The Tower of London ~ Home Sweet Prison


On Wednesday you can find me over at Marcia Richard’s blog where I’ll be guest posting about what makes Queen Elizabeth I sexy, smart, and from the heart. Since the Tower played a huge role in Elizabeth’s life, I thought today we could have some fun with this iconic landmark.

Ask any Londoner where you can find ‘the Tower’ and they’ll point you in the direction of the Tower of London. Fortress, home, prison, place of execution, the Tower encompasses a wide array of responsibilities.

William the Conquerer was a wily man. He built the Tower in 1066 with the express idea to dominate the people of London and destroy any ideas of rebellion they might be concocting. It worked. Only once in all of the Tower’s history has it been breached ~ by a bunch of peasants armed with nothing more than pitchforks and mallets. Most historians agree there was collusion from the Tower guards who had to let the peasants inside the grounds. Otherwise, how did they manage to get past the six gates, three with drawbridges, two portcullis, past the 150 foot moat, and through two rather impressive concentric walls? They must’ve had help!

When William built his fortress, it was the tallest structure in all of England at 90 feet tall. Imagine riding in from the countryside and all you can see is this huge white castle for miles. The closer you get, the bigger it looks. I imagine many a courtier worried over a summons to the White Tower.


Of course, all the prisoners were brought to the Tower from the riverside gate, commonly known as Traitor’s Gate. It is said when Princess Elizabeth was brought to the Tower she sat on the stairs and refused to enter, claiming her innocence.

Eventually they got Elizabeth to her ‘prison cell’. For a high ranking person like Elizabeth, they would stay in one of the rooms near to the Warders. This would’ve been a typical bedroom for the princess. She also had privileges including being able to walk in the gardens and import fine foods for her table.

It’s interesting to note ~ Elizabeth’s rooms overlooked the spot where, eighteen years earlier, her mother Anne Boleyn was beheaded. It was also where Lady Jane Grey was executed just a short time before Elizabeth arrived. I would imagine that was intentional on Queen Mary’s part. Talk about intimidation.

Other notable prisoners in the Tower: in 1360 King John I of France was imprisoned in the Tower while England negotiated a ransom for him. Despite being a captive, his lifestyle was incredibly lavish. Every day he ordered meats and spices for him and a rather large entourage. The negotiations ran so long the King eventually died while at the Tower. He was such a good prisoner and so well liked that they named the chapel after him.

Another notable resident was Sir Walter Raleigh, one of Elizabeth’s favorites. Raleigh upset King James I and was put under arrest for several years. He alsoย died while a prisoner and it was only then that his family was allowed to leave the Tower. Back then, if you were held as a prisoner, your family was able to live with you.

An American was kept in the Tower in 1780 as a war spy. Henry Laurens was an American Revolutionary from South Carolina who went to England to drum up support for the Colonies. Okay, who else here thinks that was a lame idea? If he’d gone to France, maybe. But going to England to get support against England? He should’ve been thrown in the dungeons!

Luckily, Henry was traded for the Tower Constable who just happened to be a prisoner over in America.

The last prisoners kept in the Tower were twin brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray. They were leaders of an East End gang, mobsters if you will, and about fifty years ago they occupied cells in the clock tower. They didn’t get the cushy rooms like Elizabeth and Sir Walter. Their cells were small, dark, and constantly loud from the huge ticking of the clock. After their sentencing they were moved to another prison where they eventually died of old age.

We’ll end our tour of the Tower here today. There is so much to this great building that I’m going to have to revisit it another day when we’ll talk about the Crown Jewels or possibly the Wardens and their Ravens.

Have you ever been to the Tower of London? Did you feel the presence of any ghosts that might be lurking there?

35 thoughts on “The Tower of London ~ Home Sweet Prison”

  1. susielindaususielindau

    I would love to go someday! I bet many ghostly entities still walk those haunted halls….

    April 23, 2012
  2. EmmaEmma

    Great post. Love learning about history. I walked by the Tower of London in February of this year during the evening but it was closed. Does that count as a visit? ๐Ÿ™‚

    April 23, 2012
  3. Natalie HartfordNatalie Hartford

    I would LOVE to see it in person! Love the account Tameri – absolutely amazing!

    April 23, 2012
  4. Gayle CarlineGayle Carline

    I’ve never been to the Tower, but now I want to go, just for the ghosts. Damn you, one more thing for my bucket list. My list is already pretty long. At this rate, I’ll never die.

    April 23, 2012
  5. Ruth Hartman BergeRuth Hartman Berge

    I was there in 1989, I think it was. No ghosts, but definitely an odd feeling walking through those rooms! Great post!

    April 23, 2012
  6. Rebekah LoperRebekah Loper

    Wow, I’ve never taken much interest in the Tower of London, but these are some juicy tidbits. I think it’s awesome that peasants stormed the gates!

    April 23, 2012
  7. Coleen PatrickColeen Patrick

    Love these tidbits! London is on my to travel list–so much cool history!
    Thanks Tameri ๐Ÿ™‚

    April 23, 2012
  8. Louise BehielLouise Behiel

    I so want to go to Great Britain. There’s so much to see…and now you’ve got me drooling about the Tower. thanks, Tameri. Thanks a bunch.

    April 23, 2012
  9. patriciasandspatriciasands

    Fortunately for Elizabeth 1st, her stays at the Tower were brief and she left with her head still attached! The last time I visited the Tower was three years ago and the intrigue around it never diminishes. Tell us more, Tameri!

    April 23, 2012
  10. Debra KristiDebra Kristi

    I was there in 1986 with a large group of rowdy kids on tour. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d love to go back now and see it with mature eyes. I didn’t see or feel any ghosts then, but I wasn’t looking for them either. Of course the place was rather busy and it was the middle of the day. Great informative post. Thank you Ms. Tameri.

    April 23, 2012
  11. Lena Corazon (@LenaCorazon)Lena Corazon (@LenaCorazon)

    When I studied abroad in Oxford, the Tower was our very first field trip, taken 2 days after we had landed in England. It was such a crazy day — so much history, alongside a bit of culture shock, but overall it was a great experience. There’s actually a great documentary streaming on Netflix called “The Tower” that traces the history of the place. There are lots of great tidbits, and some amazing “behind the scenes” looks at different elements of the Tower.

    April 23, 2012
  12. August McLaughlinAugust McLaughlin

    I loved visiting the Tower of London. But try as I might, I could not get the ghosts to gather… ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for the virtual tourโ€”totally took me back!

    April 24, 2012
  13. Debra EveDebra Eve

    My husband’s from London, have been several times! See something new each time. Never found any ghosts, but those poor clipped ravens are quite eerie. Elizabeth is one of my favorite historical figures — what a woman — so I’ll definitely check out your post at Marcia’s tomorrow, Tameri!

    April 24, 2012
  14. jodiebethinhercrystalroomjodiebethinhercrystalroom

    I absolutely love history and you write it in such an interesting and appealing way! Thank you for the informative and entertaining article on London’s Tower. I have long been fascinated, but have never had time to do the research myself. Accolades!

    April 24, 2012
  15. subtlekatesubtlekate

    You’ve brought back some great memories of my visit. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ QE1 is one of my favourite periods .

    April 25, 2012
  16. Marcy KennedyMarcy Kennedy

    This brought back some good memories. I visited the Tower of London when I was 19. My mom took my brother and I on a tour of Europe. We didn’t get long in London, and my husband and I would love to go there again one day.

    April 25, 2012
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