forty-six new knights of the Order of the Bath “watched their arms” throughout the night of the 11th of October (1399) in the Chapel of the White Tower.

With Henry of Lancaster the list of State prisoners recommences; Llewellyn, a relation of Owen Glendower’s, coming there in 1402, being followed three years later by Owen’s son Griffin, and other leaders of the Welsh, taken at the battle of Usk. Nor did Henry fail to visit his wrath upon offending priests, for in 1403 the Abbot of the Friar Preachers at Winchelsea, was interned in the Tower, with other ecclesiastics, charged with intending to incite the people to rebellion, and with having written “railing rimes, malicious meters, and tauntyng verses against the King”; their literary ability brought these unlucky priests to the gallows at Tyburn. But the most important prisoner of State whom we find in the Tower in Henry’s reign, was Prince James of Scotland, the son and heir of Robert III. The young Prince, who was only nine years of age, was being sent to France to be educated, and, encountering heavy weather, was driven ashore at Flam101borough Head in Yorkshire. Notwithstanding the fact that England and Scotland were then at peace, Henry seized the prince and his attendants, contrary to all the laws of justice and hospitality, imprisoning him within the Tower, together with the Earl of Orkney, who was accompanying him as his guardian. When the news reached King Robert of Scotland in 1406, he is said to have died of a broken heart, the young prince becoming de facto king of that country, but Henry still kept him a prisoner. After remaining for two years at the Tower, he was taken to Nottingham Castle, and it was not until the accession of Henry the Sixth that he regained his liberty, having been a prisoner for eighteen years.

Henry V. became King in 1412, and in the “Chronicles of London” is an account of the goodly array which accompanied the new monarch to the Tower, “and ayens hym was a gret rydynge of men of London, and brought hym to the Tower upon the Fryday, and on the morowe he rood through Chepe with a gret rought of lordes and knyghtes, the whiche he hadde newe made in the Towre on the night before, unto Westᵐʳ.”

An infamous law had been enacted against the followers of Wyckliffe in 1401, and during the hero of Agincourt’s reign the Tower was full of these persecuted people; indeed, the one great blot upon Henry’s memory is the barbarous treatment of the Lollards by the Church. Of these reformers Sir John Oldcastle (afterwards he bore the title of Lord Cobham in right of his wife) was the most distinguished. He had been one of the foremost warriors in the French campaigns, and appears in every way to have been an honour to his class. By the provisions of the iniquitous clerical decree of 1401, the Bishops were allowed a free hand in persecuting, to the death, all those who were suspected of following Wyckliffe’s teaching; all preachers of his doctrine were liable to be arrested, as well as owners of heretical books. If the doctrines were not abjured, the Church had the power of102 handing the culprits over to the officers of the Crown, and these, according to the legal enactment of this religious persecution, the “first legal enactment,” as J. R. Green calls it in his history, “of religious bloodshed which defiled our Statute Book,” could burn the offender alive, “on a high place before the people.”

The first martyr to suffer for the purer faith in England was a priest of Lynn, William Sautre. Oldcastle was the head of these reformers, and although a personal friend of the young King, the Bishops allowed no ties of friendship, no valiant services for his country, to weigh in his favour, or to stand between them and their prey. They demanded the body of Oldcastle, alive or dead, and Henry reluctantly, but weakly, gave up his old friend into the power of the bloodthirsty prelates, Oldcastle being taken by force in his castle of Cowling. He was brought to the Tower but succeeded in making his escape, whereupon the Lollards, encouraged by once more having their chief at their head, rose in arms. They, however, were speedily defeated and a wholesale butchery ensued, thirty-nine of the more prominent amongst them being burnt or hanged. Oldcastle was brought a second time to the Tower and did not again escape from the clutches of the priests; they had their way, and burnt the gallant old knight, hung in chains over a slow fire, on Christmas Day 1417, at Smithfield, in front of his own house. “Oldcastle died a martyr,” as Shakespeare pithily says. His life and death inspired Tennyson to write a noble poem on this heroic warrior-martyr.

It is almost as if Henry’s early death, at the age of thirty-four, came as a judgment for allowing Oldcastle to fall into the hands of the priests; and the memory of the subduer of France will ever bear the dark shadow of Oldcastle’s cruel murder. Although it would not be fair to the English clergy to compare them with their Spanish and French brothers in the matter of cruelty, they were not far behind them in their remorseless persecution of all103 who dared to differ from their doctrines. Until the rule of the priest was forcibly extinguished by Elizabeth’s adoption of the Reformed faith, executions and tortures which would have disgraced savages, formed part of the English Code. But in spite of the priests, the torture chamber, and the stake, the spirit of Wyckliffe and his followers was not quenched in the country; it always existed most strongly in the country towns, and when the persecution of Queen Mary and Bishop Bonner outraged the great bulk of the nation, the fires of reform, which had only smouldered, but which had never been extinguished, burst out into flame, and the hateful reign of the persecuting priest was finally and for ever overthrown.

The campaigns in France, like those in Wales and Scotland, added to the distinguished prisoners of State placed within the durance of the Tower walls by the fortune of war. Of the French came the Dukes of Bourbon and Orleans, with the Counts of Eu, Vendome, the Marshal Boucicourt, and many other knights after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. I have made mention elsewhere of the famous imprisonment of the Duke of Orleans in the White Tower. He was released in 1440, on the payment of a ransom of fifty thousand pounds, a sum approximately ten times that of our present money value; but many of these French captives died in the Tower, among them the Duke of Bourbon and the Marshal Boucicourt.

After the death of Henry V., and during the Protectorate which governed the country during the minority of Henry VI., the young King’s guardian, the Bishop of Winchester, taking advantage of the absence of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the actual Protector, reinforced the garrison of the Tower, and on the Duke’s return from France refused to admit him to the fortress, with the result that the aid of Parliament had to be invoked to arrange matters between the Duke and the Bishop. Throughout Henry’s troubled reign the Tower was full of prisoners, some of them French and Scotch taken in the wars, and104 amongst others Owen Tudor, the father of the future Henry VII. The Duchess of Gloucester, an aunt by marriage of the King, was also imprisoned in the fortress upon the charge of witchcraft and sorcery, a circumstance of which Shakespeare made signal use in his tragedy dealing with the unfortunate Henry’s life.

In 1450, the Tower was again the scene of civil strife. In that year Jack Cade’s insurrection took place, and with that insurrection the name of one of England’s greatest nobles was connected, William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk. The history of his family was distinguished. His father had fallen at the siege of Harfleur; his eldest brother had died on the field of Agincourt, and two others had perished in the Battle of Jargeau. The Duke himself had willingly given himself up as a hostage for his youngest brother, who had been taken prisoner in France, where, however, he had died before his ransom could be collected. Suffolk had been a Knight of the Garter for thirty years at the time of the Cade rebellion, and throughout those three decades had served the King faithfully, both at home and abroad, as he told his accusers when he was brought before the Parliament at Westminster on a charge of high treason. But he had many enemies, and these vamped up the charge of treason against him on the ridiculous ground of his having laid up provisions and military stores at Wallingford Castle, with the intention of sending them to the French. Upon this absurd charge Suffolk was committed to the Tower, but as nothing could be proved against him he was shortly afterwards released, but sentenced to be banished the country. For some unexplained reason Suffolk was intensely disliked by the people, and all the misfortunes of the time—the English defeats in France and the unpopularity of the government of the day—were laid to his account by the populace. His end was pitiful. He had taken ship at Dover to cross to Calais, but was seized on board by the captain of another vessel named Nicholas of the Tower. On hearing the name of the ship Suffolk is said to have105 lost all his fortitude, for it had been prophesied to him that if he “could avoid water and escape the danger of the Tower, he would be safe, and so his heart failed him.” The old prophecy came true, for shortly after his capture his head was hacked off by several strokes of a rusty sword, and his body was cast upon the beach at Dover. Thus miserably perished William de la Pole, Duke, Marquis, and Earl of Suffolk, Duke of Dreux, Earl of Pembroke, Baron de la Pole of Wingfield, and other titles and dignities.

St. Thomas’s Tower, from the Wharf.

Jack Cade’s insurrection was the beginning of a long series of civil strifes which at last broke out into the civil war that raged from 1450 to 1471; this was the War of the Roses, so called from the badges worn by the opposing factions, the Lancastrians wearing the Red, and the Yorkists the White Rose.

At the outset of the war, London was at the mercy of a riotous mob, headed by the redoubtable Cade, who had assumed the name of Mortimer. The charge of the Tower had been confided to Lord Scales and Sir Mathew Gough. Lord Saye, who was at this time Lord High Treasurer, was a prisoner in the Tower, an Order in Council having placed him there, as a means, it was hoped, of pacifying the rioters, who, however, attacked the fortress from the Southwark side of the river, aided by Cade and his followers, but retreated at nightfall across London Bridge. Scales, with the help of the Lord Mayor, made a sortie from the Tower, barricading the bridge, whilst Gough commanded the rebels’ position across the water from the battlements of the fortress. At this juncture the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had taken shelter within the Tower, called for a general amnesty, and this being granted, the rebellion died out of its own accord, Cade being captured and killed by the Sheriff of Kent, and his followers dispersed to their homes. Meanwhile the King had sunk into a state of semi-idiocy, his mind, never a strong one, having doubtless been affected by the unceasing trouble around him;106 besides, he was the grandson of Charles VI. of France, so that his mental condition is easily accounted for. The Duke of Somerset, grandson of John of Gaunt, now took the foremost place in the Council, but after a short period of seclusion, Henry was again able to act as King.




There is much that is tedious in the accounts of the Wars of the Roses. One battle is gained by the Lancastrians, and the next by the Yorkists, this continuing for years in a see-saw fashion. At first the war was not marked by much bloodthirstiness, but after the Battle of Towton no quarter was given on either side, the prisoners being murdered in cold blood, the most conspicuous amongst them being beheaded. This summary method of disposing of the captives accounts for the small number of State prisoners in the Tower during the twenty years of internecine warfare which almost annihilated the peerage. Here are a few of the principal battles fought throughout the length and breadth of England between 1455 and 1461. In 1458 was fought the battle of St Albans, in which Somerset was defeated and slain. In 1459 Lord Audley was slain by Salisbury, who gained the Battle of Blore Heath; in 1460 the Yorkists, led by Salisbury, Warwick, and March (afterwards Edward IV.), defeated the King at Northampton and took him prisoner; in the same year Margaret’s army routed the Yorkists at Wakefield, where the Duke of York was killed, and Salisbury was beheaded at Pontefract. In 1461 the Lancastrians were defeated at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross by Edward, the son of the Duke of York, and the future King; and in that same year the decisive Battle of Towton was also gained by him, the Lancastrian cause receiving its death-blow. Three months later, Edward108 was crowned by the style of Edward the Fourth, and his brothers George and Richard were made Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester respectively, whilst poor, harmless, half-witted Henry was proclaimed a traitor.

When Henry was told that he had no right to the style of King, he replied: “My father was King; his father also was King; I myself have worn the crown forty years from my cradle; you have all sworn fealty to me as your sovereign, and your fathers have done the like to mine. How, then, can my right be disputed?” “By force,” they might have replied.

Queen Margaret, an infinitely more masculine being than the poor weak King, her husband, would not give up the struggle, and even after the Battle of Towton had destroyed the cause of her house, she raised its standard in the North. Warwick crushed her army, and after the Battle of Hexham in 1471, Margaret was forced to flee with her son. She is traditionally said to have owed her escape to a robber, on whose generosity she had thrown herself. Henry, meanwhile, was led a prisoner to the Tower, being treated, by Warwick’s orders, with every indignity. His gilt spurs were struck off when he reached the fortress, and his legs tied to the stirrups of his horse, which was led round a tree in front of the Tower which then served the purpose of a pillory. Once inside his prison the fallen monarch appears to have been treated with some kind of humanity, being allowed to see some of his friends, the use of his breviary, and the company of a favourite bird and dog. His prison was in the Wakefield Tower, and in one of the chambers—now containing the Regalia—was the oratory in which tradition has it that he was murdered by Gloucester.

Later on Queen Margaret and her daughter-in-law, Lady Anne Neville, were also imprisoned in the Tower, but the Queen never saw her husband again, for although they were in the same building they were rigorously kept apart. After an imprisonment of five years, part of which109 was passed at Windsor, Margaret was allowed to return to her own country, on the payment of a heavy ransom, where she died in 1482.

All through the Wars of the Roses the Tower had been the scene of some important events. When in 1460 the Earls of Warwick, Salisbury, and March arrived in London from Calais, Lord Scales was in command of the Tower. Scales was Lancastrian in his politics and sympathies, and after vainly attempting to keep the three Earls from entering the city, blockaded himself within the fortress; and it was only when the news of King Henry’s having been taken prisoner came to his knowledge that Lord Scales surrendered his trust into the hands of the Yorkists.

The new King’s coronation took place on St Peter’s Day, the 29th June 1461. Edward arrived from the Palace of Sheen at Richmond three days before the ceremony, and took up his quarters in the Tower, being received at the gates of the fortress with much pomp and state. On the eve of his coronation he gave a great feast to his adherents, knighting thirty-two of them. According to the chronicler Fabyan’s account, the new Knights of the Bath “were arrayed in blue gowns with hoods and tokens of white silk upon their shoulders,” and they rode before the King in the procession which took its course from the Tower to the Abbey at Westminster. Edward soon showed his vindictive nature by imprisoning, within the Tower, as soon as he felt himself secure upon the throne, Henry Percy, the son and heir of the Duke of Northumberland. Besides Percy, Aubrey de Vere, Earl of Oxford, with his heir, were also placed in the Tower in 1462, with some other nobles and knights who had fought upon the Lancastrian side; of these Sir Thomas Tudenham and Sir William Tyrell were beheaded on Tower Hill.

King Edward’s wife, Elizabeth Woodville, passed a few days in the Tower previous to her coronation in 1465, and both the King and Queen frequently lived in the110 Palace of the fortress, the Queen passing the time there when Edward was occupied in putting down an insurrection in the North.

When the whirligig of events and Warwick, the “King-maker,” brought back King Henry for a brief space of power, Elizabeth Woodville fled with her children to the Sanctuary at Westminster. The “King-maker” was defeated at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, and King Henry was brought back to the Tower once more a prisoner.

It was on Easter Sunday, in the year 1471, that Henry VI. re-entered the fortress for the last time. The fatal day of Tewkesbury was his doom, and Queen Margaret must be regarded as the cause of her luckless husband’s death. Could they have changed their rôles in life, Henry would probably have died on the throne and have left sons to succeed him. At Tewkesbury, Edward, who had left the Tower in charge of Earl Rivers, his Queen’s brother, again met Queen Margaret in arms, defeating her and taking her son prisoner. The death of this her only son, slain, it is said in cold blood, by the Duke of Gloucester, for whom she had waged unceasing war against the Yorkists, destroyed her last hopes. And on the 22nd of May 1471, the day after the triumphant Edward’s return to London, her husband lay dead in the Wakefield Tower.

The manner of his death will never be known, but the crime has always been charged to Gloucester. A great authority (S. R. Gardiner) thus writes of the death of the sixth Henry: “There can be no reasonable doubt that he was murdered, and that, too, by Edward’s directions.” Of the earliest histories relating to Henry’s death there are many and contradictory accounts. According to Polydore Vergil, Hall, Fabyan, Grafton, Holinshed, the Warkworth Chronicle, de Commines, and Sandford, King Henry was murdered by Gloucester himself. Hume alone avers that “he (the King) expired in confinement, but111 whether he died a natural death or a violent one is uncertain.”

Thus at length the much-tried and weary King Henry of Windsor was at rest after so many sore buffetings, defeats, perils, and misfortunes; his life’s pilgrimage was at an end.

“Good night, sweet Prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

Henry’s corpse was taken, according to Holinshed, “unreverently from the Tower” to St Paul’s, where it remained one night, and was next day buried at Chertsey, “without priest or clerke, torch or taper, singing or saying.” In later times Henry’s remains were re-interred at St George’s, Windsor. On the pavement to the right of the choir in that burying-place of our English kings, a flagstone bears written upon it in large letters, “King Henry VI.

We have now arrived at the most dramatic point in the history of the Tower. After Henry’s death a very host of bloody deeds took place within the walls of the gloomy old fortress; murder succeeds to murder; and the blood of princes seems to ooze from beneath its prison doors.

The next royal victim was the King’s brother, George, Duke of Clarence, “false, perjured Clarence.” For him, however, one feels little pity, since he well merited to be called both “false” and “perjured.” The old tale of his having been drowned in a barrel of Malmsey wine has been believed these four hundred years, and, as it cannot be disproved, it will serve as well as any other. It is the mystery which surrounds these murders committed in the dark towers of the old fortress, which adds not a little to their horror. An execution in broad daylight seems, compared with the unknown manner in which a prisoner was killed in some hole and corner of a dungeon, quite a cheerful event. One shudders at the thought of the helpless victim struggling in his death agony in the arms of his murderers.


Clarence’s death took place on the 18th of February 1478, but even the place of his imprisonment is unknown. By some he is said to have been confined in the Bowyer Tower; but in Mrs Hutchinson’s Memoir she has left on record that the Bloody Tower was the scene of his murder, and as she was the daughter of Sir Allen Apsley, the Lieutenant of the Tower in Charles the First’s reign, her authority on the matter is a good one. The only contemporary, or nearly contemporary writers, in favour of the story of the Malmsey butt are Fabyan and de Commines. The former, a London citizen, writes: “The Duke of Clarence was secretly put to death and drowned in a butt of Malmsay within the Tower.” Philip de Commines considered this to be a true version of the manner of the Duke’s death. It has been suggested that Clarence was poisoned.

Edward IV., as has been said, lived a great deal in the Tower; he also increased its fortifications, and, according to Stowe’s “Survey of London,” built “a brick wall around a piece of ground on Tower Hill west from the Lion’s Tower, now called the Bulwark.” This fortification has long ago disappeared. Edward likewise, according to the same excellent authority, renewed the moat and made considerable general repairs to the buildings. He was the last of our Kings who added materially to the Tower.

With the appointment of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to the office of Protector, after the death of Edward the Fourth, on 9th April 1483, the Tower plays a conspicuous part in the events which the next few years produced. Edward had left two sons; the elder, now Edward V., being twelve years old, his brother, Richard, Duke of York, being a year or two younger. Gloucester had the reputation of being an excellent soldier, and had not, as was the case with his brother Clarence, been disloyal to the late King. Whether he was hump-backed or whether, as some writers aver, he was scarcely less handsome than his handsome brothers, or whether one of his shoulders113 was higher than the other, is not of much consequence; for whether he was crooked or not in person, Gloucester was certainly crooked in character. If any faith can be put in the lineaments and expression of the human face, that of Richard, to judge by the portraits that have come down to us, was most evil. His face can be studied in the National Portrait Gallery. The close-set cruel eyes, the heavy nose, the thin white lips, the protruding jaw, are not inviting; but the expression is even more remarkable—a mixture of cunning, boundless determination, and remorseless cruelty. Gloucester possessed, writes Mr Gardiner, “a rare power of winning popular sympathy, and was most liked in Yorkshire, where he was best known. He had, however, grown up in a cruel and unscrupulous age, and had no more hesitation in clearing his way by slaughter than Edward IV. or Margaret of Anjou.” Mr Gardiner is almost apologetic for Richard’s memory; but there is a great difference, it seems to me, between being revengeful and even merciless in war, and in murdering either with one’s own hands or by those of hired assassins, one’s brother and one’s nephews. It was by shedding their blood that Richard was enabled to mount the throne which he usurped: of that there is no room for any reasonable doubt. That Shakespeare, in giving the worst character of any in his great series of historical plays to this monarch, is responsible for the popular opinion of King Richard is also indisputable, for we English take our history from these plays, and “crook-back’d” Richard will ever remain the deepest-dyed villain that ever wore the English crown. The great Duke of Marlborough confessed that all that he knew of English history had been learnt through Shakespeare’s plays, and with all truth the majority of his countrymen might say the same. It has also been said, “The youth of England take their theology from Milton and their history from Shakespeare”; and surely they might go further and fare worse.

View in the Inner Ward

It should, however, in fairness both to Richard and to114 Shakespeare, be remembered that the character of the Royal villain in the play was drawn by one who wrote in the days of the Tudors, and at a time when the house of Plantagenet was not in good odour with the reigning Sovereign. Richard appears in three of the dramas—in the second and third parts of King Henry VI., and as the hero or chief villain in that which bears his name when King: the important part played by the Tower in the usurper’s reign is strongly marked by the poet placing four scenes of Richard III. within or near the fortress—twice as many as occur in any other of his historical dramas.

On the 13th of June 1483, Richard had the Archbishop of York, and Morton, the Bishop of Ely, together with Lord Stanley and Lord Hastings, arrested during a Council which he had summoned in the White Tower. Without any pretence of a trial, Hastings was led out of the Council Room by the soldiery whom Richard had concealed behind the arras, and, according to Fabyan, his head was struck off on a piece of timber which lay near St Peter’s Chapel. “I will not dine till they have brought me your head,” said Richard to Hastings, as he was being led away. The three other prisoners were placed in separate dungeons, the Archbishop and Stanley being released in the following July. Another victim was required by Richard. Lord Rivers, the late King’s brother-in-law, like Hastings, had been a check upon Richard’s designs for seizing the crown, therefore Rivers was executed, as was also Sir Richard Grey. There only now remained Gloucester’s two nephews between him and the throne. At this particular time they were living with their mother, the Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, at Westminster, and it was only by the strongest persuasion, followed by threats, that the unfortunate Queen was induced to allow their uncle to take charge of them. Gloucester, having first placed the Princes in the Tower, declared them to be bastards, and as Clarence’s children115 were prevented by their father’s attainder from coming into the succession, Richard openly declared himself the rightful King. He even went to the length of getting a preacher named Shaw to declare to the people that he alone was the legitimate son of the Duke of York, and that his brothers, the late King and the Duke of Clarence, were not his father’s sons. Perhaps this attack on his mother’s good name was the most odious of the many infamous acts of which Richard III. was guilty. On the 25th of June 1483 Parliament declared Gloucester the lawful heir to the throne, and on the 6th of July he was crowned as Richard III. But during that summer rumours as to the death of the sons of Edward IV. began to be spread abroad, and the King’s name was linked with the report that they had met a violent death in the Bloody Tower.

In a wardrobe account for the year 1483 there is a long list of articles of dress delivered at the Tower for Richard’s coronation. Among the dresses mentioned, we find that Richard had ordered the following elaborate costume:—“To our said Soverayne Lord the King for his apparail the vigil afore the day of his most noble coronation, for to ride from his Towre of London, unto his Palays of Westminster, a doublet made of two yerds and a quarter and a half of blue clothe of gold, wrought with netts and pyne-apples, with a stomacher of the same, lined oon ell of Holland clothe, and oon ell of busk, instede of green cloth of gold, and a longe gown for to ryde in, made of eight yerds of p’pul velvet, furred with eight tymbres and a half and 13 bakks of ermyn, and 4 tymbres, 17 coombes of ermyns powdered with 3300 of powderings made of boggy shanks, and a payre of short spurs with gilt.” To describe these queerly named habits of “apparail,” such as “tymbres,” and “bakks of ermyn,” and “boggy shanks,” would require the knowledge of an antiquarian deeply versed in the costume of the Middle Ages, but this account of Richard III.’s coronation outfit116 proves that he, at any rate, spared no expense in the decoration of his person, whether that was deformed or not.

His coronation was one of the most splendid on record up to that period in the annals of the English sovereignty. From the Tower to the Abbey he was followed by a cortege in which rode three dukes, nine earls, and twenty-two barons, besides a host of knights and esquires, all gorgeously arrayed. After the coronation festivities were ended, Richard went to Warwick, leaving the Tower of London in the charge of Sir Robert Brackenbury. Richard is supposed to have sent Sir Robert a message, which he received whilst attending mass in the chapel of the White Tower, asking him whether he would be willing to rid the King of the Princes. Brackenbury indignantly refused to have anything to do with such villainy, whereupon Richard relieved him of his charge of the Tower, and handed it over to James Tyrell, who hired the three murderers—Dighton, Green, and Forrest—these being admitted into the prison of the Princes in the Bloody Tower at night, when the double murder was accomplished. In describing the Bloody Tower, I have given an account of the place where this deed was done and the passage through which the murderers entered the prison.

The murderers were well rewarded—Richard Tyrell being appointed Governor of the town of Guisnes near Calais, also being given lands in Wales; Green obtained the Receivership of the Isle of Wight; Forrest’s widow (so probably Forrest died soon after the crime) received a pension. Further, in order to protect all those who were concerned in the affair, Richard issued under his royal hand and seal a general pardon for all their former offences.

The innocent blood was, however, avenged in the following reign. In 1502 Tyrell was beheaded, not on the charge of murdering the Princes, but for aiding John117 de la Pole to make his escape; this John de la Pole was Richard’s nephew, upon whom he had settled the succession after his own death. Tyrell, it is said, confessed to the murder of the little Princes shortly before his execution. Dighton, who was hanged at Calais shortly after Tyrell’s execution, also confessed his share in the murder, and his knowledge of the bodies of the children having first been buried by a priest near the Wakefield Tower, and subsequently in some other place unknown to him.

The Wakefield Tower, time of George III.

The earliest historian who wrote an account of this double murder was the French chronicler, Philip de Commines, a contemporary of Richard III. In his Chronicles occurs this passage relating to the King: “il fist mourir ses deux nepheux, et se fist roy appellé Richard III.” Two contemporary English authors have also written to the same effect. The first of these is a Londoner named Arnold, who, in his “Chronicles of the Customs of London,” states that in the year 1484 “the two sons of Kynge Edward were put to silence.” The second is Fabyan, from whom I have already quoted in these pages. He writes, “Kynge Edward V., and his broder the Duke of York, were put under suer Kepynge within the Tower, in such wyse that they never came abrode after,” and he adds, “common fame went that Kynge Richard hadde within the Tower put unto secrete deth the two sons of his broder Edward the IV.” Sir Thomas More, in a history which he did not write himself, for it was written by Morton, the Bishop of Ely, but which More published, also asserts as a fact that the Princes were murdered. Polydore Vergil, Hall, Stowe, and Bacon have all written to similar effect.

Horace Walpole amused himself—much in the same way as did Archbishop Whateley in later days—by writing a clever skit entitled, “Historic Doubts of the Life and Reign of King Richard III.,” in which that amusing and prolific writer of gossiping letters casts118 doubt on the very existence of such a being as King Richard III., which, if proven, would do away with the existence of the little Princes. But I imagine that “Horry” had as firm a belief that the Princes were destroyed by their uncle in the Tower, as the Archbishop had in the existence of Napoleon.

The tragic death of the sons of the fourth Edward has been a favourite subject both with poets and painters. Two of Paul de la Roche’s finest paintings represent the brothers in the Tower, and one of Millais’ most successful and characteristic works is a group of the two boy princes standing together on the prison stairs, and seeming to listen for their murderers’ approach. And who does not recall, when thinking of that tragedy, the matchless pathos of the lines describing the scene as spoken by Tyrell in Richard III.:

“The tyrannous and bloody act is done:
The most arch deed of piteous massacre,
That ever yet this land was guilty of.
Dighton and Forrest, whom I did suborn
To do this piece of ruthless butchery,
Albeit they were flesh’d villains, bloody dogs,
Melting with tenderness and mild compassion,
Wept like two children, in their death’s sad story.
O thus, quoth Dighton, lay the gentle babes,—
Thus, thus, quoth Forrest, girdling one another
Within their alabaster innocent arms:—
Their lips were four red roses on a stalk,
Which, in their summer beauty, kissed each other.
A book of prayers on their pillow lay;
Which once, quoth Forrest, almost changed my mind;
But, O, the devil—then the villain stopp’d;
When Dighton thus told on,—We smothered
The most replenished and sweet work of nature,
That from the prime creation, e’er she fram’d.
Hence both are gone with conscience and remorse,
That could not speak; and so I left them both,
To bear the tidings to the bloody King.”

A curious event occurred to one of the State prisoners in this reign, Sir Henry Wyatt—the father of the poet, Sir119 Thomas Wyatt, and grandfather of the Thomas Wyatt who lost his life for the part he played in the rebellion against Mary in favour of Jane Grey—was a Lancastrian in politics, and had been imprisoned in the fortress on more than one occasion; “once,” the Wyatt papers say, “in a cold and narrow tower, where he had neither bed to lie on, nor meat for his mouth. He had starved then, had not God, who sent a crow to feed his prophet, sent this and his country’s martyr a cat both to feed and warm him. It was his own relation unto them from whom I had it. A cat came one day down into the dungeon unto him, and, as it were, offered herself unto him. He was glad of her, laid her on his bosom to warm him, and, by making much of her, won her love. After this she would come every day unto him divers times, and when she could get one, bring him a pigeon. He complained to his keeper of his cold and short fare. The answer was, ‘he durst not better it.’ ‘But,’ said Sir Henry, ‘if I can provide any, will you promise to dress it for me?’ ‘I may well enough,’ said the keeper, ‘you are safe for that matter’; and being urged again, promised him, and kept his promise; dressed for him, from time to time, such pigeons as his acater the cat provided for him. Sir Henry Wyatt, in his prosperity, for this would ever make much of cats, as other men will of their spaniels or their hounds; and perhaps you shall not find his picture any where, but like Sir Christopher Hatton, with his dog, with a cat beside him.”

Prison beneath the Wakefield Tower.

Sir Henry had the faithful cat portrayed with a pigeon in its claws offering it through the grated bars of his prison window. There is a similar story of a cat befriending Lord Southampton when a prisoner in the Tower in the reign of Elizabeth.




When Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, had become Henry VII., after the battle of Bosworth, a relative calm settled over the Tower, as it did over the country generally. Not that State and ordinary prisoners ceased to enter the Tower gates, the former to die on the adjacent Hill, the latter at Tyburn, and some to be released. But we hear no more of midnight murders within its prisons, and with the baleful figure of Richard Plantagenet, such crimes ceased to cast their shadows on the scene of his many misdeeds.

The first notable State prisoner sent to the Tower by Henry VII. was Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, son of the murdered Duke of Clarence. During the reign of Richard III., Warwick had been kept under surveillance at Sheriff Hutton Castle, in Yorkshire; but Henry had him brought to the Tower for greater security. There was some reason, from Henry’s point of view, for this care; for Warwick, being descended from Clarence, the elder brother of John of Gaunt, had a better and more rightful claim to the throne than the first of the Tudors. So long as Warwick lived, Henry felt his seat insecure; and he seized the earliest opportunity for destroying him.

In 1487, Lambert Simnel, the son of an Oxford tradesman, had been declared by the Earl of Kildare and some malcontent English residents in Ireland, to be the Earl of Warwick. A conspiracy was at once formed to overthrow Henry, and a small army, partly recruited in Germany, and121 partly formed by Irish troops furnished by Kildare, crossed St George’s Channel. At Stoke, near Nottingham, this force encountered the Royal troops, and was completely defeated. Simnel was taken prisoner, and although the King publicly exposed his deception by showing the Earl of Warwick to the people, the Pretender was considered too insignificant for execution, and was relegated to the position of a scullion in Henry’s kitchen.

All Hallows, Barking

Warwick could in no way be considered affected by this rising, although his mere existence gave it a raison d’etre; but two years later, when Ferdinand of Spain refused to allow his daughter, Catherine of Arragon, to marry Henry’s eldest son Arthur, on the ground that the Earl of Warwick had a prior right to the crown, the King ordered a trumped-up charge to be drawn up against the unfortunate Earl, of an attempt to escape from the Tower; and on this charge he was tried, condemned, and executed on the 28th of November 1499. With him ended the line male of the House of Plantagenet.

The records of the Tower are not entirely of the sombre colour of imprisonments and executions. In the month of November 1487, we read of the pageant that took place at the coronation of Henry’s Queen, Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV.; their marriage united the rival factions of the White and Red Roses. A few days before her coronation at Westminster, Elizabeth had been brought to the Tower from the palace at Greenwich by water, in barges “freshely furnyshed with baners and stremers of silk, richly besene”; one barge was “a great red dragon, spowting Flamys of Fyer into the Temmys.” She landed at the Tower Wharf, where the “Kyngs Hyghnesse welcomede her in suche maner and form as was to al th’ Æstats, and other ther being present, a very good sight, and right joyous and comfortable to beholde,” as writes a chronicler of the scene. The following day the Queen, being “rially apparelde” in cloth of gold and damask, and a mantle of ermine, “her faire yelow hair hanging downe122 playne byhynd her Bak, with a Calle of Pypes over it, and a Serkelet of Golde richely garnyshed with precious Stonys upon her Hede,” was borne in a litter which was “coverde with Cloth of Golde of damaske, and large Pelowes of downe covered with lik Clothe of Golde,” to the Abbey, through streets hung with tapestry and lined with “the crafts in their Lyveryes,” through lines of children, “some arrayde like Angells and others lyke Vyrgyns, to singe sweete Songes as her Grace passed by” (Leland).

The most serious danger to the stability of Henry’s monarchy was the insurrection brought about by the impostor Perkin Warbeck, a man who, by some writers, is said to have been a Florentine Jew, whilst by others he is declared to have been a Fleming. Warbeck gave out that he was Richard, Duke of York, the younger son of Edward IV., and that he had not been murdered in the Tower, but had escaped. In 1491 he landed at Cork with some followers. In Ireland he was supported by Desmond, and was also assisted from Flanders by Margaret of Burgundy. Until the year 1495, when he made a descent upon England, little was heard of him. By this time Henry, owing to his avarice and tyrannical form of government, had made himself extremely unpopular, and consequently his enemies gladly availed themselves of such an opportunity, as Warbeck’s claim presented, of injuring the King. In an evil moment for himself, Sir William Stanley, who had so powerfully aided Henry in his victory at Bosworth, and who had placed the crown, taken from Richard the Third’s dead body, upon his head, and whom Henry had made his Lord Chamberlain, declared that, “if he certainly knew” Perkin Warbeck to be the son of Edward IV., he would never draw his sword or bear arms against him. He was impeached upon a charge of uttering these words, and tried by a Council summoned by the King, who was then in residence in the Tower. He was found guilty, and executed on Tower Hill.

Meanwhile Warbeck was received in Scotland as the123 rightful heir to the English crown, and James III. believed his story so firmly, and favoured him to such an extent, that he ordered his relative, Catherine Gordon, Lord Huntley’s daughter, to marry the Pretender. Warbeck now styled himself Richard IV., and advanced into England with an army; but at the first reverse, he fled in panic, taking refuge in Ireland. In 1497 he made a second descent upon England; but after suffering defeat, and again taking to flight, he was finally made prisoner at the Abbey of Beaulieu in the New Forest, whence he was sent to the Tower, and hanged on the 23rd November 1499.

More festivities took place in the Tower in the year 1501, when the nuptials of Henry’s eldest son, Prince Arthur, with Catherine of Arragon were solemnised there, the execution of the Earl of Warwick having at length enabled the Spanish King to give his consent to the match. The bride and bridegroom were little more than children, Arthur being fourteen, and Catherine a year older; but the marriage—that was to be so fruitful of trouble and death in the next reign—was solemnised with the greatest splendour, there being daily banquets within the walls, and daily tournaments without. In the next year, Sir James Tyrell met with his deserts for the part he had played in the murder of the little princes in the Tower, being beheaded on Tower Hill; he should have been hanged, but pleading his privilege of knighthood, he was allowed death by the axe. In 1503 Henry’s Queen gave birth to a daughter in the Tower, but soon afterwards mother and child followed each other to the grave; and when six years had passed, Henry VII. himself was taken to that stately mausoleum which he had created in the Abbey of Westminster, and Henry VIII. reigned in his stead.




After succeeding to the throne, Henry VIII. passed a few tranquil days in the Tower, but his sanguinary nature soon showed itself, and his first victims were his father’s most trusted counsellors. Having formed a new Council, Henry had Sir Henry Stafford (the Duke of Buckingham’s brother), Sir Richard Empsom, and Edmund Dudley arrested, the former on some slight charge of disaffection of which he was able to clear himself, and the two others on the charge of extortion during the late reign.

Empsom and Dudley were disliked throughout the country, having been the tools of the late King’s intense avarice, which became his consuming passion towards the close of his life; both men appear to have enforced his tyrannical policy with extreme harshness. Henry VIII. benefited by his father’s miserliness, however, for the seventh Henry left the colossal sum, for those times, of one million eight hundred thousand pounds. His son, in order to obtain popularity at the beginning of his reign, gave up his father’s ministers to gratify the popular clamour against them, and although Empsom and Dudley both deserved punishment, it was deemed necessary for form’s sake not to condemn them without a specified charge. The Council was instructed, therefore, to trump up a charge of conspiracy against the King’s person; and, upon this the two men were condemned and executed upon Tower Hill.

Henry then bethought himself of marriage, and took125 to wife his sister-in-law, Catherine of Arragon, he being then only nineteen years of age, and Catherine five-and-twenty. For the first few years this appears to have been a happy union; but it was one much to be regretted, as it brought Mary Tudor into the world.

Henry possessed a handsome presence and a genial bluff manner, and as long as all went well with him, and his least wish was carried into instant execution, he could be amiable and even attractive. But his character was both cruel and crafty, and, in later years, these defects became more strongly marked. With old age and infirmity, he became more akin to a wild animal than to aught human; and although he was personally popular amongst the great bulk of the people, on account of his magnificence and prodigality, no greater tyrant ever sat upon the English throne.

Froude has in vain tried to whitewash Henry’s character. The early years of his reign were indeed years of promise, but Henry must be judged, not by his promise, but by his life and deeds; and the butcher of Anne Boleyn, of More and Fisher, can only be regarded as a worthy colleague of the worst tyrants that have from their height of place been the curse and bane of their subjects.

Henry, with his love of show and splendour, gave himself and Catherine a gorgeous wedding ceremony. They had held their court at the Tower previous to their nuptials, and on the 21st of June the wedding took place. Never had the English court made so magnificent a show as at this time. The costumes of the men vied in splendour with those of the women, and many of the great nobles literally bore their fortunes upon their backs. The King blazed in a habit of crimson velvet, lined with ermine and covered with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other gems. And as he rode through the streets, bareheaded, on a charger arrayed in damasked cloth of gold, he was surrounded and followed by a suite of knights and nobles, all in crimson velvet or scarlet cloth, Sir126 Thomas Brandon, the Master of the Horse, being the most splendid figure in the procession next to the King. Brandon, the chronicler tells us, was arrayed in “tissue broudered with roses of fine gold, and having a massy balderick of gold.” He led the King’s spare horse by a silken rein, “trapped barde wise, with harneis broudered with bullion golde,” and he was followed by nine children of honour, “apparelled in blewe velvet, poudered with floure delices of gold and chains of goldsmithes woorke, every one of their horses trapped with a trapper of the King’s title.”

The Queen’s cortege was no less magnificent. Catherine was seated in a chariot drawn by two white palfreys, and was attired “in white satyn embroidered, her heire hangyng downe to her backe, and on her hedde a coronall, set with many rich orient stones.” She was followed by a crowd of ladies riding white palfreys, dressed in cloth of gold and silver, these again being followed by an army of attendants.

The coronation was soon followed by executions; Henry seems to have required blood-shedding as a kind of relaxation, and to have caused it to flow with as much delight as he participated in the pomps and splendours of his regal state. His next victim, after Empson and Dudley, was Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk. Although the only crime that could be brought against him was his consanguinity to the Blood Royal of the Plantagenets, it was quite a sufficient excuse for the King, and Suffolk was beheaded in 1513. He had been born in 1464, his father being John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, and his mother Elizabeth Plantagenet, daughter of Richard, Duke of York, consequently he was of the Blood Royal by his mother’s side, and, through her, nephew to Edward IV. and Richard III. Edmund de la Pole had surrendered the Dukedom of Suffolk in 1493, but was attainted in 1504, imprisoned in the Tower in 1506, and executed seven years later. “Audacious,127 strong and prompt in council” is the character given to Suffolk by a contemporary writer. The title of Duke of Suffolk was bestowed by Henry upon his brother-in-law, Charles Brandon, who had made such a fine figure at his marriage.

Half-a-dozen years passed, and again the Tower prisons were filled, some of the prisoners there having been concerned in a City riot. With these was a Dr Bell, charged with “inflammatory and seditious preaching.” During this riot the Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir Roger Cholmondeley (whose effigy is in St Peter’s Chapel), fired the Tower guns upon the City, but the damage done by the cannonade seems to have been very slight.

In 1521 a descendant of Edward II. was brought to the fortress; this was Edward Bohun, Duke of Buckingham, who traced his descent from the grandfather of Richard II. through Anne the eldest daughter of Thomas of Woodstock. Wolsey, now all-powerful, hated Buckingham for the arrogance of his manner towards him, the Duke never troubling to conceal his contempt for the lowly born, but ambitious Cardinal. Wolsey’s opportunity for being revenged upon the nobleman for his insolence came, when some ill-guarded expressions uttered by Buckingham were repeated to him; the Duke was immediately arrested and taken to the Tower. This was on the 16th of January 1521, and on the 13th of the following month he was tried on the charge of high treason and sentenced to death. Holinshed, in his Chronicle, describes how Buckingham was taken by water from the Tower to Westminster. A barge had been furnished for the occasion with a carpet and cushions, and when the Duke was brought back from Westminster in the same manner, but with the axe’s edge turned towards him, he refused to take the seat which he had occupied on his way to his trial, saying to Sir Thomas Lovel, “When I came to Westminster I was Lord High Constable, and Duke of Buckingham, but now, poor Edward128 Bohun.” It is interesting to see how closely Shakespeare has followed Holinshed’s description of this episode in Buckingham’s condemnation, in his play of Henry VIII.:

Vaux. Prepare there, the Duke is coming: see the barge be ready;
And fit it with such furniture as suits
The greatness of his person.
Buckingham.  Nay, Sir Nicholas,
Let it alone; my state will now but mock me.
When I came hither, I was Lord High Constable
And Duke of Buckingham; now, poor Edward Bohun—

In Brewer’s Introduction to the third volume of “Foreign and Domestic State Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII.,” is the following interesting account of Buckingham’s trial and execution:—

“As trials for treason were conducted in those days it was little better than a question of personal credibility, assertion against assertion; and very few reasonable men could entertain doubts as to the issue. The King had already pronounced judgment, he had examined the witnesses, encouraged and read their correspondence, and expressed his belief in the Duke’s guilt. Who was to gainsay it? Who should be bold enough to assert that the King had arrived at a false conclusion, and that such manners of procedure were fatal to justice? In a court also, constituted of men who were not lawyers by profession, who had received no training for such nice questions, who understood nothing of the salutary laws of legal evidence, what hope could there be for the accused? How could he expect that protection which not only innocence but guilt had a right to demand until the charge be fairly and fully proven? The only lawyer employed was the Attorney-General, on behalf of the Crown. But in those days Attorneys-General regarded themselves as the servants of the Crown, who had to earn their wages by establishing the guilt of the prisoner. So the Lords retired, and on their return into court the sentence of each peer was taken one by one. Then said129 the Duke of Norfolk to the Duke of Suffolk, ‘What say you of Sir Edward, Duke of Buckingham, touching this high treason.’ ‘I say that he is guilty,’ answered the Duke, laying his hand upon his heart. Every peer made the same response; and against each of the names entered on the panel—a little scrap of dirty parchment, still preserved in the Record Office—there is to be seen to this day, in the handwriting of the Duke of Norfolk, ‘Dicit quod est culpabilis.’

“Then was the Duke brought to the bar to hear his sentence. For a few moments he was overpowered by his situation. In the extremity of his agony, he chafed and sweat violently.[8] Recovering himself after a while, he made his obeisance to the court. After a short pause, a death-like silence! ‘Sir Edward,’ said the Duke of Norfolk, ‘you hear how you be indicted of high treason, you pleaded thereto not guilty, putting yourself to the judgment of your peers, the which have found you guilty.’ Then bursting into tears (he was an old man, and had faced death unmoved in the field of Flodden), he faltered out: ‘Your sentence is, that you be led back to prison; laid on a hurdle, and so drawn to the place of execution; there to be hanged, to be cut down alive, your members cut off and cast into the fire, your bowels burnt before your eyes, your head smitten off, your body quartered and divided at the King’s will. God have mercy on your soul. Amen.’ The Duke heard this horrible sentence with proud dignity and composure. Turning to the Duke of Norfolk, he quietly replied, ‘You have said, my lord, as a traitor should be said unto; but I was never one.’ Then addressing the court, he requested that those present would pray for him, assuring them 130that he forgave them his death, and expressing his determination not to sue for mercy. In compliance with the custom of the time he entered his barge at Westminster stairs, and was delivered, on landing at the Temple, to Sir Nicholas Vaux and Sir William Sandys, by whom he was conducted through the city to the Tower. This was about 4 P.M. The trial had lasted some days, having commenced on a Monday, and on the following Friday (17th of May), between eleven and twelve in the forenoon, when the hills of Surrey were cloathed in their freshest verdure, and the then unoccupied banks of the Thames, steeped to the water’s edge with the tender green and delicate blossom of the white thorn, the Duke’s favourite flower, the sombre procession threaded its way through the dark passages of the Tower, and emerged upon the Green. Amidst the sobs and tears of the spectators, the Duke, led by the Sheriffs, mounted the scaffold with a firm and composed step. Turning himself to the crowd, he requested all men to pray for him, ‘trusting,’ he said, ‘to die the King’s true man; whom through his own negligence and lack of grace he had offended.’ With this brief request, he kneeled at the block. There was a sudden glimmer for an instant in the air, then a dull thud, and the head rolled heavily from the body. The headsman wiped his axe; the attendants threw a cloak over the headless trunk, to conceal the blood which streamed in a torrent over the scaffold and dripped through the platform on the grass beneath. In rough frieze, barefooted and bareheaded, six poor Augustinian friars, shouldering a rude coffin, emerged from the shuddering and receding crowd. Gathering up the remains of the once mighty Duke of Buckingham, for the King, satisfied with his condemnation, had commuted the last extremities of the sentence, they carried the corpse to the church of the Austin Friars. The Duke in his lifetime had been kind to poor religious men, and this was the last and only office they could render him.”

Queen Anne Boleyn
(From an Engraving after a portrait of the time.)


Thus closed the life of Edward Bohun, Duke of Buckingham, Earl of Hereford, Stafford, and Northampton.

Lords Montague and Abergavenny, and Sir Edward Nevil, were also committed to the Tower with Buckingham, being charged with having concealed their knowledge of his so-called treason; but they were all three liberated after an imprisonment of some months duration.

In the fifth volume of “Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic,” in the reign of Henry VIII. is the following memorandum of repairs made in the Tower during the summer of 1532:—“Work done by carpenters and taking down old timber, etc., at St Thomas’s Tower; and for alteration in the Palace.” “There has also been taken down the old timber in the four turrets of the White Tower; and the old timber of Robyn the Devil’s Tower—that is, Julius Cæsar’s Tower; and of the tower near the King’s Wardrobe. Half of the White Tower is new embattled, coped, indented, and cressed with Caen stone to the extent of 500 feet.” The return to this memorandum estimates the total expense of the alteration at £3593, 14s. 10d.

The Tower was again the scene of festivities when, in the month of May 1533, Anne Boleyn—to whom Henry had been secretly married on January 25 of the previous year—was taken there in state. Again, as five-and-twenty years previously, the old fortress put on its gala apparel and became splendid for the new Queen’s coronation. The old chronicler Hall describes the wondrous scene of “marvellous cunning pageants,” of the fountains running wine, “Apollo and the Muses, the Graces and all the Virtues, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and her children” welcoming the beautiful Queen, coming in all the glory of youth and loveliness from Greenwich to the Tower, where she landed at “five of the clocke, where also was such a pele of gonnes as hathe not byn harde lyke a great while before, and on her landing was met by the Kyng, who132 received her with loving countenance, at the Posterne by the Water syde, and kyssed her.”

The next day, through streets strewn with gravel and gay with tapestry, silks, and velvets, Anne wended her triumphal way to the old Abbey at Westminster. The order of Anne’s coronation has been given at full length by Shakespeare in the scene in the Abbey in Henry VIII.:

“At length her grace, and with modest paces
Came to the altar; where she kneel’d, and saintlike
Cast her fair eyes to heaven and pray’d devoutly.
Then rose again and bow’d her to the people:
When by the Archbishop of Canterbury
She had all the royal makings of a queen;
As holy oil, Edward Confessor’s crown,
The rod, and bird of peace, and all such emblems
Laid nobly on her: which performed, the choir
With all the choicest music of the kingdom,
Together sung ‘Te Deum.’ So she parted
And with the same full state paced back again
To York Place where the feast is held.”
(Henry VIII., Act iv. scene 1.)

Three short years passed away and a pall of darkness falls over this brilliant scene, and Anne’s regal state and “royal makings of a queen” are changed to the prison and the scaffold.

In September 1533, Anne brought a daughter into the world, the future Queen Elizabeth. In the following year Parliament passed an Act of Succession, devised by Henry, by which his former marriage with Catherine of Arragon was declared to be an unlawful one, and Anne’s daughter was made successor to the Crown, thus excluding the Princess Mary from the succession. All the King’s subjects were commanded to acknowledge this new Act, but the Chancellor, Sir Thomas More, and Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, whilst willing to obey the Act as an Act of Parliament, declined to allow that the King’s marriage with the Spanish Princess was illegal. Henry, on hearing this, burst into one of his Tudor furies, and133 both More and Fisher were, by his orders, sent to the Tower. At the same time Henry sent Commissioners through the length and breadth of England to suppress all the religious communities that refused to obey the Act, and also those who were not willing to conform to his new Law of Succession.

Thomas Cromwell was the principal agent in carrying out Henry’s commands against the monasteries. No fitter man for the task could have been found. Risen from a humble station, Cromwell, who had been introduced to the King’s notice by Wolsey, after his patron’s fall had become private secretary to the sovereign; and in 1534 he was appointed Henry’s Vicar-General in all matters appertaining to Ecclesiastical affairs.

One of the Orders of Friars, styled Friars Observant, had openly expressed their opinion concerning Henry’s second marriage, and for this the Order was ruthlessly suppressed, many of its members being executed. The same fate befell the Carthusians, some of whom were imprisoned in the Tower for refusing to conform to the oath of this Act of Succession. The Prior of Sion Hospital was hanged as a felon, and many other priests and friars were put to death with every brutal detail appertaining to the manner of execution for high treason.

Among all these martyrs for their faith, none were more eminent for holy living than the aged prelate, John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester. He was in his seventy-ninth year when Henry ordered him to be imprisoned in the Tower; he appears to have been a frail, emaciated old man, and, to judge from the life-like drawing of him by Holbein, had the look of a man who has but a few years before him. So beloved was he in his diocese, that when the order came to remove him from his see, the whole city of Rochester turned out to bid its revered Bishop farewell. The grounds for the charge of treason that was brought against him were that he had listened to the prophecies of a woman known by the name of the “Nun134 of Kent”; but Henry’s real reason for ridding himself of Fisher was the Bishop’s refusal to comply with the Act of Succession. Fisher, being a fervent servant of Rome, declared that Henry’s first marriage had the sanction of the Pope, and consequently of the Church, and therefore could not be declared illegal and invalid. Neither would he acknowledge Henry’s new title of “On earth supreme Head of the Church of England,” a title assumed by the King in 1534. This combined refusal was, in the eyes of Henry and his Council, tantamount to a penal offence, and both More and Fisher were condemned and executed for denying the King’s supremacy in the State.

Fisher was imprisoned in the Bell Tower on the 21st April (1534), and in the following November an Act of Parliament declared him to be attainted of high treason, and his Bishopric to be vacant. His household goods were seized and his library, which he had intended bequeathing to his College of St John’s, Cambridge, was confiscated. In the chapel of that same College the good Bishop had prepared his tomb, which, however, was fated never to contain his shrunken frame. The aged Bishop suffered much from the cold of the winter, 1534–35, in his prison, and there is a piteous letter from him, still existing, addressed to Cromwell, in which he describes his hardships. “Furthermore,” he writes, “I byseche you to be gode, master, unto me in my necessite; for I have neither shirt nor sute, nor yett other clothes that are necessary for me to wear, but that bee ragged, and rent so shamefully. Notwithstanding I might easily suffer that, if they would keep my body warm. But my dyett also, God knoweth how slender it is at any tymes, and now in myn age my stomak may nott awaye but with a few kynd of meats, which if I want, I decay forthwith, and fall into coafs and diseases of my bodye, and kan not keep myself in health.” He then begs Cromwell to soften the King’s heart on his behalf; he might as well have asked Cromwell to soften the nether millstone.

John Fisher. Bishop of Rochester
(From the drawing by Holbein at Windsor.)


Bishop Burnet has written that news of Fisher’s sufferings reached the ears of Pope Clement, who, “by an officious kindness to him, or rather to spite King Henry, declared him a Cardinal, and sent him a red hat. When the King heard of this, he sent to examine him about it; but he protested that he had used no endeavour to procure it, and valued it so little that, if the hat were lying at his feet, he would not take it up. It never came nearer him than Picardy, yet did this precipitate his ruin.” Henry had sworn that before the cardinal’s hat could arrive the Bishop should have no head upon which to place it.

When asked by the Lord Chancellor, after he had been declared guilty of high treason, what he had to say in arrest of judgment, the venerable old man answered: “Truly, my lord, if that which I have said be not sufficient I have no more to say; but only to desire Almighty God to forgive them who have condemned me, for I think they know not what they have done.” The Chancellor then read out the sentence by which the Bishop was doomed, by the usual ghastly form of words, to a traitor’s death. As Fisher was passing under Traitor’s Gate, where he had been landed on his return to the Tower from his trial, he turned to his guard of halberdiers and said: “My masters, I thank you for all the great labours and pains which ye have taken with me to-day. I am not able to give you anything in recompense, because I have nothing left, and therefore I pray you accept in good part my hearty thanks.” Those who were present were struck by the “fresh and lively colour in his face, as he seemed rather to have come from some great feast or banquet rather than from his trial and condemnation, showing by all his carriage and outward behaviour nothing else but joy and satisfaction.” Three more days of prison and the good old man’s troubles ceased.

At five o’clock in the morning, on the 22nd of June, the Lieutenant of the Tower awoke Fisher from his sleep, telling him that he had come with a message from the King—namely, that he was to die that day. “Well,”136 answered the Bishop, “If this be your errand you bring me no great news, for I have sometime looked for this message. I most humbly thank his Majesty that it pleases him to rid me of all this worldly business, and I thank you also for your tidings. But pray, Mr Lieutenant,” he added, “when is my hour that I must go hence?” “Your hour,” said the Lieutenant, “must be nine of the clock.” “And what hour is it now?” said Fisher. “It is now about five.” “Well then, let me by your patience sleep an hour or two, for I have slept very little this night; and yet, to tell you the truth, not for any fear of death, thank God, but by reason of my great weakness and infirmity.” “The King’s further pleasure is,” said the Lieutenant, “that you should use as little speech as may be upon the scaffold, especially as to anything concerning his Majesty, whereby the people should have cause to think otherwise than well of him and his proceedings.” “For that,” remarked the Bishop, in answer to this practical confession of the injustice of his sentence, “for that you shall see me order myself so, by God’s grace, as that neither the King nor any one else shall have occasion to dislike what I say.”

He then slept on for two hours more, when he rose and was helped to dress; a hair shirt, which he wore next to his body, he removed, replacing it with a clean white one. Upon his ordering his attendant to give him his best clothing, the latter remarked upon the care and attention that he was bestowing upon his dress that day. “Dost thou not mark that this is our wedding-day,” said Fisher in answer, “and it behoves me therefore to be more nicely dressed than ordinary for the solemnity of the occasion.”

At nine o’clock the Lieutenant called for him. “I will wait upon you straight,” said the Bishop, “as fast as this body of mine will give me leave.” He then called for his furred tippet, which he placed round his neck, “Oh, my Lord,” said the Lieutenant, “what need you be so careful of your health for this little time, which you know is not137 much above an hour.” “I think the same,” said Fisher, “but yet, in the meantime, I will keep myself as well as I can to the very time of my execution. For I tell you truly, though I have, I thank our Lord, a very good desire and a willing mind to die at this present, and so that of His infinite goodness he will continue it, yet will I not willingly incommodate my health in the meantime one minute of an hour, but I will still continue the same as long as I can by such reasonable ways and means as God Almighty hath provided for me.” With that, taking a little book in his hand—it was a Latin New Testament—that lay by him, he made the sign of the cross upon his forehead, and then went out of the chamber with the Lieutenant, being so weak that he could scarcely go down the stairs. For this reason he was placed in a chair, and carried by two of the Lieutenant’s men to the Tower Gate, surrounded by a small number of guards. At the Gate he was to be delivered over to the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex for his execution, but when the procession arrived there it had to wait until a messenger, who had been sent to the Sheriffs, returned to say whether those officials were ready to receive him. During this waiting the Bishop rose from his chair, and stood leaning against the wall with his eyes raised to the sky. Then he opened the Testament he was carrying in his hand, and said, “O Lord, this is the last time that I shall ever open this book, let some comfortable place now chance to me, whereby I, Thy poor servant, may glorify Thee in this my last hour!” Looking into the book, the first words he espied were these! “And this is the life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Thou me with thine own self.” Fisher then closed the book, saying, “Here is learning enough for me to my life’s end.” From the Gate he was carried to the scaffold on Tower Hill, praying as he went, and138 when several persons offered to help him to mount the steps, he turned to them and said, “Nay, masters, seeing that I am come so far, let me alone, and you shall see me shift for myself well enough.”

The sun shone brightly on the old man’s face when, standing on the scaffold, with uplifted hands, he pronounced the words “Accedite ad eum et illuminamini, et facies vestrae non confundentur.” The headsman, as was the custom, knelt and asked the Bishop’s forgiveness for the task he was about to perform. “I forgive thee with all my heart, and I trust thou shalt see me overcome this storm with courage,” answered the Bishop. Before kneeling down, he spoke a few words to the dense crowd gathered around the scaffold. He had come there, he said, to die for the Faith of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church, he begged their prayers that he might be enabled at the point of death, and at the moment of the supreme stroke, to continue steadfast without wavering in any one point of that Faith. Then he prayed for the King, and for the realm, being so cheerful that he seemed glad to die, and “although he looked death itself in the human shape,” according to one of the writers of the time, “his voice was full, strong, and clear.” When on his knees before the block, the venerable Bishop repeated certain prayers, the Te Deum, and the Thirty-first Psalm, “In te Domine speravi.” Then the axe fell, and his head rolled on the scaffold. Thus died John Fisher, a true martyr to his Church and Faith, far worthier of canonisation than many enrolled in the long list of hagiology.

Henry was not content with merely putting this aged and venerable man to death, but, if Cardinal Pole is to be believed, he ordered the headless body of the Bishop to be treated with insult. It was left naked for hours on the scaffold, until some charitable soul with a touch of humanity, cast some straw over the poor remains of one who, but a short time before, had been among the best, if not the greatest of English Churchmen (Dr Hall’s “Life139 of the Bishop of Rochester”). Fisher’s head was stuck upon a pike and placed on London Bridge. Dodd, in his history of the Church, recounts that after the head had been some days on the Bridge, it was taken down and thrown into the river, the reason for this being that rays of light were seen shining around it. Hall, in his “Life of the Bishop,” states that “the face was observed to become fresher and more comely day by day, and that such was the concourse of people who assembled to look at it, that almost neither cart nor horse could pass.”

Sir Thomas More
(From the drawing by Holbein at Windsor.)

The Bishop of Rochester’s judicial murder was immediately followed by that of Sir Thomas More; it would not be easy to say which execution was the greater crime: their blood lies equally on Henry’s soul.

In many respects a parallel might justly be drawn between More and Gladstone. Their fame as statesmen and scholars in both cases was European. More’s life was equally pure, learned, and brilliant as that of Gladstone. Both men were as well known on the continent of Europe as in their own country, and the friend of Erasmus in Germany, and Colet in England, in the sixteenth century, was as celebrated as the friend of Dollinger and Hallam in the nineteenth. Their very faults only brought their great qualities into higher relief. More showed a stern severity to the Reformers which must always be deplored; Gladstone, in his Irish and foreign policies, proved the frailty of even the best intentioned motives. But the very fact of these being the only shadows of weakness that obscured the brilliancy of both these noble lives, speaks trumpet-tongued to their undying renown.

Although More had been one of Henry’s greatest friends, and had been treated by him like a close companion—for Henry could appreciate More’s humour and admire his learning—at the first sign of his old favourite standing in the way of his wishes, the monarch turned upon the subject in deadly rage.

Condemned for the same reason as that for which140 Fisher had been executed, More met his fate with similar firmness and cheerful courage. Neither complaint nor remonstrance troubled the serene calm of his demeanour throughout the last days of his beautiful life. After his condemnation, when he had been brought back from judgment to the Tower, the porter at Traitor’s Gate asked for More’s cloak as a perquisite. Sir Thomas gave him his cap as well, regretting that they were “not better.” He was allowed one attendant in his prison, who was unable to read or write, and although Sir Thomas had no writing materials, he managed, with a coal in lieu of ink, to write a letter to his beloved daughter, Margaret Roper. That letter was full of the perfect peace that reigned in him, and of the affection he felt for her to whom he wrote; it concludes with these words,—“Written with a cole by your tender, loving father, who in hys pore prayers forgetteth none of you all, nor babes nor your nurses, nor your good husbands, nor your good husbands shrewde wyves, nor your fathers shrewde wyfe neither, nor our other frendes. And thus fare ye hartely well, for lack of paper. Thomas More, Knight.” Sir Thomas was allowed ink and paper after he had written this letter, and he passed the time of his imprisonment in writing a treatise on Our Lord’s Passion; but his writing materials were then taken away from him, and he spent the rest of his days in prayer and meditation.

One day the Lieutenant asking him why he kept his prison room so dark, More answered, “When all the wares are gone, the shop windows are to be shut up.” Early in the next year (1535) his wife was allowed to see him; she urged him to conform to the King’s wishes, but it is needless to say that he declined to do so. And when he was told that the King had been mercifully pleased to allow him, as having held the highest office in the realm, to be beheaded instead of being hanged, drawn, and quartered, Sir Thomas141 laughingly said, “God forbid the King shall use any more such mercy to any of my friends.”

A Daughter of Sir Thomas More, supposed to be Mʳˢ. Roper
(From the original drawing by Holbein)

There are few more touching scenes in the history of the Tower than that when, after his final trial, More’s daughter, Margaret Roper, made her way through the crowd to give her father a farewell embrace when he landed at the fortress, and to receive his last blessing. Kneeling before him, the poor creature could only say again and again, “Oh, my father! oh, my father!” Those standing around, hardened as they were to scenes of cruelty, could not help being moved at the piteous sight.

Early on the morning of the 6th July Sir Thomas Pope, an old friend of More’s, entered his prison to tell him that the hour for his execution was fixed for nine o’clock that day. As in the case of Fisher, Sir Thomas More was asked not to “use many words” on the scaffold, for the King feared the effect of a speech from his old friend upon the public. At parting Sir Thomas said to Pope, who was deeply moved, “Be not discomfited, for I trust that we shall in Heaven see each other full merrily, where we shall be sure to live together in joyful bliss eternally” (Roper’s “Life of Sir T. More”).

Punctually at nine o’clock Sir Thomas left his prison. He was dressed in an old frieze cloak; his beard had grown long, and his face and form were thin and worn; in his hand he carried a red cross. At what appears to have been a kind of public-house, near the gate of the Tower, a woman came out and offered him a glass of wine, but he refused it, saying, “Marry, my good wife, I will not drink now, my Master had vinegar and gall, and not wine given Him to drink.” Another woman asked him for some papers that she had given him to keep for her when he was Lord Chancellor: to her he said that she must have patience for an hour, “and by that time the King’s Majesty will rid me of the care I have of thy papers, and all other matters whatsoever.”


On reaching the scaffold he found it in a very shaky condition, and turning to the Lieutenant, he said, laughing, “I pray you, Mr Lieutenant, see me safe up, and for my coming down let me shift for myself.” When on the platform he turned to the people, and, like Fisher, told them he had come there to die for the Holy Church and begged their prayers; then, kneeling down, he repeated the Misere to the end. When the executioner asked his forgiveness Sir Thomas, who meanwhile had risen from his knees, embraced him, saying, “Pluck up thy spirits, man, and be not afraid to do thy office. I am sorry my neck is short, therefore strike not awry.” He then bound a cloth which he had brought with him over his eyes, and placed his head upon the block. An instant before the axe fell he turned his head towards the executioner while he moved his beard, “Pity that should be cut,” he said, “that has not committed treason.”

The head was placed on London Bridge, but Margaret Roper obtained that sacred relic, and it was buried with her when she followed her beloved father in 1544, “to where beyond these voices there is peace.” Both the bodies of Bishop Fisher and of Sir Thomas More were buried in St Peter’s Chapel in the Tower, where they rest side by side.

One of the earliest inscriptions to be found on the walls of the Beauchamp Tower is that of Thomas Fitzgerald, who was known as “Silken Thomas,” from the costliness of his attire. He was the eldest son of Gerald Fitzgerald, ninth Earl of Kildare, Lord-Deputy of Ireland. Earl Gerald had been summoned to London, leaving Thomas in Ireland as Deputy in his place during his absence. On arriving in London, the father was arrested and thrown into the Tower. When the news reached Thomas Fitzgerald he broke into open rebellion, and together with five of his uncles laid siege to Dublin Castle, and having captured Archbishop Allen, put him to death. Dublin Castle was defended by Sir J. White,143 and would probably have fallen into the hands of the rebels had not the Earl of Ormonde raised the siege with a powerful force. In retaliation, the Castle of Maynooth, one of the Geraldine strongholds, was taken, and the garrison incontinently hanged by Lord Leonard Grey; when the news of this disaster reached Earl Gerald in the Tower, he died, it is believed, of a broken heart, on the 12th December 1534, and was buried in St Peter’s Chapel. “Silken Thomas” surrendered with his five uncles, on the promise of a pardon, to Leonard Grey, who, oddly enough, was another of his many uncles, Lord Leonard’s sister having married Earl Gerald. These Geraldines were imprisoned in the Beauchamp Tower, where, as we have seen, a fragmentary inscription cut by “Silken Thomas” is still visible in the principal dungeon. Despite the promise of pardon, Thomas and his uncles were all hanged at Tyburn, only one member of the Fitzgeralds, a youth, escaping the King’s fury; and so great was Henry’s anger, that he ordered Grey to be condemned to death for allowing the youth in question to save himself: Henry had determined to utterly extirpate the whole Geraldine race. The unfortunate Grey was beheaded, six years after these events occurred, on Tower Hill. “The fair Geraldine,” sung by Surrey, was the sister of “Silken Thomas.”

Queen Anne Boleyn

On May Day of the year 1536 a tournament was held at Greenwich Palace, at which great surprise was caused by the King leaving suddenly whilst the jousting was in progress. The next day Queen Anne Boleyn was arrested, and interrogated by some members of the Council, of whom her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, was the President. From Greenwich the Queen was brought to the Tower by water, arriving at five o’clock in the afternoon; with her came Secretary Cromwell, the Lord144 Chancellor, Sir J. Audley, and the Constable of the Tower, Sir William Knighton. Her journey up the river and her reception at the grim old fortress were in bitter contrast with the triumphant progress she had made the day before her brilliant coronation. Arrived at the Tower, Anne sank upon her knees in prayer, and, rising, declared her innocence to those about her. She then inquired of the Constable where she was to be lodged, and was told that she would occupy the rooms in which she had lived at the time of her coronation three years before. “It is too good for me,” said the poor Queen. She appears to have fallen into violent hysterics, “weeping a great pace, and in the same sorrow fell into a great laughing, and so she did several times afterwards,” writes Knighton to Cromwell.

The Queen’s sudden arrest must have fallen upon the Court like a bolt from the blue, although probably some of the courtiers had noticed Henry’s growing penchant for Jane Seymour: Anne herself had seen it only too clearly, as well as the peril in which this new attachment of the King’s placed her.

On the 3rd May, Archbishop Cranmer wrote as follows to the King:—“I think your Grace best knoweth, that next unto your Grace I was most bound unto her of all creatures living, and my mind is clean amazed, for I never had better opinion in woman than I had in her; which maketh me to think that she should not be culpable. I wish and pray that she may declare herself inculpable and innocent.” But this would not have served Henry’s purpose, even if the poor Queen could have proved her innocence. He was determined to be rid of her, and as quickly as possible, in order that he might satisfy his new passion, and all the Archbishops in Christendom would not have stopped him.

A letter, supposed by such good authorities as Sir Henry Ellice and Froude to be authentic, was written by Anne to the King from her prison. This letter was found amongst Cromwell’s papers, being endorsed by the Secretary thus, “To the King from the Ladye in the145 Tower.” It is too long to quote in its entirety, but concludes as follows:—

“Try me, good King, but let me have a lawful trial; and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and my judges; yea, let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame. Then you shall see either mine innocency cleared, your suspicions and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my gilt lawfully declared; so that, whatsoever God or you may determine of me, your Grace may be freed of an open censure; and mine offence being so openly proved, your Grace is at liberty, before God and man, not only to execute worthy punishment upon me as an unlawful wife, but to follow your affection already settled on that party for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some good while since have pointed unto; your Grace not being ignorant of my suspicion therein.” (This pointed allusion to Henry’s attentions to Jane Seymour was surely unfortunate?) “But if you have already determined of me; and that not only my death, but an infamous slander, must bring you the joying of your desired happiness; then I desire of God that He will pardon your great sin therein and likewise my enemies, the instruments thereof; and that He will not call you to a straight account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at His general judgment seat, where you and myself must shortly appear; and in whose judgment I doubt not, whatever the world may think of me, mine innocence shall be openly known and sufficiently cleared.

“My last and only request shall be, that myself may only bear the burden of your Grace’s displeasure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor gentlemen, who, as I understand, are likewise in straight imprisonment for my sake. If ever I have found favour in your sight, if ever the name of Anne Boleyn hath been pleasing in your ears, then let me obtain this request; and I will not so have to trouble your Grace any further; with mine earnest prayers to the Trinity to have your Grace in His good keeping, and to direct you in all your actions. From my doleful prison in the Tower, this 6th of May. Your most loyal and ever faithful wife, Anne Boleyn.”

This does not read like the letter of a guilty person; it has a fine brave note running all through it, and the petition for the unfortunate men accused with her, shows Anne’s unselfish nature in thinking of others in her own time of dire misfortune.

The Curfew Tower, from the Moat

Knighton’s wife, whose husband was the Constable of the Tower, was set to watch the Queen, and repeat all she said to her husband, who was in correspondence with Cromwell. In writing to the latter, Knighton says that146 Lady Boleyn (Anne’s aunt) and a “Mestrys Cosyn” were kept in the same room with the Queen; both of these ladies were Anne’s bitter enemies, and they acted as spies upon the unhappy prisoner. “I have,” writes Knighton, “everything told me by Mestrys Cosyn that she thynks mete for me to knowe.”

The trial was held in the large room, called at that time the King’s Hall, which is on the second floor of the White Tower, adjoining the Chapel of St John’s. Here a gallery had been erected for the judges, and seats and benches for the Lords. The Duke of Norfolk, who presided, sat under the “clothe of estate,” and represented the King as High Steward of England. By a singular coincidence Norfolk was uncle to both Anne Boleyn and the second wife whom Henry beheaded, Catherine Howard. At Norfolk’s feet sat his son, the Earl of Surrey, both holding staffs in their hands—Norfolk that of the Lord High Steward, Surrey that of Earl Marshal. On the Duke’s right hand sat the Lord Chancellor, and on his left the Duke of Suffolk, the peers occupying seats on either side of the chamber, in the order of their degree. Led by the Constable of the Tower and the Lieutenant (Sir Edmund Walsingham), the Queen was brought to the bar. Anne Boleyn’s defence was admirable, and must have greatly disconcerted her judges, who knew that no defence, however convincing, could avail her; she was already sentenced by the King. Not one of these men, with their high-sounding names and titles, dared to give their vote in her favour. All, to a man, declared on their consciences that the Queen was guilty. Surely some of the innocent blood counted against these noble cowards as well as against their master, when their day of reckoning arrived. Norfolk, whose tears appear always to have been at command, wept “so that the water,” writes Constantyne in his Memorial, “roune in his eyes,” when he pronounced the sentence, which ran thus: “Because thou147 hast offended our Sovereign the King’s Grace, in committing treason against his person, and here attainted of the same, the law of the realm is this; that thou shalt be burnt here within the Tower of London, on the Green, else to have thy head smitten off as the King’s pleasure shall be further known of the same.”[9]

According to Froude, Anne Boleyn’s trial was conducted “with a scrupulousness without a parallel in the criminal history of the time.” One can only wonder what kind of a trial that would be which was not conducted with the “scrupulousness” that characterised the proceedings in the King’s Hall, under the Duke of Norfolk, when Anne Boleyn was condemned to die.

On the 17th of May the Queen was taken to Lambeth Palace, where she made her confession to Archbishop Cranmer, but, according to Bishop Burnet, any statements that she made then were induced by the prospect of saving her life; but this cannot be proved.

Up to the last Anne appears to have maintained her cheerfulness and lightness of heart. Knighton writing to Cromwell tells him that, whilst dining with him, the Queen had announced her intention of going to Antwerp, as if she fully expected to be released. Another time she said to him, “If any man accuse me, I can say but nay, and they can bring no witness”; and also, “I think the King does this to prove me.” In Burnet’s “History” the following incident, which took place shortly before Anne’s execution, and which I think goes far to prove her innocence of the charges brought against her, is recounted: “The day before she suffered, upon a strict search of her past life, she called to mind that she had 148played the step-mother too severely to Lady Mary (afterwards Queen Mary), and had done her many injuries. Upon which, she made the Lieutenant of the Tower’s lady sit down in the Chair of State; which the other, after some ceremony, doing, she fell down on her knees, and with many tears charged the lady, as she would answer it to God, to go in her name, and do, as she had done, to the Lady Mary, and ask her forgiveness for the wrongs she had done her.” Speede, alluding in his “History” to this scene, says, “as she cleared her conscience of the lesser crimes, so undoubtedly could she have done of the greater, if any had been committed.”

In a long letter Knighton wrote to Cromwell on the 18th of May, he says that the Queen had sent for him to be present when she received the Sacrament in her prison. “And at my commyng,” he writes, “she sayd, ‘Mr Knighton, I hear say that I shall not dye affore noon, and I am very sory therefore; for I had thowtt to be ded by thys time and past my payne.’ I told hyr it should be no payne it was so suttel, and then she sayd, ‘I have heard say the executioner was very good and I have a lyttel neck,’ and put her hand about it lawying hartely. I have seen many men and also women executed, and that they have been in grate sorrow; and to my knowledge thys lady hasse muche joy and plesur in dethe.” One may infer from the tone of this letter that Knighton did not believe in Anne’s guilt.

A little before noon on the 19th May, Anne Boleyn, accompanied by four of her ladies, came out of her prison on to Tower Green, attended by Sir William Knighton. Near the scaffold stood the Duke of Suffolk and the Duke of Richmond, the latter a natural son of the King’s; there also were the Lord Chancellor and Secretary Cromwell, the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs of London and Westminster; in all, about thirty persons gathered at the Tower that bright May morning to behold a sight that had never been witnessed in England before—the execu149tion of a Queen. Henry had given orders that the execution should be as private as possible, fearing the effect of the public sympathy with his victim, if many persons were admitted to see her die. To the very last Anne showed a steadfast courage, and may be said to have looked death fearlessly and without faltering in the face. After a few words full of resignation to her fate, and of forgiveness for those who had brought about her death, even for the chief of these, she said: “And thus I take my leave of the world, and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.” After she had finished speaking her ladies came to her and placed a bandage over her eyes, and left her, all weeping bitterly. Kneeling, but keeping her upright position of body, for on this occasion no block was used—and the headsman, who had been specially brought over from Calais, did his work with a sword—she received the stroke of death “with resolution,” writes a contemporary and eye-witness, “and so sedately as herself to cover her feet with her garments.” And thus, and without more to say or do, was her head stricken off, she making no confession of her fault, and only saying, “O Lord God, have pity on my soul.”

Traitors’ Gate, from the River

When all was over, one of the ladies took up her head, the others the body, and covering them with a sheet, placed them in a chest which was ready for the purpose, and carried the remains to St Peter’s Chapel, “where they say she lieth buried.”

“Such,” writes Lord de Ros in his “Memorials of the Tower,” “was the end of this most unfortunate lady, who but three years before had entered the Tower in triumph as the idol of the King, and the admiration of all around her. Levities, which even now would be thought slight and pardonable, but which in that coarse and licentious Court could hardly deserve a moderate censure, were the only offences found against her, unless the extorted accusation of Smeaton was to be regarded as proof of any deeper guilt.” At about150 the time of Anne’s execution, her brother, Lord Rochford, and three gentlemen of the Court, Brereton, Western, and Norris, were sentenced to death as accomplices in the crime of which she was accused. Mark Smeaton, a musician who, on the promise of pardon, had confessed his and the Queen’s guilt whilst under torture, was hanged. The accusation against Anne Boleyn and her brother, Lord Rochford, consisted only of the charge that he had one morning entered his sister’s chamber, and, whilst conversing with her in the presence of her attendants, had rested his hand upon the bed. Rochford died declaring his innocence, as did the other gentlemen who died with him. They were all buried in the churchyard of the Chapel of St Peter.

The day after Anne Boleyn’s execution, Henry married Jane Seymour. There is a tradition that the King had ordered a gun to be fired from the roof of the White Tower, then mounted with cannon, which he could see from his palace, as a signal that Anne Boleyn had ceased to live.

When Queen Victoria visited the Tower for the first time, and was shown the place on the Green on which the scaffold had stood where Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn had been executed, and where the grass, tradition said, never grew, Her Majesty ordered the brass tablet that now records those tragic events, to be placed on the spot, with the words, “Site of the ancient scaffold: on this spot Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded on the 19th May 1536.”

The year 1537 saw the Tower full of prisoners, the result of the rising in the North, called the Pilgrimage of Grace. Thomas Cromwell’s crusade against the religious endowments of the country, his spoliation of the monasteries, his wholesale butchery of the monks and friars, had stirred up a violent feeling of resistance in the north of England. A report had been spread that as soon as the monasteries had been ruined and destroyed, it would be the turn of the parish churches, and the people of Lincoln and Yorkshire took instant alarm. A zealous Roman 151Catholic, named Robert Aske, headed the rebellion, bearing a banner emblazoned with the five wounds of Christ. The peril became so great that Henry found it necessary to send an army against the insurgents, the Duke of Norfolk being appointed its general. But Norfolk hesitated to bring matters to a crisis, and temporised. He promised that the grievances of the people should be heard, and a Parliament was summoned in the North to consider their complaints, and mend or end them. However, in 1537, Henry, breaking faith with the Pilgrimage of Grace, seized the ring-leaders, and established a Council in the North, which was a precursor, in cruelty and bloodshed, of Jeffreys’ Bloody Assize in Devonshire, a century and a half later. Cromwell instituted a reign of terror. His commissioners tore down, among others, such incomparable buildings as Fountains, Rievaulx, and Jervaulx Abbeys; the sacred fanes were gutted, their roofs torn off, and the holy shrines abandoned to the bats and owls, serving as quarries for anyone who cared to cart away the materials. The Abbots and heads of these, and many other religious houses, were either hanged out of hand, or sent in droves to London, and placed in the Tower. Among many others, the Abbots of Rievaulx, Fountains, and Jervaulx, and the Prior of Bridlington, after being imprisoned in the Tower, were hanged as traitors at Tyburn. Two peers, Lord Darcey and Lord Hussey, who had taken part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, were beheaded, the former on Tower Hill, and the latter at Lincoln; Sir Robert Constable, Sir Francis Bagot, Sir Thomas Percy, the brother of the Earl of Northumberland, Sir Stephen Hamilton, William Lumley, Nicholas Tempest, Robert Aske, and Sir John Bulwer, also suffered death, and, horrible to relate, the wife of the last was burnt at Smithfield.

The Block and Axe

Thomas Cromwell, in his treatment of women, resembled Judge Jeffreys, and, monstrous as is the fact of a woman being burnt to death in the reign of Henry VIII. for a152 political offence, it is not quite so revolting as the case of Elizabeth Gaunt, executed in the reign of the second James for sheltering one of the followers of Monmouth after the Battle of Sedgemoor. Both Cromwell and Jeffreys were the obedient tools of their masters, who, to quote the great Duke of Marlborough’s remark when describing James II., “This marble,” he said, laying his hand on a marble chimney-piece, “is not harder than the King’s heart.”

Secretary Cromwell, having put down the rising in the North of the country in this ruthless fashion, turned his attention to the West, where there yet lingered, amongst the descendants of the great houses of de la Pole and Courtenay, the last hopes of the Yorkists. In order to accomplish his object of exterminating them, Cromwell required the services of a traitor; and this he soon found in the person of Sir Geoffrey de la Pole, brother of Viscount Montagu. How it was that Geoffrey turned traitor, and denounced his own kith and kin to Cromwell is not known, but his treachery threw into the Secretary’s power not only his own brother, Montagu, but also Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter, together with Sir Edward Nevill and Sir Nicholas Carew. They were charged with maintaining a traitorous correspondence with Cardinal Pole; and all perished on Tower Hill on 9th January 1539. Geoffrey’s brother, Henry de la Pole, Lord Montagu, was the son of Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, and the brother of Cardinal Pole. Born in 1492, he was consequently about fifty when he was executed. He had served in the Army, had fought in France, and had been one of the most conspicuous of Henry’s followers on the Field of the Cloth of Gold. He had married Jane Nevill, a daughter of Lord Abergavenny, but had no son to succeed him. Another of Geoffrey de la Pole’s victims, Henry Courtenay, was one of the most distinguished of Henry’s nobles. Three years previously he had commanded the Royal army, and only a few months before his own trial he had presided as High Steward of England153 at the proceedings which had resulted in the condemnation to death of Lords Darcey and Hussey. He was son of the tenth Earl of Devonshire, and head of the great house of Courtenay, whose descent from the Eastern Emperors has been so eloquently set forth by Gibbon. His mother was imprisoned in the Tower at the same time as himself; she shortly afterwards died there. Courtenay was forty-five at the time of his execution. Geoffrey de la Pole’s treachery brought him little good, for shortly after the death of his kinsmen we find him a prisoner in the Beauchamp Tower, where his name can still be seen carved with the date, 1562. He died there after Elizabeth’s accession.

There is in the possession of Lord Donnington, an interesting portrait of a stately young lady in the costume of the days of Henry VII. The face is handsome and refined, although somewhat too long; the neck is finely formed, but this, too, is unusually long. In her jewelled left hand she holds a sprig of honeysuckle, or it may have been the intention of the artist to represent the broom flower, the French genet (Planta Genesta), the badge and origin of the name Plantagenet. This portrait represents Margaret Plantagenet, Countess of Salisbury, the daughter of the murdered Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV.; her mother was a daughter of the great Earl of Warwick, the King-maker. Thus, as the representative of the Plantagenets and of the Nevills, her position was second only to that of the reigning family. She had married Sir Richard Pole, and was the mother of Lord Montagu, of the distinguished prelate, Reginald Pole, who had fled to Rome, where a Cardinal’s red hat awaited him, as well as of the traitor Sir Geoffrey. Born in 1470, Lady Salisbury was nearly seventy years old when, by Henry’s orders, she was imprisoned in the Tower. There was no charge which could possibly be brought against the aged noblewoman, and she was kept more as a hostage on her son, the Cardinal’s, account, than for any alleged cause of154 offence. Her close relationship to the late dynasty was in reality her only crime, but this was sufficient to bring her grey head to the block.

Lord Herbert of Cherbury, in his history of Henry VIII., tells the story of Lady Salisbury’s horrible but heroic death as follows:—“Shortly after,” Lord Herbert writes, alluding to the death of the Marchioness of Exeter, the mother of Courtenay, in the Tower, “followed the Countess of Salisbury’s execution (27th May 1541), the old lady being brought to the scaffold, set up in the Tower, was commanded to lay her head on the block; but she, as a person of great quality assured me, refused, saying, ‘So should traitors do, and I am none’; neither would it serve that the executioners told her it was the fashion, so turning her grey head every way, she bid him, if he would have her head, to get it as he could; so that he was constrained to fetch it off slovenly.” Lingard quotes a passage from a letter of Cardinal Pole’s in which he says his mother’s last words were, “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for righteousness sake”; but, to judge from Lord Herbert’s account of the frightful scene at her death, the poor old Countess, although she may have said these words at some period of her imprisonment, could scarcely have uttered them at its awful close. Henry appears to have added intentionally severe hardships to his kinswoman’s imprisonment in the Tower, probably hoping that she would die in consequence, and save him the ignominy of butchering her in public. One of the Tower gaolers, named Phillips, writing to a member of the Privy Council about Lady Salisbury, says, “The Lady Salisbury maketh great moan, for that she wanteth necessary apparel, both for change, and also to keep her warm. Her gentlewoman, Mistress Constance, has no manner of change, and that she hath is sore worn” (Miscellaneous Exchequer Documents).

Lady Salisbury was Lady of the Manor of Christchurch in Hampshire, and there she had built a chapel in155 the church, called after her the Salisbury Chapel. This building was adorned with elaborate carving and tracery wrought in Caen stone, her effigy being within the chantry, representing the Countess kneeling before the Trinity; beneath were a coat of arms and the motto, “Spes in deo est.” Thomas Cromwell’s Commissioners caused this chapel to be dismantled. The effigy was destroyed, but the chantry itself still remains as a memorial of the last of the Plantagenets. The aged Countess’s mutilated remains were buried in St Peter’s Chapel in the Tower.

St. Peter’s Chapel and the Site of the Scaffold on Tower Green

Five years after the judicial murder of More and Fisher, their traducer and bitter enemy, Thomas Cromwell, who had been created Earl of Essex by Henry in 1540—only three months before his sudden fall—suffered death on Tower Hill. A parallel has been drawn between Cromwell and Jeffreys in their brutal administration of what they considered justice, and a second parallel might very fittingly be drawn between Henry’s secretary and Maximilian Robespierre. Both sprang from the people; both rose to almost supreme power; both attained their ends by the force of their overwhelming ambition and intense determination of character; both were untroubled by any touch of pity or qualm of conscience; and both ended their lives upon the scaffold.

Very little is known of Cromwell’s early years. He was the son of a blacksmith, and was born at Putney in 1490. At Wolsey’s death he darted into power, and his influence with the King became stronger than even the Cardinal’s had ever been. Cromwell once owned to Cranmer, after he had attained the position of the most powerful subject in the realm, that in early life he had been a “ruffian,” and a ruffian he remained until his death on Tower Hill. Henry required an unscrupulous instrument to carry out his schemes in suppressing the religious orders, and in Cromwell he found a man as utterly lacking in principles as he himself. Cromwell was exactly what he described himself as having been in his youth to156 Cranmer, but a ruffian without heart, feeling, or conscience. I have compared Thomas Cromwell to Robespierre, and the likeness can be even traced in their lineaments. There is an admirable engraving which has all the marks of being a faithful likeness of Cromwell in the “Herologia,” and a portrait of him in the National Portrait Gallery, and in both the facial resemblance to Robespierre is remarkable. The features are of the ferret type, not brutal by any means, but the suggestion of the weasel in both faces is strongly marked. Cromwell made a close study of Machiavelli, and “The Prince” was his constant companion, philosopher, and guide; Cæsar Borgia could not have followed the precepts of the cynical Florentine more literally than did the ennobled son of the Putney blacksmith.

It was his aim to make the King supreme both in Church and State. In order to achieve this object, the Church was first pillaged, and when he and his master were glutted with the spoils of monasteries and abbeys, he turned his attention to the State, sweeping off the heads of those nobles whom he considered sufficiently independent in their views to resist the merging of the supreme power in the sovereign. For ten years—from 1530 to 1540—there was an English “Terror.” Even Henry himself, who seemed to fear neither man nor God, feared Cromwell. It was Cromwell who was more responsible than Henry for the deaths of More and Fisher; it was Cromwell who, when the Pilgrimage of Grace took place, carried fire and sword into Yorkshire, and afterwards into Devonshire; it was Cromwell who instigated Henry to exterminate the families of de la Pole and Courtenay; it was Cromwell who threatened to destroy Cardinal Pole, although the latter had put the seas between himself and the terrible instrument of the King’s enmity. “There may be found ways enough in Italy,” he wrote to the Cardinal, “to rid a treacherous subject. When justice can take no place by process of law at home, sometimes she157 may be enforced to take new means abroad.” The Cardinal soon learnt what Cromwell meant by “justice at home,” when the news reached him in Italy that Cromwell and the King had butchered his aged mother upon Tower Green. Shortly before his fall—and this fact of his career is similar to that of Robespierre—Cromwell had attained what was practically the supreme power. Besides being Earl of Essex, he was also Great Chamberlain of England, Vicar-General of the Church, the head of all foreign and domestic affairs, and President of the Star Chamber—the most supreme and most redoubtable council in the land, which corresponded in its power to the Council of the Ten at Venice.

Like Robespierre again, in private life Cromwell lived simply and without ostentation—a strong contrast this to his old master and patron, the magnificent Wolsey. Whether Cromwell possessed any redeeming points in his character history has not recorded, but his fall was singular, as sudden and as unexpected as had been his rise. It was brought about by a woman, although indirectly. Cromwell had arranged the marriage of Henry with Anne of Cleves, and when the King found that princess lacking in all the charms with which she had been accredited both by painters and courtiers, he not only spoke of her as “a Flanders mare,” but visited his disappointment upon the negotiator of the marriage, and, from being Henry’s most trusted adviser, Cromwell became the object of his royal master’s implacable hatred.

The old historian Stowe thus relates the fall of the newly created Earl of Essex: “The King’s wrath was kindled against all those that were preferrers of this match, whereof the Lord Cromwell was the chief, for the which, and for dealing somewhat too far in some matters beyond the King’s good liking, were the occasions of his hasty death.” On the 10th of June 1540, Cromwell, who had been in his place in the House of Lords the same afternoon, was arrested and placed in the Tower; so sudden158 was the effect of Henry’s rage. Cranmer, who appears to have been a true friend of the fallen Minister, wrote to Henry in his behalf, but with the usual result.

Foxe, the martyrologist, bears witness to the courage and unshaken firmness evinced by Cromwell during his imprisonment. On the 29th of the month he was condemned to death by both Houses of Parliament. The day after he wrote a piteous letter to the King, which ends thus, “Most Gracious Prince, I can say but mercy, mercy, mercy!” But Henry and mercy were strangers, and the former slayer of women and children must have bitterly regretted the little of the same quality that he had shown to others in the days of his power.

A month later he was beheaded. On his way to Tower Hill he met Lord Hungerford, bound on a similar errand—the distance from the Tower to Tower Hill takes but five minutes, walking very slowly—and whilst these two were making their way to their final earthly destruction, Cromwell appears to have encouraged his fellow-sufferer, who was complaining and bewailing the approach of death, as they faced the Hill together, and the grim shadow that was closing round them. “And so,” writes Foxe, “went they together to the place of execution, and took their death patientlie.”

What Cromwell said in his dying speech on the scaffold has been made uncertain by the garbled accounts of his words; but, to judge from these, he made a better exit from the world than his career in it would have led one to expect. The executioner was awkward, and, according to the chroniclers, Stowe, Hall, and Foxe, “very ungoodly performed his office.” Cromwell was fifty years of age when his career thus ended. From the son of a blacksmith, and with no manner of advantages, he had risen from his humble surroundings at Putney to become an Earl, a Knight of the Garter, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Keeper of the Privy Seal, and Lord Great Chamberlain of England. He did much 159evil, but he accomplished two good things for the benefit of his country, which should be put upon the other side of his account; he caused the Bible to be printed in English in 1538, and he instituted the system of parish registers, which he himself superintended.

St. Thomas’s and Curfew Towers

The Lord Hungerford of Heytesbury, who has been mentioned as having been beheaded at the same time as Cromwell, had been accused of having persuaded some persons to prophesy how long the King would live. It was probably only a trumped-up charge, and certainly, if true, not of any greater offence than that of lèse majesté, but it was considered quite sufficient to bring the too curious inquirer to the scaffold. In the same year, as has already been stated, Lord Leonard Grey was executed.

An apparently justifiable execution took place in the year 1541, that of Lord Dacre, on Tower Hill, he being, according to Holinshed’s Chronicle, guilty of murder.

Cromwell, although not a professed Protestant, had always protected the followers of that faith, but with his death they were again persecuted by Henry, and at the end of July 1541 three of the most prominent of the Lutherans, Dr Robert Barnes, Thomas Gerard, and William Jerome, were haled to the dungeons of the Tower, and thence dragged through the City on hurdles, and burnt at Smithfield. On the same day (30th July) Henry, with his almost incredible impartiality when engaged on persecution, caused four Roman Catholic priests—Doctor Abel, Fetherstone, Powel, and Cooke—to be burnt to death at the same place (Hall).

In the Beauchamp Tower is a carving, representing a bell, on which the capital letter “A” is cut. This is a rebus carved by the learned and unfortunate Dr Abel, while he was awaiting his trial and execution in this tower. Abel was a man of great learning, and had been domestic chaplain to Catherine of Arragon, and had offended the King by championing Catherine’s cause during the trial of divorce between her and Henry. Below Dr Abel’s160 rebus appears the name of “Doctor Cooke, 1540,” which is the inscription of Lawrence Cooke, Prior of Doncaster. These four priests were martyrs for the old faith, like More and Fisher, and many less known Roman Catholics, who preferred death rather than acknowledge Henry’s supremacy in the Church of England.

Queen Catherine Howard

Six years after Anne Boleyn’s execution upon Tower Green, another of Henry’s Queens was led out from her prison in the Tower, to a similar doom on that same spot.

In the case of Queen Catherine Howard, one cannot, alas! feel that the poor victim was innocent of the charge which the King had brought against her. Catherine Howard was an erring woman, much to be pitied. She confessed her guilt both to Archbishop Cranmer and many Lords of the Council, to Suffolk, Southampton, and also to Thirlby, the Bishop of Westminster—the only Bishop who ever occupied that see.

On the 10th of February 1542 Queen Catherine Howard was brought from Sion House, where she and Lady Rochford had passed the winter in close confinement, to the Tower, and three days later both these unhappy ladies were beheaded on the scaffold on Tower Green. Both died with courage, and both confessed their guilt before the axe fell, for on this occasion the services of the Calais executioner were not called into requisition. An eye-witness of their deaths, named Otwell Johnson, in a letter written by him (and which is undoubtedly genuine, as Sir Henry Ellice includes it in his first series of “Original Letters”), declares that both victims “made the moost godly and chrystian end, that ever was hard tell of I thynke sins the world’s creation.” So the last act in these poor women’s lives atoned for the evil of which they had been undoubtedly guilty. Weever, a contemporary, alludes161 thus to the Queen’s burial: “Within the choir of this chapel (St Peter’s) lieth buried near the relics of the said Annie Bollein, the body of Katherine, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII., who, having continued his wife but the space of one year, six months, and four days, was attainted by Parliament and beheaded here in the Tower upon the 13th of February 1542.” Lady Rochford shared her mistress’s place of interment. Catherine Howard was but twenty-two years of age when her life closed so tragically. Culpepper and Dereham, who were charged with being the Queen’s paramours, were hanged at Tyburn, and some of her relatives suffered imprisonment in the Tower on her account. Among these were her grandmother, “old Duchess of Norfolk,” as Shakespeare calls her; Lord and Lady William Howard, and the Countess of Bridgwater, the daughter of Thomas, second Duke of Norfolk. By a singular coincidence, the Duke of Norfolk, who had presided at the trial of Anne Boleyn, was uncle both to that unfortunate Queen and to Catherine Howard, and when the latter was attainted, he wrote thus to Henry: “The abominable deeds done by two of my nieces against your Highness have brought me into the greatest perplexity that ever poor wretch was in” (State Papers: Domestic Series). The “poor wretch” himself came within an ace of losing his own head by Henry’s orders, and the King’s death the day before that fixed for Norfolk’s execution, alone saved him from perishing on the scaffold.

An unusual occurrence happened in the Tower in this same year of Catherine Howard’s death, Arthur Lisle Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle, dying of joy, according to old Hall, on hearing that he was declared innocent of the charge upon which he had been placed in the Tower, that he had intended to betray the town of Calais. Arthur Lisle was a natural son of Edward IV., and had served in the Navy, of which he was a Vice-Admiral. He had been knighted and created Viscount Lisle in 1523, and given the Garter in the following year.


It is about this time that the first mention is made of that most uncomfortable dungeon in the White Tower, named from the smallness of its size, “Little Ease,” Hall, in his “Chronicles,” stating that one of the officers belonging to the Sheriffs of London was placed in this prison.

The disaster to the Scottish Army at Solway Moss in 1542 brought many Scottish prisoners to the Tower, thus repeating the history of the building during the reigns of the first and third Edwards. Among them were the Earls of Cassillis and Glencairn, Maxwell, Oliphant, and Somerville, together with some twenty knights; they were not long in the Tower, however, being sent to various places to undergo their terms of imprisonment.

Anne Askew

One of the most memorable names connected with the Tower in the reign of Henry VIII. is that of Anne Askew, or Ascue, as it is sometimes spelt, the daughter of Sir William Askew, the head of an old Lincolnshire family. In early life she had married a Mr Kyme, so that when her persecution for her faith took place—a persecution which has immortalised her name—it would have been more correct to have called her by her husband’s name; however, her maiden appellation has clung to her, and will always remain the one by which she is known. Kyme appears to have been a bigoted Roman Catholic, and his wife’s strong attachment to the Reformed faith may have been increased by his conduct towards her, for he seems to have been a good-for-nothing fellow who made her life the reverse of a happy one. Amongst Anne’s friends in London who belonged to the Reformed faith, was no less a person than Catherine Howard’s successor as Henry’s wife, Queen Catherine Parr. Anne, it appears, had some post about the Queen’s person; at any rate, she was known163 to many of the principal ladies of the Court. An Act known as “The Six Articles,” which obtained the popular name of “The Whip with Six Strings,” had been made law in 1539. The first clause of this Act ordained that whoever disagreed with the declaration of the Statute of Transubstantiation or the Real Presence, that the “Natural Blood Body and Blood of Christ” were present in the Sacrament, should suffer death by fire. Many men and women had been barbarously killed for denying the truth of this doctrine, and amongst those who suffered martyrdom was Anne Askew. To the horror of such a death Henry and his Council added that of torture, in order to force the victim to recant; torture, although illegal, was often, nay commonly, used in Henry’s reign.

Lord de Ros’s account of Anne Askew’s sufferings and death are too interesting to need an apology for my quoting it here:

“In March 1545, she was summoned before an Inquest or Commission at the Guildhall, and subjected to a long examination by one Dare, when she displayed an intelligence and shrewdness, which, with her modest, gentle demeanour, drew the admiration even of her enemies. Being remanded to the Compter, she was shortly after brought before Bishop Bonner for examination, who exercised all his subtlety to entangle her in her replies; and at length drew out a written summary, in which he had grossly perverted their meaning, and desired her, after hearing it read, to declare whether or not she would subscribe to its contents. Her answer merits to be recorded, ‘I believe,’ she said, ‘as much therof as is agreable to the Holy Scriptures; and I desire that this sentence may be added to it.’ Furious at what he called her obstinate evasions, Bonner was about to proceed to violent extremities, when by the interference of some powerful friend, and probably for other reasons, she was allowed to be released on the bail of her cousin, one Brittayne, who, during the examination, at which he was present, had judiciously cautioned her ‘not to set her weak woman’s wit to his lordship’s great wisdom.’ We have no record of the cause, or rather pretext, of her being, about three months afterwards, again arrested. This time her husband, Kyme, was brought up along with her before the Privy Council, sitting at Greenwich. Wriothesley, the Chancellor, now undertook her examination, and chiefly on the great point of Transubstantiation, on which she firmly refused to abandon her own convictions, and was committed to Newgate; from whence she wrote some devotional letters, which show her to have164 possessed considerable talent. Her next appearance was before the Council at the Guildhall, when, after an examination by a silly Lord Mayor (Martin), in which she entirely foiled him by her simplicity and good sense, she was plainly told, that unless she renounced her errors, and distinctly declared her acquiescence in the Six Articles, she must prepare to die; and, on her firm refusal, she was condemned, without any trial by jury, to be burned as an heretic. Meantime, instead of being sent back to Newgate, she was committed to the Tower, with a view to subject her to the torture of the rack, for which the gloomy seclusion of that fortress afforded greater convenience than the ordinary prison of Newgate, with the hope of inducing her to incriminate the Duchess of Suffolk, the Countess of Sussex, the Countess of Hertford, and other ladies who were supposed to have assisted her with money for her support in prison. She was too high-minded and grateful to betray them; and whatever might have been the case, she declared that she had been chiefly kept from starvation by her faithful maid, who went out and begged for her of the ‘’prentices and others she met in the street.’

“The unhappy lady was now carried to a dungeon, and laid on the rack in the presence of the Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir A. Knyvett, and Wriothesley, the Chancellor, Rich, a creature of Bonner, and a secretary, sitting at her side to take down her words. But when she endured the torture without opening her lips in reply to the Chancellor’s questions, he became furious, and seizing the wheel himself, strained it with all his force, till Knyvett, revolting at such cruelty, insisted on her release from the dreadful machine. It was but in time to save her life, for she had twice swooned, and her limbs had been so stretched, and her joints so injured, that she was never again able to walk without support. Wriothesley hastened to Westminster to complain to the King of the Lieutenant’s lenity; but the latter, getting into his barge with a favourable tide, arrived before him, obtained immediate audience, and told his tale so honestly and with such earnestness, that Henry’s hard heart was softened for once, and approving his conduct he dismissed him with favour. A stronger reason for this may have been that the rack was regarded with such horror by the people as to be applied only in secrecy; and had Anne expired under it, and the fact became known, some violent outbreak might have been apprehended in the City. She was shortly afterwards carried to Smithfield and there burnt to ashes, together with three other persons for the same cause, in the presence of the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Bedford, Sir Thomas Wriothesley, the Lord Mayor, and a vast concourse of people. One of the peers, learning that there was some gunpowder about the stakes, became frightened lest any accident should happen to himself from the faggots being blown into the air; but the Earl of Bedford assuring him that no such chance could occur, and that it was only to hasten the deaths of the sufferers, he remained looking on with the same barbarous indifference as the brutal mob who had assembled to witness the dreadful spectacle.”

Traitors’ Gate, from the Bloody Tower


Anne Askew’s fellow-sufferers were named John Lascels (? Lascelles), John Adams, and Nicholas Beleinian; there is a woodcut of their martyrdom in Foxe’s book.

Anne Askew’s death appears to have been fraught with some danger to Queen Catherine Parr. Aware of the Queen’s sympathy for Anne, and her leaning towards the Reformed faith, Wriothesley, the bigoted Lord Chancellor, went so far as to draw up a warrant for Catherine’s arrest. Fortunately for the Queen she was warned of her danger, and either was actually frightened into a fever, or feigned illness. During an interview with the King, the suffering Queen so worked upon his feelings, that when Wriothesley appeared with a guard to take her into custody, Henry turned upon him, and, heaping the foulest abuse upon him, drove him from the presence (Speed’s Chronicle). Luckily for Catherine Parr the days of Henry were near their end, or it is more than probable that she would have shared the fate of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

In 1546 peace had been made between England and France, and in order to ratify the treaty the French sent their Lord High Admiral to England, with the Bishop of Evreux, and some other nobles. Landing at Greenwich, they were conducted with great ceremony to the Tower—where a splendid banquet awaited them in the palace of the fortress—by the Earls of Essex and Derby in the royal barge. After leaving the Tower they proceeded to Lambeth Palace, and thence to Hampton Court, where the treaty was signed. These were the last guests of the Sovereign in the Tower. The last State prisoner to be executed in Henry’s reign was the gifted and brilliantly endowed Earl of Surrey, the eldest son of Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk, who, as I have said before, also narrowly escaped with his life.

Henry VIII., for the good of his people, was dying fast at the close of the year 1546. His once handsome and athletic form had become a bloated mass of corruption.166 His nature, always cruel, became fiend-like during his later years, owing to his physical sufferings. He knew that death was gaining upon him rapidly, but whilst he lived he determined still to destroy, and when even in the very grasp of the King of Terrors, still sent out his death orders. No cause can be assigned for the King, while his wicked old life was fast ebbing away from him, ordering the death of Norfolk and his son Surrey. The only possible reason was that perhaps Henry feared they might wield too great an influence after his death, when his heir, Edward, should have become King.

Henry intended that his son’s uncle, Lord Hertford, Queen Jane Seymour’s brother, should be his sole guardian, and for a wretched pretext Norfolk and Surrey were arrested, imprisoned in the Tower, and sentenced to death. Of the Duke of Norfolk, Sir Walter Raleigh wrote in the preface to his great History: “Henry knew not how to value his deservings, having never omitted anything that concerned his own honour and the King’s service.” Despite his weakness for tears, Norfolk may rank amongst the English worthies, for he had done good service to the State, both in arms and council. He had commanded the English army at the Battle of Flodden, and had led another army during a second victorious war in Scotland; he had also led the English van in the war with France. In Ireland he had been one of the best and most just of the English Lords-Deputy. By the accident of birth the Duke was of the blood-royal, being descended from the Mowbrays; further than this, he had married one of the daughters of Edward IV., and two of his nieces had been Queens of England. For his own safety he was perilously near the steps of the throne, and his birth was too high, the story of his life too romantic, for Henry to tolerate his surviving himself, consequently, with reason or without, his death was determined upon; Henry was never troubled by lack of just cause. The dying King excused his treatment of the Duke and his son Surrey to foreign courts, by167 giving out that they had conspired to take upon themselves the government of the State; this was a pure invention. Another and a still more ridiculous charge brought against them was that Norfolk and his son had quartered in their shield the royal arms of Edward the Confessor. This charge could not have hoodwinked the most simple, for it had been the custom of the Duke’s family long before he himself was born to have these arms quartered upon their shield. However, on the 14th of January 1547, the House of Lords, without even the form of a trial, and without examining either the Duke or his son, passed a bill of attainder against them, and the end of the month was fixed for their execution.

While awaiting his trial in the Tower Norfolk appears to have been inclined—to make use of a racing expression—to “hedge,” as regarded his religious opinions. The Duke had always professed himself a Catholic, both by birth and conviction, but from his prison he sent a petition to the Lords of the Council in which, after asking their permission to have some books sent to him from Lambeth, he adds, “for unless I have books to read ere I fall asleep, and after I wake again, I cannot sleep, nor have done these dozen years. That I may have mass, and be bound upon my life not to speak to him who says mass, which he may do in the other chamber whilst I remain within. That I may be allowed sheets to lie in; to have licence in the daytime to walk in the chamber without, and in the night be locked in as I am now. I would gladly have licence to send to London to buy one book of St Austin, ‘de Civitate Dei,’ and one of Josephus, ‘de Antiquitatibus,’ and another of Sabellius, who doth declare most of any book that I have read, how the Bishop of Rome from time to time hath usurped his power against all Princes by their unwise sufferance” (“Seward’s Anecdotes,” Ed. 1798).

Surrey was placed in the Tower at the same time as his father. Not only was Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, a charming poet, especially when writing of love, of which168 his verses addressed to the “Fair Geraldine” are perhaps his best, but he was also remarkable in the history of English literature as having been the first writer of blank verse in our language; he was also a distinguished soldier. But thirty years old when his fate came upon him, he was a national loss, and in killing Surrey, Henry destroyed one of England’s most gifted sons. Not being a peer, Surrey was tried before a Common jury at the Guildhall on the 13th January 1547. He made a splendid defence where no defence was necessary, and where no defence, however eloquent, and no career, however blameless, would have saved him. With the axe’s edge turned towards him he left the Guildhall for the Tower, and six days later one of the wisest, noblest, and most gifted heads that England possessed, rolled in the bloody sawdust of the scaffold on Tower Hill. Norfolk’s life was only saved by the providential death of Henry VIII., which took place only a few hours before the time fixed for the Duke’s execution. He remained a prisoner in the Tower until the reign of Mary Tudor, and lived to preside at the trial of the Duke of Northumberland, and again to take up arms when Wyatt’s rebellion broke out, although then in his eightieth year. He died a natural death in his bed—a rare event with the heads of his house—in 1554, aged eighty-one. Norfolk had lived in the reign of eight English sovereigns—from the reign of Henry VI. to that of Mary Tudor.

Back of the Byward Tower




The boy King Edward VI. was only ten years of age when he succeeded to the throne. On the 30th of May 1547, he was brought in state to the Tower amidst an outburst of the people’s gladness, which, considering all the troubles they had for so long endured under the savage rule of the late monarch, must have been heartfelt and genuine.

Near the town of Midhurst in Sussex are the ruins of one of the finest of the old Tudor mansions, Cowdray House, the old home of the Montagus. In the reign of Edward VI. Cowdray belonged to Sir Antony Brown, who held the proud office of Grand Standard Bearer of England. Here it was that the boy King in the year of his accession was entertained by Sir Antony, and in his precocious diary the little monarch wrote that he was “marvellously, yea, rather excessively banketted.” Cowdray House—and that is my reason for writing about it here—contained a most interesting series of paintings upon its walls illustrating the events in the reign of Henry VIII. and that of his son, who was so “excessively banketted” within its halls. Among these paintings were representations of the siege of Boulogne by Henry VIII.; the Field of the Cloth of Gold; and a huge painting of the coronation of Edward VI., in which the long procession is seen wending its gorgeous length from the Tower to Westminster Abbey. All these paintings perished in the disastrous fire which destroyed Cowdray on the 24th of September 1793.170 Fortunately, George Vertue copied these paintings and engraved the copies in the middle of the eighteenth century, the engravings being published by the Society of Antiquaries. Next to the Bayeux tapestry, nothing more interesting than these pictured records of English history have come down to us.

Among the pageants and devices with which the joyous Londoners graced the occasion when the young King rode through the festive streets, was a very quaint one, which Holinshed thus describes: “An argosine (a sailor) came from the batilment of Saint Poule’s Church, upon a cable, beyng made faste to an anker at the deane’s doore, liying uppon his breaste, aidyng himself neither with hande nor foote, and after ascended to the middes of the same cable, and tumbled and plaied many pretie toies, wherat the Kyng and other of the peres and nobles of the realme laughed hartely.” A few days before his coronation Edward had taken his place upon a throne in the Tower, and had had his little hand kissed by the peers, receiving the accolade of knighthood from the hands of his maternal uncle, the Protector Somerset. But whilst he received knighthood from one uncle, to another he gave lodging in the Tower. The latter was Thomas, Lord Seymour of Sudley, Lord High Admiral of England. Lord Sudley—or as it is also written Sudeley—was an over-ambitious personage. He had married the late King’s widow, Catherine Parr, and after her death, which he is supposed to have hastened, he began to pay very marked attentions to the Princess Elizabeth. Although one does not wish to allude to any scandal that may have attached itself in the gossip of the time to the name of that Princess, the flirtation—to give Elizabeth’s conduct with the Lord High Admiral its mildest description—was at one time too notorious an episode in the future “Gloriana’s” career to be wholly omitted from mention. Who has not read of the “high jinks” carried on between them? How on one occasion Seymour was found cutting the Princess’s gown171 “into a hundred pieces,” in the gardens of Hanworth, and how on another he had the audacity to pay Elizabeth a visit in her bed-chamber, on which occasion she “ran out of her bed to her maidens, and then went behind the curtains of her bed.” Seymour was certainly uncommonly handsome, and it is well known that Elizabeth was very impressionable in the matter of manly beauty. Probably Elizabeth’s chances of one day succeeding to the Crown may have helped to make Seymour so forward in his advances, but it was neither his flirtation with the Princess, nor his marriage with Catherine Parr, that brought about his ruin; he was discovered to be intriguing against his all-powerful brother, the Protector Somerset. A warrant was issued for his arrest on the 17th of January 1549, and he was taken to the Tower, in spite of his threat to poignard any person who dared to lay hands on him (“State Papers,” Dom. Ed. VI.). “By God’s precious soul,” he wrote, “whosoever lays hands on me to fetch me to prison, I shall thrust my dagger into him.” It is not recorded whether he carried his threat into execution. He was repeatedly interrogated whilst in the Tower, but without any effect, and on the 25th of February the bill of attainder against him was introduced into the House of Lords. On the 2nd of March it passed the Commons, and three days later received the royal assent; on the 15th, Goodriche, Bishop of Ely, communicated to Seymour that he was to suffer death on the 20th.

The Protector has naturally been greatly blamed for the part he took in bringing his brother to the scaffold, and there is a curious passage in a letter written by the Princess Elizabeth to her sister Queen Mary, shortly after she herself was sent a prisoner to the Tower, in which she says, “In late days I hearde my Lorde Somerset say, that if his brother had bine suffered to speke to him, he had never suffered; but the persuasions were made to him so gret, that he was brought in beleafe that he could not live safely if the admirall lived; and that made him give his consent172 to his dethe.” The young King’s entry in his diary regarding his uncle’s death is extremely laconic: “The Lord Sudley, admiral of England, was condemned to death, and died in March ensuing.” Burnet in his “History” says, “What his behaviour was on the scaffold I do not find,” and indeed no record, as was the case with so many of his distinguished contemporaries, has come down to us of his last moments, except that Strype in his “History” says, that just before the end the Admiral bade his servant, “speed the thing that he wot of.”

This last message appears to have regarded two letters which he had written in the Tower, one to the Princess Elizabeth, and the other to the Princess Mary. They had been written in some kind of invisible ink, and, having no pen, he had written them with the point of an “uglet” which “he had plucked from his hose,” and they had been sewn between the sole of one of his velvet shoes. “By this means these letters came to light, and fell into the hands of the Protector and Council. The contents of these tended to this end, that the two sisters should conspire together against the Protector, enforcing many matters against him, to make these ladies jealous of him, as though he had, it may be, estranged the King their brother from them, or to deprive them of the right of their succession. Both these papers Latimer himself saw, and repeated publicly in his fourth sermon before the King, though in the last edition of his sermons the passage is left out.” The following, however, is the passage from Latimer’s most strange discourse on the death of the Lord High Admiral, which he preached before the King regarding his uncle’s death; a less charitable or courtly address is not often met with: “As touching the kind of his death, whether he be saved or no, I refer that to God. In the twinkling of an eye He may save a man or turn his heart. What he did I cannot tell, and when a man hath two strokes with an axe, who can tell but between two strokes he doth repent? It is hard to judge, but this I will say, if they will ask me what173 I think of his death, that he died very dangerously, irksomely and horribly. He was a wicked man and the realm is well rid of him” (“Latimer’s Sermons”).

The death of his brother made the Protector still more disliked by the people; he was already unpopular by reason of his rapaciousness and the manner in which he attained great wealth by the seizure of Church property. The huge palace he had built by the riverside, and called after himself Somerset House, was a standing witness of his overpowering greed in the eyes of all men. In order to increase the size of this building he had committed desecration by pulling down a church, and casting away the human remains that had been buried within it; such an action in those days was considered by the populace as a crime.

The elder brother soon followed the younger along the same gloomy road to the grave, thus fulfilling the words of the chronicler Grafton, who, when Seymour died, had written, “It was commonly talked that the fall of one brother would be the overthrow of the other, as soone after it came to passe.”

The Protector’s fall was brought about by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, his rival. At a meeting convened at Ely House, Holborn, at which Lord St John, the President of the Council, Northumberland, Southampton, Arundel, and five other members of the Privy Council were present, the Protector’s arrest was decided upon. When Somerset heard this startling news he took the young King from Hampton Court to Windsor, and prepared to defend himself by force to the last. His call to arms, however, met with no response; none of his former friends came forward in his support, and he felt that his cause was lost. Meanwhile the Privy Council had taken possession of the Tower and despatched Sir Philip Hoby as its messenger to the King at Windsor, with letters, “beseeching his highness to give credit to that which he should declare in their names; and the King gave him libertie to speak, and most gentlie heard all that he had174 to saie, and trulie he did so wiselie declare his message, and so gravelie told his tale in the name of the Lords, yea therewithal so vehementlie and greevous so against the Protector, who was also there present by the King, that in the end, the Lord Protector was commanded from the King’s presence” (“Grafton’s Chronicle”).

On the 12th of October, two days after the meeting of the Privy Council at Ely House, the Protector occupied the prison chamber at Beauchamp Tower. The once all-powerful Duke was brought to his knees in every sense of the term, for, on the 21st of January 1550, he actually signed a confession, kneeling before his nephew the King. Apparently, in consequence of this submission, Somerset was released from the Tower, as Edward records in his diary on the 6th of February, that his uncle “supped at Sir John Yorke’s, one of the sheriffes of London, where the Lords assembled to welcome him”; and on the 31st of March he reappeared at Court, the King writing under that date, “My Lord Somerset was delivered of his bondes and came to court.” On the 21st of April the King recorded, “It was granted that my lord of Somerset should have all his moveable goodes and leases, except those that be alreadie given.”

Warwick, who had about this time been created Duke of Northumberland, had arranged a marriage between his eldest son, Lord Lisle, and Somerset’s daughter, Lady Anne, in June 1550; but in spite of this alliance, the old feud between these enemies broke out again, with the result that on the 16th of October 1551, Somerset was again a prisoner in the Tower, on a charge of high treason. And that evening the royal diarist writes, “This morning none were at Westminster of the conspirators. The first was the duke, who came later than he was wont, of himself. After dinner he was apprehended.” On this occasion Somerset’s wife shared his imprisonment.

The indictment against the Duke was presented at the Guildhall on the 21st of November, a true bill being found175 by a jury of Middlesex. Strict orders were given to the Lord Mayor “to cause the citie to be well looked to and garded all to-morrow and the next night.” Two days afterwards the King entered in his diary, “The Lord Treasurer (this was William Paulet, created Marquis of Winchester in 1555) apointed high stuard for the arraignment of the Duke of Somerset.”

The King’s House

Stowe writes on the 2nd of December, “The sayde Duke brought out of the Tower of London, with the axe of the Tower borne before him, with a great number of billes, glaves, holbardes, and polaxes attending upon him; and was had from the Tower by water, and having shot London Bridge at five of the clock in the morning, so came unto Westminster Hall, where was made the middle of the Hall a new scaffold, where all the Lordes of the King’s Counsaill sate as his judges, and there was he arraigned and charged with many articles both of treason and felony. And when, after much speeche, he had answered not guiltie, he in all humble manner put himself to be tryed by his peeres who, after long consultations among themselves, gave their verdict that he was not guiltie of the treason, but of the felony.”

The King gave a long and very involved account of the Duke’s trial in his diary, far too long to quote; at the close he writes as follows:—“So the lordes acquited him of high treason and condemned him of treason feloniouse, and so he was adjudged to be hanged. He gave thankes to the lordis for their open trial and cried mercy of the Duke of Northumberland, the Marquis of Northamptoon, and the Erie of Pembroke for his ill meanings against them and made suet (suit) for his life, wife and children, servantes and dettes, and so departed without the axe of the Tower. The people knowing not the matter, shrieked half a dozen times so loud that from the halle dore it was heard at Charing Crosse plainely, and rumours went that he was quitte of all.”

Grafton writes of the Duke’s trial: “But nevertheless176 he was condemned to death, wherof shortlye after he tasted. The felony that he was condemned of was upon the statute made the last yere agaynst rebelles and unlawfull assemblyes, wherein among thinges is one branch that whosoever shall procure the death of any counsellor, that every such attempt or procurement shall be felonye, and by force of that statute the Duke of Somerset being, accompanyed with certain others, was charged that he purposed and attempted the death of the Duke of Northumberland. After the Duke was thus condemned he was agayne returned to the Tower, through London, where were bothe exclamations, the one cried for joye that he was acquitted, the other cried out that he was condemned. But howsoever they cried he was conveyed to the Tower where he remained until the twenty-second daye of January next following.” Burnet says that everything was done to prevent the young King taking the fate of his uncle to heart, there being many festivities at Court during the month, but the Bishop adds significantly, “he was not much concerned in his uncle’s preservation.”

The 22nd of January was a Friday, and at seven o’clock in the morning the fatal Hill was covered with a dense crowd, who had come out from all sides of London to see the Protector die. An eye-witness of the scene has left the following account of the Duke’s execution:—

“Soon after eight o’clock of the morning, the Duke of Somerset was beheaded on Tower Hill. There was as gret company as have been syne: the King’s gard behynde them with ther halbards and 1000 men with halbards of the priviledge of the Tower, Ratcliffe, Lymhouse, Whytechappell, Saint Katheryn, and Stretford, Bow, Hogston, and Shoerdyche, and ther were two sheriffs ther present seying the execuyson of my Lord” (Machyn).

Grafton adds that the Duke, “nothing changing voyce nor countenance, but in a manner with the same gesture that he partely used at home, kneeling down upon both177 his knees, and lifting up his handes, erected himself unto God. And after that he had ended a few shorte prayers, standing up agayne, and turning himself unto the East syde of the skaffolde, he uttered to the people these words.” Then follows a long speech in which the Duke rather praised himself for having upheld religion when he was in power. In the midst of his speech a great tumult arose, and Sir Anthony Browne of Cowdray was seen riding up the Hill, at the sight of whom loud cries of “Pardon! Pardon!” and “God save the King!” were raised by the people. Grafton continues his account thus: “The truth of this hurly-burly grewe hereof, as it was afterwards well knowen. The manner and custome is that when such executions are done out of the Tower, the inhabitants of certayne hamlets round about London, as Hogsden, Newynton, Shordiche, and others, are commanded to give their attendance with weapons upon the Lieutenant. And at this tyme, the Duke being upon the scaffolde, the people of one of the hamlets came late, and coming through the postern gate and espying the Duke upon the scaffolde, made haste and beganne to roune, and cried to their felowes that were behind, ‘Come away, come away.’ The people sodainely beholding them to come rounning with weapons, and knewe not the cause, cried, ‘Away, away,’ by reason whereof the people roun every way, not knowing whither or wherefore.” So great was the panic that many persons fell into the Tower moat. The Duke appears to have waited calmly until the disturbance ceased, and then resumed his speech. He gave a scroll to Dr Coxe, the Dean of Westminster, who attended him upon the scaffold, which probably contained a confession of faith. Coxe was afterwards made Bishop of Ely by Queen Elizabeth, after having been imprisoned in the Tower by Queen Mary, who deprived him of his Deanery, and it was to him that Elizabeth wrote her famous letter, “Proud Prelate, you know what you were before I made you what you are; if you do not178 immediately comply with my request, by God I will unfrock you.”

After bidding farewell to his friends about him, Somerset gave himself over to the executioner, “and kneling downe agayne in the straw untyed his shirtstrings, and the executioner coming to him, turned downe his collar rounde about his necke, and all other things which did let or hinder him. Then he, covering his face with his own handkerchiefe, lifting up his eyes unto heaven, where his only hope remained, laid himself downe alone, and there suffered the heavie stroke of the axe, which dispersed the head from his bodye, to the lamentable sight and griefe of thousands that heartily prayed God for him and entirely loved him.” Burnet declares that the people were generally “much affected by the execution,” which was somewhat strange, seeing how deeply unpopular the Protector had been, “and many threw handkerchiefs into the Duke’s blood, to preserve it in remembrance of him. One lady that met the Duke of Northumberland when he was led through the city in Queen Mary’s reign, shaking one of these bloody handkerchiefs, said, ‘Behold the blood of that worthy man, that good uncle of that excellent King, which was shed by thy malicious practice, it doth now begin apparently to revenge itself upon thee.’” In Edward’s diary is this laconic entry on 22nd January (1551–52): “The Duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon Towre hill between eight and nine a cloke in the morning.” The boy-king was certainly not much “concerned,” as Bishop Burnet remarked, for the fate of his uncle.

The Protector, like his brother the Admiral, was a singularly handsome man even in that age of handsome men, and according to Sir John Hayward, one of his contemporaries, was “courteous and affable.” A French writer of the period is not so complimentary in his appreciation of the Duke of Somerset, writing that he was a “homme de quelque entendement, couvert et simulé179 en ses actions, de la nature commune des Anglois, douce apparence, gracieuses paroles, et maligne volonté.”

One of the invariable results of the fall of a party chief in these so-called “good old days,” was that his most trusted friends and adherents fell after him; this occurred in the case of the Protector. The Earl of Arundel, Lords Grey and Paget, with others of his supporters, were sent to the Tower at the same time as the Duke, and of these, Sir Ralph Vane, Sir Michael Stanhope, Sir Thomas Arundel, and Sir Miles Partridge, were executed. Sir Ralph Vane had distinguished himself at the siege of Boulogne in 1544, where he had gained his knighthood, a distinction given in those times only for distinguished services on the field. James I. was the first monarch to prostitute this honour by making it a thing of sale. Vane had also fought in the Scottish campaign. “A man of fierce spirit,” Hayward characterises him, “both sodaine and bold, of no evill disposition, saving that he thought scantnesse of estate too great an evill.” Sir Ralph had in some manner offended the all-powerful Duke of Northumberland, and on some now unknown charge, he was lodged in the Tower in the March of 1551. He was released, but again imprisoned on a charge of conspiring with Somerset. He fled, hiding himself in a stable in Lambeth, but was re-arrested, and again placed in durance in the Tower. When examined by the Privy Council he showed a bold, even a defiant, front, “The time hath been,” he exclaimed, “when I was of some esteeme; but now we are at peace, which repenteth the coward and the courageous alike,” “and so with an obstinate resolution he made choice rather not to regard death than by any submission to intreat for life” (Hayward’s Edward VI.). When found guilty and sentenced to death he said that his blood would make Northumberland’s “pillow uneasy to him,” and Edward hearing of Sir Ralph’s replies to the Court, wrote in his diary under the date 27th January 1551–52, “Sir Ralph Vane was condemned of felony in180 treason, answering like a ruffian.” Sir Michael Stanhope was a cousin of Somerset’s, a fact sufficient in itself to condemn him. Sir Thomas Arundel, another of the condemned knights, was of Lamberne in Cornwall, and had been one of Wolsey’s attendants, being made a Knight of the Bath at Anne Boleyn’s coronation. In 1549 he was appointed Receiver-General of the Duchy of Cornwall. He had been accused of forming a conspiracy in Cornwall, for participation in which his relative, Humphrey Arundel, Governor of St Michael’s Mount, had been hanged at Tyburn in 1549, but Sir Thomas had been released from his imprisonment, the charge against him not having been proved. Shortly afterwards, however, he was again thrown into prison, charged with complicity in the Somerset conspiracy, the nature of this fresh charge being indicated by King Edward’s brief entry in his diary of 11th October 1551, “Sir Thomas Arrundel had ashuired my Lord that the Tower was sauf.” On the 16th October he was sent to the Tower, and Edward writes, “Arrondel was taken.” Arundel was tried the day after Sir Ralph Vane, and also sentenced to die. These and the two others were all executed on the same day, 26th February 1552. Sir Ralph Vane—or, as it should be spelt Fane, for he belonged to the same stock as the Fanes, Earls of Westmoreland, but in those days of euphonious spelling, it is found as Vane, Fane, Perne, and even Phane—and Sir Miles Partridge were hanged, whilst Sir Thomas Arundel and Sir Michael Stanley were beheaded. “Ther body wher putt into dyvers new coffens to be bered, and heds, into the Towre in cases, and ther bered” (Machyn’s Diary); the Earl of Arundel, Lords Grey and Paget were acquitted.

Edward’s short reign of six years ended on the 6th of July 1553, and considering the brief time he occupied the throne, there was a sufficiency of blood shed upon the scaffold, through the machinations of those around him, to have pleased the insatiable Henry the Eighth himself.




Northumberland had persuaded the dying King to pass over his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, in favour of Lady Jane Grey, the grand-daughter of Henry VII. by the marriage of Mary, daughter of that King, with Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, as well as cousin to the late King Edward VI., and his own daughter-in-law; and the Privy Council, immediately after Edward’s death, had confirmed this measure. Northumberland’s plan, in which he had induced Edward to acquiesce, annulled both the Statute of Succession and the will of Henry VIII., for not only did it set aside both the late King’s sisters, but also the direct successors, to whom the crown would hereditarily fall, failing Henry’s daughters. These were the descendants of Henry’s eldest sister Queen Margaret, wife of James IV. of Scotland, who was represented by the girl Queen Mary Stuart, and, after her, by the descendants of Queen Margaret’s second marriage with the Earl of Angus, who were represented by Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Queen Margaret thus being grandmother to both Queen Mary Stuart and Lord Darnley. Henry VIII. himself, however, had passed over Queen Margaret’s claims in his will, and had placed the children of his younger sister, Mary, Duchess of Suffolk, next to his daughter Elizabeth in the succession. The Duchess of Suffolk’s daughter—Lady Frances Brandon—had married Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset, by whom she had had three daughters,182 of whom Lady Jane Grey was the eldest.[10] Dorset, who became Duke of Suffolk during the Protectorate, having been given his father-in-law’s dukedom, was a fervent follower of the Reformed faith, his children sharing his religious beliefs.

The Duchess of Suffolk, Jane’s mother, who was still alive at this time (1553) was passed over in Northumberland’s scheme, since he had succeeded in wedding the daughter to his fourth son, Guildford Dudley, his firm expectation being that as the future Queen’s father-in-law he would have the government of the realm in his own hands. But Northumberland’s ambitious dream was a short one, and the awakening was terrible.

At the time of Edward’s death Lady Jane Grey (Lady Jane Guildford as she should be called, but as was the case with Anne Askew, the paternal name has always been retained) was living at Sion House, a house belonging to her father-in-law, and here a deputation of the Council, headed by Northumberland, Suffolk, Pembroke, and others, went to pay their homage to the new Queen; on the 9th of July 1553, Lady Jane, or as she was now styled, Queen Jane, entered the Tower in state.

Jane Grey was but a girl of sixteen when the ambition of her relatives drew her from the retired and studious life that she loved, and forced her to take up all the perils and troubles that surround a throne. A more perfect creature, according to the unanimous testimony of her contemporaries, never gladdened God’s earth. Her brow was lofty, her features were delicate and refined, bearing a winning sweetness and bright cheerfulness which made all those who were fortunate enough to approach her, at once 183attached to her with a sentiment little short of devotion. Young as she was, her knowledge, even for those days when the daughters of great houses received an education which to us would appear almost encyclopædic, was prodigious. According to her tutors, Aylmer and Roger Ascham, Jane Grey knew Greek, Latin, French, and Italian, being able to both write and speak these languages. Besides, she knew something of Hebrew, Arabic, and even Chaldee. She was proficient in music, and could play upon a variety of instruments, singing to her own accompaniment. In addition to these accomplishments she wrote a beautiful hand—a rare talent for the time—and was a past mistress in the use of her needle.

Queen Mary Tudor
(From a portrait at Latimer.)

Ascham’s account of his visit to Lady Jane at Broadgate has often been quoted, but it will bear quoting again:

“Before I went into Germany, I came to Broadgate in Leicestershire to take my leave of that noble lady, Lady Jane Grey, to whom I was exceedingly much beholden. Her parents the Duke and Duchess, and all the household, gentlemen and gentlewomen, were hunting in the park. I found her in her chamber reading the Phaedo of Plato in Greek, and that with as much delight as some gentlewomen would read a merry Tale of Boccaccio. After salutations and duty done, with some other talk, I asked her why she should lose such pastimes in the park. Smiling, she answered me, ‘All their sport in the park is but a shadow to the pleasure I find in Plato.’ However illustrious she was by fortune, and by royal extraction, these bore no proportion to the accomplishments of her mind adorned with the doctrines of Plato and the eloquence of Demosthenes.”[11]

With all her learning and her great accomplishments Lady Jane appears to have been entirely lacking in that 184provoking superiority and aloofness which, for want of a better word, we call “priggishness.” She was indeed that rare creature, a perfect woman in mind, and character, and person.

Most unwillingly did Lady Jane comply with Northumberland’s wishes. No crown could add to her happiness, which was not dependent upon this world’s state or station, nor one bestowed by the tinsel and glitter of earthly power or riches, but a “peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience.” Jane Grey was not known to the Londoners, and Northumberland was heartily disliked because of his arrogance and overbearing manners, so it was not surprising that when they entered the city on the 10th of July, as the Duke himself said afterwards in deep chagrin, “not a single shout of welcome or God speed was raised as they passed through the silent crowd on their way to the Tower,” “With a grett company of lords and nobulls, and there was a shott of gunne and chambers as has nott been seen oft, between four and five of the clock” (Machyn). Jane Grey’s reign was not a long one.

On the 14th of July, Northumberland had left the Tower with his sons to take command of the troops that had been despatched against Mary, who, in the meantime, had been proclaimed Queen throughout London, whilst the fleet at Yarmouth had also declared for her, a warrant being issued for the arrest of Northumberland as a consequence. The Duke was at Cambridge when he was taken prisoner; he showed great cowardice, throwing his cap up in the air when he saw that his hopes were useless, crying, “God save Queen Mary!” and furthermore, when the Earl of Arundel, who had been sent by Mary, appeared on the scene, the Duke literally grovelled on his knees before him. But his tardy loyalty and his entreaties availed him little, for on the 25th of July he was lodged a prisoner in the Tower, where only a month before his word had been the supreme command. On the 18th of the following month he was arraigned185 for high treason in Westminster Hall, the Duke of Norfolk, who acted as Lord High Sheriff, breaking his wand upon giving sentence, which was a signal for the court to break up. Northumberland was taken back to the Tower and occupied a room in the Beauchamp Tower, where several inscriptions cut by his sons and himself are to be seen to this day.

Lady Jane Grey
(From the original portrait at Madresfield Court by Lucas van Heere)

The day after he entered the Tower the Duke received a visit from Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, to whom he declared that he was a Roman Catholic at heart, and that he had always been a member of that faith. But although he “ratted” in his religion as well as in his politics, his facility of opinion was in vain. Gardiner was only too pleased to prove the Duke’s apostacy by a public ceremonial in which the changeable nobleman was the principal actor. Mass was said in the Chapel of the White Tower in which the Duke took part, and, that ended, he made a public confession, and a formal recantation of his former religion.

To return to Lady Jane Grey. When the news of Northumberland’s arrest at Cambridge reached the Tower, Lady Throckmorton, one of Lady Jane’s gentlewomen, on entering the Presence Chamber in the Palace, found that the canopy of state, and all the other ensigns of royalty had been removed. The nine days’ reign was at an end, and not unwillingly did Jane cease playing a part that she must have felt did not by right belong to her, and which must have been distasteful to her noble and upright nature. But a prison awaited both herself and her boy-husband, Guildford Dudley.

The tradition that Jane was imprisoned in the Brick Tower is incorrect, for at first she occupied a room in the Lieutenant’s House, now the King’s House, and later was removed to a house on the Green adjacent to the Lieutenant’s lodging, then occupied by the Gentleman gaoler of the Guard, Nathaniel Partridge by name. When Northumberland was led from the Beauchamp Tower to abjure his religion in the White Tower, Stowe186 writes that “Lady Jane looking through the windowe sawe the Duke and the reste going to the Church.” Jane’s feelings on learning Northumberland’s apostacy in the vain hope of saving his life, have been recorded in an anonymous MS. of the time, now in the British Museum (Harleian MSS. No. 194). The writer, who dined on the afternoon of the same day (29th August) with Partridge at the Gentleman gaoler’s house, met Lady Jane Grey there. After noting her graciousness to all present, he says that Lady Jane inquired whether Mass was being said in all the London churches, and on being answered that such was the case, she said that she did not think that so strange as the sudden conversion of the Duke, “for who would have thought,” she said, “that he would have done so?” On someone remarking that probably he had done so in order to obtain his pardon, “Pardon,” quoth she, “woe unto him! He hath brought me and our stock in most miserable calamity by his exceeding ambition. But for the answering that he hoped for his life by his turning, though other men be of that opinion, I utterly am not; for what man is there living, I pray you, although he had been innocent, that would hope of life in that case; being in the field against the Queen in person as general, and after his taking, so hated and evil-spoken of in the Commons? And at his coming into prison so wondered at, as the like was never heard at any man’s time. Should I, who am young in years, forsake my faith for the love of life? But God be merciful to us, for he sayeth who so denieth Him before man, he will not know him in His Father’s kingdom.” Whether Lady Jane spoke thus at Partridge’s dinner table is not possible of proof, “methinks the lady doth protest too much” for these to be the ipsissima verba of Lady Jane. Of her sorrow for Northumberland’s cowardice and smallness of spirit in allowing himself to be made an exhibition for the glorification of Queen Mary’s priests and creatures, there can be no doubt.

Lord Guildford Dudley
(From the original portrait at Madresfield Court by Lucas van Heere.)


The day after his recantation in the chapel of St John’s, Northumberland was beheaded. With him there went to the scaffold on Tower Hill, Sir John Gates and Sir Thomas Palmer, both these knights having been concerned in his conspiracy. Still clinging desperately to the hope of being pardoned at the last moment, Northumberland continued, as he was led to death, to profess his zeal for the Roman Catholic faith, and in the speech he made to the crowd from the scaffold declared that he was a fervent Papist. His example was not followed by his fellow-sufferers, both of whom died with manly fortitude, meeting their fate with a calm and unflinching demeanour. Others who had been implicated in Northumberland’s schemes, amongst whom were Lords Northampton, Warwick, and Ferrers, who had also been placed in the Tower, were pardoned, but their prisons were soon filled by fresh batches of captives. Of these new prisoners, the most important were Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Ridley, Bishop of London, and the fortress was so full that these three prelates were obliged to share the same prison-chamber. On the 8th of March in the following year, the Bishops were taken from the Tower to their martyrdom at Oxford.

During the month of September in this year, Lady Jane was allowed to walk in the garden of the Palace, her husband, according to a chronicler of the time, also being given, with his brother, Lord Harry Dudley, what was called “the liberty of the leads” in the Beauchamp Tower. This meant that they were allowed to promenade on the outer passage running along the top of the wall which connects the Beauchamp with the Bell Tower.

Queen Mary had entered the Tower on the 3rd of August, practically in triumph, and there she held her court until after the funeral of her brother, the late king; Mary was again in the Palace of the fortress prior to her coronation, which took place on the 1st of October. On her first visit to the Tower in August she found, on188 reaching Tower Green, a group of State prisoners who awaited her arrival on their knees. Among these prisoners of the late reign was the old Duke of Norfolk; near him knelt the young and handsome Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devonshire, who had passed most of his short life in the Tower. Here, too, was the Duchess of Somerset, imprisoned at the same time as her husband, who had so lately been beheaded on Tower Hill. Here, too, knelt the Bishops of Winchester and Durham, Gardiner and Tunstall. To all of these Mary spoke with some emotion; she had come as their deliverer, and for once she appeared a woman as well as a Queen. On the eve of her coronation Mary was accompanied to the Tower by her half-sister Elizabeth.

It is strange to picture three such strangely different women as Queen Mary, Elizabeth Tudor, and Lady Jane Grey, together within the walls of the fortress at this time. The first a Queen, who has left behind her a more hateful memory than many far worse women among monarchs; the second, then but a powerless and semi-captive princess, whose future fame as a sovereign and ruler might well excite the envy of the mightiest potentate, but who, as a woman, lacked all that is best and most admirable in her sex; and the third, an uncrowned girl-queen of but seventeen summers, whose fate has called forth the love and pity of thousands, and whose brief life and death are the brightest and saddest in all history.

Mary’s coronation was marked by all the wonted splendour and elaborate ceremonial of such functions at such a period, and Holinshed has recorded that her head was so weighed down by her jewelled crown that “she was faine to bear up her head with her hand.” A month later the State trials commenced.

On the 13th of November a remarkable procession passed through the Tower Gate, and wended its way through the streets of the City to the Guildhall. Preceded by the axe, borne by the Gentleman Chief Warder, first189 came Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, followed by Lord Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey, attended by two of her ladies. Lady Jane wore a dress of black from head to foot which is thus described by the chronicler Machyn:—“A black gown of clothe, turned downe, the cappe lyned with fese velvett, and edged about with the same; in a French hoode, all black, with a black habilment; a black velvet boke before her, and another boke in her hande open.” This account does not give a very clear idea of Lady Jane’s costume, but the curious reader, if he visits the National Portrait Gallery, will find a little full-face portrait of Lady Jane Grey as she then appeared, in which she is represented in this very dress, which she wore at her execution as well as during the trial.

The trial was held before the Lord Mayor of London, Thomas White, by special commission, the Duke of Norfolk presiding as High Steward. All the prisoners who pleaded guilty were attached for high treason, “for assumption of the Royal authority by Lady Jane, for levying war against the Queen, and conspiring to set up another in her room,” and Lady Jane was sentenced “to be burned alive on Tower Hill or beheaded as the Queen pleases,” the verdict being afterwards confirmed by Act of Parliament.[12] After sentence had been pronounced the prisoners were taken back on foot to the Tower.

During the few days that remained to Jane on earth, she was allowed to walk in the garden of the Palace, a three-cornered plot of ground enclosed on the north by the Queen’s Gallery, on the east by the Salt and Well Towers, and on the south and river side by the Ballium wall, which ran from the Well to the Cradle Tower. Sad and solitary must these gardens have been in those dark December days, and the heart of Jane Grey must have been very heavy when she recalled the days of her free 190and happy girlhood at Broadgate and Sion. Guildford Dudley was also allowed his daily walk on the wall passage between the towers, but he and his young wife were not to meet again on this side of eternity. At the last hour, however, permission was given that Dudley might bid farewell to Jane on his way to death on Tower Hill, but she, fearing the effect of such a supreme leave-taking for both, declined to avail herself of this sad opportunity.

If, after the trial, there had been any intention on Mary’s part to pardon Lady Jane Grey, such intention was frustrated by the action of Jane’s father, who, in an evil moment for himself and his children, joined in Wyatt’s rebellion. Baker, in his chronicle, writing of these events, says: “The innocent lady must suffer for her father’s fault, for if her father, the Duke of Suffolk, had not this second time made shipwreck of his loyalty, his daughter had perhaps never tasted the salt waters of the Queen’s displeasure, but now on a rock of offence she is the first that must be removed.”

A few days before the end, Jane wrote the following letters to her father, probably just before his own arrest, which took place on the 10th of February 1554. These letters bear no dates; this feminine fault of not dating her letters is the only one that can be found with gentle Lady Jane Grey.

“Father, although it has pleased God to hasten my death by you, by whome my life should rather have beene lengthened, yet I can soe patiently take it, that I yield God more hearty thanks for shortening my woful dayes, than if all the world had been given into my possession, my life lengthened at mine owne will. And albeit I am well assured of your impatient dolours, redoubled many wayes, both in bewaling your own woe, and especially as I am informed, my wofull estate, yet my deare father, if I may, without offence, rejoyce in my own mishaps, herein I may account myselfe blessed that washing my hands with the innocence of my fact, my guiltless bloud may cry before the Lord, Mercy to the innocent! And yet though I must needs acknowledge, that beyng constraynd, and as you know well enough continually assayed, yet in taking upon me, I seemed to consent, and therein greivusly offended the Queen and her lawes, yet doe I assuredly 191trust that this my offence towards God is so much the lesse, in that being in so royall estate as I was, mine enforced honour never mingled with mine innocent heart. And thus, good father, I have opened unto you the state wherein I presently stand, my death at hand, although to you perhaps it may seem wofull yet to me there is nothing that can bee more welcome than from this vale of misery to aspire, and that having thrown off all joy and pleasure, with Christ my Saviour, in whose steadfast faith (if it may be lawfull for the daughter so to write to her father) the Lord that hath hitherto strengthened you, soe continue to keepe you, that at the last we may meete in heaven with the Father, Sonn, and Holy Ghost.—I am, Your most obedient daughter till death,

“Jane Dudley.”

(Harleian MSS., and Nichols’ Memoirs of Lady Jane Grey.)

Here is another of her letters to her father:

“To the Duke of Suffolk.

“The Lord comforte your Grace, and that in his worde, whearin all creatures onlye are to be comforted. And thoughe it hathe pleased God to take away two of your children, yet thincke not, I most humblye beseache your Grace, that you have loste them, but truste that we, by leavinge this mortall life, have wonne an immortal life. And I for my parte, as I have honoured your Grace in this life, wyll praye for you in another life.—Your Grace’s humble daughter,

“Jane Dudley.”
Regia stirps tristi cinxi diademate crines
Regna sed omnipotens hinc meliora dedit
H. Holbeen in.
E. V. Wÿngaerde ex

On the 8th of February Queen Mary’s favourite priest, Feckenham, had an interview with Jane in her prison, of which Foxe the martyrologist has recounted the details at great length; but, needless to say, Lady Jane remained unshaken in her firm faith, and in her attitude to the Reformed religion. It had been ordered that Guildford Dudley should die on Tower Hill, whilst Jane suffered within the walls the same day, Monday the 12th of February being fixed for the double execution. On the eve of this day Jane was sufficiently calm to write a long “exhortation” for the use of her sister, Catherine Grey, writing it in the blank pages of a manuscript on vellum, entitled “De Arte Moriundi.” This exhortation is as full of devotion and perfect faith in the mercy of her Saviour as were the beautiful lines she wrote to her father.


Although Guildford wished for a last interview with Jane on the morning of their execution, she was firm in deciding that “the separation would be but for a moment” as she is reported to have said, adding, that if their meeting could benefit either of their souls she would be glad to see her husband, but she felt it would only add a fresh pang to their deaths, and they would soon be together in a world where there would be no more death or separation. The last moments of this unfortunate lady were inexpressibly tragic. About ten o’clock on the morning of the 12th of February, Guildford Dudley was led forth from his prison to the scaffold on Tower Hill, being met at the outer gate by Sir Thomas Offley, and passing under his wife’s windows as he crossed the Green. Bidding farewell to Sir Anthony Brown and Sir John Throgmorton, Guildford met his fate with high courage. His body was brought back to the Tower in a handcart, the head being placed in a cloth; and looking forth from her prison, Lady Jane was suddenly confronted with the remains of what a few minutes before had been her husband. But nothing could shake her fortitude, as the following account, taken from the Chronicles of Queen Jane and Queen Mary, shows:—

“By this tyme was ther a scaffolde made upon the grene over agaynst the White Tower for the saide Lady Jane to die upon.... The saide Lady being nothing at all abashed, neither with feare of her own deathe, which then approached, neither with the ded carcase of her husbande, when he was brought into the chappell, came forthe the Lieutenant (who was Sir John Bridges, afterwards Lord Chandos of Sudeley) leading hir, in the same gown wherein she was arrayned, hir countenance nothing abashed, neither her eyes mysted with teares, although her two gentlewomen Mistress Elizabeth Tylney and Mistress Eleyn wonderfully wept, with a boke in hir hand, whereon she praied all the way till she came to the saide scaffolde, whereon when she was mounted, this noble young ladie, as193 she was indued with singular gifts both of learning and knowledge, so was she as patient and mild as any lamb at hir execution.”

After praying for her enemies and herself, Jane turned to the priest Feckenham and inquired whether she could repeat a Psalm, and he assenting she repeated the fifty-first. She then handed her gloves and her handkerchief to one of her ladies, giving the book she had brought, to Thomas Bridges for him to give to his brother, Sir John. On a blank page of this book[13] she had written:

“For as mutche as you have desyred so simple a woman to wrighte in so worthye a booke, good mayster Lieuftenante, therefore I shall as a frende desyre you, and as a christian require you, to call uppon God to encline your harte to his lawes, to quicken you in his wayes, and not to take the worde of trewethe utterlye oute of youre mouthe. Lyve styll to dye, that by deathe you may purchas eternall life, and remember howe the ende of Mathusael, whoe as we reade in the scriptures was the longeste liver that was a manne, died at the laste; for as the precher sayethe, there is a tyme to be borne, and a tyme to dye: and the daye of deathe is better than the daye of oure birthe.—Youres, as the Lord knowethe, as a frende,

“Jane Duddeley.”

The chronicle of her death continues thus:

“Forthwith she untied her gowne. The hangman went to her to have helped her off therwith, then she desyred him to let her alone, turning towards her two gentlewomen, who helped her off therwith, and also her frose paste” (this most singular term means a matronly head-dress) “and neckercher, geving to her a fayre handkercher to knytte about her eyes. Then the hangman kneled downe, and asked her forgiveness whom she forgave most willingly. Then he willed her to stand upon the strawe, which doing she sawe the blocke. Then she sayd I pray you despatche me quickly. Then she kneled downe saying, ‘Will you take it off before I lay me 194downe?’ And the hangman answered her, ‘No, madame.’ She tied the kercher about her eyes. Then feeling for the block, saide ‘What shal I do, where is it?’ One of the standers by guyding her therunto, she layde her head downe upon the block, and stretched forth her body, and said, ‘Lord, into thy handes I commende my spirite,’ and so she ended” (Holinshed, and Chronicles of Queen Jane and Queen Mary).

No wonder that good old Foxe could not refrain from shedding tears when he recounted this tragedy, but sad as is the story of Jane Grey’s death, her life and its close are amongst England’s glories. Heroines are rare in all times and in all countries, but in Jane Grey we can boast of having had one of the truest and noblest of women, a perpetual legacy to us for all time. The name of Jane Grey shines out like some brilliant star amid the storm wrack that surrounds it on every side. Amidst all the bloodshed, crime, and cruelty of this sanguinary age of English history to read of that gentle spirit, that marvellously gifted, and most noble, pure, and gifted being, is like coming suddenly upon a beautiful white lily in the midst of a tangle of loathsome weeds.

Fuller, of “English Worthies” fame, has, in his quaint manner, summed up Jane Grey’s life in these words: “She had the birth of a Princess, the life of a saint, yet the death of a malefactor, for her parent’s offences, and she was longer a captive than a Queen in the Tower.” Both Jane and her husband were buried in the chapel of St Peter’s of the Tower.

The news of the Queen’s approaching marriage with Philip of Spain set half the country in a blaze. The men of Kent rose, headed by Sir Thomas Wyatt, as did those of Devon, led by Sir Peter Carew. As we have already seen, the Duke of Suffolk headed another rising in Leicestershire, but he was soon defeated and captured, and together with his brother Lord John Grey was taken to London and imprisoned in the Tower, on the 10th of195 February, two days before his daughter, Jane Grey’s, execution. It was only four months before, that Suffolk had received his daughter at the fortress as Queen of England, and he must have felt more than the bitterness of death at the thought that it was owing to his conduct in again leading an armed force against Queen Mary that Jane’s life, as well as his own, were sacrificed.

Five days after Jane had met her death on a scaffold which stood close to her father’s prison, he himself was taken to his trial at Westminster Hall. It was noted that when he left the fortress the Duke went “stoutly and cheerfully enough,” but that on his return when he landed at the water gate, “his countenance was heavy and pensive.” This is scarcely to be wondered at for he had been sentenced to death, and was beheaded on Tower Hill on the 23rd of the same month.

In the brief speech which he delivered to the people before his death the unfortunate Duke admitted the justice of his sentence, saying, “Masters, I have offended the Queen and her laws, and thereby I am justly condemned to die, and am willing to die, desiring all men to be obedient; and I pray God that this my death may be an example to all men, beseeching you all to bear me witness that I die in the faith of Christ trusting to be saved by his blood only, and by no other trumpery, the which died for me, and for all men that truly repent and steadfastly trust in him. And I do repent, desiring you all to pray to God for me that when you see my head depart from me, you will pray to God that he may receive my soul.”

Of Suffolk, Bishop Burnet writes; “That but for his weakness he would have died more pitied, if his practices had not brought his daughter to her end.”

Although it is probable that Suffolk’s body was buried in St Peter’s Chapel, his head is believed to be in the Church of the Holy Trinity in the Minories, a building which is within the ancient liberties of the Tower. The196 Duke’s town house was the converted convent of the church of the nuns of the order of Clares, so called after their foundress Santa Clara of Assisi. They were known as the “Sorores Minores,” whence the name of the district—the Minories. This building had been made over to Suffolk by Edward VI., and the present church of the Holy Trinity actually stands upon the site of the old convent chapel. This interesting edifice is now (1899) threatened with destruction, and in a few years it is extremely probable that the ground upon which it stands will be covered with warehouses or buildings connected with the London and North-Western Railway.

The head was found half-a-century ago in a small vault near the altar, and as it had been placed in sawdust made of oakwood, it is quite mummified, owing to the tannin in the oak. There is the mark of the blow of a sharp instrument above the place where the head was severed from the neck, and Sir George Scharf, than whom a better judge of an historical head whether on canvas or in a mummified state, never existed, wrote of it thus: “The arched form of the eyebrows and the aquiline shape of the nose, correspond with the portrait engraved in Lodge’s series from a picture at Hatfield; a duplicate of which is in the National Portrait Gallery.” This grim memento mori may some day find its way to the Tower, where it would be an object of much interest, although, if Suffolk’s ghost be consulted, it would perhaps plead for this melancholy relic of frail mortality to be placed in consecrated ground.

It was during Wyatt’s rebellion that the Tower was attacked for the last time in its history. Wyatt had defeated a force commanded by the old Duke of Norfolk and Sir Henry Jerningham, at Rochester, and from thence marched on to Gravesend, where he was met by some members of the Privy Council who had been sent to find out the exact nature of his demands: “The custody of the Tower, and the Queen within it!” was his modest request.

Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk
(From the portrait by Joannes Corvus in the National Portrait Gallery.)


Mary, cruel and bigoted as she was, had inherited the courage of the Tudors, and as Wyatt approached the City, resolutely refused to take shelter in the Tower as she was strongly urged to do, offering a pension of one hundred pounds a year (about £1000 of our money value) to any one who would bring her Wyatt’s head. On the 3rd of February he arrived opposite to the Tower, cannonading the fortress from the Southwark side of the river, but without causing any hurt either to the buildings or to their defenders. In attempting to cross the river at London Bridge he was driven back, practically being compelled to retreat along the Southwark side as far as Kingston, where was the only other bridge by which he could gain the City and the Tower. Crossing this bridge, Wyatt now marched to the east upon a dark and stormy night; his men were worn out with fatigue, their spirits dashed by the recent repulse, and the consequence was that they melted away in shoals. Very few remained with him when he encountered the Royal troops drawn up at Hyde Park to bar his passage, and although he succeeded in pushing his way through the soldiers with a handful of his friends, he sank down utterly exhausted when he reached Temple Bar. The gate of the Bar was closed and he and his companions were immediately taken prisoners by Sir Maurice Berkeley.

There is a lengthy list of prisoners who were brought with Wyatt into the Tower, or shortly after his arrest. Amongst these were, Sir William Cobham and his brother George Cobham; Hugh Booth, Thomas Vane, Robert Rudstone, Sir George Harper, Edward Wyatt, Edward Fog, George Moore, Cuthbert Vaughan, Sir Henry Isley, two Culpeppers, and Thomas Rampton, who had been Suffolk’s secretary. Wyatt was beheaded on the 11th of February, the day before Lady Jane Grey and her husband, stoutly maintaining to the end, even under the torture of the rack, that Elizabeth had had no cognisance of his insurrection and had played no part in it as Queen198 Mary suspected. With all these prisoners the headsman and the hangman of the Tower had a busy time, and blood flowed freely on Tower Hill in the springtime of 1555. Some of these prisoners were, however, executed out of London. Sir Henry Isley and his brother suffered at Maidstone, the Knevets at Sevenoaks, and Bret, who had cannonaded the Tower during Wyatt’s rebellion, was hanged in chains at Rochester.

London in those days must have looked like some vast Golgotha. Gibbets were placed in all the principal streets, each bearing its ghastly load; and the decapitated heads and limbs of Queen Mary’s victims were stuck over many gates of the town, standing up in horrid clusters, especially on London Bridge, the air being tainted far and near with these grisly fragments of mortality. London had indeed been turned into a shamble; it had become a veritable city of blood, a precursor of an African Benin.

Whilst these scenes were taking place in her capital, Mary wedded Philip of Spain at Winchester, vainly attempting to make herself attractive to that morose prince.

From some words let fall, it is said by Wyatt, Mary ordered three members of the Privy Council to go to Ashbridge in Hertfordshire where her half-sister, the Princess Elizabeth, was then living in a state of semi-captivity. These three Privy Councillors were Sir Richard Southwell, Sir Edward Hastings, and Sir Thomas Cornwallis; they were accompanied by a guard of two hundred and fifty horsemen. On arriving late at night at Ashbridge they were told that the Princess was ill and was in bed, but they nevertheless forced their way into her bedroom. “Is the haste such,” cried Elizabeth, “that you could not have waited till the morning?” Their answer was that they had orders to bring her hence, dead or alive, and early the next morning she was taken in a litter by short stages to London, the journey, however, taking six days to accomplish, the199 people showing the Princess the most marked sympathy as she passed along the roads. On reaching Whitehall, Elizabeth was closely confined, being examined there by the Council; a fortnight later she was taken by water to the Tower and landed at Traitor’s Gate. Her proud attitude and indignant words on leaving her barge are well known, but, like most of her recorded sayings, are well worth repeating:—“Here landeth,” she exclaimed on putting her foot on the stone steps of that historic gate, “as true a subject, being a prisoner, as ever landed at these stairs, and before thee, O God, I speak it, having none other friends but thee.” She then seated herself, in spite of the heavy rain then falling, on a stone—some accounts have it on the steps themselves—saying with true Tudor determination, “Better sit here than in a worse place.” And it was not until the Gentleman Usher burst into tears that she could be induced to rise and enter her prison.

Middle Tower

Elizabeth once within the Tower, it became the more difficult for Mary and her Council to know how to act. Judging from her general character, Mary would have been only too ready to shed her sister’s blood, but the Council were more humane than the Queen, and while the followers of Wyatt, and Wyatt himself, were being tortured in order to extract some admissions whereby Elizabeth might be incriminated, the Princess was kept in close confinement. But nothing could be proved against her. In vain the crafty Gardiner examined and cross-examined Elizabeth herself; for a whole month she was not allowed to leave her prison room, mass being said daily in her apartment;—this must have been intensely irritating to the proud spirit of the Protestant Elizabeth. At length her health broke down and she was permitted to walk in the Queen’s Privy Garden, but always accompanied by the Constable of the Tower, the Lieutenant, and a guard of men. There is a story, and probably a true one, of a little boy, aged four, who was wont to bring the Princess flowers to brighten her prison room. On one occasion he200 was watched as he left, and strictly questioned, with the result that the little fellow’s kind attentions had to cease, by order of Sir John Gage, the Constable. Holinshed has narrated a quarrel that occurred between Elizabeth’s attendants with her in the Tower, and the Constable. The latter had given orders that when her servants brought the Princess’s dinner to the gates of the fortress they were not to be admitted, but were to hand over the provisions to the “common rascall souldiers.” Elizabeth’s servants strongly objected to this arrangement, complaining that the “rascalls” took most of the Princess’s dinner themselves before it reached her, but the only satisfaction they obtained from Sir John was that “if they presumed either to frown or shrug at him” he would “sette them where they should see neither sonne nor moon.” An application to the Privy Council forced the Constable to give way, but Holinshed remarks that he was not over-pleased at having to do so, “for he had good cheare and fared of the best, while her Grace paid for all.”

It being impossible to prove anything against Elizabeth she was at length allowed to leave her prison. This she did on the 19th May 1554, under the charge of Sir Henry Bedingfield, and was taken to Woodstock. There is a tradition that when it was known in the City that the Princess had been released from the Tower, some of its church bells rang merry peals of joy, and that when she became Queen she gave those churches silken bell-ropes.

The Earl of Warwick and his three brothers, Ambrose, Robert, and Henry Dudley, were still confined in the Beauchamp Tower, but the Earl died on the 21st of October 1554, and his brothers were released in the following year. About the same time other notable personages were set free, in order, it is thought, to curry favour with the populace and make the Spanish match less unpopular. These included the Archbishop of York, Sir Edward Warner, and some dozen other knights and gentlemen.


Then came the religious persecutions which were carried on by Mary with zest, and it has been estimated that during her short reign, and during the three and a half years that the persecution of the reformers lasted, no less than three hundred victims perished at the stake. These martyrs, however, did not suffer in vain, “You have lost the hearts of twenty thousand that were rank Papists within these twelve months,” wrote a Protestant to Bonner; and Latimer’s dying words to his fellow-martyr, as he was being tied to the stake at Oxford, will never be forgotten in England, “Play the man, Master Ridley, we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as I trust shall never be put out.”

At length, on the 17th of November, Mary died, and the people had peace, the last political prisoners in the Tower in her reign being Thomas, second son of Lord Stafford, and some of his followers, who had raised a rebellion against Mary’s government in the north of England. Stafford was beheaded on Tower Hill, and his followers were hanged at Tyburn.




The important position occupied by the Tower at the commencement of the reign of Elizabeth, and its connection with all branches of State affairs is shown by the great antiquary of that reign, John Stowe, who says it was “The citadel to defend and command the city, a royal palace for assemblies and treaties, a State prison for dangerous offenders, the only place for coining money, an armoury of warlike provisions, the treasury of the Crown jewels, and the storehouse of the Records of the Royal Courts of Justice at Westminster.”

Elizabeth’s imprisonment, four years previous to her accession, had not left kindly impressions of the Tower, and although her first visit to any royal palace after she became Queen on 28th November 1558, was to the fortress, she did not take up her abode there for any length of time, remaining at Somerset House, and at the palace at Whitehall, until Mary’s funeral had taken place.

Three days, however, before her coronation, Elizabeth entered the Palace of the Tower, the crowning taking place on Sunday the 15th January 1559. Elizabeth’s love of show and magnificence must have been amply gratified by the great pageant in which she was the central figure, the procession from the Tower to the Abbey being more brilliant than any in the history of the English Court.

Seated in an open chariot which glittered with gold and elaborate carvings, Elizabeth, blazing with jewels, passed through streets hung with tapestry and under triumphal arches, the ways being lined with the City companies in203 their handsome liveries of fur-lined scarlet. In Fleet Street a young woman, representing Deborah, stood beneath a palm tree, and prophesied the restoration of the House of Israel in rhymed couplets, whilst Gog and Magog received her Majesty at Temple Bar.

Although the horrors of Smithfield and other auto-da-fés had ceased with Mary’s reign, religious persecution on the part of the Reformers was all too rampant under Elizabeth. The new Queen inherited far too much of her father’s nature to brook any kind of opposition to her wishes. She was a strange compound of the greatest qualities and the meanest failings. Endowed with prodigious statecraft, her vanity was no less immense, and her jealousy of all who came between herself and those whom she liked and admired, caused her not only to commit acts of injustice, but actual crimes. Her mind, which had a grasp of affairs of state and policy that would have done credit to a great statesman, had also many of the weaknesses and pettinesses of a vain, frivolous, and foolish woman. Elizabeth’s conduct towards the unfortunate Catherine Grey, her cousin, and the younger sister of Lady Jane, shows the jealousy of her character in its worst light.

It was to Catherine Grey that Lady Jane, on the eve of her execution, had sent the book in which she had written the “exhortation.” Lady Catherine had married Lord Herbert of Cardiff, but had been separated from him, being known by her maiden name. In 1560 she had met at Hanworth, the house of her friend the Duchess of Somerset, the latter’s eldest son, Lord Hertford, the result of this meeting being that an affection had sprung up between them which was followed by a secret marriage, as it was known that Elizabeth would not approve of the match. The only confidante was Hertford’s sister, Lady Jane Seymour, and the young couple—he was only twenty-two and she twenty—were married as secretly as possible.


Catherine, accompanied by Lady Jane Seymour, walked from the Palace at Whitehall—they were both ladies-in-waiting on the Queen—along the river side at low tide, to Lord Hertford’s house near Fleet Street. Here the marriage took place, but, by a strange want of foresight or by some strange oversight, neither of the contracting parties were afterwards able to remember the name of the clergyman who married them, “with such words and ceremonies, and in that order, as it is there” (the Prayer Book) “set forth, he placing a ring containing five links of gold on her finger, as directed by the minister.” The Hertfords afterwards described the minister as being of the middle height, wearing an auburn beard and dressed in a long gown of black cloth.

The newly-wed Lady Hertford was too nearly related to the Queen to be allowed to please herself with regard to whom she married, and when the time drew near when further concealment was impossible, the poor lady was in a terrible dilemma. Lord Hertford appears to have been the more timid of the two, for when he found that his wife was about to become a mother, he, dreading the Queen’s anger, fled to France, leaving poor Lady Hertford to bear the brunt of Elizabeth’s imperious temper alone. To complicate matters, Lady Jane Seymour, who throughout this adventure had been the young couple’s only friend, died early in the year 1561. When concealment was no longer possible, Lady Hertford threw herself upon the mercy and generosity of her terrible mistress. But on being informed of what had happened, Elizabeth’s anger knew no bounds, and poor Lady Hertford was at once sent to the Tower, where shortly after her arrival her child was born. Hertford now returned to England, and was promptly arrested, being also imprisoned in the Tower, where he remained for many a long year.

In the meantime the Queen declared that the marriage was illegal, and a Commission sitting upon the matter, consisting of the Primate, Parker, and Grindal, Bishop205 of London, declared it null and void. Matters might perhaps have been arranged had not another child been born to the Hertfords. When Elizabeth heard that Lady Hertford had been again confined, her rage was ten times greater than before. She summarily dismissed the Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir Edward Warner, for having allowed the unfortunate couple to meet again, and ordered Hertford to be brought before the Star Chamber, when he was heavily fined and sent back to his prison, where he remained for the next nine years.

In the Wardrobe accounts of the Tower in the Landsdowne MSS. at the British Museum, there is a list of the furniture supplied to Lady Hertford in her prison. Tapestry and curtains are mentioned, also a bed with a “boulster of downe,” as well as Turkey carpets and a chair of cloth of gold with crimson velvet, with panels of copper gilt and the Queen’s arms at the back. All this furniture, which sounds very magnificent, is noted by the Lieutenant of the Tower as being, “old, worn, broken, and decayed,” but in a letter he addressed to Cecil he wrote that Lady Catherine’s monkeys and dogs had helped to damage it. One is glad to know that the poor lady was allowed her pets, however harmful to the furniture, to amuse her in her lonely prison, where she lingered for six years, dying there in 1567.

Considering Elizabeth’s own experience of the amenities of imprisonment in the Tower one would have thought that she might have shown more mercy to her unfortunate kinswoman. In later years Hertford consoled himself by marrying twice again, both his second and third wives being of the house of Howard. His marriage with Catherine Grey was only made valid in 1606, when the “minister” who had performed the ceremony was discovered, a jury at Common Law proving it a bonâ fide transaction, and making it legal.

Another unfortunate lady who was a victim of Elizabeth’s implacable jealousy was Lady Margaret Douglas,206 who married the Earl of Lennox. The Countess, like Lady Catherine Grey, was one of Elizabeth’s kinswomen, and owing to her near relationship her actions were a source of continual suspicion to the Queen. Lady Lennox suffered three imprisonments in the Tower; as Camden has it, she was “thrice cast into the Tower, not for any crime of treason, but for love matters; first, when Thomas Howard, son of the first Duke of Norfolk of that name, falling in love with her was imprisoned and died in the Tower of London; then for the love of Henry, Lord Darnley, her son, to Mary, Queen of Scots; and lastly for the love of Charles, her younger son, to Elizabeth Cavendish, mother to the Lady Arabella, with whom the Queen of Scots was accused to have made up the match.” In the description of the King’s House, reference has been made to the inscription in one of its rooms recording the imprisonment of the Countess of Lennox there; that inscription refers to her second incarceration in the Tower in 1565. Few women can have suffered so severely for the love affairs of their relatives as this unfortunate noblewoman.

The long struggle between Elizabeth and Mary Stuart, which only closed on the scaffold at Fotheringay in 1587, brought many prisoners of State to the Tower. Some of the earliest of these belonged to the de la Pole family, two brothers, Arthur and Edmund de la Pole, great-grandchildren of the murdered Duke of Clarence, being imprisoned in the Beauchamp Tower in 1562, on a charge of conspiring to set Mary Stuart on the English throne. There are, as we have seen, several inscriptions in the prison chamber of the Beauchamp Tower bearing the names of the two brothers. These two de la Pole brothers ended their lives within their Tower prison, whether guilty or not who can tell?

Few can realise the terrible and constant danger in which Elizabeth lived from the claim of Mary Stuart to the throne of England. Compared with France, England207 at the close of Mary Tudor’s reign was only a third-rate power, and never had the country sunk so low as a martial power as in the last years of her disastrous rule. We had no army, no fleet, only a huge debt, whilst the united population of England and Wales was less than that of London at the present time.

Motley has conjectured that at that time the population of Spain and Portugal numbered at least twelve millions. Spain possessed the most powerful fleet in the world, an immense army, with all the wealth of the Netherlands and the Indies wherewith to maintain them; consequently, when difficulties arose between France and England, Philip trusted that to save herself England would become a firm ally of Spain. But the Spanish monarch had left out of his reckoning the magnificent courage of England’s Queen, and the indomitable pluck, and bull-dog determination of her subjects to hold their own. All this should be remembered when the stern repression of all and every kind of conspiracy is brought against Elizabeth and her principal advisers, of whom Walsingham and Burleigh were the foremost. It was a desperate position, only possible of being defended and upheld by desperate means. The horrors perpetrated by the Romish bishops in the name of religion whilst Mary Tudor reigned, had given the English but too vivid a suggestion of the fate that would befall their country if the King of Spain were again to become its ruler, either as conqueror or as King-consort. This terror was the principal cause of the passionate tide of patriotism that under Elizabeth stirred our glorious little island to its very foundations, and had it not been for the detestation of foreign rule there would not have been that universal rallying round the Queen and country in the hour of danger, which was the marked feature of our people during that courageous woman’s reign.

A suspicion of conspiracy was sufficient in those days, electrical with perils for the Queen and the country, and on the 11th of October 1569 Thomas Howard, fourth208 Duke of Norfolk, the son of the ill-fated Surrey, and the grandson of the old Flodden duke, was brought a prisoner to the Tower on the charge of high treason, his intended marriage with Mary of Scots constituting the charge against him. In the following month the Queen thus directed Sir Henry Neville to attend to Norfolk’s safekeeping in the Tower. “The Lieutenant is permitted to remove the Duke to any lodging in the Tower near joining to the Long Gallery, so as it be none of the Queen’s own lodgings; and to suffer the Duke to have the commodity to walk in the gallery, having always of course the said Knollys in his company” (Hatfield Calendar of State Papers). Owing to the plague which raged in London in the following year, Norfolk was allowed to leave the Tower for his own home at the Charter House, still a prisoner; but he was soon back again in the fortress, a correspondence which he had carried on with Mary Stuart’s adherents having been discovered. Others implicated in the undoubted conspiracy to set Mary on the throne, were the Earls of Arundel and Southampton, Lord Lumley, Lord Cobham, his brother Thomas Cobham, and Henry Percy; these were all arrested. On his return to the Tower, Norfolk was confined in the Bloody Tower. About this time a batch of letters, written by a Florentine banker named Ridolfi to the Pope and to the Duke of Alva, on the perpetually recurring subject of Mary’s succession to the English throne after Elizabeth’s dethronement, were intercepted by Elizabeth’s government, with the result that a fresh batch of prisoners, with the Bishop of Ross, Sir Thomas Stanley, and Sir Thomas Gerrard amongst them, entered the fortress. These letters disclosed a conspiracy which was known under the name of the Italian Ridolfi, its prime instigator. Ridolfi, who was a resident in London, had crossed over to the Netherlands, where he had seen the Duke of Alva, informing that Spanish general that he had been commissioned by a large number of English Roman Catholic noblemen to send over209 a Spanish army to drive Elizabeth from the throne, and place Mary Stuart in the sovereignty in her stead. The Duke of Norfolk would then marry Mary, and by these means the English would return to the benign sway of the Holy Father, and become the faithful subjects of the gentle Philip. Alva had suggested that Elizabeth should be got rid of before he himself came to London with his army, Philip entirely agreeing with his general as to the necessity for her removal.

Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, from the Curfew Tower to the Beauchamp Tower

The mere chance of a packet of letters being intercepted not only saved Elizabeth’s life, but probably England as well from a terrible disaster.

The Ridolfi Plot conspirators were distributed in the various prisons of the fortress, in the Beauchamp and the Salt Towers, and in the Cold Harbour, much of the information regarding the conspiracy having been obtained from a young man called Charles Bailly, who was seized at Dover on his way to the Netherlands with a packet of treasonable letters. He was brought back to London, placed in the Tower and tortured, whereupon he confessed the names of several other persons implicated. Bailly left several inscriptions on the walls of the Beauchamp Tower where he was imprisoned.

On the 16th of January 1572 the Duke of Norfolk was taken from the Tower to Westminster to undergo his trial. He was charged with having entered into a treasonable conspiracy to depose the Queen and to take her life; of having invoked the aid of the Pope to liberate the Queen of Scots, of having intended to marry her, and for having attempted to restore Papacy in the realm.

The Duke, who was not allowed counsel, pleaded in his own behalf, attempting to prove that his intended marriage with Queen Mary of Scots would not have affected the life or throne of Elizabeth. “But,” replied the Queen’s Sergeant, Barham, “it is well known that you entered into a design for seizing the Tower, which is certainly the greatest strength of the Kingdom of England,210 and hence it follows, you then attempted the destruction of the Queen.” By his own letters to the Pope the Duke stood condemned, as well as by those written by him to the Duke of Alva, and to Ridolfi, in addition to others written from the Tower to Queen Mary by the Bishop of Ross. Norfolk was accordingly condemned, but Elizabeth appears to have wavered regarding the signing of his death warrant, for the Duke was her cousin. At length, however, the House of Commons insisted that the Duke must die for the safety of the State, and Elizabeth signed the warrant, and the 2nd of June was fixed for his execution.

The Duke wrote very appealingly to the Queen for pardon, beseeching her to forgive him for his “manifold offences” and “trusts that he may leave a lighter heart and a quieter conscience.” He desired Burghley to act as guardian to his orphaned children, and concluded his letter thus: “written by the woeful hand of a dead man, your Majesty’s most unworthy subject, and yet your Majesty’s, in my humble prayer, until the last breath, Thomas Howard.”

Fourteen years had passed since anyone had been executed on Tower Hill. The old wooden scaffold had fallen into decay, and it was found necessary to build a new one. Compared with former reigns the fact of no execution having taken place amongst the State prisoners for such a length of time does credit to Elizabeth’s clemency, Norfolk being the first to die for a crime against the State during her long reign. The Duke has found apologists among historians, and has been regarded as a hardly-used victim of Elizabeth and her Ministers. But his treason to the Queen he had sworn to obey and defend was proved beyond all manner of doubt, and his particular form of treason was the worst, having no possible extenuation, since he plotted for the admission of a foreign army into the realm, composed of the most bloodthirsty wretches that ever desecrated a country, and led by a general whose211 cruelty resembled that of a devil, and has left him infamous for all time.

Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, from the Beauchamp Tower to the Curfew Tower

Norfolk merited his doom, and the more illustrious his name and rank, the more grievous his fault. As to finding cause for pitying him on the ground of his attentions to Queen Mary, that, too, seems unnecessary. The Duke had never seen the Scottish Queen, nor is he likely to have felt much affection for a woman who had been implicated in her husband’s murder, and had allowed herself to be carried off by that husband’s assassin. Norfolk was accompanied to the scaffold by his old friend, Sir Henry Lee, the Master of the Ordnance.[14] Norfolk refused to have his eyes bandaged, and begging all present to pray for him, met his fate with calmness. “His head,” writes an unknown chronicler (Harleian MSS.), “with singular dexteritie of the executioner was with the appointed axe at one chop, off; and showed to all the people. Thus he finyshed his life, and afterwards his corpse was put into the coffyn; appertaninge to Barkynge Church, with the head also, and so was caryed by foure of the lyeutenant’s men and was buried in the Chappell in the Tower by Mr Dean (Dr Nowell) of Paules.” The Duke’s last words are worthy of remembrance. While reading the fifty-first Psalm, when he came to the verse, “Build up the walls of Jerusalem,” he paused an instant, and then said, “The walls of England, good Lord, I had almost forgotten, but not too late, I ask all the world forgiveness and I likewise forgive all the world.”

One of Queen Mary Stuart’s most devoted adherents was John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, who, like Norfolk, had been deeply implicated in the Ridolfi conspiracy, and had been imprisoned in the Bell Tower. When tried for 212treason, the Bishop pleaded that being an Ambassador he was not liable to the charge; he was kept for two years in the Tower and then he was banished.

Priests, and especially those who were Jesuits, were very harshly dealt with at this time, the utmost rigour being shown to all who opposed the Queen’s acts or intentions. We have one instance of this in the fate which befell that eminent theologian, John Stubbs, who had written a pamphlet against the proposed marriage of Elizabeth with the Duke of Anjou, the brother of the King of France, Charles IX., and himself afterwards King of that country under the title of Henry III. Dr Stubbs was sentenced to have his right hand cut off by the hangman, the unlucky printers of his pamphlet being treated in the same barbarous manner. Immediately his hand was cut off, Stubbs raised his cap with the other, shouting, “God save the Queen!”; this truly loyal incident was witnessed by the historian Camden.

Besides the penalty of losing the right hand for writing or printing matter which might be disapproved by the Queen or her Council, the same punishment was awarded to any person striking another within the precincts of the royal palaces, of which the Tower was one. Peter Burchet, a barrister of the Middle Temple, had been committed to the Tower in 1573 for attempting to kill the celebrated Admiral Sir John Hawkins, whom he had mistaken for Sir Christopher Hatton. During his imprisonment he killed a warder, or attendant, by knocking him on the head with a log of wood taken from the fire. For this he was condemned to death, but before being hanged at Temple Bar, his right hand was cut off for striking a blow in one of the royal palaces. At this time Elizabeth found it essential to drastically assert her authority, and in 1577 an individual named Sherin was not only imprisoned in the Tower for denying her supremacy, but was afterwards drawn on a hurdle to Tyburn, where he was hanged, disembowelled, and quartered. In that same year six other213 poor creatures were treated in the same manner, after being imprisoned in the fortress, for coining. From 1580 until the close of Elizabeth’s reign the penal laws were enforced with terrible rigour, owing to the invasion of the Jesuit missionary priests led by Parsons and Campion. Cardinal Allen’s seminary priests were ruthlessly hunted down, and when caught, imprisoned, generally tortured, and invariably executed. The Cardinal, who had set up a seminary for priests at Douai, maintained a large and ever increasing staff of young men who were ready to sacrifice their lives in what they believed to be the cause of Heaven. The first to suffer of these was Cuthbert Mayne. Between Elizabeth and the Cardinal the war became fierce and sanguinary. Plot was met by counter-plot, and Cecil showed himself as astute and deep as any Jesuit of them all, the priests of Douai and Allen’s Jesuits faring ill in consequence. Both Campion and Parsons had been at the English Universities, and both for a time succeeded in their mission of bringing over to their religion many from among the higher classes of this country. But Elizabeth’s great minister proved too strong for them, and Campion was arrested and sent to the Tower, whilst Parsons sought safety on the Continent. Campion, with two other priests named Sherin and Brian, was hanged at Tyburn. Many of the imprisoned priests were tortured in the Tower; some were placed in “Little Ease,” where they could neither stand up nor lie down at full length; some were racked, others subjected to the deadly embrace of the “Scavenger’s Daughter,” others being tortured by the “boot,” or the “gauntlets,” and hung up for hours by the wrists. Sir Owen Hopton, the Lieutenant of the Tower at this time, seems to have been a very hard-hearted gaoler, and on one occasion when he had forced some of these wretched priests, with the help of soldiers, into the Chapel of the Tower whilst service was being held, he boasted that he had no one under his charge who would not willingly enter a Protestant Church.


From 1580 onwards, the Tower was filled with State prisoners. In that year the Archbishop of Armagh and the Earls of Kildare and Clanricarde, and other Irish nobles who had taken part in Desmond’s insurrection, were imprisoned in the fortress, and three years later a number of persons concerned in one of the numerous plots against Elizabeth’s life were likewise sent there, among them John Somerville, a Warwickshire gentleman, and his wife, together with her parents, and a priest named Hugh Hall, declared to have designs to murder the Queen. Mrs Somerville, her mother, and the priest were spared; her husband committed suicide in Newgate, where he had been sent to be executed, and her father was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Smithfield. In the following year (1584) Francis Throgmorton, son of Sir John, suffered death for treason like his father, a correspondence between Queen Mary and himself having been discovered. In the month of January 1585, twenty-one priests lay in the Tower, but were afterwards shipped off to France. In this same year Henry Percy, eighth Earl of Northumberland, a zealous Roman Catholic, with Lord Arundel, the son of the fourth Duke of Norfolk, were imprisoned in the Tower. But Northumberland killed himself, locking his prison door, and shooting himself through the heart with a pistol he had concealed about him, being supposed to have committed suicide in order that his property should not come into possession of the Queen—whom he called by a very offensive epithet—as would have been the case had he been attainted of treason. Arundel died in the Beauchamp Tower after a long imprisonment, as has been told in the account of that building. His death was no doubt owing to the severity of his confinement, combined with the austerities he thought it his duty to inflict upon himself; he certainly deserves a place in the roll of those who have died martyrs to their faith.

Another conspiracy against the Queen’s life came to light in this same year, when a man named Parry was215 arrested on a charge of having received money from the Pope to assassinate Elizabeth, a fellow-conspirator named Neville being taken at the same time, it being alleged that they intended to shoot the Queen whilst she was riding. Neville, who was heir to the exiled Earl of Westmoreland, hearing of that nobleman’s death abroad, turned Queen’s evidence, hoping by this treachery to recover the forfeited Westmoreland estates. His confederate was hanged, and although Neville escaped a similar fate, he remained a prisoner for a considerable time in the Tower.

Axe and halter once more came into play in extinguishing what was known as the Babington Plot in 1586. Elizabeth had never run a greater peril of her life, and it was owing to this plot that Mary Stuart died on the scaffold at Fotheringay on the 8th of February in the following year. Anthony Babington was a youth of good family, holding a place at Court, and, like many other of Elizabeth’s courtiers, belonged to the Roman faith, the Queen being too courageous to forbid Roman Catholics from belonging to her household. The soul of the plot was one Ballard, a priest, who had induced Babington, with some other of his associates, also of the Court, to adventure their lives in order to release Mary Stuart, and to place her upon the throne after having got rid of Elizabeth. Walsingham, with his lynx-eyed prevoyance, discovered the plot, and Ballard with the rest were arrested, tried and condemned. According to Disraeli the elder (in his “Amenities of Literature”) the judge who presided at the trial, turning to Ballard, exclaimed, “Oh, Ballard, Ballard! What hast thou done? A company of brave youths, otherwise adorned with goodly gifts, by thy inducement thou hast brought to their utter destruction and confusion.” Besides Ballard and Babington, thirteen of these young conspirators were executed—to wit, Edward Windsor, brother of Lord Windsor, Thomas Salisbury, Charles Tilney, Chidiock216 Tichburn, Edward Abington, Robert Gage, John Travers, John Charnocks, John Jones, John Savage, R. Barnwell, Henry Dun, and Jerome Bellarmine. Their execution, accompanied with all its horrible details, lasted for two days, Babington exclaiming as he died, “Parce mihi, Domine Jesu!” On the second day the Queen gave orders that the remaining victims should be despatched quickly without undergoing the attendant horrors of partial hanging, drawing, and quartering.[15]

Mary’s execution followed in the next year, but it was Elizabeth’s secretary, Davison—he had been appointed about this time co-secretary with Walsingham—who had to bear all the odium of her death, Elizabeth accusing him of having despatched the death-warrant without her sanction. She sent him to the Tower and caused him to be fined so heavily that he was completely ruined in consequence. Another scandalously unjust imprisonment in the Tower of a loyal and faithful servant of the Queen, was that of Sir John Perrot, a natural son of Henry VIII. Perrot was a distinguished soldier, and had acted as Lord-Deputy in Ireland, where, by his justice and humanity and clear common-sense, he had done much to restore order and comparative prosperity to that distracted island. Sir John Perrot was cordially hated by the Lord Chancellor, Sir Christopher Hatton, who was particularly noted for his skill in dancing, this hatred having been aroused, it is said, by Perrot remarking that the Lord Chancellor “had come to the Court by his galliard.” This criticism resulted in Perrot’s being arrested, after being summoned from Ireland on a trumped-up charge of treason, and committed to the Tower in 1590. At his trial two years later, nothing could be proved against him except a few idle words that he had uttered concerning the Queen, and which had been repeated to her; nevertheless he was 217found guilty. When brought back to the Tower, Sir John exclaimed angrily to the Lieutenant, Sir Owen Hopton, “What! will the Queen suffer her brother to be offered up as a sacrifice to the envy of my strutting adversary?” On hearing this, the Queen burst out into one of her finest Tudor rages, and swearing “by her wonted oath,” as Naunton writes, “declared that the jury which had brought in this verdict were all knaves, and that she would not sign the warrant for execution.” So Sir John escaped the headman, but the gallant knight died that September in the Tower, Naunton thus describing the close of his life: “His haughtiness of spirit accompanied him to the last, and still, without any diminution of courage therein, it burst the cords of his magnanimitie.” In his youth Perrot had been distinguished for his good looks and strength of body. “He was,” writes Naunton, “of stature and size far beyond the ordinary man; he seems never to have known what fear was, and distinguished himself by martial exercises.” During a boar hunt in France in 1551, it was related of him that he rescued one of the hunters from the attack of a wild boar, “giving the boar such a blow that it did well-nigh part the head from the shoulders.”

From a memorandum drawn up by Sir Owen Hopton for the use of his successor, Sir Michael Blunt, in the Lieutenancy of the Tower in 1590, we find that the following prisoners were at that time confined in the fortress:—James Fitzgerald, the only son of the Earl of Desmond, who had come from Ireland as a hostage, Florence Macarthy, Sir Thomas Fitzherbert (who died in the Tower in the following year), Sir Thomas Williams, the Bishop of Laughlin, Sir Nicholas White, Sir Brian O’Rourke, “who hath the libertie to walk on the leades over his lodging,” and Sir Francis Darcy. All these prisoners were connected with the war in Ireland, or were suspected of conspiring against the Queen and her government.

The year 1592 is a memorable one in the life of the218 great Sir Walter Raleigh, for it was then that he began his long acquaintance with the prisons of the Tower, and from this time until his execution a quarter of a century later, Raleigh’s days were mainly passed within the walls of that building.

Raleigh’s first imprisonment in the Tower was owing to his marriage with Elizabeth Throgmorton, one of the Queen’s ladies, and the daughter of Sir Nicholas Throgmorton. Raleigh had wooed, won, and wedded his wife without Elizabeth’s knowledge or consent. The Queen, then over sixty years of age, was still as jealous and as vain as any young girl of sixteen, and for any of her favourites—and Raleigh at this time was the principal one—to marry without her august permission, and especially to marry one of her ladies, was in her eyes a most heinous crime, an aggravated form of lése-majestè, and it was only by the most fulsome flattery, the most grovelling abasement, that Sir Walter gained his freedom. In a letter from Sir Arthur Gorges, a cousin of Raleigh’s, to Sir Robert Cecil, there is an account of an extraordinary scene enacted by Sir Walter whilst in the Tower. “I cannot choose,” writes Gorges, “but advertise you of a strange tragedy that this day had like to have fallen out between the captain of the guard and the lieutenant of the ordnance, if I had not by great chance come at the very instant to have turned it into a comedy. For upon a report of Her Majesty’s being at Sir George Carew’s, Sir Walter Raleigh having gazed and sighed a long time at his study window, from whence he might discover the barges and boats about the Blackfriars stairs, suddenly he brake out into a great distemper, and swore that his enemies had on purpose brought Her Majesty thither to break his gall in sunder with Tantalus’s torment, that when she went away he might see death before his eyes, with many such like conceits. And as a man transported with passion, he swore to Sir George Carew that he would disguise himself, and get into a pair of oars to cure his219 mind with but a sight of the Queen, or else he protested his heart would break. But the trusty jailor would none of that, for displeasing the higher powers, as he said, which he more resented than the feeding of his humour, and so flatly refused to permit him. But in conclusion, upon this dispute they fell flat to choleric outrageous words, with straining and struggling at the doors, that all lameness was forgotten, and in the fury of the conflict, the jailor he had his new periwig torn off his crown, and yet here the struggle ended not, for at last they had gotten out their daggers. Which when I saw, I played the stickler between them, and so purchased such a rap on the knuckles, that I wished both their pates broken, and so with much ado they stayed their brawl to see my bloody fingers. At first I was ready to break with laughing to see them two scramble and brawl like madmen, until I saw the iron walking, and then I did my best to appease their fury. As yet I cannot reconcile them by any persuasions, for Sir Walter swears, that he shall hate him for so restraining him from the sight of his mistress, while he lives, for that he knows not (as he said) whether ever he shall see her again, when she is gone the progress. And Sir George on his side, swears that he would rather lose his longing, than he would draw on him Her Majesty’s displeasure by such liberty. Thus they continue in malice and snarling; but I am sure all the smart lighted on me. I cannot tell whether I should more allow of the passionate lover, or the trusty jailor. But if yourself had seen it, as I did, you would have been as heartily merry and sorry, as ever you were in all your life, for so short a time. I pray you pardon my hasty written narrative, which I acquaint you with, hoping you will be the peacemaker. But, good sir, let nobody know thereof, for I fear Sir Walter Raleigh will shortly grow to be Orlando Furioso, if the bright Angelica persevere against him.”

Here is a portion of a letter written by Sir Walter himself to Sir Robert Cecil, which the writer evidently220 wished should be shown to the Queen. “My heart,” he writes, “was never broken till this day, that I hear the Queen goes away so far off, whom I have followed so many years with so great love and desire, in so many journeys, and am now left behind her in a dark prison, all alone.” (This “dark prison” from which Raleigh writes, was probably the Brick Tower; in later years Sir Walter was to become acquainted with other prisons in the Tower.) “While she was yet at hand,” he continues, “that I might hear of her once in two or three days, my sorrows were the less, but even now my heart is cast into the depth of all misery. I, that was wont to behold her riding like Alexander, hunting like Diana, walking like Venus, the gentle wind blowing her fair hair about her pure face like a nymph, sometimes sitting in the shade like a goddess, sometimes singing like an angel, sometimes playing like Orpheus”—Alas! Sir Walter!

How long, in spite of the above fulsome letter, the Queen would have kept “her love-stricken swain,” as Raleigh called himself, within the Tower there is no knowing, if it had not been for the accident of his good ship, the Roebuck—which had escaped from the Spanish fleet sent to capture her—falling in, off Flores, with some great East Indian carracks bound for Lisbon. When the Roebuck had taken the great Spanish ship, the Madre de Dios, and brought her into Dartmouth with a huge treasure on board, which Raleigh himself estimated at half-a-million pounds, Elizabeth’s covetousness completely overmastered her resentment, and “her love-stricken swain” was set at liberty in September 1592, to arrange the disposal of the Spanish treasure—of which the Queen took the lion’s share.

Two attempts to poison Elizabeth were discovered in 1594. The first of these dastardly schemes was concocted by the Queen’s physician, a Spaniard or Portuguese named Lopez, who had been bribed by the Spanish governors of the Netherlands, Fuentes and Ibara, to administer poison to his royal mistress in some medicine. This plot is said221 to have been discovered by Essex. Lopez and two of his confederates met the fate they deserved, after being imprisoned in the Tower. According to Camden, Lopez declared on the scaffold that “He loved the Queen as much as he did Jesus Christ.” This sentiment coming from a Jew was received with much merriment by the spectators at the execution. The second plot was much more curious.

Walpole, a Jesuit priest, had bribed a groom in the royal stables, named Edward Squire, to rub some poison on the pommel of the Queen’s saddle, but, as may be supposed, the poison had no harmful effect, and priest and groom, being convicted, were hanged at Tyburn.

The last year of the sixteenth century saw the fall of one of Elizabeth’s most brilliant courtiers, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. After forty years of stern repression, Ireland, towards the close of Elizabeth’s reign, had become more Irish than ever. All the cruelties committed in that country by the Government of the Queen, cruelties in which Raleigh played so flagrant a part, had not crushed the Irish, and a larger army of occupation was found necessary.

Essex and Raleigh were bitter enemies. The chief cause of their dissension was the treatment of the Irish, Raleigh advising that they should be completely trodden under foot, whilst Essex urged a show of justice and some degree of goodwill towards the country and its inhabitants; but the favour shown by the Queen to both these remarkable men was also an additional cause for their mutual jealousy. Both were extremely self-willed, and their immense egotism, and lust for place and power, was the common ruin of each of them.

Essex was the youngest and last of that brilliant combination of soldier, statesman, and courtier, that added to the glory and charm of those “spacious days.”

Robert Devereux had many personal claims to Elizabeth’s good will. Strikingly handsome in face and form, he shone equally in the Court or in the field, and both by birth and marriage he was related to some of the most222 prominent persons attached to the Court. His father had been a personal friend of Elizabeth’s; his step-father was the Earl of Leicester; Sir Francis Knollys was his grandfather; Walsingham his father-in-law; Lord Hemsdon was his great-uncle, and the all-powerful Burleigh his guardian. To us Essex’s most conspicuous merit was that Shakespeare called him his friend. The poet was closely linked in the bonds of friendship both with Essex and with his dearest friend Southampton, and their fall is thought to have thrown the shadow of their misfortunes over the drama composed about the time of Essex’s execution, and Southampton’s disgrace and imprisonment. A Midsummer Night’s Dream had been written in honour of Essex’s marriage, and the only two books of verse that Shakespeare published had been dedicated to Southampton; and it was probably to the latter that the Sonnets were addressed, if he was not their actual inspirer.

On the eve of Essex’s disastrous expedition to Ireland, Shakespeare referred to his friend in the prologue of Act v. of the play of Henry V. After “broaching rebellion in Ireland,” Essex is thus referred to:

“Were now the general of our gracious empress
As in good time he may, from Ireland coming,
Bringing rebellion broached on his sword,
How many would the peaceful city quit
To welcome him!”

But the poet’s prophecy was not to be fulfilled; for two years after the declamation of these proud lines foretelling Essex’s glory, both their subject and Southampton—who had accompanied Essex to Ireland as Master of the Horse—were charged with treasonable conduct and neglect of duty. Thus Shakespeare lost his two most influential friends by one and the same fatality.

Essex, half mad with rage and disappointment at his failure, and smarting under the bitterness of mortified vanity and ambition, and under what he considered the223 ingratitude of the Queen, lost his self-control. Raleigh, he believed, had poisoned Elizabeth’s mind against him, quite forgetting his own insolences to his Sovereign on many occasions. Had he not during one of his outbursts of temper exclaimed in the hearing of some of the people attached to her person, that Elizabeth was as crooked in her mind as she was in her body? Essex must have been well aware that the aged monarch would never pardon such a speech; and it was probably one of the chief causes which led her to sign the warrant that consigned her former favourite to the scaffold.

Hic tvvs ille comes generosa essexia nostris
Qvem qvam gavdemvs rebvs adesse dvcem.

Enraged at the charges brought against him and the failure of the Irish expedition, Essex formed a wild plot to seize the Queen’s person, being assisted in the scheme by Southampton and some other hot-heads, amongst them, Rutland, Sandys, Cromwell, and Monteagle; with these were a band of about three hundred armed men. Although Essex was immensely popular with the Londoners, the sober citizens had no idea of imperilling their lives and possessions in such a harum-scarum adventure as this promised to be. Consequently Essex and his friends found no support, and instead of seizing the Queen and upsetting the Government they themselves were taken prisoners after a short siege in Essex’s townhouse. Early in February 1601 Essex with Southampton passed under Traitor’s Gate.

Essex occupied a prison in the Tower which owes its name to his having spent the last days of his short and brilliant life within its walls. On the 19th of February, Essex and Southampton were taken to their trial at Westminster Hall, and there were both adjudged guilty of high treason.

It appears that up to the last Essex expected a reprieve, as he took no leave of his family or of his friends. Lady Essex appealed to Cecil for her husband’s life, and Cecil perhaps might have saved him, had it not been—one regrets to write it—that Raleigh strongly urged224 the great minister by letter, to carry out the sentence (Lansdowne MSS. and Ellis’s “Original Letters”) and the law took its cruel course. Essex was so beloved by the people that, perhaps, for fear of an attempted rescue by the Londoners when they saw their favourite led out to die, his execution was arranged to take place within the gates of the fortress instead of upon Tower Hill. Camden indeed states that it was Essex’s own desire to die within the walls of the Tower, his reason for doing so being that the “acclamations of the citizens should have heven him up,” whatever that meant. He himself admitted that so long as he lived the Queen’s life would not be in safety, a most suicidal remark to make, but which he made nevertheless to Cecil four days before the end.

The following account of Essex’s last evening upon earth, and of his death, was written by an eye-witness of the execution, and is taken from the Calendar of State Papers (Dom. Series, 1598–1601).

“Feb. 25. 112.—Account of the execution of the Earl of Essex at 8 A.M. in the Tower.

“On Tuesday (24th February) night, between ten and twelve o’clock, he opened his window and said to the guards, ‘My good friends, pray for me, and to-morrow you shall see in me a strong God in a weak man; I have nothing to give you, for I have nothing left but that which I must pay to the Queen to-morrow in the morning.’ When he was brought from his lodging by the Lieutenant, he was attended on by three divines, and all the way from his chamber to the scaffold he called to God to give him strength and patience to the end, and said: ‘O God, give me true repentance, true patience, and true humility, and put all worldly thoughts out of my mind’; and he often entreated those that went with him to pray for him.

“Being come upon the scaffold which was set up in the midst of the court, he was apparelled in a gown of wrought velvet, a satin suit, and felt hat, all black; and first turning himself towards the divines, he said, ‘O God, be merciful225 unto me, the most wretched creature on the earth,’ and then turning himself towards the noblemen that sat on a form placed before the scaffold, he vayled his hat, and making reverence to the Lords, laid it away, and with his eyes most attentively fixed up to Heaven, spoke to this effect: ‘My Lords, and you my Christian brethren who are to be witnesses of this my just punishment, I confess to the glory of God that I am a most wretched sinner, and that my sins are more in number than the hairs of my head; that I have bestowed my youth in pride, lust, uncleanness, vainglory and divers other sins, according to the fashion of this world, wherein I have offended most grievously my God, and notwithstanding divers good motives inspired unto me from the Spirit of God, the good which I would I have not done; and the evil which I would not I have done; for all which I humbly beseech our Saviour Christ to be the Mediator unto the Eternal Majesty for my pardon; especially for this my last sin, this great, this bloody, this crying and this infectious sin, whereby so many, for love of me, have ventured their lives and souls, and have been drawn to offend God, to offend their Sovereign, and to offend the world, which is as great grief unto me as may be. Lord Jesus, forgive it us, and forgive it me, the most wretched of all; and I beseech Her Majesty, the State, and the Ministers thereof, to forgive it us. The Lord grant Her Majesty a prosperous reign, and a long one, if it be his will, O Lord, grant her a wise and understanding heart; O Lord, bless her and the nobles, and ministers of Church and State. And I beseech you and the world to have a charitable opinion of me for my intention towards Her Majesty, whose death, upon my salvation and before God, I protest I never meant, nor violence to her person; yet I confess I have received an honourable trial, and am justly condemned. And I desire all the world to forgive me, even as I freely and from my heart forgive all the world.

“‘And whereas I have been condemned for my religion,226 I was never, I thank God, Atheist or Papist, for I never denied the power of my God, not believing the word and scriptures, neither did I ever trust to be justified by my own works or merits, but hope as a true Christian for my salvation from God only, by the mercy and merits of my Saviour Jesus Christ, crucified for my sins. This faith I was brought up in, and therein am now ready to die; beseeching you all to join with me in prayer, not with eyes and lips only, but with lifted-up hands and minds, to the Lord for me, that my soul may be lifted up above all earthly things, for now I will give myself to my private prayer; yet for that I beseech you all to join with me, I will speak that you may hear.’

“Then putting off his gown and ruff and presenting himself before the block, he was, as it seemed, by one of the chaplains encouraged against the fear of death; to whom he answered, that having been divers times in places of danger, yet where death was never so present nor certain, he had felt the weakness of the flesh, and therefore desired God to strengthen him in that great conflict, and not to suffer the flesh to have any rule over him.

“Preparing to kneel down, he asked for the executioner, who on his knees also asked his pardon, to whom he said, ‘Thou art welcome to me; I forgive thee; thou art the minister of true justice.’ And then, with eyes fixed up to Heaven, he began his prayers, ‘O God, creator of all things and judge of all men, thou hast let me know by warrant of thy word, that Satan is then most busy when our end is nearest, and that Satan being resisted, will fly, I humbly beseech thee to assist me in this my last combat, and since thou acceptest even of our desires as of our acts, accept of my desires to resist him as with true resistance and perfect grace; what thou seest of my flesh to be frail [strengthen?] and give me patience to be as becometh me, in this just punishment inflicted upon me by so honourable a trial. Grant me the inward comfort of thy Spirit; let227 the Spirit seal unto my soul an assurance of thy mercies; lift my soul above all earthly cogitations, and when my life and body shall part, send thy blessed angels to be near unto me, which may convey it to the joys in Heaven,’ then saying the Lord’s Prayer, he iterated this petition, ‘As we forgive them that trespass against us,’ saying, ‘As we forgive all them that trespass against us.’

“Then one of the divines put him in mind to say over his belief, which he did, the doctor saying it softly before him, and added these words, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my soul; into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.’ He was likewise remembered by the divines to forgive and pray for his enemies. Whereupon he beseeched God to forgive them as freely as he did, ‘because,’ said he, ‘they bear the image of God as well as myself.’

“Asking what was fit for him to do for disposing himself to the block, and his doublet being taken off, after he had asked the executioner whether he would hinder him or no in a scarlet waistcoat, he bowed himself towards the block, and said, ‘O God, give me true humility and patience to endure to the end, and I pray you all to pray with me and for me, that when you shall see me stretch out my arms and my neck on the block, and the stroke ready to be given, it would please the everlasting God to send down his angels to carry my soul before his mercy seat,’ and then lifting up his eyes devotedly towards Heaven, he said, ‘Lord God, as unto thine altar I do come, offering up my body and my soul for a sacrifice, in humility and obedience to thy commandment, to thy ordinance, and to thy good pleasure, O God, I prostrate myself to my deserved punishment.’ Lying flat along the boards, his hand stretched out, he said, ‘Lord, have mercy upon me, thy prostrate servant,’ and therewithal fitting his head to the block, he was willed by one of the doctors to say the beginning of the 51st Psalm, Have mercy upon me, O God, etc., whereof he said two verses; the executioner being prepared he uttered these words, ‘Executioner, strike home. Come,228 Lord Jesus, come, Lord Jesus, and receive my soul; O Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ In the midst of which sentence his head was severed by the axe from the corpse at three blows, but the first deadly, and depriving all sense and motion.

“The noblemen present at his death were the Earls of Cumberland and Hertford, Lords Bindon, Darcy, Compton, and Thomas Howard, Constable of the Tower, Sir John Peyton, lieutenant with fifteen or sixteen partizans of the guard, and three divines, Messrs Montfort, Barlow, and Ashe Ashton.”

Writing of Essex’s death, Stowe says, “The body and the head were removed into the Tower, put into a coffin ready prepared, and buried by the Earl of Arundel and Duke of Norfolk in the Church of St Peter.” The above reads as if Essex’s remains had been buried by Arundel and Norfolk, but it is of course intended to convey the fact that the body of the Earl was placed alongside their graves.

There is a ghastly story told by G. S. Brandés in his work on Shakespeare, in which the Duke de Biron, Henry III. of France’s envoy to Elizabeth, relates a conversation he held with Elizabeth about Essex, in which she jested over her departed favourite; the Queen opened a box and took out of it Essex’s skull which she showed to Biron. This story has no shadow of proof or foundation, for had Essex’s head been taken out of the historic soil in which it mouldered in St Peter’s Chapel, and been given to the Queen, such an extraordinary proceeding would have been recorded; besides Elizabeth was not a monster, as such conduct with which Biron here credits her, would proclaim her to be.

Raleigh, at his own execution and speaking on the edge of the grave, solemnly denied that he had rejoiced over the death of Essex. He had, he acknowledged, watched the execution of his rival from the windows of the Armoury, those at the north end of the White Tower, which commanded a view of the scaffold—“where I saw him,” Sir229 Walter said, “but he saw not me, and my soul hath been many times grieved that I was not near to him when he died because I understood afterwards that he asked for me at his death, to be reconciled to me.” Thus at the early age of thirty-three ended the noble and gifted Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and Eu, Viscount Hereford and Bourchier, Baron Ferrers of Chartley, Bourchier and Louvain.

When quite a youth Essex had married Frances, daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, and his son Robert, born in 1592, lived to lead the army of the Parliament against Charles the First.

Contemporary writers have extolled Essex’s charm of character and beauty of person. Sir Robert Naunton, in his “Fragmenta Regalia,” writes that “there was in this young lord, together with a most goodly person, a kind of urbanity or innate courtesy.” So popular was Essex with the Londoners that he scarcely ever quitted the capital without a poem or song being sung and sold in the streets. After Essex’s death Raleigh, who, probably owing to his arrogance, was never a favourite with the citizens, was hooted by the mob, as were also Bacon and the other judges who had condemned the Earl. Even Elizabeth’s own popularity paled after Essex’s death, and she was ever after coldly received whenever she appeared amongst her lieges.

Southampton was kept a prisoner in the Tower until released by the order of James I. in the month of April 1603. During his imprisonment, a favourite cat of his appeared suddenly in his room, having come to his master by way of the chimney, and after his deliverance Southampton had his portrait painted with his faithful friend beside him. At Welbeck Abbey there are two portraits of this nobleman, and in one of them the cat appears by its master’s side.

Of the other conspirators in Essex’s plot, Sir Christopher Blunt, Sir Charles Danvers, Sir Gilley Merrick, and Henry230 Cuffe were executed, the first four being beheaded, and the two last hanged at Tyburn. Cuffe, who was Essex’s private secretary, appears to have been the principal instigator in the scheme for kidnapping the Queen; the other prisoners were pardoned.

For a long time the Queen hesitated to sign her old favourite’s death warrant; but finally wrote her name upon the fatal document, and by so doing probably shortened her own time on earth, for after Essex’s execution she fell into a state of morbid dejection which never lightened till the end. Her last days were lonely and full of terror, if not of despair. There are few accounts more tragic in history than the description given by those who saw the poor, painted old woman at this time—half delirious as the shades of death closed around her, thrusting a sword through the tapestry of her chamber, or lying on the ground propped up with cushions, refusing all nourishment, and having no one near her to whom she could turn for one loving look or tender word. There is no truth in the popular tale of the ring which Elizabeth is supposed to have given to Essex to be returned to her in any time of trouble, and detained until too late by Lady Nottingham.

Thus in domestic trouble and bloodshed closed the great Queen’s reign. When Elizabeth mounted the throne England was wretchedly weak and distracted, and apparently almost in the grasp of the huge Spanish octopus, the baleful arms of which were closing in around her. When the great Queen died, England was self-reliant and powerful. Elizabeth had not only been regarded by her own people with pride and admiration, but all Europe proclaimed her greatness. Bacon truly said that little or nothing was wanting to fill up the full measure of Elizabeth’s felicity; she had triumphed over all her enemies; and her bitterest foe, Philip of Spain, had gone to his grave five years before her own death, beaten and discredited, and like his so-called Invincible Armada, a wreck and a derision. The only other European sovereign who in any way could231 be compared with Elizabeth, and who survived her, was Henry of Navarre; and he had called Elizabeth his “other self.” In the next generation Cromwell, a still greater man than Henry IV. of France, speaking of Elizabeth said, “Queen Elizabeth of famous memory; we need not be ashamed to call her so.”


The Tower
T. Way, Lith: London.
[1] Mr G. H. Birch, F.S.A., the Curator of the Soane Museum, says of the extent of the Roman city, that it was “originally of smaller extent, and did not include the space now marked out by the line of apparently Roman walls, the proof being that interments have been found in the extended space, notably at the Union Bank of London and at Bow Churchyard, Cheapside. The first Roman city extended from the Tower to Aldgate, then along Leadenhall Street to Cornhill, returning by Wallbrook to Dowgate, and thence along Thames Street. Several of the bastions, notably the one in Camomile Street, are composed of destroyed Roman buildings and sculpture, and the work, although built in the Roman manner—that is, with courses of Roman tiles or bricks—is coarser in execution than the portion of the real Roman wall at Postern Row and Aldgate.”
[2] “As to the date of the extension,” writes Mr Birch, “it is difficult to say, but it was probably after the withdrawal of the Romans, but I hardly think as late as Alfred. The building points to the work of partly Romanised inhabitants, who would have been able to build only in the manner taught them by the Romans.”
[3] The wax effigies of the Kings and Queens covered with tawdry robes and gilt pasteboard crowns are far more attractive to the holiday crowd of visitors in the Abbey of Westminster than the tombs and shrines of the dead; and Madame Tussaud’s show attracts the public more than the National Gallery.
[4] This is the King’s or Queen’s House, according to the sex of the reigning Sovereign.
[5] He was the youngest son of John Apsley of Pulborough, Sussex. He purchased the office of Lieutenant of the Tower from his predecessor Sir George Moore, for £2500, and was sworn into office, March 3rd, 1617, which he held until his death, May 24th, 1630; he was also Surveyor of Victuals for the Navy. Whilst Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir Walter Raleigh was in his custody. He was thrice married. His second wife was Anne, daughter and heiress of Sir Peter Carew, by whom he had issue two sons and a daughter, Jocosa or Joyce, who married Lyster, second son of Sir Richard Blount, of Mapledurham, whose ancestors were also Lieutenants of the Tower. His third wife was Lucy, youngest daughter of Sir John St John, Knight of Lydiard Tregoz, Wilts, to whom he was married at St Anne’s, Blackfriars, on the 23rd December 1615, at which time he was of the age of forty-eight, whilst the lady was but sixteen. By this marriage he became brother-in-law of Sir Edward Villiers, Viscount Grandison, half-brother of George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham. His eldest son by this marriage, who also became Sir Allen Apsley, was a zealous Royalist, and was successively Governor of Exeter and Barnstaple Castles, and, after the Restoration, Falconer to King Charles II., and Treasurer of the Household to James, Duke of York, afterwards James II. His daughter Frances married Sir Benjamin Bathurst, Knight, Governor of the Royal African and East India Companies and Cofferer to Queen Anne, and ancestor of Lord Chancellor Bathurst. Sir Allen Apsley, the Lieutenant of the Tower, had also four other sons and two daughters; of the latter, Barbara married Lieutenant-Colonel Hutchinson, and Lucy became the celebrated wife of his brother, Colonel John Hutchinson, Governor of Nottingham Castle, an earnest Parliamentarian. The life of the latter was written by his wife, who also left behind her her own autobiography, printed in 1808.
[6] Mr Birch thinks this improbable, and that the depth and clay bottom of the river would have rendered such a work impossible.
[7] Thomas of Woodstock, seventh son of Edward III., Duke of Gloucester and Aumarle, was born in 1355. He had held many important offices in the State. Froissart says he was “orguilleux et présomptueux de maniére.” At the time of his death he was fifty-two years of age.
“When he was brought again to the bar, to hear
His knell rung out, his judgment, he was stirr’d
With such an agony, he sweat extremely,
And some thing spoke in choler, ill, and hasty:
But he fell to himself again, and sweetly
In all the rest show’d a most noble patience—”
Henry VIII., Act i. scene 4.
[9] There is a large number of records now in the State Paper Office, which are known as the “Baga de Secretis,” and are the official papers connected with many of the most important State trials; these records are kept in ninety-one small bags or pouches, whence the name of the collection. They have been calendared in the third, fourth, and fifth Reports of the Deputy-Keeper of the Public Records. These interesting documents begin with the trial of Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, in 1499, and end in the year 1813. In Pouch Nine there are the reports of the trials of Anne Boleyn and her brother Lord Rochford.
[10] On her father’s side Lady Jane Grey’s descent was as follows:—Thomas Grey was Queen Elizabeth Woodville’s (the Queen of Edward IV.) eldest son by her first marriage to Sir John Grey, eighth Lord Ferrers of Groby in Leicestershire. Sir John was killed at the second battle of St Albans, fighting on the side of King Henry. His son Thomas Grey was created Earl of Huntingdon in 1471 and Marquis of Dorset in 1475. In the latter year he married Cicely, the daughter and heiress of William, Lord Bonville and Harrington. By this marriage he had a family of seven sons and eight daughters, and his grandson was the father of Lady Jane Grey.
[11] I know of only one satisfactory portrait of Lady Jane Grey, and that belongs to Lord Beauchamp and is kept at Madresfield Court. By Lord Beauchamp’s kindness I am allowed to reproduce that portrait, together with its companion picture of Lord Guildford Dudley.
[12] The minutes of this trial are in the Baga de Secretis, Pouch xxiv. in the Public Record Office.
[13] This book, a manual of prayers in square vellum, is now in the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum. It is thought that Lady Jane had borrowed it from Sir John Brydges, carrying it with her to the scaffold, and there returning it to its owner by the hands of his brother, although, as the Lieutenant was present, it is difficult to understand why she did not give it to him personally.
[14] Sir Henry Lee was a great lover of jousts and tournaments, and was noted for his prowess in the lists. He died in 1611. His descendant, the present Lord Dillon, has inherited his ancestor’s love of armour and all that appertains to the study of knightly panoply and weapons. The country owes Lord Dillon a debt of gratitude for the admirable manner in which he has classified and re-arranged the collection of arms and armour in the White Tower, and for the exhaustive and excellent catalogue of the same.
[15] These executions took place on the 20th and 21st September 1586. Seven on the first day, and the remainder the next. The centre of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which at that time had not been laid out, was the scene of these horrible barbarities.





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