Welcome back to another post here on Hazardous Minds Blog. Wednesday’s post covered how to successfully set a daily routine to make your life better. And in today’s post I thought that I would change things up for a little by writing about what I have learned about the famous Tower of London. In my previous post about my holiday to London in 2020, I went on to say that eventually I would get around to speaking about the history of the tower. And today is luckily the day but what will the post be about exactly?
Todays post will cover a brief history of the towers creation back in the late 1000’s. It will also cover some of the darkest parts of British history. From the mysterious disappearances of the innocent princes to countless executions that took place on the grounds. But luckily not all of the post will be about the darker times of the famous Tower. As the post will wrap up today with a discussion of the tower in modern times before coming to its close today. So without further ado let’s get started shall we?
The brief history behind the Tower of London…
One of the most famous historical sites in the world is the Tower of London. Set along the banks of the River Thames it isn’t just the backdrop but the leading role in some of the most momentous events in British History. Exploring the brief but fascinating history you will come to discover a cast of characters. From the well known Queens of England Lady Jane Grey, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard to the poor Innocent Princes. But that isn’t all you will also meet some of the unexpected from spies, thieves and even some of the famous menagerie residents. But the first character that you will meet today is the original founder King William I or William the Conqueror.
Welcome to the white tower
When William the Conqueror built a mighty stone tower in the centre of his London Fortress in the 1070’s. Defeated Londoners must have looked upon it in complete awe. But nearly 1000 years later the Tower still holds the capacity to both fascinate and horrify its visitors. As protector of the Crown Jewels and home of its legendary protectors the Yeomen Warders and its ravens. The tower now attracts well over 3 million visitors a year. With the ceremony of keys and other traditions living on so do the haunting tales of its halls.
When William the Conqueror built a mighty stone tower at the centre of his London fortress in the 1070s, defeated Londoners must have looked on in awe. Now nearly 1000 years later, the Tower still has the capacity to fascinate and horrify. However, the tower also has a rich and complex history. Especially after being a home to a wide array of institutions including the Royal Mint and Armouries and even a zoo. But where did the tale of the tower actually begin?
Building the white tower
Rising victorious after the battle of Hastings. William the Conqueror nervous of rebellion would begin to build the massive stone fortress as early as the 1070’s. Doing this to defend and proclaim his royal power nothing like this was seen in England before this point in time.
Intending for his mighty castle keep to not only dominate the skyline but the hearts and minds of those who may appose him. The tower took around 20 years to build. With Masons arriving from Normandy bringing stone from Caen France with them. Most of the actual labour was provided by Englishmen under Williams employment.
However, over the centuries the tower has been expanded to the looming masterpiece it is today. With an addition of other towers including the famous Bloody Tower and the traitors gate. The tower has played home to countless Monarchs since its founding and lasted throughout the centuries.
The tower has also played home to countless purposes. From being a royal residence, a jail and prison to the home of crime and judgement such as the executions we will get into later. But the one thing the tower is known for is its looming defensive presence along the River Thames. But now that it’s basic history has been discussed lets move on to some of its darkest days.
Tragedy at the Tower of London: Murder of Mystery? (The Innocent Princes)
The disappearance of two princes, Edward and Richard in the year 1483 is one of the most intriguing events to occur in the Tower of London. The mysterious event unfolded with sinister speed over a single summer and yet is still being debated by historians over 500 years later. Born to Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville during the intense turmoil that was the war of the roses. Upon Edward’s Death in 1483, Edward V would become heir to the throne. Under the protection of his uncle, The Duke of Gloucester (Later Richard III) the two brothers aged 12 and 9 would move into the Tower of London. Supposedly for their own protection, the two brothers would spend most of the summer together in the tower under the protection of their Uncle.
However, Come the end of summer the boys would disappear like they never even existed. What actually became of the two brothers remains a mystery to this day. All we know is that they were never seen alive again. And although we may never know the truth about these poor innocent princes. We suspect that they fell victim to one of the most vicious inter-family conflicts England has ever known. But below are what we do know for sure, so let me know in the comments what you think happened?
The confirmed facts
- Edward IV died from a 3 week illness on 9 April 1483 unexpectedly.
- His sons were placed under Richard III’s protection under Edward IV’s Orders before death.
- Richard initially only wanted to care for young Edward. Suggesting that Elizabeth take Richard and his sisters to live in Westminster Abbey for sanctuary.
- Plans began for Edward’s coronation, but the date was postponed from 4 May to 25 June. And on May 14th Edward and Richard were placed into the tower.
- On Sunday 22 June, a sermon was preached by Dr. Ralph Shaa, brother of the Lord Mayor of London, at Saint Paul’s Cross. The sermon claiming Richard III to be the only legitimate heir of the House of York
- On 25 June, “a group of lords, knights and gentlemen” petitioned Richard to take the throne. The identity of these people were never confirmed.
- Sometime later that summer the young princes were declared Illegitimate.
- Richard of Gloucester was crowned King Richard III of England on 6 July.
- September was the last time the princes were last seen alive.
- In 1674, workmen at the tower dug up, from under the staircase, a wooden box containing two small human skeletons. These skeletons are suspected to belong to Edward and Richard yet it’s never been tested.
It is highly rumoured that Richard III was responsible for the assassination of the two princes. It is thought that he hired people to smother them whilst they slept and buried the bodies in the white tower. His motive… to ascend on the throne and become King of England. Personally I believe that Richard III murdered the princes even if not directly. What do you think happened to them? Let me know in the comment section!
The Traitors Gate
Traitors Gate is an entrance through which many prisoners especially in the Tudor Era arrived at the Tower. Built by Edward I it provided a water entrance to the tower as part of St. Thomas’s Tower. The name Traitors’ Gate has been used since before 1543. As most prisoners were brought by barge along the Thames. They’d pass under London Bridge, where the heads of recently executed prisoners were displayed on spikes. Notable confirmed prisoners include Sir Thomas More and Queen Anne Boleyn. The gate was designed by the Medieval architect Master James of St George between 1275 and 1279.
This was to provide a new water-gate by which King Edward could arrive at the Tower by river. Over the centuries, as the Tower of London increasingly came to be used as a prison for enemies of the state accused of treason. In the Tudor times there was a wide array of famous historical characters who arrived through Traitors Gate. These include three queens (Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey). Others included Sir Thomas More, Robert Deveroux and Princess Elizabeth who later became Queen Elizabeth I daughter of Anne Boleyn and King Henry XIII. And so you can pretty much see that from the early days of the infamous tower tragedy and death has roamed its halls but none as well known as the Tudor era.
Executions at the Tower of London
If you’re not from the United Kingdom then you may not exactly be as knowledgeable about the Tudor Era. I won’t be going into the whole era in today’s post as it would take to much time, however, I will cover the executions during the period. Well, Mainly in regards to those that were killed during the reign of King Henry XIII. This is because two of King Henry’s wives were executed at the tower under his orders. King Henry was married six times in total to which three of his wives perished. Two through execution under his orders and one naturally weeks after childbirth at Hampton Court Palace. However, we will not go into the death of Lady Jane Seymour in this post but the deaths of the three queens of England.
Queen Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn was Queen of England between 1533 and 1536, being the second wife of King Henry XIII. Raised as a daughter to aspiring nobility, Anne was known to be a cunning and proud woman. Once the Hand Maiden to Henry’s first wife Catherine of Aragon soon she would become his mistress and eventual wife.
Also responsible for the development of the Church of England protestant faith. Anne Boleyn’s relationship with Henry was always filled with controversy, political and religious upheaval. Spending many years learning the ways of French nobility in the French Court, Anne was one of the most exotic women to marry into the English monarchy.
However, Just three years after her marriage and coronation she would find herself at the wrath of King Henry. Mother to Princess Elizabeth (Later Queen Elizabeth I) Anne would miscarry a boy in 1536 just weeks before her trial was set leading to her downfall at the hands of Thomas Conway.
Suspected and Charged with Adultery, Treason and an incestuous relationship with her own brother. Anne would be arrested on May 2nd, 1536. Arriving by barge through Traitors Gate, Anne would never leave the Tower of London alive. Sentenced to death through beheading Anne would spend her remaining time as a prisoner of the Tower up until the day of her execution.
Forced to Witness the death of her brother and other males in her life just days before. Anne would be led to the Tower Green where she would be beheaded by a sword and buried within the grounds of the tower. Her gravesite still available to this day inside the walls of the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula.
Queen Catherine Howard
Much like her cousin Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard would also find herself a victim of King Henry. The youngest wife, Catherine was just 17 years old when she would marry King Henry who was 32 years her senior. Catherine would become his fifth wife and Queen of England between 1540 and 1541.
Married on the same day that Thomas Cromwell would be executed. The Howard Boleyn family would once more be on the throne after the death and disgrace of the Boleyn’s. However, unlike her cousin Anne, Catherine was too young to take part in administrate duties of state.
Being young, carefree and naïve in nature the young queen would spend most of her evenings in the company of Thomas Heneage. It’s rumoured but not confirmed that she would spend this time reporting on the kings health. Staying in Hampton Court Palace soon she would be the victim of Henry after being accused of adultery much like her cousin Anne.
Arrested in Hampton Court, Catherine is rumoured to still reside there specifically in the gallery. On the day of her arrest the young queen would break free of her chambers trying to speak with the king running down the Gallery in vain. Days later she would find herself at the Tower where at age 18 she would be beheaded and buried alongside her cousin Anne.
To most of the English Population. The death of Catherine Howard is the most tragic. Being just 18 years old at the time and manipulated by her family. There is a statement that was found from a source at the time stating she didn’t wish to be married into the royal family but forced to. And so the death of Catherine Howard is just pure tragedy.
Lady Jane Grey (The nine day queen)
The final execution I would like to dive into in todays post. Is the death of Lady Jane Grey. Unlike most historical figures, however, there are no known portraits of her due to her short reign of just 9 days. After the death of King Edward, the son of Henry XIII and Jane Seymour, Lady Jane Grey would ascend to the throne as a plot of the deceased King. Edward had devised a plan to illegitimatize both of his sisters Mary and Elizabeth. It is rumoured the motive being that of religion. During this period it was announced that the only remaining true heir was that of Lady Jane Grey who was their cousin. Forced to take the throne, Nine days later Jane would be overthrown in rebellion led by Mary I.
Captured and Imprisoned within the tower with her husband Guildford Dudley, the couple were tried and found guilty of treason. Both meeting the axe upon the Tower Green on February 24th 1554. Just aged 17, Jane was the first official Queen of England and also the youngest victim to meet her end at the Tower of London. Buried alongside her husband, Jane’s final resting place is also in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula much like the two previous Queens who met their final fate on the green.
A period of unknown
Over the following centuries the tragedy and horror would continue at the Tower making it one of the most infamous places in the world. However, not much more is known from between that era up until the first world war. All that is really known of the periods in between is that the tower held the role for a lot of different reasons. From being a zoo, a royal armoury and a royal mint. It would become a prison once more in both World Wars. The last death recorded at the tower being in the 1950’s. However, even now in modern times the tower is a place of wonder and tragedy as we remember those who fell victim inside its walls.
Now that we have covered the notorious history behind one of the most famous tourist attractions in England. I would like to hear what you personally think happened to the Innocent Princes and whether the women deserved their loss of head. Since my personal visit to the tower in 2020 I have become obsessed with the place and learning all that I can. If you liked today’s post feel free to like, subscribe to my email list or comment below your thoughts.
Until next time, bye guys.