Famous prisoners of the Tower of London


 

Although the Tower of London is a safe and fun tourist destination for people visiting the busy England capital in modern times, it wasn’t always a place to take photos and enjoy the view of The Thames. Instead, it has a dark and disturbing history that we are sure Londoners would love to forget. However, if you’re passing through London on your next European tour, the Tower of London is a place you can’t skip – walking through this old prison on a cloudy and rainy day can give you a glimpse back into the harrowing past of England. 

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn – By By William Powell Frith – bridgeman.co.uk, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9084813

Arguably the most famous prisoner of the Tower of London was Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. Queen of England from 153 to 1536, Anne became the figurehead of the religious upheaval that occurred in English during the time period. Due to the circumstances surrounding her marriage to Henry VIII And the reasoning behind her execution, England was in outrage, sparking the beginning of the English Reformation – a time period categorized by the Church of England breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church. 

But Heidi Anne became a prisoner here? In early 1536, Anne was pregnant with a child – sadly, she miscarried, causing Henry to believe she was “deceiving” him. After her miscarriage – which was rumored to be her second or third miscarriage, Anne was soon brought up on charges of adultery, incest, and treason. Anne was accused of seducing King Henry, failing to bring him a child, and even having a romantic relationship with her brother. Although these charges were false, she was found guilty of her charges – leading to her beheading in May of 1536.

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh – By By anonymous – one or more third parties have made copyright claims against Wikimedia Commons in relation to the work from which this is sourced or a purely mechanical reproduction thereof. This may be due to recognition of the “sweat of the brow” doctrine, allowing works to be eligible for protection through skill and labour, and not purely by originality as is the case in the United States (where this website is hosted). These claims may or may not be valid in all jurisdictions.As such, use of this image in the jurisdiction of the claimant or other countries may be regarded as copyright infringement. Please see Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag for more information., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6369962

The second prisoner who is well known in the historical world is Sir Walter Raleigh, a famous statesman, poet, explorer, and one of the most recognized figures during the Elizabethan era – a time period characterized by the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. After an expansive career of exploration, in which he saw numerous voyages to Guiana, battles of the Desmond Rebellions, and the French Wars of REligion, Raleigh was eventually brought up on charges by KingJames. 

During this last voyage to Guiana, men who were under Raleigh’s control attacked a Spanish Outpost, violating a previously-set peace treaty with the Spanish army. Although these men fought against Raleigh’s peaceful orders, he was the one in charge – so he was sentenced for his crimes and violation of the peace treaty. 

His charges by King James lead to his beading in October of 1618 after a brief imprisonment in the Tower of London.

The Princes of the Tower

Princes – By By John Everett Millais – http://allart.biz/photos/image/John_Everett_Millais_73_The_Princes_in_the_Tower.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1736441

A third imprisonment in the Tower of London that has stuck in people’s minds for centuries is the Princes in the Tower murder. King Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York were two brothers who were murdered – however, there was only a last sighting of them in the tower and no public beading, something that was uncommon of the time period. This has led to speculation on how they died, who killed them, and why – the mystery surrounding the murders is what keeps the story alive until this very day.

Another harrowing detail that makes this murder even more gut-wrenching is the fact both of these members of the royal family were barely teenagers – they were 12 and 9 years old. No matter what they had “done” to warrant the death penalty, murdering two children is a treasonous act that has stained England’s history for years afterward. 

There are various rumors as to who killed them and how they died, with some claiming that the Duke of Buckingham or their brother-in-law King Henry VII was the ones who sealed their fate. Their bodies were found in 1674 when workmen who were remodeling the Tower of London found a crate with two boys’ bodies inside – the bodies of King Edward V of England and Richard, Duke of York. 

Guy Fawkes

Discovery of the gunpowder plot – By By Henry Perronet Briggs – http://www.parliament.uk/gunpowderplot/children_arrest.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8529973

Guy Fawkes is a member of the English Catholics who fought in the Eighty Years’ War against Dutch reformers. An outspoken Catholic who was hellbent on restoring a Catholic monarch to the throne in England, Fawkes was the ringleader of the assassin plot against King James I – after all, King James I was a Protestant leader. 

Once the authorities found out that Fawkes was the one in charge of the plot, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and tortured to give up his secrets. Eventually, he succumbed to the truth and told the authorities of his plan – an admission that would later lead him to be hung on January 31, 1606. 

Lady Jane Grey

The Streatham portrait of Lady Jane Grey – By By anonymous – one or more third parties have made copyright claims against Wikimedia Commons in relation to the work from which this is sourced or a purely mechanical reproduction thereof. This may be due to recognition of the “sweat of the brow” doctrine, allowing works to be eligible for protection through skill and labour, and not purely by originality as is the case in the United States (where this website is hosted). These claims may or may not be valid in all jurisdictions.As such, use of this image in the jurisdiction of the claimant or other countries may be regarded as copyright infringement. Please see Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag for more information., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2680115

The last prisoner who spent their final hours in the Tower of London is Lady Jane Grey, an English noblewoman who was the great granddaughter of Henry VII. She was known as being a highly-educated woman who was very well respected in society during her day.  

Unfortunately for Jane, after she was proclaimed queen in 1553, she found that most of her supporters abandoned her in favor of Mary Tudor, the surviving daughter of King Henry VII. In a surprising turn of events, Mary was suddenly proclaimed queen instead of Jane in July of 1553, with the change of public favor causing Jane to be held prisoner in the Tower of London and charged with high treason later that year. Although Mary spared her and was not sentenced to death, Jane was soon viewed as a threat to take back over the crown – causing her and her husband to both be executed early in 1554.