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A Bloody History

Below is a list of just some of the people who were killed at the Tower of London and Tower Hill


William le Marish was accused of conspiring to kill the King at Woodstock in 1238, was ordered to be so loaded with irons during his sojourn that there could be no fear of escape.

William Wallace


In 1297 William Wallace, a patriotic Scot of Welsh descent, rebbelled against the English rule in Scotland. He defeated the English at Stirling Bridge but he himself was defeated at Falkirk im 1298. For the next seven years he conducted a guerrila campaign until 1305 when he was betrayed to the English and brought to London. It is said that he was 'carried from Westminster to the Tower, and from the Tower to Aldgate, and so through the city to the Elms at Smithfield ... and as an outlaw beheaded.' It is also said that he was tied to horses tails and hanged till nearly dead, his bowels torn out and burned, his head cut off and his body quartered (the customary penalty for treason).


Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, wife of the kings uncle, Humphrey was charged with trying with conspiring to kill the king by melting a wax image of him before a fire.


Henry VI became a prisoner of his own Tower of London, his throne usurped by Edward IV. In 1470 he was restored as a puppet monarch but after a final victory at Tewkesbury a year later when his only child, Edward, was killed. the deposed kings own turn came. He died in the Tower 18 days later.


Clarence brother of Richard Duke of Gloucester 'Finalie the duke was cast into the Tower, and therewith adjudged for a traitor, and privile drowned in a butt of malmesie.' He was the father of Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, and Margaret, Countess of Salisbury.


The Two Princes
Before Richard, Duke of Gloucester could be crowned Richard III he had one obstacle to overcome, Edward IV's two sons Edward V and Richard Duke of York. These were the princes in the Tower and theirs is perhaps the saddest tale from the Tower's long and bloody history. Edward IV died on 9th April 1483 and soon after Edward V was escorted to the Tower by Gloucester, who had assumed the role of Protector. Officially the prince was there to await his coronation however this was to never happen. On the 13th June when the coronation was being planned by many Lords including William, Lord Hastings (a trusted friend of Edward IV), Gloucester rushed in and amongst cries of treason had William taken to Tower Hill and beheaded. Three days later the Duke of Gloucester persuaded the Queen to send Richard to stay with his brother in the Tower and for a while they could be seen playing in the gardens around the Tower but gradually they appeared less and less until eventually they were not seen outside ever again. The final days of the two princes were described by Sir Thomas More, his account tells of two assassins who were despatched to the Garden Tower by Sir James Tyrell, a friend of Richard III's. They smothered the children in their beds and the bodies were buried in the precincts, after this the Garden Tower was renamed The Bloody Tower. There are other theories regarding the two princes fate, one such theory is that they were not killed but allowed to grow to maturity under assumed names thanks to a plan from Henry VII and Edward IV's widow Elizabeth Woodville. However in 1674, when workmen were demolishing a stone staircase on the south side of the White Tower, they found a chest containing two childsize skeletons. None doubted that these were the bodies of the two princes and Charles II ordered that the remains be taken to Innocents' corner in Westminster Abbey.


John Fisher Bishop of Rochester was committed to the Tower with Sir Thomas More, who had also refused to take the oath. Both were in the Bell Tower. Fisher was the first to die. King Henry had vowed, on hearing that the Pope meant to make Fisher a cardinal, that if a hat arrived there should be no head for it, and the bishop was executed on Tower Hill in 1535, More a fortnight later. Both were canonised in 1935.

Sir Thomas More

Sir Thomas More Statesman and scholar who served Henry VIII until the break with Rome. A Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More refused to acknowledge Henry VIII as supreme head of the English Church, and continued adamant when the kings subjects were required to subscribe to the oath imposed. He also protested against the divorce of Catherine of Aragon, who had given Henry only one living child, the Princess Mary. More was found to be in communication with his friend and deprived of ink, whereupon he used a coal. His wife visited him and reproachfully asked why he was content to remain 'in this close, filthy prison , shut up among mice and rats' when he might be merry at home, but he only said, 'Is not this house as nigh heaven as my own?'.

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII second wife, was taken to the Tower on a charge of adultery. Before her crowning she had stayed in what is now called the 'Queens House', built below the Bell Tower 1530. As a prisoner she returned there her trial took place in the medieval great hall, since demolished where she was sentenced to be burned of beheaded as pleased the King. In front of the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, her head was cut off and her remains were buried inside the chapel.

Catherine Howard

Catherine Howard, Henry VIII fifth wife and according to him his 'very jewel of womanhood'. He adored her and showered her with gifts and favours and pampered her in every way. In May 1541 Catherine appointed a former admirer as her private secretary. By September 1541 rumours were being whispered at court and early in November immediately after the Kings return to Hampton Court sufficient evidence for the Queen's misconduct had come to light to make Arch-Bishop Cranmer feel he must inform the King.

Henry's immediate reaction was one of total disbelief. However, he ordered an investigation and found that not only had Catherine been flirting behind his back, it was also alleged she had been promiscuously unchased before he married her. For this he could show no mercy. Catherine went the way of her cousin Anne Boleyn; she was tried and condemned and on the 13th February 1542 she was beheaded at the Tower of London along with Jane Lady Rochford, who had been party to Catherine's infidelity, on Tower Green in 1542. 


Thomas, Edward Seymours younger brother who was Lord Seymour of Sudeley, Lord High Admiral of England who had married Henry VIII's widow, Catherine Parr. Thomas Seymour was executed in 1549


Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and protector lost his office to John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and was beheaded on Tower Hill, along with his wife with her gentlewomen and men servants.


Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane Grey
, upon marrying Lord Guildford Dudley, the fourth son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, she was in line of succession. Northumberland persuaded the young Edward on his death bed to transfer the rights of his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. After the kings death on 6th July 1553, lady Jane was publicly proclaimed at the Tower, but within eight days Mary's supporters rose in strength. On the 31st July lady Jane's father, Henry Duke of Suffolk entered her chamber, tore down the canopy of state and told her she was no longer Queen. She begged to go home, but he turned her away. She was now a prisoner of the state, and Suffolk himself was soon to share her fate. In February 1554, Lady Jane watched her husband go from the Beauchamp Tower to his death on Tower Hill, a few hours before her own execution on the Green. They were buried in the chapel, which also holds the bones of the executed Northumberland and his old enemy, Protector Somerset.


John Store a staunch Catholic whom found favour with the queen, Mary I. As Chancellor of Oxford he earned a reputation for cruelty in dealing with Protestants. One account concerns his burning at the stake of a woman accused of heresy. As the flames rose, she bravely tried to sing a psalm. Store, unable to tolerate such heroism before a large crowd, rushing forward, grasped a piece of burning wood and thrust it into his victim's face. When Mary died in 1558, she was succeeded by her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth. Store was imprisoned but escaped to Flanders. He took a post in the local Customs House where his offensive behaviour, to say nothing of his previous record, made him many enemies amongst visiting English seamen. Revenge was simple. He was required to inspect the hold of a ship, but as soon as he was below, the hatches were nailed down and Store next saw the light of day alongside the Tower. Found guilty of treason, he was drawn on a hurdle to Tyburn and there hanged, cut down and disembowelled.


Robert Devereux
Robert Devereux
(1566-1601), Earl of Essex was one of Elizabeth I favourite courtiers, who rebelled against her and was executed on Tower Green. He was beheaded on the 25th February 1601. The Essex Ring, now in Westminster Abbey, is said to have been given to him by the Queen, with the direction if ever he were in trouble he was to send it back to her and she would save him. From the Tower he tried to return it but either it did not reach her or she ignored it.


Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes
(1570-1606) was a Leading conspirator in the GUNPOWDER PLOT to blow up parliament. He was a Catholic convert who had served in the Spanish army before becoming involved in the plot. Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were taken to the Tower and interrogated in the Queens House. He himself was racked, perhaps in the basement of the Wakefield Tower, where the instruments of torture are believed to have been kept. In January 1606 with three others, he was drawn on a hurdle from the Tower to the Houses of Parliament and there hanged, beheaded and quartered.

Nicholas Owen was a Jesuit builder, expert in the construction of priests' holes - secret cupboards and passages within the houses of wealthy Catholics where priests could hide from King James's men. Thus he saved the lives of many Jesuits, but was eventually captured and taken to the Tower. To make him implicate a fellow Jesuit in the Gunpowder plot, he was suspended by his thumbs and threatened with the rack, but gave little away. The official report says that he committed suicide with a blunt knife, but there is little doubt of the real cause of his death.


Thomas Overbury the poet whom anguish of mind and body was never more sharply inflicted upon. Flung into the Tower at the behest of Frances, Countess of Essex, whose marriage to his friend, Robert Ker, Viscount Rochester, he opposed, Overbury was systematically poisoned and finally destroyed by the administration of an internal corrosive. His body ' all disfigured with sores and ulcers', was instantly wrapped in a sheet and hurried to a grave in the chapel. Two years passed before his murderers were brought to justice. The accomplices, who included the Lieutenant of the Tower, were hanged, but Ker and his infamous wife were soon pardoned.


Sir Walter Raleigh
Sir Walter Raleigh
(1552-1618) was an explorer known for his expeditions to the Americas , and for allegedly bringing tobacco and the potato from the New World to the British Isles. A favourite of Elizabeth I, he fell thoroughly out of favour and spent 12 years in the Tower on a charge of plotting against King James I, his solace being his writing and the conversion of a little hen-house into a still-house, 'where he doth spend all the day in distillations'. He was released in 1616, only to find himself back there in 1618 after his fruitless expedition to look for gold mines in Guiana. This time he was kept in 'one of the most cold and direful dungeons' before being beheaded six weeks later. In his speech from the scaffold he thanked God that he died in the light, and not in the dark prison of the Tower.

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