’Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

The protoplasm from which the present Tower grew was a rude Celtic fort
on the river slope of Tower Hill. Then came the Romans and built their
London Wall, at the angle of which, commanding the Thames seawards, they
also constructed a fortress. A portion of this _Arx Palatina_ can still
be seen to the east of the White Tower. But no part of this Roman work
remains in the present Tower, though Shakespeare speaks of Julius
Cæsar’s Tower in _Richard II._

Tower history, as we know it in any detail, begins with the Conquest.
The Conqueror set Gundulf, a well-travelled monk of the monastery of
Bec, who had seen many beautiful buildings in the course of his
wanderings, to work on the low ground between the hill and the river,
and there, on the camping-ground of the Britons and the Romans, arose
the White Tower, completed about 1078. Gundulf was not only a builder
but an administrator, and the chronicles tell us that, as Bishop of
Rochester, where he rebuilt the Cathedral, he was most earnest in the
discharge of his episcopal duties.

When we reach the reign of Henry I. we have tidings of our first
prisoner, Ralph Flambard, Bishop of Durham. He was immured for illegally
raising funds for the upkeep of this very fortress, but had no desire to
remain long an inmate within the walls he had been so anxious,
aforetime, to preserve. A rope was conveyed to him in a wine-cask. With
the wine he “fuddled his keepers”; with the rope he proceeded to lower
himself down the outer wall of the White Tower, and, not at all alarmed
at finding the rope too short and his arrival on the ground somewhat
sudden, he was able to mount on horseback, ride to a seaport, and embark
for Normandy. Subsequently he returned to Durham, where he completed the
Cathedral and built Norham Castle, in which Scott lays the opening
scene of _Marmion_.

The Tower now became a royal palace and remained the dwelling-place of
the Kings of England, or, at times, the stronghold to which they would
retire when danger threatened, until the days of Charles II. At this
early period of its history, too, it was found that a collection of wild
beasts would lend some zest to life within its walls. This royal
menagerie was located on the ground where the ticket-office and
refreshment-rooms now stand, and was removed in 1834. It is said that
the term “going to see the lions” of a place arose from the fashionable
habit of visiting the Tower lions, and the lane off Great Tower Street,
just beyond Allhallows Barking, was at one time not Beer but _Bear_
Lane, and evidently led down to the pits in which the bears were
expected to provide amusement for Court circles. Stephen kept
Whitsuntide in the Tower in 1140, and in that year the Tower was in the
charge of Geoffrey de Mandeville, who had accompanied the Conqueror to
England, but in 1153 it was held for the Crown by Richard de Lucy, Chief
Justiciary of England, in trust for Henry of Anjou, and to him it
reverted on Stephen’s death. It was a popular superstition at this time
that the red appearance of the mortar used in binding the Tower walls
was caused by the blood of beasts having been mixed with it in the
making; but the ruddy tint was really the result of an admixture of
pulverised Roman bricks with the lime. When Richard I. went off to the
Crusades the Tower was left in the keeping of his Chancellor, Longchamp;
and King John, on usurping the throne, laid siege to the fortress, which
Longchamp surrendered to him. In 1215 the Tower was again besieged, this
time by the barons and the citizens of London, but though the stronghold
had but a poor garrison it held out successfully. In 1216 the rebellious
nobles handed over the custody of the Tower to the Dauphin, Louis, but
he appears to have considered the task too irksome, and “speedily
returned to his own land.”

One of the greatest names in Tower history is that of Henry III., who
appointed Adam of Lambourne master-mason of the buildings, and began to
build and rebuild, to adorn and to beautify, never satisfied until he
had made the Tower of London a royal dwelling-place indeed. To the
Norman Chapel in the White Tower he gave stained glass and decorated


walls with frescoes; to St. Peter’s, on Tower Green, he gave a set of
bells. He constructed the Wharf, and the massive St. Thomas’s Tower and
Traitor’s Gate were set up by him. But he had his difficulties to
contend with. These additions to the fortification were unpopular with
the citizens without the walls, and when a high tide washed away the
Wharf, and, undermining the foundations of the new tower over Traitor’s
Gate, brought it twice to the ground, the people rejoiced, hoping the
King would own that Fate was against him. But after each disaster his
only comment seems to have been “Build it stronger!” and there is
Henry’s Wharf and St. Thomas’s Tower (recently restored) to this day.
Henry also built the outer wall of the Tower facing the Moat, and in
many other ways made the place a stronghold sure. The wisdom of what had
been done was soon made manifest, for Henry had many a time to take
refuge within Tower walls while rebellious subjects howled on the slopes
of Tower Hill. For their unkind treatment of his wife, Queen Eleanor,
Henry never forgave the people of London, and so defied them from within
what had really become his castle walls. Eleanor was avaricious, proud,
arrogant, and became so unpopular that, when on one occasion she had
left the Wharf by water, for Westminster, she was received, as her barge
came into view of London Bridge, with such execrations and shouts of
“Drown the witch!” or sounds to that effect, that she returned in terror
to the Tower. In 1244 Griffin, son of Llewellyn, was brought as prisoner
to the White Tower and detained as a hostage. He attempted to emulate
the redoubtable Flambard by making a rope of his bedclothes and dropping
from his window, by such means, to the ground. But he had forgotten to
take the weight of his body into his calculations; he was a stout man,
his hastily constructed rope was insecure, it broke as he hung upon the
wall of the Tower, and he was killed by the fall.

Edward I., when he returned from the Holy Land, made the last additions
of any consequence that were ever made to the Tower buildings. The Moat
was formed in his day and put then into much of its present shape; it
has, of course, been cleaned out and deepened from time to time, though
there was always more mud than water in its basin, and, at one period,
it was considered an offence that lead to instant death for any man to
be discovered bathing therein, probably because he was almost certain
to die from the effects of a dip in such fluid as was to be found there!
Multitudes of Jews were imprisoned in the dungeons under the White Tower
in this reign on the charge of “clipping” the coin of the realm, and the
Welsh and Scottish wars were the cause of many notable warriors, such as
the Earls of Athol, Menteith, and Ross, King Baliol and his son Edward,
and, in 1305, the patriot William Wallace, being given habitation in
Tower dungeons. The noble Wallace, bravest of Scots, was put to death at
Smithfield after some semblance of trial in Westminster Hall. But his
name will never be forgotten, for it is enshrined by Burns in one of the
noblest of Scottish songs.

Edward II. had no great partiality towards the Tower as a palace, but
often retired there when in danger. In 1322 his eldest daughter was born
here, and, from the place of her birth, was called Joan of the Tower.
She lived to become, by marrying David Bruce, Queen of Scotland in 1327.
We hear of the first woman to be imprisoned in Tower walls about this
time–Lady Badlesmere–for refusing hospitality to Queen Isabella, and
giving orders that the royal party was to be attacked as it approached
her castle of Leeds, in Kent. Lord Mortimer, a Welsh prisoner,
contrived to escape from his dungeon by the old expedient of making his
jailors drunk. He escaped to France, but soon returned, and with
Edward’s Queen, Isabella, was party to Edward’s death at Berkeley
Castle, whither the King had fled from London. The Tower had been left
in the care of Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter, but the unfortunate man was
seized by a mob of turbulent citizens, dragged into Cheapside, and there
put to death. Poor Stapledon was a man of exemplary character and a
generous patron of learning. He founded Exeter College, Oxford, and
beautified Exeter Cathedral.

The rebel Mortimer and Queen Isabella thought it prudent to keep the
young Edward III. within Tower walls in a state of semi-captivity, but
the lad’s spirit was such that he soon succeeded in casting off the
restraint and threw himself on the goodwill of his people. Mortimer was
captured at Nottingham, brought to the Tower, then hanged, drawn, and
quartered at Tyburn Elms–where the Marble Arch now stands. The young
King’s wars in France and Scotland were begun, and after the capture of
Caen, over three hundred of its wealthiest men were brought to the
Tower, together with the Constable of France, the Count d’Eu, and the
Count of Tankerville. It was while making preparations for this French
war that Edward resided in the Tower and came to know its weakness and
its strength. He placed a powerful garrison within its battlements when
he set off for Normandy, but he was not satisfied in his heart with the
state of his royal fortress. Returning secretly from France, and landing
one November night at the Wharf, he found, as he had expected, the place
but ill guarded. The Governor, the Chancellor, and several other
officers were imprisoned for neglect of their duties, and the King set
his house in order. The Scottish King, David Bruce, was captured at
Neville’s Cross in 1346, and Froissart describes how a huge escort of
armed men guarded the captive King–who was mounted on a black
charger–and brought him to the Tower, through narrow City streets
crowded with sightseers, past bodies of City Companies drawn up and clad
in richest robes, in January 1347. At the Tower gate Bruce was given,
with much ceremony, into the custody of Sir John d’Arcy, then Governor.
The imprisoned King remained in the Tower eleven years. King John of
France, and Philip, his son, were brought captives here in 1358 after
Poitiers. Though the Scots King had been liberated and they were so
deprived of his society, yet it appears they had no unpleasant time of
it in their quarters. There were many French nobles within the gates to
make the semblance of a court. Both John and Philip were set free in
1360 by the Treaty of Bretigny.

Richard II. began his reign amid great rejoicings and feastings, and the
Tower rang with revelries. On the day of his Coronation the King left
his palace-fortress in great state, clad in white robes, and looking, as
one account has it, “as beautiful as an archangel.” London seemed to
have lost its sense of humour–if the sense had been at all developed at
that time–for in Cheapside we are told a castle had been erected “from
two sides of which wine ran forth abundantly, and at the top stood a
golden angel, holding a crown, so contrived that when the King came near
she bowed and presented it to him. In each of the towers was a beautiful
virgin … and each blew in the King’s face leaves of gold and flowers
of gold counterfeit,” while the populace yelled blessings on their new
monarch, and the conduits ran wine. But scarcely was the wine-stain out
of the streets when the Wat Tyler rebellion broke out, and it seemed
likely that the cobbles would be soon stained red again, but not with
wine. Richard and his mother sought refuge in the Tower while the yells
beyond the walls were no longer those of acclamation but of detestation.
Froissart likens the mob’s cries to the “hooting of devils.” Richard set
out on the Thames to a conference with the leaders of the insurgents at
Rotherhithe, but taking alarm before he had gone far down the river
returned hurriedly to the Tower steps. With him in his place of security
were Treasurer Hales and Archbishop Simon of Sudbury, for whose heads
the mob shouted. Mayor Walworth suggested a sally upon the infuriated
crowds, but this remedy was considered too desperate, and abandoned. The
mob on Tower Hill demanded Sudbury; Sudbury was to be delivered to them;
give them Sudbury. The awful glare of fire shone into the Tower
casements, and the King looked out and saw the houses of many of his
nobles being burnt to the ground. The Savoy was on fire, Westminster
added flames to colour the waters of the Thames, and fire was seen to
rise from the northern heights. Richard was but a boy, and so hard a
trial found him almost unequal to the strain it imposed. What was to be
done? The King being persuaded to meet his rebellious subjects at Mile
End, conceded their demands and granted pardons. There was a garrison of
1200 well-armed men in the Tower, but they were panic-stricken when, on
the departure of the King, the rebel mob, which had stood beyond the
moat, rushed over the drawbridges and into the very heart of the
buildings. Archbishop Sudbury was celebrating Mass when the mob caught
him, dragged him forth from the altar, and despatched him on Tower Hill.
Treasurer Hales was also killed, and both heads were exposed on the
gateway of old London Bridge. Yet, two days later, Tyler’s head was
placed where Sudbury’s had been, and the Archbishop was buried with much
pomp in Canterbury Cathedral. In 1387 Richard again sought refuge in the
Tower. The Duke of Gloucester and other nobles had become exasperated at
the weak King’s ways, and a commission appointed by Gloucester proceeded
to govern the Kingdom; Richard’s army offering opposition was defeated.
Subsequently, a conference was held in the Council Chamber of the White
Tower, and Richard, on some kind of agreement being reached, left the
Tower for Westminster. The King’s greatest friend, Sir Simon Burley,
was led to death on Tower Hill and his execution Richard swore to
avenge. His opportunity came. Three years later another State procession
left the Tower, with the King, as before, the chief personage in the
midst of the brave show. Richard had married Isabel, daughter of Charles
VI. of France. She had been dwelling in the Tower until the day of her
coronation. In the midst of the festivities that celebrated the joyous
event Gloucester was seized by the King’s orders, shipped off to Calais,
and murdered; the Earl of Arundel was beheaded on Tower Hill. Warwick
the King dared not kill, as he had done so much for his country in the
wars with France, but after confinement in the Beauchamp Tower, he was
sent to the Isle of Man, and there kept in prison for life. But Richard,
in planning the fall of these men, brought destruction upon himself. He
lost all self-control, and Mr. Gardiner believes that “it is most
probable, without being actually insane, his mind had to some extent
given way.” Parliament was dissolved–the King would rule without one;
he would assume the powers of an autocrat. Events moved swiftly. John of
Gaunt’s son, Henry of Lancaster, landed in England in 1399; Richard was
taken prisoner, and, on September 2 of that year, was brought to the
Tower, a prisoner. In the White Tower–Shakespeare, however, lays the
scene in Westminster Hall–he resigned his crown, and, shadowy king that
he always was, vanished into the dark shadow that shrouds his end.

Henry IV. began his reign with a revival of Tower festivities. On the
eve of his coronation, after much feasting and rejoicing, a solemn
ceremonial took place in the Norman chapel of St. John, where forty-six
new knights of the Order of the Bath watched their arms all night. With
Henry’s reign begins, also, the list of State prisoners in the Tower,
which was becoming less of a palace and more of a prison. The first
captives were Welshmen–Llewellyn, a relation of Owen Glendower, being
brought here in 1402. In the following year the Abbot of Winchelsea and
other ecclesiastics were committed for inciting to rebellion, but
Henry’s most notable prisoner was Prince James of Scotland. This lad of
eleven was heir of Robert III., after the death of Rothesay, whose sad
end is described in _The Fair Maid of Perth_. King Robert died, it is
said, of a broken heart when he heard of his son’s captivity, and James
became _de facto_ King of Scotland while unjustly immured in Henry’s
prison-house. He remained a prisoner for eighteen years, two of which
were spent in the Tower; from there he was removed to Nottingham Castle,
and his uncle, the Duke of Albany, acted as Regent of the northern
kingdom. It is interesting to learn, from some English and Scottish
records, that his expenses in the Tower were 6s. 8d. a day for himself
and 3s. 4d. for his attendants.

Henry V., on becoming King in 1413, was, according to the _Chronicles of
London_, “brought to the Tower upon the Fryday, and on the morowe he
rood through Chepe with a grete rought of lordes and knyghtes, the
whiche he hadde newe made in the Tower on the night before.” About this
time the Tower was full of persecuted followers of Wycliffe, the most
famous being Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham. He had been a trusted
servant of Henry IV.; to him was allotted the task of quelling
insurrection in Wales at the time of the battle of Shrewsbury, and he
then stood in high favour with the King and his son, now Henry V. A
severe law had been passed with regard to those who held the principles
of Wycliffe, and at the time of Henry V.’s accession, Oldcastle was
found to favour the condemned Lollard doctrines. Not long afterwards,
by virtue (to quote J. R. Green), of “the first legal enactment of
religious bloodshed which defiled our Statute Book,” Sir John was a
captive in the Tower, and the King, forgetting old friendship, allowed
matters to take their course. But Oldcastle, who evidently had friends
and unknown adherents within the Tower walls, mysteriously escaped, and
the Lollards, encouraged, brought their rising to a head. It was said
that they had plotted to kill the King and make Oldcastle Regent of the
kingdom; but their insurrection was quelled, the more prominent Lollards
were either burnt or hanged, and Sir John, after wanderings in Wales,
was caught, brought back to the Tower, and in December 1417, some say on
Christmas Day, was hung in chains and burnt “over a slow fire” in
Smithfield. He is the original of Shakespeare’s Falstaff, but had very
little in common with that creation of the dramatist’s fancy.
Shakespeare admits this in an epilogue where he says, “For Oldcastle
died a martyr and this is not the man.” In Tennyson’s poem, _Sir John
Oldcastle_, this brave old man exclaims, “God willing, I will burn for
Him,” and, truly, he suffered a terrible death for his convictions.
After Agincourt we have another notable prisoner in the Tower in the
person of Charles, Duke of Orleans, who was sent to the White Tower
“with a ransom of 300,000 crowns on his head.” This captive, as did
James of Scotland before him, passed many of the weary hours of
captivity writing poetry. In the British Museum there is preserved a
manuscript volume of his poems which is invaluable as containing the
oldest picture of the Tower which is known to exist. This picture,
beautifully coloured, shows the great keep of William the Conqueror
whitewashed–hence its present name–and, in the background, the steep
grassy slope of Tower Hill, old London Bridge, and the spires and towers
of ancient London. It is a remarkable work of art, and is accessible to
all in its many reproductions. Charles was liberated in 1440, in the
reign of Henry VI.

The early days of the sixth Henry were not marked in Tower annals by
events of great interest, and during the later Wars of the Roses the
number of captives sent here was small, for most of them were murdered
in cold blood, on the battlefields. Little quarter was given after those
fights-to-the-death, and during the weary years of warfare the peerage,
as one writer has it, “was almost annihilated.” The Cade rebellion broke
out in 1450, in which year William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, who had
been charged with supporting it, was murdered. He was one of the most
distinguished noblemen in England, yet the tragedy that ended his life
was a sordid one. Upon a wholly unsubstantiated charge of treason he was
shut up in the Tower; as he could not be proven guilty, he was released
and banished the country. He took ship at Dover to cross to Calais, but
was captured in the Channel by the captain of a vessel named _Nicholas
of the Tower_. This was a name of ill-omen to Suffolk, to whom it had
been told, in prophecy, that could he avoid the “danger of the Tower” he
should be safe. As captive he was brought back to Dover, and his last
moments are described in _King Henry VI._, Part II., Act iv., Scene 1,
with realism.

In the summer of 1450 Lord Say was sent to the Tower by the King “to
propitiate the rebels,” and they had him forth and beheaded him in
Cheapside. Cade and his followers were attacking the fortress from
Southwark, but at nightfall a sortie was made from the Tower, London
Bridge was barricaded, and, a truce being called, the rebellion
gradually subsided. Cade’s capture in a garden in Kent is told by
Shakespeare in the tenth scene of the fourth act of the play just

Towton Heath was fought and lost by the Lancastrians; the Battle of
Hexham crushed the remnant of the King’s army; the valiant Queen
Margaret fled, taking her young son with her; and, very soon afterwards,
poor Henry himself was led captive, and placed in the Wakefield Tower
where, in the room in which the regalia is shown at the present day, he
was murdered, we are told, by Richard of Gloucester or, more probably,
by his orders, on May 21, 1471. But before his death, Warwick–that
king-maker slain at Barnet in 1471–had given orders for Henry to be led
on horseback through the city streets “while a turncoat populace shouted
‘God save King Harry!’” This was a poor and short-lived triumph. The
weary-hearted King, “clad in a blue gown,” soon returned to the walls he
was fated never again to leave alive. The city was flourishing under
Yorkist rule and was not minded to seek Lancastrian restoration. It was
the pull of prosperity against sentiment; the former won, as it usually
contrives to do, and along with sentiment down went King Henry. Queen
Margaret had meanwhile been brought to the Tower. Though she and her
husband were both within Tower gates they did not meet again. The Queen
was imprisoned for five years–for part of that time at Windsor–and
then was allowed to return to her own country. We meet her once again in
Scott’s _Anne of Geierstein_.

Cannon, that had, as has been said, come into use for the first time at
Crecy, were during Henry’s reign used by the Yorkists to “batter down”
the walls of the Tower, but unsuccessfully. In 1843, when the moat was
dried and cleared out, a large number of stone cannon-balls were
discovered, and in all probability were those used at this bombardment.

Edward IV. had given the customary feast at the Tower on the
coronation-eve and “made” thirty-two knights within its walls. These
Knights of the Bath, “arrayed in blue gowns, with hoods and tokens of
white silk upon their shoulders” rode before the new King on his
progress from the Tower to Westminster Abbey on his coronation day. The
King began his reign by sending Lancastrians to the Tower and beheading
two, Sir Thomas Tudenham and Sir William Tyrrell, on Tower Hill. The
Tower had come upon its darkest days. Though Edward favoured the
fortress a good deal as a place of residence, rebuilt its fortifications
and deepened its moat, he also used it


as a convenient place for ridding himself of all he wished to put out of
his way. Victim after victim suffered cruel death within its walls. His
brother Clarence mysteriously disappeared–tradition has maintained he
was drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine, but that has never been proved in
any way. However, the secrecy as to the manner of his death makes it
none the less tragic to the imagination; how his last moments were
passed the stones of the Bowyer Tower alone could tell us.

Young Edward V. was brought to the Tower by the Dukes of Gloucester and
Buckingham, professing great loyalty and arranging that his coronation
should take place on the 22nd of June following. But Richard of
Gloucester was determined that if craft and strategy could accomplish
his ends the next coronation would be his own. Lord Hastings, over loyal
to the boy King was brought to the axe on Tower Green, and an attempt
was made by the scheming Richard, who was now Protector, to prove that
Edward was no true heir to the Crown. It was with a fine show of
unwillingness that he accepted the call to kingship, but in July, 1483,
he was crowned at Westminster. Edward, and his ten-year-old brother,
Richard, disappeared. We shall return to a consideration of their fate
when examining the Bloody Tower.

Richard III., following the custom, gave sumptuous entertainments in the
Tower to celebrate his first days as King, and the usual elaborate
procession issued forth on the coronation day from the Tower gate,
climbed the hill, and wended its way through the tortuous London streets
to the city of Westminster, beyond. Richard seems to have spent much of
his time, when in his capital, within his fortress-palace, and to have
taken interest in at least one building near by. The Church of
Allhallows Barking, on Tower Hill, as we shall see in Chapter VI., owes
much to Richard, who appears to have considered Tower Walls thick enough
to hide his evil deeds and keep out his good ones.

During this reign, as we find in the _Wyatt Papers_, a State prisoner,
Sir Henry Wyatt, was thrown into a Tower dungeon for favouring Tudor
claims and supporting Henry of Richmond. Richard, it is said, had him
tortured, but the brave soldier refused to forsake his “poor and unhappy
master” (afterwards Henry VII.) and so “the King, in a rage, had him
confined in a low and narrow cell where he had not clothes sufficient
to warm him and was an-hungered.” The legend proceeds: “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 from whom I had the story. A cat came one day down into the
dungeon, 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, brought 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.” The jailor dressed each time the pigeon the cat provided, and
the prisoner was no longer an-hungered. Sir Henry Wyatt in his days of
prosperity, when Henry VII. had come to the throne and made his faithful
follower a Privy Councillor, “did ever make much of cats” and, the old
writer goes on, “perhaps you will not find his picture anywhere but with
a cat beside him.” Wyatt afterwards became rich enough, under kingly
favour, to purchase Allington Castle, one of the finest places of its
kind in Kent. There are other Tower stories of men, saddened in their
captivity, being helped in various ways by dumb animals. Many of them,
we may hope, are true.

Our necessarily rapid journey through history has brought us to the
illustrious Tudor Kings and Queens. The Tower was never more prominent
in England’s records than during Tudor reign, from seventh Henry to the
last days of great Elizabeth. The early years of the new King were to be
remembered by an imprisonment in Tower walls that had little sense of
justice as excuse. When the Duke of Clarence was put to death in Edward
IV.’s reign, he left behind him his eldest son, then only three years
old, whom Richard, after his own son’s death, had a mind to nominate as
his heir. This was Edward, Earl of Warwick, who came to be shut up
simply because he was a representative of the fallen house of York and
had a better right to claim the Crown than Henry Tudor. That was his
only offence, but it was sufficient; he lingered in confinement while
Lambert Simnel was impersonating him in Ireland in 1487; he was led
forth from his cell to parade city streets, for a day of what must have
tasted almost like happy freedom, in order that he might be seen of the
people; and once again was he brought back to his place of confinement.
Henry’s position was again in danger, when, in 1492, Perkin Warbeck, a
young Fleming, landed in Ireland and proclaimed himself to be Richard
Plantagenet, Duke of York, son of Edward IV. His tale was that when his
“brother” Edward was murdered in the Tower, he had escaped. He was even
greeted, some time afterwards, by the Duchess of Burgundy, Edward IV.’s
sister, as her nephew, and called the “White Rose of England.” With
assistance from France and Scotland, Warbeck landed in England, and
after many vicissitudes was captured, and put in the Tower, from whence
he planned to escape and involved Edward of Warwick in the plot. This
gave Henry his opportunity. Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn, and poor
Warwick ended his long captivity at the block on Tower Hill. So was
played another act of Tower tragedy. Sir William Stanley, concerned in
the Warbeck rising, was also brought to the Tower, tried in the Council
Chamber, condemned, and beheaded on Tower Hill on February 16, 1495.
Still the plottings against the unpopular Henry went on, and the
headsman had ample work to do. To Tower Hill came Sir James Tyrrell, who
had taken part in the murder of the Princes, and Sir John Wyndham–both
brought there for the aid they had given to the plottings of Edmund de
la Pole, Earl of Suffolk.

But now comes a break in the tales of bloodshed, and the Tower awoke
once more to the sounds of feasting and rejoicing. In celebration of the
marriage of Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon in St. Paul’s
Cathedral, great tournaments and banquetings took place within the Tower
and in its immediate vicinity. Tower Hill was gay with the coming and
going of festive crowds; the Tower walls echoed what they seldom
heard–the sounds of piping and dancing. Records tell us, too, of
elaborate pageants which strove to show the descent of the bridegroom
from Arthur of the Round Table. This method of impressing the moving
scenes of history on the spectator is not unknown to us in the present
day. Hardly had five months passed away, however, when the Prince, who
was but a lad of fifteen, lay dead, and his mother, Elizabeth of York,
who had given birth to a daughter in the Tower in 1503, died nine days
after Prince Arthur. When six more years had passed, the King, whose
reign had been so troubled, was laid by the side of his wife, in “the
glorious shrine in Westminster Abbey which bears his name.”

Henry VIII. was now on the throne, at the age of eighteen, and once
again the Tower looms largely in the view, and approaches the height of
its notoriety as State prison and antechamber to the place of death.
But, as in former times, the record is not one of unrelieved gloom. The
two sides of the picture are admirably exemplified at the beginning of
Henry’s reign, for, shortly after he had imprisoned his father’s
“extortioners,” Empson and Dudley, and subsequently caused them to be
beheaded on Tower Hill, he made great show and ceremony during the Court
held at the Tower before the first of his many weddings. Twenty-four
Knights of the Bath were created, and, with all the ancient pomp and
splendour–for Henry had a keen eye for the picturesque–the usual
procession from Tower to Westminster duly impressed, by its glitter, a
populace ever ready to acclaim a coronation, in the too-human hope that
the new will prove better than the old.

The young King appointed Commissioners to make additions and
improvements within the Tower. The roomy Lieutenant’s House was built,
and had access to the adjoining towers; additional warders’ houses were
erected and alterations were made within the Bell and St. Thomas’s
Towers. About this time the White Tower received attention, and from the
State Papers of the period we learn that it was “embattled, coped,
indented, and cressed with Caen stone to the extent of five hundred
feet.” It is almost as though Henry were anxious that his royal prison
should be prepared to receive the many new occupants of its rooms and
dungeons that he was about to send there, for no sooner were these
renovations completed than the chronicle of bloodshed begins afresh.

The Earl of Suffolk, already spoken of in connection with a plot in the
preceding reign, came to the axe in 1513; a few years passed and the
Tower was filled with men apprehended in City riots, in an attempt to
subdue which the Tower guns were actually “fired upon the city”; Edward,
Duke of Buckingham, at one time a favourite of Henry’s, was traduced by
Wolsey, who represented, out of revenge, that the Duke laid some claim
to the Crown, and he was beheaded on Tower Green on May 17, 1521. In
Brewer’s Introduction to the _State Papers of Henry VIII._, we read,
with reference to this trial and death of

[Illustration: PANORAMA OF THE TOWER AND GREENWICH IN 1543. By Anthony
van den Wyngaerde.

102. Houndsditch.
103. Crutched Friars.
104. Priory of Holy Trinity.
105. Aldgate.
106. St. Botolph, Aldgate.
107. The Minories.
108. The Postern Gate.
109. Great Tower Hill.
110. Place of Execution.
111. Allhallow’s Church, Barking.
112. The Custom House.
113. Tower of London.
114. The White Tower.
115. Traitor’s Gate.
116. Little Tower Hill.
117. East Smithfield.
118. Stepney.
119. St. Catherine’s Church.
120. St. Catherine’s Dock.
121. St. Catherine’s Hospital.
122. Isle of Dogs.
123. Monastery of Bermondsey.
124. Says Court, Deptford.
125. Palace of Placentia.

Buckingham, that the Duke of Norfolk, not without tears, delivered
sentence thus: “You are to be led back to prison, laid on a hurdle, and
so drawn to the place of execution; you are there to be hanged, 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.” Buckingham heard this terrible form of punishment
with calmness, and said that so should traitors be spoken unto, but that
he was never one. After the trial, which had lasted nearly a week, the
Duke was conveyed on the river from Westminster to the Temple steps and
brought through Eastcheap to the Tower. Buckingham’s last words as he
mounted the scaffold on the Green were that he died a true man to the
King, “whom, through my own negligence and lack of grace I have
offended.” In a few moments his head was off, the block was covered with
his blood, and some good friars took up his body, covered it with a
cloak, and carried it to the Church of Austin Friars, where it was
buried with all solemnity. So fell the once mighty Buckingham, and in
his last moments, and after his death, he was not forgotten by “poor
religious men, to whom, in his lifetime, he had been kind.”

Again the curtain falls on tragedy and rises on comedy. Twelve years
later Tower Green was given over to revelry; and laughter, singing, and
mumming were revived under the walls of the White Tower. A writer of the
time speaks of the “marvellous cunning pageants,” and the “fountains
running with wine” as Henry brought hither his new Queen, Anne Boleyn,
for whom, on her entry “there was such a pele of gonnes as hath not byn
herde lyke a great while before.” Once more, also, there was made
procession, in state, but with scant applause of the people this time,
from Tower Hill to Westminster. Soon the shadows return, and the
“gonnes” and the music cease. Three short years pass and Anne Boleyn
comes back to the Tower in sadness and in silence. On the spot where
Buckingham suffered, her head, on May 19, 1536, was severed from her
body. Three days afterwards Henry had married Jane Seymour.

During the short life of Anne Boleyn as Queen, Bishop Fisher and Sir
Thomas More had come to the scaffold. Their imprisonment and death are
dealt with in the next chapter. The “Pilgrimage of Grace,” a religious
rising in the North, mostly within the borders of Yorkshire, to protest
against the spoliation of the monasteries and the threatened attack on
the parish churches, caused many a leader to be confined within the
Tower. Its dungeons were filled with prisoners.

The magnificent Abbeys of Rievaulx, Fountains, and Jervaulx, in the
Yorkshire dales, were pulled down, and to this day their noble ruins cry
shame upon the despoilers. To the Tower came the Abbots of Jervaulx and
Fountains, with the Prior of Bridlington, and they were hanged,
eventually, at Tyburn Tree. Other prisoners were Lords Hussey and
Darcey; the first was beheaded in Lincoln, the other on Tower Hill. With
them were brought Sir Robert Constable, Sir John and Lady Bulmer, Sir
Thomas Percy, Sir Francis Bigod, Sir Stephen Hamilton, Robert Aske,
William, son of Lord Lumley, and many a one of Yorkshire birth whose
names have not come down to us. All were put to death, without mercy, in

Two years after the suppression of this rising in the North a
smouldering Yorkist insurrection in the West was stamped out by the
usual method of securing the leaders, in this case Henry Courtenay,
Marquis of Exeter, Sir Edward Nevill and Sir Nicholas Carew, and taking
off their heads on Tower Hill. Others were seized about this time,
accused of being implicated in certain traitorous correspondence, and
were also brought to the Tower. Amongst them were Lord Montague and Sir
Geoffrey Pole, with their mother the Countess of Salisbury, Sir Adrian
Fortescue, Sir Thomas Dingley, and the Marchioness of Exeter. As regards
the aged Countess of Salisbury, in a contemporary document it is said
that “she maketh great moan, for that she wanteth necessary apparel,
both for change and also to keep her warm.” In a history dealing with
the period, by Lord Herbert of Cherbury, we have a description of the
Countess’s last moments, which were tragic enough even for Tower
records. On May 28, 1541, “the old lady was brought to the scaffold, set
up in the Tower [on Tower Green], and was commanded to lay her head on
the block; but she, as a person of great quality assured me, refused,
saying, ‘I am no traitor’; neither would it serve that the executioner
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 off as he could; so that he
was constrained to fetch it off slovenly.” However, Froude discredits
this story, and it certainly seems to be almost too fantastic to be
true. Still, the fact remains that the Countess was subjected to
unnecessarily harsh treatment while in the Tower, for the reason, it is
said, that the King hoped she might die under the privations and so save
him bringing her to the block. To Thomas Cromwell, the instigator of the
terrible punishments that were meted out to those concerned in the
risings, fate had already brought retribution. In 1540 he had been
created Earl of Essex; a few months afterwards his fall came; on a day
of July in that year he, too, came to the Tower and suffered the death,
on Tower Green, that he had prescribed for others. The Tower was
becoming like some mighty monster whose craving for human blood was hard
to satisfy. Accuser and accused, yeoman and earl, youth and age,
innocence and guilt, seemed to come alike into its greedy maw. Cromwell
was taken from the House of Lords to the Tower, and the angry King would
listen to no word in his favour. Whatever his crimes as
tyrant-councillor to Henry, two things may be reckoned to his credit,
for no man is altogether bad. The Bible was printed in English, in 1538,
at his wish, and he initiated a system of keeping parish registers. At
the time of Cromwell’s death the Tower was inconveniently full of
“Protestant heretics,” three of whom were got rid of by the simple
expedient of burning them in Smithfield, while an equal number of
Catholics, who were prepared to deny the King’s supremacy in matters
ecclesiastical, went with them.

The King had not been too busy with ridding himself of enemies, or
supposed enemies, to neglect other things. He had married and divorced
Anne of Cleves, and had taken Katherine Howard to be his Queen. But her
fate was not long delayed, and another royal head was brought to the axe
on Tower Green. Before her death she had asked that the block might be
brought to her cell in order that she might learn how to lay her head
upon it, and this strange request was granted. Lady Rochford, the
Queen’s companion, was executed on the Green after her mistress had
suffered. An eye-witness of the executions has left it on record that
both victims made “the moost godly and chrystian end that ever was heard
tell of, I thynke sins the world’s creation.” Katherine Howard was only
twenty-two years old when the Tower claimed her life. Many of her
relatives were imprisoned at the same time, among them being her
grandmother, the Duchess of Norfolk, the Countess of Bridgewater, Lord
and Lady William Howard, and Thomas, Duke of Norfolk. It is rather
startling to find that a prisoner in the Tower could “die for joy” upon
hearing that the charge brought against him was not proven. This
singular death released the troubled soul of Viscount Lisle from the
walls of his dungeon and from the trials of this mortal life, in the
year that Queen Katherine was brought to the Green.

From execution we turn to torture. Anne Askew, “an ardent believer in
the Reformed faith,” was cast into the Tower for denying the doctrine of
Transubstantiation. In an account of her sufferings by Lord de Ros we
are told that “the unhappy lady was carried to a dungeon and laid on the
rack in the presence of the Lieutenant of the Tower and Chancellor
Wriothesley. 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 [the
Lieutenant], revolting at such cruelty, insisted on her release from the
dreadful machine. It was but just 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…. 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.” Religious bigotry, alas, is still with
us, but men have saner notions to-day as to the value of mere religious
opinions, and poor Anne had the misfortune to live in a ruder age than
ours. But her sufferings are not forgotten; religious tyranny has lost
the power to send to the rack and the stake, and to her, and all who
suffered, be due honour given.

Once more the curtain falls on tragedy, and on its rise we see the Tower
decked out for revelry. In 1546 a “great banquet” was given in honour of
the peace between France and England, and the French High Admiral, the
Bishop of Evreux, and others came on embassy to England, and were
welcomed, amid much rejoicing, to the feast. For a space the Tower
remembered there was laughter in life as well as tears. However, it
rejoiced with difficulty, and very soon had returned to gloomy dignity
and sadness. On paltry evidence the Duke of Norfolk, who had led to
victory at


Flodden Field, and was now seventy-four years of age, was, with the Earl
of Surrey, imprisoned in the Tower. Surrey, tried by jury in January
1547, on the 19th of the month was led out of the Tower gate to
execution on Tower Hill. Thus was sent to death England’s first writer
of blank verse and one of her most excellent poets. “Surrey’s instinct
for prosody was phenomenal,” says Mr. Edmund Gosse, and “he at once
transplanted blank verse from a soil in which it could never flourish
[it had recently been invented in Italy], to one in which it would take
root and spread in full luxuriance.” Yet the sweet singer who lit the
torch that was handed on to Shakespeare was brought to the block with
the tyrant and the malefactor. Norfolk would have shared a like fate,
had not the King himself died a few hours before the time appointed for
the Duke’s removal to Tower Hill. He was set free when Mary came to
reign, and died in his own home in 1554 at the good old age of

Young Edward VI. was brought up to the Tower with great ceremony, and
began his reign when but a boy of ten. In the Tower he was made a
knight, and rejoicings in anticipation of his coronation made the old
walls ring again to gladness. The State procession from the Tower to
the Abbey was conceived and carried through in a spirit of regal
magnificence, and from Eastcheap to Westminster the streets were
bedecked in a manner expressive of the joy of the people that Henry’s
reign of terror had ended. The boy King had not long been on the throne,
when, under the guidance of Protector Somerset, in whose hands was all
the power of an actual ruler, bloodshed began afresh. Thomas, Lord
Seymour, brother of Somerset and uncle of the King, was immured in the
Tower, and, accused of ambitious practices, beheaded on Tower Hill on
March 20, 1549. This act brought down the rage of the populace upon
Somerset, who was already unpopular by reason of his seizure of Church
property. By his ill-gotten gains he had built the magnificent Somerset
House, and in order to clear the ground for it he had demolished a
church and scattered the human remains found there–an act of
desecration that the citizens regarded as a crime. The Earl of Warwick
headed the opposition, seized the Tower, and the Protector was lodged in
the Beauchamp Tower. Later, however, he was pardoned, and the young King
records in his diary that “My Lorde Somerset was delivered of his bondes
and came to Court.” But the feud soon came to a head again, and in 1551
Somerset was shut up in the Tower once more, and his wife with him, on a
charge of high treason. He was taken, by water, to his trial at
Westminster Hall, where he was “acquitted of high treason,” but
condemned “of treason feloniouse and adjudged to be hanged.” The King,
who appears to have written a full account of events in his diary, notes
that “he departed without the axe of the Tower. The people knowing not
the matter shrieked half-a-dozen times so loude that from the halle dore
it was heard at Charing Crosse plainely, and rumours went that he was
quitte of all.” But, far from being “quitte of all” he was conveyed back
to the Tower, and while some maintained that he was to be set at
liberty, others with equal heat asserted that he was to die speedily.
The dispute was set at rest by his execution on Tower Hill, “at eight of
ye clok in the morning.” The boy Edward seems to have had some of the
callousness of his father in his nature, for he signed the death
warrants of both his uncles with calmness, and in his commentary on
their executions he betrays no emotion whatever, taking it all as very
commonplace happening. “The Duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon
Touer Hill” is the entry in the royal manuscript book. At the time of
the Protector’s committal to the Tower there came with him, as
prisoners, his supporters the Earl of Arundel, Lords Grey and Paget;
also Sir Thomas Arundel, Sir Ralph Vane, Sir Miles Partridge and Sir
Michael Stanhope–these latter being executed. Edward’s short reign of
six years had seen as many noble lives sacrificed as any six years of
his father’s reign had seen, and with the Queen who succeeded him the
tale of bloodshed was not less full of sudden tragedy.

Mary Tudor was preceded by the nine-days’ “Queen,” Lady Jane Grey, who
had been named his successor by the dying Edward, at the instigation of
the Duke of Northumberland. Lady Jane had been wedded to
Northumberland’s fourth son, Lord Guildford Dudley; she was only sixteen
years old; she began and ended her “reign” in the Tower, to which she
was conveyed by her father-in-law, who was keeping Edward’s death secret
until his plans were complete. But Mary had been proclaimed without the
Tower if Lady Jane had been proclaimed within. The weaker was pitted
against the stronger, and Northumberland, whom we hear of at Cambridge
trying to go over to the side of the stronger by shouting “God save
Queen Mary!” in the public highway, was arrested in spite of his proper
sentiments and was brought prisoner to London and lodged within the
Tower, where only a few weeks before he had been in command. He suffered
on August 22. In the September sunshine Lady Jane was allowed to walk in
the garden attached to the Lieutenant’s house, “and on the hill,” and to
look out upon the river and the roofs of the city from the walk behind
the battlements which connects the Beauchamp and Bell Towers. In the
Beauchamp her husband was held in bondage, and there he carved the word
“Jane” on the wall, where it is to be seen to this day. In October Mary
was crowned, and in November a sad procession wended its way up Tower
Hill, through Tower Street and Eastcheap, to the Guildhall. At the head
walked the Chief Warder, carrying the axe; following, came Archbishop
Cranmer, Lord Guildford Dudley, and Lady Jane Grey. At their trial they
pleaded guilty to high treason, were sentenced, and returned to the
Tower, the Warder’s axe showing, by the direction in which the blade
pointed, what their doom was to be. To her father Lady Jane wrote, from
her prison-house: “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!… 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, Sonne, and Holy
Ghost.–I am, your most obedient daughter till death, JANE DUDLEY.” It
is possible that Queen Mary might have spared the life of this sweet and
gentle maid, happier in her books and her devotions than in the
intrigues of State, but a rising of the men of Kent, under Wyatt, who
demanded the “custody of the Tower and the Queen within it,” brought
matters to a crisis. Wyatt appeared on the Southwark bank of the Thames
and was fired upon from Tower walls. This is the last time in its annals
that the fortress was attacked, and that it was called upon to repel an
enemy. Wyatt, captured at Temple Bar after a night march from Kingston,
where he had crossed the river, was soon in the Tower, and with him was
led many a noble prisoner. All hope that Lady Jane would be spared had
now gone. Her father was seized and brought to the Tower on February 10;
her husband was seen by her on his way to death on Tower Hill on the
morning of the 12th, and she looked out again upon his headless body, as
it was brought back on a litter, very soon afterwards, and taken to the
chapel. A contemporary chronicle describes the preparations made for her
own death on that day: “There was a Scaffolde made upon the grene over
against the White Tower for the saide Lady Jane to die upon.” She was
led forth from her prison to the Green by Sir John Bridges, then
Lieutenant, and mounted the scaffold with firm step. The hangman offered
to help her to take off her gown. “She desyred him to let her alone,
turning towards her two gentlewomen who helped her off therewith …
giving to her a fayre handkerchief to knytte about her eyes…. Then she
sayd, ‘I pray you despatch me quickly.’ 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 thereunto, she layde her head downe
upon the block, and stretched forth her body, and said, ‘Lord, into Thy
hands I commend my spirit,’ and so she ended.” Fuller has said of this
noble girl, “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.” Her father and Wyatt, before many
days had passed, were both beheaded on Tower Hill; many luckless ones
who had taken part in the Kentish rising were put to death with every
form of cruelty; and, shortly after these terrible days of bloodshed in
London, Mary was married to Philip of Spain at Winchester.

Princess Elizabeth had, meanwhile, been brought to the Tower in custody,
and was landed, on Palm Sunday, at Traitor’s Gate. She was closely
guarded but was allowed to walk on the open passage-way, where Lady Jane
Grey had paced up and down before her, which is now known as “Queen
Elizabeth’s Walk.” Towards the middle of May, being set free of the
Tower, she is said to have taken a meal in the London Tavern–at the
corner of Mark Lane and Fenchurch Street–on her way to Woodstock. The
pewter meat-dish and cover which she used are still preserved. The city
churches rang joyous peals when it was known she was out of Tower
walls, and to those churches that gave her welcome she presented silken
bell-ropes when Queen of England.

Queen Mary’s days were darkened again by busy work for the headsman, and
by religious persecution. Thomas, second son of Lord Stafford, defeated
in an attempt to capture Scarborough Castle, was brought to the block on
Tower Hill, and a large band of prisoners was put in Tower dungeons. To
make room for these, many of the captives already there were released.
Mary died on November 17, 1558, and then began to dawn those “spacious
times of great Elizabeth” when England moved to greater glory than she
had ever known before.

Queen Elizabeth, on her accession, came again to the Tower, spending the
time until the coronation within its walls, but she had too many
memories of captivity there to retain much love for the prison which had
now become her palace. Seated in a golden chariot, the new Queen, ablaze
with jewels, passed on her way to Westminster through a city decked out
in all manner of magnificence, and through a crowd shouting themselves
hoarse with delight at her coming. The Tower appears in the records of
Elizabeth’s reign almost wholly as a State prison. An attempt was made
to smooth out religious difficulties by committing a number of Church
dignitaries to its keeping, among them the Archbishop of York, and
Feckenham, Abbot of Westminster. Then came Lady Catherine Grey, Lady
Jane’s sister, who had offended the Queen by marrying Lord Hertford in
secret. Her husband, also, was soon afterwards a prisoner. He lay for
over nine years in his cell, but was released at the end of that time,
while Lady Hertford died in the Tower. The Countess of Lennox was
imprisoned three times within the walls, “not for any treason, but for
love matters.” Thomas Howard, son of the first Duke of Norfolk, was shut
up here “for falling in love with the Countess,” and died in captivity.
It is interesting to find that Cupid could forge Tower shackles as well
as make a wedding ring, and that to enter his service without the
Queen’s permission was almost a capital offence.

In 1562 a suspected conspiracy to set the Queen of Scots–ill-fated
Mary–on the English throne was the cause of Arthur and Edmund de la
Pole, great-grandchildren of the murdered Duke of Clarence, being put
into the Beauchamp Tower, where, when we reach that portion of the
buildings on our rounds, we shall see their inscriptions on the walls.
The brothers were fated never to leave their place of confinement alive.
After fourteen years of respite, Tower Hill again claimed a victim, the
Duke of Norfolk suffering there in June 1579. In the following year
Roman Catholic prisoners were brought, one might say in droves, to Tower
cells. Many of them were subjected to torture either by the rack, the
“Scavenger’s Daughter,” the thumbscrew, or the boot. In 1581 Father
Campion, a Jesuit, was hurried to death, and in 1583 we hear of one
captive committing suicide in order to escape the awful fate of
dismemberment that many of his fellow-prisoners had suffered. It seems
as if the sanity of life, the sweet wholesomeness we associate with the
Merrie England of Shakespeare’s time, had not pierced the solid crust of
Tower tradition. To lay down a comedy of the great dramatist and take up
contemporary records of the Tower is as if one had stepped out of the
warm sunshine and fragrant air of mid-June into a dark, damp vault whose
atmosphere stings with the chill of a November night.

Tower dungeons were becoming too crowded. Many a poor obscure captive
was sent over to France, perhaps to a harder lot, and the vacant places
were filled by political offenders. Northumberland killed himself in the
Tower; Arundel, made prisoner with him, died–from self-imposed
privations, it is said–some months after. Sir John Perrot, Lord Deputy
of Ireland, was charged with using some hasty words against the Queen,
and that was considered sufficiently dire an offence for Lord Chancellor
Hatton to have him brought to the Tower. But Elizabeth refused to sign
the warrant for his execution. He died, in his captivity, after six
months, of a broken heart. Of the imprisonment of Raleigh, and of Robert
Devereux, Earl of Essex, something will be said when we come to examine
those portions of the Tower with which their names are associated. With
the death of Elizabeth the curtain falls on the last of the Tudors–a
race of sovereigns who had used their faithful Tower well, as palace,
fortress, prison, and secret place in which their enemies were put out
of existence. Of many of the greater names of Elizabeth’s reign, Tower
annals bear no record, but soldier, statesman, or ecclesiastic, having
crossed the Queen’s humour, found it but a step from Court favour to
Traitor’s Gate.

“In the grey hours of morning, March 24, 1603, watch and ward was kept
in London streets; and in all the neighbour counties men who had much at
stake in time of crisis wove uncertain plans to meet the thousand
chances that day might bring…. When day broke two horsemen were far on
the northern road, each spurring to forestall the other at Holyrood with
homage impatiently expected by the first ruler of the British Isles. At
a more leisurely pace the Elizabethan statesmen were riding in from
Richmond, where their mistress lay dead, to Whitehall Gate, where at ten
in the morning they proclaimed King James I…. The Lords of the Council
showed themselves agreed that there should be no revolution. The
decision was silently endorsed by a grateful nation. In city and
manor-house men laid aside their arms and breathed again.” In Mr. G. M.
Trevelyan’s admirable _England under the Stuarts_, from which these
words are taken, a delightful description is given of the state of
England at the coming of the King of Scotland to the English throne, and
the chapters might well be read in connection with any study of Tower
history. For, to understand the happenings within the Tower, it is
profitable to have some detailed knowledge of the state of society
outside its walls.

King James, after his progress “during a month of spring weather” from
Edinburgh, came to the Tower and held his first Court there. The usual
procession to the Abbey was abandoned owing to plague that lurked in
city streets, and rejoicings within Tower walls were less lusty than
usual, but the King rode in state from Tower Hill to Westminster two
years later to open his first Parliament. It is interesting to read in
Mr. Sidney Lee’s _Life of Shakespeare_ that Shakespeare himself, with
eight players of the King’s company of actors, walked “from the Tower of
London to Westminster in the procession which accompanied the King in
his formal entry into London.” There is no other positive record of the
great dramatist and poet having visited the Tower. We can but conjecture
that a building so indissolubly bound up with the nation’s history would
offer no mute appeal to such a mind as his, and that he must have come,
at times, to look upon the place where, down to his own day, so many
tragic deeds had been done.

Early in James’s reign many eminent prisoners were brought to the Tower
in connection with a plot, as the timid King thought, to place the Crown
on the head of Lady Arabella Stuart, his first cousin on the mother’s
side. In May 1611 Lady Arabella had married young William Seymour. This
event brought both bride and bridegroom into royal disfavour. The
husband was shut up in the Tower, and the wife kept in captivity at
Lambeth Palace. But this did not daunt them. Lady Arabella, on being
taken north on the way to Durham, pleaded illness when scarcely out of
sight of London. In disguise she escaped to Blackwall and took ship at
Leigh-on-Sea, there to await her husband, who had succeeded in getting
out of the Tower by dressing as a labourer and following out a cart
laden with wood. From the wharf, Seymour sailed to Leigh, but found that
the French vessel in which his wife had sought shelter had gone down the
river some hours before. He managed to cross to Ostend, but Lady
Arabella was caught in mid-channel and conveyed back to Tower walls,
which she never left again. In her latter years she became insane, and,
dying in 1615, was buried at midnight beside Mary Queen of Scots in the
Abbey. Seymour allowed unmerited punishment to fall on his young wife,
remained abroad until the storm was over, married again, and lived long
enough to see the Restoration. The conspiracy of 1603 had been the cause
of the execution of George Brook, brother of Lord Cobham, and two
priests went to death with him. Lord Cobham himself, and Lord Grey de
Wilton, were brought to the steps of the scaffold not many days after,
for participation in the same plot. Before the headsman had done his
work a reprieve arrived, and they were sent back to their place of

In 1604 the Guy Fawkes conspiracy necessitated a fresh batch of captives
being lodged in the Tower, and during our visit to the dungeons beneath
the White Tower we shall learn something of their fate, and of the fate,
also, of another prisoner of this period, Sir Thomas Overbury, poisoned
in the Bloody Tower. Felton, the rogue responsible for the assassination
of Buckingham, had bought the knife with which he did the deed on Tower
Hill at a booth there. He was brought to the Tower on his arrest and
confined until the day of his hanging at Tyburn. They were not always,
however, political offences that filled the Tower cells at this period;
a private quarrel was the cause of Lords Arundel and Spencer being given
quarters in the prison, and Lord Audley was beheaded on Tower Hill in
1631 for committing crimes which were so revolting as to encourage the
belief that he was insane.

With Charles I.–who did not visit the Tower, as far as is known, during
his life–the number of noble prisoners by no means grows less. In
November 1640 the Earl of Strafford was put in the Tower and condemned
to death after trial in Westminster Hall. The King was anxious to save
him; the Tower was to be seized and Strafford set at liberty; the royal
plans failed; Charles forsook his favourite even after having sworn that
not a hair of his head should be injured. The prisoner could anticipate
but one end. “Sweet Harte,” he wrote to his wife, “it is long since I
writt to you, for I am here in such trouble as gives me little or noe
respett.” Archbishop Laud had also been put in the prison-fortress, and
as Strafford passed down the sloping pathway that leads from Tower Green
to Traitor’s Gate, on his way to execution, Laud, from the window above
the arch of Bloody Tower, gave his friend his blessing. The Earl was led
out to Tower Hill and suffered death there on May 12, 1641. It is said
that 200,000 people witnessed the event, and that it was celebrated by
the lighting of bonfires at night. The Archbishop had been arrested at
Lambeth Palace and brought to the Tower by the river. He remained for
four years in his room in the Bloody Tower, and in his diary describes
the visit paid to him by Prynne, “who seeing me safe in bed, falls first
to my pockets to rifle them” in the search for papers, which he found in
plenty. “He bound up my papers, left two sentinels at my door, and went
his way.” On March 10, 1643, Laud was brought to a trial in Westminster
Hall which lasted twenty days. Because he had–so the charge was
worded–“attempted to subvert religion and the fundamental laws of the
realm,” he was condemned, and on Tower Hill, on January 10, 1645, when
seventy-two years of age, beheaded. He was buried, as we shall see in a
later chapter, in the church of Allhallows Barking, near by. Readers of
_John Inglesant_ will remember the vivid description given in that book
of these days in the reign of the first Charles, and in the moving
picture of the life of the time Laud played no inconsiderable part.
“Laud,” says Bishop Collins in his exhaustive _Laud Commemoration_
volume, “deserves to be commemorated as among other things, a true
forerunner of social leaders of our own day. To him, at any rate, a man
is a man, and no man can be more; the great, the rich, the educated, had
no hope of favour from him; rather he reserved his mercy for the poor,
the ignorant, and the lowly…. We thank God for his noble care for the
poor, and his large and generous aims for the English race; for his
splendid example of diligent service in Church and State; for his work
as the great promoter of learning of his age.” From such an authority
these words are valuable and do much to set the balance right after the
splenetic outbursts of Carlyle and many a lesser writer.

August, 1642, had seen the outbreak of the Civil War; Charles was at
Nottingham; the Tower was in the keeping of Parliament, and its captives
were those who adhered to the King. We find a Lord Mayor of London
amongst them for publishing the King’s proclamation with regard to the
militia, and gallant Cavaliers in plenty filled the cells. Sir John
Hotham and his son, charged with attempting to give Hull over to the
Royalists while it was being held for Parliament, were brought to the
Tower in 1643, and to Tower Hill in the following year. Sir Alexander
Carew, Governor of Plymouth, was beheaded shortly afterwards on a
similar indictment. When the King had himself suffered death at the
block, in Whitehall, the Tower contained many of his supporters, and
amongst those who shared their royal master’s fate were the Earl of
Holland, the Duke of Hamilton, and Arthur, Lord Capel. A fine old
knight of Wales, Sir John Owen, taken at the same time, and condemned to
death, was, by Ireton’s intercession, pardoned, and he returned in peace
to Wales. Worcester fight sent a batch of prisoners to the fortress, and
in the same year (1651), a preacher at St. Lawrence Jewry, named
Christopher Love, found to be in correspondence with the second Charles,
was beheaded on Tower Hill. A picture of the scene on the Hill at the
time of his death, engraved by a Dutchman, is one of the first drawings,
after those of Strafford and Laud, of an execution on that famous spot.
Lucy Barlow, mother of the Duke of Monmouth, who had been imprisoned in
the Tower with her young son, was released by Cromwell after a long
detention. Cromwell was, during the last years of the Protectorate, in
constant fear of assassination. Miles Syndercombe, at one time in his
confidence, made an attempt on his life in 1657. Having been sentenced
to death, Syndercombe took fate in his own hands, terminated his life in
the solitude of his cell, and the body was dragged at a horse’s tail
from Tower Hill to Tyburn. Dr. John Hewitt, concerned in a rising in
Kent in favour of the Restoration, was beheaded on Tower Hill with
another plotter, Sir Henry Slingsley. The frequent escapes from Tower
walls during the Commonwealth period would lead to the belief that the
place was not guarded with the customary rigour when Cromwell was in
power, but when he died the Tower became an important centre of
attention. Colonel Fitz, then Lieutenant, had, so it is said, arranged
to admit three hundred men of the Parliamentary army. This little
negotiation was not carried to its desired conclusion, and a fresh
garrison was placed in the fortress on discovery of the plot. But unrest
was evident within the walls; the lack of agreement of those in charge
was followed by the seizure of the Tower by General Monk in the name of
Charles II. He released numbers of Cromwellian prisoners and placed a
strong garrison there under Major Nicholson. During the months that
passed before the return of Charles, the Tower held many important
prisoners. In 1660 Colonel John Lambert was made captive for opposing
Monk’s scheme for the Restoration. Pepys, who comes upon the scene to
illumine the time with his detailed accounts of happenings grave and
gay, gives, “as related by Rugge,” an account of Lambert’s escape. At
eight of the clock at night, it appears, he slid down, by a rope tied
fast to his window, and was awaited by men ready to take him off by the
river. “She who made the bed being privy to his escape, that night, to
blind the warder when he came to lock the chamber door, went to bed, and
possessed Colonel Lambert’s place and put on his night-cap.” This
interesting female was duly discovered in the morning, after having
deluded the jailer by replying in a manly voice to his “good-night” the
evening before, and was herself made captive for her temerity. Lambert,
who had succeeded in getting to Warwickshire, was recaptured and
subsequently banished.

When Charles II. came to the throne the early years of his rule were
occupied in punishing, with merciless severity, all who had in any way
been aiders or abettors of those responsible for his father’s tragic
death. In the Restoration year the Marquis of Argyll, afterwards
executed in Edinburgh, was a Tower prisoner. Poor Sir Harry Vane, not in
any way convicted of complicity with the regicides, was brought to Tower
Hill in 1662, and there suffered execution without a shadow of justice
to cover the crime. Pepys rose “at four o’clock in the morning” of the
day when Vane was to suffer. “About eleven o’clock we all went out to
Tower Hill, and there, over against the scaffold, made on purpose this
day, saw Sir Harry Vane brought. A very great press of people.” The
people of London at that time went out to see men brought to the block,
just as their successors patronise a Lord Mayor’s show. Pepys had taken
a window in Trinity Square, but was unable to see the actual fall of the
axe because “the scaffold was so crowded that we could not see it done.”
Charles II. was the last of the kings to sleep in the Tower the night
before coronation, and he, in keeping with tradition, made a number of
Knights of the Bath who would, after the ceremonies in St. John’s
Chapel, ride with him in the procession to Westminster on the following
day. Of course Pepys had secured a window “in Corne-hill, and there we
had a good room to ourselves, with wine and good cake, and saw the show
very well…. Glorious was the show with gold and silver, that we were
not able to look at it, our eyes at last being so much overcome,” but
the volatile diarist has sufficiently recovered the power of vision to
observe that “both the King and Duke of York took notice of us as they
saw us at the window.” This proved to be one of the “most glorious
cavalcades” that ever left the Tower.

The Great Fire of 1666 put the Tower in great danger. Had it reached the
walls and set alight the stores of gunpowder lying within, we should
have had very little of the work of the Conqueror and Henry III. left to
us. The King himself had ordered the demolition of surrounding
buildings, and by such means was the progress of the fire checked;
Pepys, of course, was running about, and we hear of him “on one of the
high places of the Tower” where he was able to look towards London
Bridge and did see “an infinite great fire.” George Villiers, second
Duke of Buckingham, began his series of five imprisonments in the Tower
in 1658, during the Protectorate, and continued them well into Charles’s
reign. But though constantly in trouble his offences were as constantly
forgiven by the King, and he was never a captive very long. Of Colonel
Blood’s escapade in 1671 something will be said in the third chapter,
but the irrepressible Pepys was hunting for treasure–not Crown
jewels–in 1662 when he was led to believe a sum of £7000 was “hid in
the Tower.” He and assistants set to work to dig for this hidden gold,
but “it raining and the work being done in the open garden” the search
was abandoned. The treasure is yet undiscovered. The amazing


Pepys was himself a captive in the Tower from May 1679 to February 1680,
and seems to have lived fairly well there if the account of his expenses
be any criterion. William Penn was also a captive about this time, and
wrote _No Cross, no Crown_ during his imprisonment. That singular
invention of Titus Oates, called the Popish Plot, sent about forty men
to the block, among them William, Lord Stafford, who was executed on
Tower Hill on December 29, 1680. Three years later, the Rye House Plot
brought Lord William Russell and Algernon Sidney to the Tower and
execution, while Essex, who had also been lodged in the dungeons, and
had, like Russell and Sidney, not actually been concerned in the
assassination scheme planned at Rye House, was found in his prison with
his throat cut.

James II. omitted the procession from Tower to Westminster, and it has
never since been observed as a necessary prelude to a king’s coronation.
There is no likelihood of the custom ever being revived now that the
Tower has fallen from its high estate as a royal residence. The young
son of Lucy Walters, who had lived in the Tower, as we have seen, as a
boy, now returned as the defeated Duke of Monmouth, beloved of the
people for his handsome face, but unstable in character. He was beheaded
in 1685, on Tower Hill, having been led there with difficulty through
the dense crowd of citizens gathered to see him die, and to cheer him on
the sad way up to the top of the hill and the scaffold. A contemporary
engraving shows the excited populace packed closely together in solid
ranks. Jack Ketch, the headsman, was almost torn limb from limb by the
infuriated mob when he had made four ineffectual strokes on the neck of
the victim and had severed the head with the fifth. The Seven Bishops
came to the Martin Tower in 1688, and Judge Jeffreys, of infamous
record, died in the Bloody Tower–what was the fate that lodged him in a
place so appropriately named?–in 1689. King James had fled the country,
and without bloodshed the great Revolution of 1688 was brought about.

Sir William Fenwick, who had been found guilty of high treason, was the
only victim brought to Tower Hill during the time of William and Mary,
but there were many prisoners of State in the Tower, partisans, for the
most part, of the Stuarts. Charles, Lord Mohun, was made a prisoner
within the walls in this reign, not for “adhering to their Majesties’
enemies” but for having killed a celebrated comedian, in a quarrel about
a famous actress. In 1695 Sir Christopher Wren examined the Beauchamp
and Bloody Towers, “to report what it would cost to repaire and putt
them in a condition” to hold more prisoners. The Tower capacities, it is
evident, were being tested to the utmost limit.

Queen Anne had some French prisoners of war immured in the Tower soon
after her accession, and, in 1712, Sir Robert Walpole was nominally a
captive there. I say nominally, because his apartment during his
confinement from February to July was crowded by fashionable visitors
whose carriages blocked the gateway at the foot of Tower Hill. We are
indeed in modern times when captivity in the old fortress-prison was
treated as a society function; Walpole’s rooms were, after his release,
occupied–I used this milder term, as he could not, in the strict sense,
be called a captive–by the Earl of Lansdowne, author of that
unpresentable comedy, _The Old Gallant_.

With the House of Hanover the Tower records take a graver turn. Under
George I. the rebellion of 1715 brought young Derwentwater, taken
prisoner at Preston, to the Tower. Lord Kenmure was captured at the
same time, with other Jacobite Lords, and was brought, with
Derwentwater, to Tower Hill, and there, together, they were executed.
Kenmure was put to death first, and all marks of his tragic end having
been removed from the scaffold, Derwentwater was brought out of the
house on Tower Hill (where Catherine House now stands), to suffer on the
same block. The crowd in Trinity Square had been disappointed of a third
victim, for Lord Nithsdale, as we shall see later, managed to escape
from the Tower on the evening before. In 1722 the Jacobites plotted to
seize the Tower; their plan failed; they were made prisoners there
instead, and lay in the dungeons for several months. We have passed
through the period of _The Black Dwarf_ and come to the days of
_Waverley_ and the romantic “Forty-five.” In 1744 three men of a
Highland regiment, which had mutinied on being ordered to Flanders after
being promised that foreign service should not be required, were shot on
Tower Green; others were sent to the plantations. This roused great
resentment in Scotland, and prepared the way for the coming of Prince
Charles Edward, who landed on the Island of Eriskay in July 1745. This
young hero of incomparable song and story was, to quote Andrew Lang,
“the last of a princely lineage whose annals are a world’s wonder for
pity, and crime, and sorrow,” and Prince Charlie “has excelled them all
in his share of the confessed yet mysterious charm of his House.” After
Culloden a sad harvest was reaped on Tower Hill, and we shall hear more
of the last of the Jacobites, who perished at the block for their
loyalty, when we visit the scene of their sufferings.

A few political prisoners in George III.’s reign; the committal of
Arthur O’Connor, one of the “United Irishmen,” in 1798; the imprisonment
of Sir Francis Burdett in 1810; and the placing there of the Cato Street
conspirators in 1820, brings our list of captives to a close.

In Queen Victoria’s time, on October 30, 1841, a fire occurred within
the Inner Ward of the Tower, which threatened at one time during its
fury to make sad havoc of surrounding buildings. The storehouse of arms
which stood where the barracks are now placed, to the east of St.
Peter’s Church, was gutted, and the smoke and flames were blown over
towards the White Tower. Fortunately, the store alone was destroyed, and
it was reported to have been ugly enough to deserve its fate. The
Tower’s last trial came upon it, unawares, in January 24, 1885, when
the “Fenians” laid an infernal machine in the Banqueting Room of the
White Tower. The explosion that followed did considerable damage to the
exhibits in the building, and many visitors were injured, but the White
Tower itself, secure in its rock-like strength, was in no way the worse
for what might, in more modern buildings, have rent the walls asunder.