Elizabeth of York

On the 11th of February 1466 Elizabeth of York was born at the Palace of Westminster. Exactly thirty seven years later, at the Tower of London, Elizabeth died shortly after giving birth to her last child.

Elizabeth of York was the eldest child of King Edward IV and his wife Queen Elizabeth Woodville. Elizabeth was christened in St Stephen’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey. Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York stood as her godmothers and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick stood as her godfather.

Elizabeth’s young life was anything but stable. Her father had taken the throne in 1461, capturing King Henry VI and claiming the English crown for himself. Edward IV’s choice of wife, Elizabeth Woodville, a widow with two sons, caused some controversy amongst those at court. In addition to this the Wars of the Roses still raged on with people taking sides, Lancaster vs York.

As a young child Elizabeth was given her own establishment at Greenwich Palace under the supervision of Lady Margaret Berners. Elizabeth’s mother gave birth to two more daughters, Mary and Cecily, before war erupted again.

King Edward IV’s position was challenged and after a series of battles the King escaped to Flanders while his wife and daughters fled to Westminster Abbey. It was here at Westminster Abbey that Elizabeth Woodville gave birth to a son, named Edward after his father. In October 1470 Henry VI was restored to the throne however his rule lasted less than a year.

Edward and his supporters returned to England and defeated Henry VI and his men. Edward IV was once more King. Henry was captured and all those that opposed Edward were removed. It is believed that Henry VI was murdered in the Tower of London. With Edward IV back on the throne young Elizabeth was once more a Princess and her life returned to normality.

Edward IV died on 9th April 1483 and Elizabeth’s younger brother Edward was to succeed as the new King. Edward IV’s younger brother Richard of Gloucester was named Lord Protector and he sought to place his nephews Edward and Richard in the Tower of London for their protection. A short time later Richard declared that Edward IV had been betrothed before he had married Elizabeth Woodville and thus their children were proclaimed illegitimate. Parliament petitioned Richard to take the crown and he accepted.

Mysteriously young Edward and Richard, the Princes of the Tower, disappeared never to be heard from again. Interestingly Elizabeth never publically stated what she believed happened to her brothers.

After spending time with her mother and sisters in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth returned to court under the rule of her Uncle King Richard III. There were rumours that the new King had romantic interest in his young, very beautiful niece, however these were quickly squashed. Meanwhile Elizabeth’s mother was plotting with Margaret of Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor who was in exile in Brittany. The mothers planned for Henry Tudor and his men to return to England and take the English throne and marry Elizabeth of York, uniting the houses of Lancaster of York.

In December 1483, in Cathedral at Rennes, Henry Tudor vowed to marry Elizabeth of York. True to his vow Henry Tudor and his men landed in Wales in 1485 and on the 22nd August 1485 defeated Richard III in the famous battle of Bosworth.

Henry Tudor’s coronation was held at Westminster Abbey on the 30th October 1485. Then on the 18th of January 1486, after two dispensations to marry were granted from the Pope, Elizabeth and Henry were married at Westminster Abbey.

Although a marriage of political alliance it would seem that Elizabeth and Henry came to love each other deeply. Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, a son named Arthur, just eight months after her marriage on the 20 September 1486. (Either Arthur was born a month early or the young couple were intimate before their marriage!) Elizabeth would go on to have six more children, Margaret, Henry, Elizabeth, Mary, Edmund and Katherine. Sadly due to high infant mortality rates in Medieval England only Margaret, Henry and Mary would live to adulthood.

On the 14th of November 1501 Arthur, oldest son and heir of Elizabeth and Henry, married Catherine of Aragon, daughter of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile. The couple were married at St. Paul’s Cathedral. After the marriage the young couple were sent to live at Ludlow Castle, the traditional home of the Prince of Wales. Tragically Arthur died less than a year later on 2nd April 1502.

When news of the Prince’s death arrived Henry VII was distraught and in his great grief Elizabeth was brought for to comfort her husband and King. Elizabeth reassured Henry that they were both young and that they would have more children. After leaving her husband Elizabeth broke down into tears and Henry had to come and comfort his wife.

True to her word Elizabeth became pregnant with her seventh child shortly afterward. After a long and difficult labour Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter named Katherine on the 2nd of February 1503 at the Tower of London. Sadly little Katherine died eight days later on the 10th of February.

Elizabeth of York also fell sick and she died on the 11th of February 1503, on her 37th birthday. It is unknown exactly what Elizabeth died of but having recently given birth it may be possible that she suffered from a post-partum infection such as puerperal fever. Elizabeth of York was greatly loved and her passing was deeply mourned by the people of England.

Personally Henry VII was grieved at the death of his wife. He ordered that 636 masses be said for Elizabeth’s soul.  Elizabeth was buried in a lavish ceremony in the Henry VII Chapel otherwise known as the Lady’s Chapel at Westminster Abbey. Shortly after Elizabeth’s death the King fell grievously ill and it was reported that he was heartbroken at the death of his beloved wife. On the anniversary of Elizabeth’s death every year Henry VII ordered a requiem mass to be sung, bells to be tolled and 100 candles to be burnt in the late Queen’s honour.

Elizabeth was reported to be extremely beautiful, pious, and abundantly generous to those in need, kind natured, patient and deeply loving of her children. She spend a great deal of her time with her children Margaret, Henry and Mary at Eltham Palace where it is reported that she taught her son, the future Henry VIII, to write. She also cared for her sister’s children as well as giving charitable donations to religious houses.

Polydore Virgil reported that Elizabeth was “intelligent above all others, and equally beautiful. She was a woman of such character that it would be hard to judge whether she displayed more of majesty and dignity in her life than wisdom and moderation.”(Weir 2014, p. 200).

Elizabeth of York was the perfect image of a Queen, wife and mother. It has even been suggested that the beautiful Queen of Hearts on a pack of playing cards represents Elizabeth of York; perhaps a fitting tribute for a woman who gave so much of her heart to others.

For those interested in learning more about the fascinating Elizabeth of York I would strongly recommend reading Elizabeth of York: The Forgotten Queen by Amy Licence.

Elizabeth of York

Sources:

Hughes, Olga 2013, Elizabeth of York and her Kings – Henry VII, viewed 15 January 2016, <http://nerdalicious.com.au/history/elizabeth-of-york-and-her-kings-henry-vii/&gt;.

Hughes, Olga 2013, The Perfect Queen: Elizabeth of York, viewed 15 January 2016, <http://nerdalicious.com.au/history/the-perfect-queen-elizabeth-of-york/&gt;.

Licence, Amy 2013, Elizabeth of York the Forgotten Queen, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire.

Weir, Alison 2014, Elizabeth of York The First Tudor Queen, Vintage Books, London.

Traitors’ Gate

Traitors Gate

Traitors’ Gate (photo by me).

It is a common misconception that Anne Boleyn, upon her arrest and arrival at the Tower of London, entered through Traitor’s Gate. On the late afternoon of May 2nd 1536, the barge conducting Anne to the Tower landed at The Tower Gate, now days known as Byward Tower. It was here through the Court Cate in the Byward Tower, and not at Traitor’s Gate, that Anne was conducted within the walls of the great Tower of London.

According to Historic Royal palaces ‘Experience the Tower of London Guide’ Traitors’ Gate was “originally built for Edward I between 1275 and 1279, this new watergate called St Thomas’s Tower was a daring variation on the traditional defensive gate tower. Discreetly defended by arrowloops, the building had gilded window bars and painted sculpture on its exterior. Edward’s royal barge could be moored beneath the great archway, built using cutting edge Crusader castle-construction technology gleaned from the King’s time fighting in the Holy Land.” (p. 21)

In addition the guide states that “the timber framing above the archway is a memento of happy times for Anne Boleyn. It was constructed in 1532 by Henry VIII’s Master Carpenter, James Nedeham, as part of the excited rush to renovate the Tower ready for Anne’s coronation in June 1533” (p. 21)

Anne Boleyn may have walked past Traitors’ Gate to the Queen’s Lodgings upon her arrival at the Tower of London after her arrest, but she did not enter the Tower through Traitors’ Gate. Even though Anne did not enter through this gate I still have to admit, having stood at the top of the steps and looked down, it is rather a haunting place. I had a shiver run down my spine and I could only begin to imagine what the prisoners who were actually brought in through the gate were thinking. Would they ever see the light of freedom again? Or would death be their fate?

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Here is a photo I also took of Traitors’ Gate from the river Thames…

 

Source:

Dolman, B, Holmes, S, Impey, E and Spooner, J. 2009, Historic Royal Palaces Experience the Tower of London, Historic Royal Palaces, Surrey.

 

Tudor Christmas

Christmas during the Tudor period, especially during the reign of Henry VIII, was very different to how many of us celebrate it today. The four weeks leading up to Christmas was known as Advent and consisted of fasting and a limited range of foods which were allowed to be eaten. Christmas Eve was particularly strict and people were not allowed to eat eggs, cheese or meat. However when Christmas day came around the Tudors were allowed to cast off the food restrictions and enjoy a lavish feast!

The Twelve Days of Christmas

In modern times Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are celebrated however during the Tudor period they had twelve days of celebrations which began on Christmas Day and ended on Epiphany, Twelfth Night. During these twelve days the Tudors also celebrated New Year’s Day on January 1st, although during the Tudor period New Year’s Day was celebrated on the 25th of March. This day was known as the Feast of Annunciation, the time in which the angel Gabriel came to earth to tell Mary that she was pregnant with the baby Jesus.

The Twelve Days of Christmas was an important time of celebration during the Tudor period. During this time all work on the land was stopped (except for the tending of animals) and men and women were not allowed to plough the land or partake in spinning. Often flowers were placed around the spinning wheel to signify the stop of work. Instead of working people were encouraged to come together, for families and communities to get together to celebrate and share. People would also share the traditional “minced pye” which consisted of thirteen ingredients which represented Jesus and his thirteen apostles. These ingredients included dried fruits, spices and of mutton, which represented the shepherds who visited Jesus.

Christmas trees as we known them today were not typically part of a Tudor Christmas, although they did appear in Germany around 1520. Instead on Christmas Eve Tudor people would decorate their homes with holly, ivy, mistletoe, box, laurel and yew.

Food

Lavish feasts were generally only held by the wealthy and may have consisted of a rather extraordinary dish which was a pastry pie containing a turkey stuffed with a goose which was stuffed with a chicken which was stuffed with a partridge which was then stuffed with a pigeon!! In addition to this the pie would be served with hare, wild fowl and game birds… as well as a range of other delicious dishes! (No wonder why only royalty and the wealthy could afford such a lavish and expensive feast!!) Another tradition was to skin a peacock, cook it and then insert it back into its skin. The peacock was then presented in all its stunning feathers but inside it was ready to eat! Wild Boar was also a popular choice and the cooked head was often used as a table presentation. Other meats consumed consisted of goose and swan. Turkey not brought to England from Europe until 1523 and would soon become a regular at Christmas meals.

Not surprisingly after eating such a rich and heavy meal people did not feel like participating in physical activities and so in 1541 Henry VIII introduced the Unlawful Games Act which forbid any sports being played on Christmas day except archery.

On Twelfth Night, the last day of The Twelve Days of Christmas a fruitcake would have been shared amongst the guests. Inside a coin or a dried bean was hidden and whoever found the object would become the King or Queen of the celebrations for the night. This tradition is still carried on in many homes on Christmas Eve or Christmas day and often consists of a coin hidden in the fruitcake.

Boy Bishop

Another part of the lead up to the Twelve Days of Christmas was the Boy Bishop. This tradition started in the 10th century and continued on until 1541 when Henry VIII banned it. The Boy Bishop was a boy selected from the Choir, who would then dress up in full Bishop’s clothing and partake in many activities including leading processions around his community and collecting money for the church. The Boy Bishop of St Paul’s Cathedral would lead a procession through London to bless the city. The Boy Bishop lasted from St. Nicholas Day (6th December) until Holy Innocents Day (28th December). Interestingly despite the tradition of the Boy Bishop being banned, some churches in England such as Hereford and Salisbury Cathedrals continue the practice in today’s times.

Yule Log

Part of the Twelve Days of Christmas celebrations was the Yule Log. This was a large log of wood which was brought into the home on Christmas Eve. It would have been decorated with ribbons and then put on the fire on Christmas Day. The log would then be kept burning throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was considered lucky if remnants of the previous year’s log was used to light the current Yule Log. This tradition is thought to date back to the time of the Viking’s when they lit huge bonfires in midwinter to celebrate the festival of light.

The Lord of Misrule

The Twelve Days of Christmas was a time of celebration, feasting and entertainment and at the head of this was The Lord of Misrule. The Lord of Misrule was generally a commoner who was selected to be in charge of the drinking and entertainment throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas. Their duties also included causing chaos (in a fun way) and in general keeping the atmosphere at court fun and entertaining. This tradition of a Lord of Misrule may have dated from the Roman times when it was believed the Roman masters let their slaves act as boss for a short period of time.

Wassail

There is not a great deal of information about this tradition but it is believed that the word came from the Anglo-Saxon period and means “your good health” or “be whole”. The Wassail bowl was a communal wooden bowl which could be filled with up to a gallon of hot ale, apples, spices and sugar. At the bottom of the bowl was a crust of bread. People would take turns drinking from the Wassail bowl and then when finished the crust of bread was presented to the highest ranking person at the meal. This may be where our modern day tradition “to toast” comes from.

Christmas Carols

The word Carols may have come from the Latin word caraula or the French word carole, either way it meant ‘a dance with a song’. Christmas Carols were an important part of the Twelve Days of Christmas. During the Tudor period people would use singing and dancing to tell the story of the Nativity as well as for entertainment.

New Year’s Day

Although the Tudors celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25th, January 1st was an important part of The Twelve Days of Christmas. For the upper class it was the day to give gifts to one another and to the King. If the King accepted your gift it was a sign that you held his favour and in return the King would give a gift back of more monetary value. By presenting the King with lavish and expensive gifts and having them accepted was a way that courtiers could assert their wealth and favour. An example of this was in 1532 when Henry VIII accepted a gift of richly decorated Pyrenean boar spears from Anne Boleyn while he rejected a gold cup from Queen Katherine of Aragon. In return Henry VIII gave Anne a matching set of hangings for her room and bed, in cloth of gold, cloth of silver and richly embroidered crimson satin.

Plough Monday

Plough Monday was the official end of the Twelve Days of Christmas and saw the return of the common people back to their work. Often there was a communal plough which was kept at the local church during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Sometimes a plough light would be burnt before the sacrament throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas, although this tradition was banned by Henry VIII in 1538. On Plough Monday the plough would be removed from the church and a man would walk with it demanding money. If people did not give coin the ground before their door would be ploughed! Edward VI banned Plough Monday altogether during his reign.

Tudor_Christmas_decorations_at_Trerice_-_geograph.org.uk_-_289390

Tudor Christmas decorations at Trerice by Geoff Welding.

Sources:

Grueninger, Natalie Tudor Christmas and New Year Celebrations, On The Tudor Trail, viewed 10 November 2015, <http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/resources/life-in-tudor-england/tudor-christmas-and-new-year/&gt;.

Johnson, Ben A Tudor Christmas, Historic UK, viewed 10 November 2015, < http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/A-Tudor-Christmas/&gt;.

Ridgway, Claire 2009, Tudor Christmas, The Anne Boleyn Files, viewed 10 November 2015, <http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/resources/tudor-life/tudor-christmas/&gt;.

Trueman, C. N. Tudor Christmas, History Learning Site, viewed 10 November 2015, <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/tudor-england/tudor-christmas/&gt;.

 

Perkin Warbeck

On the 23rd of November 1499 Perkin Warbeck faced his death at Tyburn. He was sentenced to be hung until he was dead. His crime was attempting to escape the Tower of London where he was held a prisoner, but his story goes back several years and involves a tale of deception, treason and rumours of a young Prince come back to life!

In the Battle of Bosworth on August 22nd 1485 Henry VII had famously defeated Richard III in battle and won the English crown for himself and the future Tudor Dynasty. Richard III was dead and the fate of the Princes in the Tower, young Edward and Richard, sons of the late Edward IV, remained unknown. Many believed that they were dead, having last been seen two years previously. Others however hoped that maybe the young Richard, Duke of York had been smuggled out of the Tower and across the channel to Europe. This is where Perkin Warbeck comes into the story.

Warbeck’s younger years remain a confusing story but it appears the young man was born around 1474 to Jehan de Werbecque, a poor burgess of Tournai in Flanders, and his wife Katherine de Faro. Warbeck grew up in Antwerp and worked a series of jobs as a servant. After a time Warbeck was hired by a Breton silk merchant named Pierre Jean Meno and was brought to Cork in Ireland around 1491. It was here in Cork that Warbeck learned English and when people saw him modelling his master’s fine silks it was suggested that he was an illegitimate son of the late George, Duke of Clarence or perhaps even Richard III.

The exact details of Perkin Warbeck’s rise to claim he was Richard, Duke of York, the youngest of the Princes in the Tower are sketchy. As Richard, Duke of York, Perkin claimed that his older brother Edward had been killed in the Tower of London but he had been spared because of his young age and innocence. He had then been smuggled to Europe and protected by York sympathisers and sworn to secrecy.

Several European rulers including Charles VII of France and Maximillian the Holy Roman Emperor eagerly grasped onto Warbeck’s claims and proclaimed the young man Richard, Duke of York and true heir to the English throne. Even Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, the widow of Charles the Bold and sister of the late Edward IV supported Warbeck’s claim that he was the youngest of the Princes in the Tower. Whether Margaret actually believed that Warbeck was her nephew remains unknown. Having not seen him for many years Margaret may have indeed believed that Warbeck was her long lost nephew or she simply may have grasped at the chance to seek revenge against Henry VII who killed her brother at the Battle of Bosworth. Whatever the exact reason Margaret took Warbeck in and saw him well educated in the way of the Yorkist clan.

3 July 1495 funded by his “Aunt” Warbeck took fourteen ships carrying around 6000 men to England in the hopes of claiming the throne for himself. However when the ships landed at Kent Warbeck’s men were routed before Warbeck could even get to shore. Warbeck and his men fled first to Ireland and then to Scotland where he was warmly welcomed by King James IV. Since England was aligning itself with Spain in a marriage alliance between young Arthur Tudor and Katherine of Aragon, James IV saw an opportunity to align Scotland with their old friend France. James IV bolstered Warbeck’s claim that he was the Richard, Duke of York and saw Warbeck married to Lady Catherine Gordon, a distant cousin of the King and granted him an annuity of £1200. It is unclear if James IV actually believed Warbeck’s claims or if he just grasped an opportunity to cause havoc in England.

In September 1496 James IV along with his army and Warbeck invaded England under the claim of restoring Warbeck/Richard, Duke of York as the rightful King of England. However the support they wished to find in the North did not materialise and with his armies defeated Warbeck quickly escaped to Ireland. Then in September 1497 Warbeck tried again. He and a small group of men landed in Cornwall where they hoped to raise men against Henry VII.  Many people in Cornwall were upset over the huge levying of taxes by their King to pay for war. Warbeck was somewhat successful and soon proclaimed King Richard IV. With an army of around 8000 men Warbeck passed Exeter and then Touton yet when he heard that Henry VII’s army was close Warbeck fled in panic. He was finally captured at Beaulieu in Hampshire.

Henry VII chose to show kindness to Warbeck’s wife Lady Gordon and placed her as a lady in waiting to his wife Elizabeth of York. Warbeck was forced to make two public announcements at Westminster and Cheapside in June 1498 that he was not the late Richard, Duke of York, son of King Edward IV and that he was in fact an imposter. When asked why he was impersonating the late Richard, Duke of York all Perkin could say was that he blamed Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy.

At first Henry VII showed some kindness to Warbeck and kept him at court until he tried to escape. Warbeck was quickly captured and taken to the Tower of London. There he and Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, son of the late George, Duke of Clarence planned to escape. Their plan was soon uncovered and finally Warbeck’s time had run out. On the 23rd of November 1499, under the charge of trying to escape the Tower of London, Warbeck was taken from the Tower of London to Tyburn where he met his end by hanging. While officially the charge was trying to escape the Tower of London in reality while still alive Warbeck posed a threat to Henry VII and his claim to the throne. For Henry VII it was better to be rid of Warbeck once and for all rather than have him forever looming in the shadows.

Interestingly Henry VII’s wife Elizabeth of York, older sister of the lost Princes in the Tower was never called upon to deny the claims of Perkin Warbeck. In fact there are no records or reports of her thoughts of feelings related to the whole affair. Did she believe that Warbeck was in fact her long lost brother believed to have died in the Tower all those years ago? Probably not, but the claim that he was must have brought back terrible memories for the Queen. Whatever her lost thoughts were regarding Warbeck, the man from Tournai was dead and now only a memory, yet one that had touched a little too close to home.

Perkin Warbeck

Sources:

De Lisle, Leanda, 2013, Tudor: The Family Story, Chatto & Windus, London.

Goble, Rachel, 1999, The Execution of Perkin Warbeck, History Today, viewed 13 November 2015, <http://www.historytoday.com/rachel-goble/execution-perkin-warbeck&gt;.

Jokinen, Anniina, Perkin Warbeck (c.1474 – 1499), Luminarium: Encyclopedia Project, viewed 13 November 2015, < http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/perkinwarbeck.htm&gt;.

Trueman, C. N. 2015, The Perkin Warbeck Rebellion, The History Learning Site, viewed 13 November 2015, < http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/tudor-england/the-perkin-warbeck-rebellion/&gt;.

 

 

The Tower of London

The Tower of London has a long and rich history filled with celebration, joy, tragedy and bloodshed. The Tower’s history began with William the Conqueror (1066-87) who believed that he had a claim to the English throne after the death of his relative Edward the Confessor. William was the Duke of Normandy and he sailed across to England and defeated King Harold Godwinson, brother in law to Edward the Confessor at the battle of Hastings. William the Conqueror recognised the need to fortify London and create strongholds which would help to protect against threats against his rule. It is believed that one of these strong holds was the first construction at the Tower of London – The White Tower. There are little details about the building of the famous White Tower but it was believed to have been completed by 1100.

Tower of London

Over the centuries additions were made to the Tower of London, with separate buildings being built close to the White Tower. In 1238 Henry III began the building of the massive walls around the north, east and western sides of the Tower which were reinforced by nine towers with the whole structure being surrounded by a great moat.

The Tower of London was used as a fortress and stronghold for protection but it was also at varied times a place in which the King and his court could reside. It also acted as a prison and the first prisoner to be held in the Tower of London was Ranulf Flambard in 1100. In addition to a prison and a place to stay the Tower held many various and exotic animals over the centuries including lions, a polar bear, an elephant and ostriches!

As well as acting as a semi zoo the Tower in the seventeenth century began to hold ravens. There is a legend that stated if the ravens left the Tower of London would fall. The legend states that Charles II believed in this story so much that he insisted that six ravens be kept within the great walls of the Tower at all times. Today the Tower holds seven ravens (one spare just in case!) and they are cared for by the resident Raven master.

The Tower holds the mysteries and tragedies of many lives including the disappearance of 12 year old Edward VI and his brother 10 year old Richard, sons of Edward IV. After Edward IV’s death, Richard III claimed the throne and sent both young boys to the Tower of London where they were mysteriously never heard of again. It is believed that both boys were murdered, but by who? And how?

The Tudors have a rich and long history with the Tower of London and two of Henry VIII’s wives would lose their lives (and their heads) within the tower walls. Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife would be sent to the tower on May 2nd 1536 to be charged with adultery, incest and treason and would lose her head and her life on May 19th. Henry VIII’s fifth wife Katherine Howard would also be sent to the Tower for committing adultery and she too would be beheaded on the 13th of February 1542. As well as two of Henry’s wives many other famous people would lose their lives at the Tower including Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford, sister in law to Anne Boleyn and lady in waiting to Katherine Howard. Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, Lady Jane Grey who was Queen for just nine days, and Robert Devereux Earl of Essex, courtier and favourite of Elizabeth I. Although not losing their life at the Tower, the Tower held many famous and important prisoners including The Duke of Northumberland, The Dukes of Norfolk, Sir Thomas More, Bishop Fisher of Rochester and even Elizabeth I!

The whole structure of the Tower of London is absolutely magnificent and impressively large. There are twenty Towers within the Tower of London as well as many other buildings and points of interest. There are many beautiful and at times spooky parts of the Tower to visit and I would strongly suggest that it would take at least a full day to see everything properly within the great Tower’s walls. I could talk about each part of the Tower individually but instead I have selected just a few parts of the Tower to discuss and that I would strongly recommend visiting:

The Beauchamp Tower

The Beauchamp Tower was built as part of the inner defensive wall by Henry III and Edward I. It was not originally built as a prison but over the years quickly became one. The Tower received its name from Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick who was imprisoned within the Tower at the later part of the 14th century. When you enter the Beauchamp Tower and walk the vast and rather spooky rooms you can see carvings and inscriptions written over the walls. These words and images are a haunting reminder of all those held within the Beauchamp Tower.

Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula

The Chapel Royal is a magnificent place of worship built within the walls of the Tower of London. Although a relatively small chapel (compared to some) it is a place of beauty and serenity. Within the beautiful interior of The Chapel Royal are buried the bodies of many famous and tragic figures including, Anne Boleyn the second wife of Henry VIII and Katherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII who were both beheaded within the Tower. The Chapel Royal still acts as a place of worship for all the people that live within the walls of the Tower today.

Church of St Peter ad Vincula

Traitor’s Gate

Built for Edward I between 1275 and 1279, Traitors’ Gate is located along the river Thames and allowed barges to be moored next to the great gateway so that one could enter the Tower via the river. Contrary to popular belief Anne Boleyn, upon her arrival at the Tower of London after her arrest did not enter via Traitors’ Gate.

Traitors Gate

 The White Tower

The most magnificent and recognisable building within the Tower of London is clearly the White Tower. Standing at the centre of the Tower of London it is a magnificent structure which immediately captures the attention of anyone that enters the great walls of the Tower. The White Tower had many functions including acting as a stronghold to protect the King, a place of residency where the King could stay and live, a place to entertain and most of all it was built to impress and to show the great strength and power of the English Kings. The Tower contains a massive basement and three grand and impressive rooms, one being a stunning chapel. There are many breath taking displays within the White Tower including weapons and armour which was used during medieval battles.

White Tower

Source:

Dolman, B, Holmes, S, Impey, E and Spooner, J. 2009, Historic Royal Palaces Experience the Tower of London, Historic Royal Palaces, Surrey.

Historic Royal Palaces 2011, ‘Tower of London’, viewed 25th October 2011, <http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/>

Luminarium 2011, ‘Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature’, viewed 25th October 2011, <http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/&gt;