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?
Here is a photo I also took of Traitors’ Gate from the river Thames…
Dolman, B, Holmes, S, Impey, E and Spooner, J. 2009, Historic Royal Palaces Experience the Tower of London, Historic Royal Palaces, Surrey.