Visit to the Tower of London


White Tower

So, as you might have guessed from my previous post on the ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature’ exhibition (click here) I have been on holiday in London. How could I not visit some Tudor-related sites? I was with a friend who had never visited the Tower of London before, so we used the tickets that had been booked way back at the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic hit.

We arrived early and spent five hours wandering around, stopping for a café break as well. We walked the walls, and took in the exhibitions, seeing displays on the Medieval Palace, Imprisonment at the Tower, and the Tower in War. We were using my guidebook from 2010 as I haven’t got an updated version and, in one display, there were guidebooks from the past and the same copy as mine was in a glass case! That was weird.

Dudley coat of arms carved in the Beauchamp Tower

The Beauchamp Tower is where we saw all of the graffiti left by those imprisoned there, notably this coat of arms likely carved by one of the Dudleys in 1553-4 after Jane Grey’s failed reign (the photo isn’t great because of the light from behind). There were also several pieces of graffiti left by those involved in rebellions against Elizabeth I which was especially interesting for me to see.

The Bloody Tower includes Walter Raleigh’s study and an exploration of the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, something that I’ve read quite a lot about. Raleigh wrote his ‘The History of the World’ while imprisoned here. The Salt Tower was the place of imprisonment of Hew Draper who was incarcerated for sorcery during the reign of Elizabeth I. There are some fascinating astrological drawings on the walls of various places in the Tower where he was kept. A zodiac design contains the date 30 May 1561.

Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula

Of course, a visit to the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula (Peter in Chains) was a must. It’s an absolutely beautiful space where lie buried the remains of Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, Jane Boleyn Lady Rochford, Edward Seymour Duke of Somerset, John Dudley Duke of Northumberland, and Guildford Dudley within the main body of the chapel. In the crypt are the remains of Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher of Rochester who were executed on nearby Tower Hill.

The armouries in the White Tower were fascinating, though I had seen them before. I almost looked at the rooms anew and visited St John’s Chapel in the White Tower for the very first time. It’s starkly simple but incredibly profound with plain walls and some stone carving, quite a contrast to the better-known St Peter ad Vincula in the grounds. The armouries themselves contain armour from Henry VIII, Charles I, and James II, and a collection of swords, cannon, and other arms from across the ages and across the world. Possibly of more interest to a military historian but seeing the detail on the armour was a highlight of the White Tower for me.

Tower Hill Memorial

On the way back to our hotel we visited the memorial on Tower Hill where the likes of Edward Stafford 3rd Duke of Buckingham, Sir Thomas More, Bishop John Fisher of Rochester, and Robert Devereux 2nd Earl of Essex were executed, among many others. The names and dates of execution are places on blocks around a small square within the First World War memorial gardens. It’s very easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there. More were executed there than are named, but the names of those who were the most notable are written. It is worth a visit if you’re going to the Tower of London as many of those executed there spent time in the Tower itself.

All in all, an incredibly fascinating historical day out, even if we were exhausted afterwards having been on our feet most of the day and then going on a Jack the Ripper walking tour that evening! A blog post on that to follow …

Book Review – ‘Essex: Tudor Rebel’ by Tony Riches


Thank you to Tony Riches for giving me a copy of this book to review.

I really enjoy Tony Riches’ writing. He has a way of bringing the world of the Tudor court to life that makes these historical figures who lived over 400 years ago seem very real in the present. Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is an intriguing character with plenty of history. All I really knew about him was the end of his life – the rebellion that resulted in his execution, from my own research. This book opened my eyes to some of the events of his earlier life.

I’ve been researching Elizabethan rebellions, so it was interesting to find out more about this figure who was central to a rebellion in 1601 against Elizabeth I. The story follows him from his childhood, and the death of his father, to his death by execution. It explores scandal, romance, and treason. We really get to see the changeable attitude of the Queen and how fortunes could change on just one roll of the die.

It features a wide range of real historical characters along Essex, like Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, William Cecil Lord Burghley, Robert Cecil, Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir Philip Sidney. These characters come together to create a richly detailed storyline with plenty going on which keeps the story moving. I was really intrigued by the supporting character of Lettice Knollys, Essex’s mother, who herself was the granddaughter of Mary Boleyn. Her relationships with her children and partners were particularly interesting.

What is particularly interesting for me in this story is to see the development of Essex from a boy who loses his father at a young age and has to step suddenly and unexpectedly into his shoes, to the Queen’s favourite at court, to an attainted rebel who ends on the scaffold. The story is full of ups and downs and makes you want to keep reading.

If you don’t know much about key characters in Tudor history, then I would really recommend reading books by Tony Riches because he introduces them without too much fuss, but with enough detail to bring them to life, and makes you want to find out more about them. I can’t wait to fill in the gaps and read the ones I haven’t read yet.

What were the Aims, Causes and Consequences of the Tudor Rebellions?


Lambert Simnel / Perkin Warbeck 1487-1499

Henry VII 1505 at the National Portrait Gallery.
Henry VII 1505 at the National Portrait Gallery.

The aims of the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions were to replace Henry VII on the English throne with what the people saw as the “true heir”.[1] Henry VII was a usurper, and the only Lancastrian claimant left since the death of Henry VI in 1471.

The cause of the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions was the fact that Henry VII was a usurper with no real claim to the throne. He had taken the throne from the Yorkist Richard III, who had usurped it from the rightful heir, the son of Edward IV – Edward V – and supposedly then had Edward and his younger brother, Richard, killed in the Tower of London. Henry’s claim to the throne came through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was descended from the illegitimate line of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford. The Beaufort line had been legitimised but barred from succeeding to the throne.[2] The people of England weren’t entirely convinced that the Princes in the Tower were dead and, even if they were, the Earl of Warwick was another contender with a claim to the throne. Simnel pretended to be the Earl of Warwick, the son of Richard III’s elder brother, George Duke of Clarence.[3] Warbeck pretended to be Richard Duke of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower.[4] Neither were entirely convincing. Continue reading “What were the Aims, Causes and Consequences of the Tudor Rebellions?”

Spotlight – Robert Devereux Earl of Essex


Name: Robert Devereux

Title/s: Earl of Essex / Lord Lieutenant of Ireland / Earl Marshal / Master of the Horse

Birth / Death: 10 November 1565 – 25 February 1601

Spouse: Frances Walsingham 1567-1633

Children: Frances Seymour Duchess of Somerset 1590-1674 / Dorothy Shirley / Robert Devereux 3rd Earl of Essex 1591-1646 (by Frances Walsingham) / Walter Devereux (by Elizabeth Southwell)

Parents: Walter Devereux 1st Earl of Essex 1541-1576 &LetticeKnollys 1543-1634

Siblings: Penelope Blount Countess of Devonshire 1563-1607 / Dorothy Percy Countess of Northumberland 1564-1619 / Walter Devereux / Francis Devereux / Robert Dudley Lord Denbigh

Noble Connections: Essex’s great-aunt was Henry VIII’s second queen, Anne Boleyn, through her sister, Mary. He married the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham the queen’s spy master. His step-father was Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. Continue reading “Spotlight – Robert Devereux Earl of Essex”

Important Tudor Executions on Tower Hill


Memorial on Tower Hill to those executed there.
Memorial on Tower Hill to those executed there.

Very few executions actually took place within the walls of the Tower of London. Most executions took place on the nearby Tower Hill. This post will cover the latter executions. A different post covers the former executions in the Tower itself. The executions on Tower Hill were more of a spectator sport, whereas the Tower dealt with potentially dangerous or controversial executions like Queens of England and prominent nobles.

Edward Stafford 3rd Duke of Buckingham c.1520
Edward Stafford 3rd Duke of Buckingham c.1520

Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham 1521 – Edward Stafford was executed on 17th May 1521. Henry VIII knew that Stafford probably had a stronger legitimate claim to the throne than he did as the Tudor descended from the illegitimate Beaufort line. In 1520 Henry authorised an investigation against him and he was tried before a group of seventeen of his peers, as was customary for the nobility. It is suggested his opposition to the King stemmed from his hatred of Wolsey. Continue reading “Important Tudor Executions on Tower Hill”

The Fall of Thomas Cromwell 1540


Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.
Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.

So I’ve had several people saying that they want to read more about Thomas Cromwell. This is me obliging and trying to widen my field of knowledge (it can never hurt!), but bear in mind I don’t really know a lot about him, so you’re bound to disagree with things. Don’t be afraid to comment and pull me out on something! In this post, I intend to focus solely on his fall from power in 1540. (I apologise for the lack of page numbers for the Hutchinson text, but I’m using an e-book, so it doesn’t have page numbers).

Robert Hutchinson has written a biography of Thomas Cromwell, saying that his arrest was ‘as ruthless as it was sudden’.[i] Cromwell was only made Earl of Essex in April 1540 and at the beginning of June 1540 Henry VIII gave the command for his arrest. So, sudden, it definitely was. From this point of view, we can also see it as ruthless – how did Cromwell go in that short space of time from being Henry’s favourite minister and really high in royal favour, to being accused of undermining Henry’s intention for a religious settlement? Continue reading “The Fall of Thomas Cromwell 1540”

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