The Tower of London

Famed as the ultimate penalty for traitors, heretics and royalty alike, being sent to the Tower is known to have been experienced by no less than 8,000 unfortunate souls. Many of those who were imprisoned in the Tower never returned to civilisation and those who did, often did so without their head! It is hardly surprising that the Tower has earned itself a reputation among the most infamous buildings on the planet.

There have, of course, been other towers. Practically every castle ever built has consisted of at least one; indeed, even by the late 14th century, the Tower proudly boasted no less than 21. Yet even as early as the 1100s, the effect that the first Tower had on the psyche of the local population was considerable. The sight of the dark four-pointed citadel – at the time the largest building in London – as it appeared against the backdrop of the expanding city gave rise to many legends, ranging from the exact circumstances of its creation to what went on within its strong walls. In ten centuries what once consisted of a solitary keep has developed into a complex castle around which the history of England has continuously evolved. So revered has it become that legend has it that should the Tower fall, so would the kingdom.

The Ravens' Legend

Mentioned prominently in the Crown Jewels Conspiracy, the legend of the ravens is a real one. The account of Charles II’s astronomer complaining about the ravens is believed to have occurred. Whether it did or not, the observatory was moved from the White Tower to Greenwich. Though the first records of ravens kept purposely at the Tower only dates from around 1880, there are earlier stories, most notably concerning the executions of Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey, of ravens being among those observing the horrible events.

Unlike today, ravens were common in England in the Middle Ages. They were undoubtedly attracted to the Tower due to the regular number of executions that occurred there and the castle’s general condition. Interestingly, another story suggests large numbers of ravens scavenged the ruins of London following the Great Fire!

In light of the stories, today a minimum of six ravens are housed inside the Inner Ward.

List of Executions
* Unless otherwise stated, every execution took place on Tower Hill

1388. Simon Burley, Sir John Beauchamp and Sir John Berners were all beheaded for supporting Richard II against the appellants. Sir John Salisbury was hanged, possibly at Tyburn.
1397. Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel, was beheaded.
1440. Richard Wyche was burned at the stake for Lollardy.
1462. Lord Aubrey de Vere, John Montgomery, Sir William Tyrell, Sir Thomas Tuddenham and John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford were all executed in February for conspiracy against the Yorkists.
1470. John Tiptoft, 4th Earl of Worcester, was beheaded in retribution for his behaviour when Constable of the Tower.
1475. John Goose was burnt at the stake for Lollardy.
1483. Baron William Hastings was illegally beheaded somewhere in the Tower’s inner ward on the orders of Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Sir George Browne was beheaded later that year for supporting a proposed invasion led by Henry Tudor.
1484. John Smith, Stephen Ireland, Robert Ruffe and William Davey were all executed in February on charges of treason. That same year, Sir Roger Clifford was beheaded, and William Collingbourne hung, drawn and quartered, both for favouring the cause of Henry Tudor.
1488/89. John Ashley and two unnamed accomplices were beheaded on being found guilty of treason.
1491. Sir Robert Chamberlain was beheaded for plotting against the king.
1495. William Daubeny was beheaded in consequence of his support of Perkin Warbeck. That same year, Captain John Belt was beheaded for the same reason while Sir William Stanley lost his life for his tacit support.
1497. James Touchet, Lord Audley was beheaded for leading a rebellion in Cornwall.
1499. Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, was beheaded due to his pretender status.
1502. Sir James Tyrell was beheaded for his role in helping Edmund de la Pole and for allegedly offering to surrender Guisnes Castle to the French. The same charges were levelled against Sir John Wyndham.
1510. Edmund Dudley and Sir Richard Empson were beheaded in August on charges of extortion.
1513. Edmund de la Pole, 8th Earl of Suffolk, was executed due to his status as a Yorkist pretender.
1521. Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, was beheaded for his potential pretender status, claiming lineage from Edward III’s fifth son, the Duke of Gloucester.
1531. Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd was beheaded on a series of crimes that included attempts at creating a potential alliance with Scotland.
1532. Five unnamed people were hanged on charges on coin manipulations.
1535. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More, previously Lord Chancellor, were beheaded for refusing the Oath of Supremacy.
1536. George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford was beheaded on 17 May, along with fellow noblemen Sir Henry Norris, Sir Frances Weston, Sir William Brereton and lowly musician Mark Smeaton on crimes of adultery with the queen. Two days later, Anne Boleyn was beheaded in a private ceremony close to Tower Green.
1537. Lord Thomas Darcy of Templehurst was executed in June.
1538. Sir Edward Neville was beheaded for his Catholic faith.
1539. Sir Henry Pole, Baron Montague and Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter were beheaded in January for preaching Catholic sermons and high treason, respectively. Sir Nicholas Carew was beheaded in March for his Catholicism. Sir Thomas Dingley was found guilty of conspiracy with Robert Aske. Sir Adrian Fortescue was beheaded for sedition in July.
1540. Thomas Cromwell, previously 1st Earl of Essex was executed along with Lord Hungerford the day Henry VIII married Catherine Howard. The official crime was treason.
1541. Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was hacked to death on Tower Green. The official reason was implication with her family’s role in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Lord Leonard Grey, Viscount Grane was beheaded after being found guilty of high treason in Ireland.
1542. Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford were despatched on Tower Green for crimes concerning the queen’s adultery and pre-material sex life.
1547. Henry Howard, 15th Earl of Surrey, was beheaded in January for coveting the throne.
1549. Baron, Thomas Seymour, uncle of the king, was despatched in March after being found guilty of high treason.
1552. Edward Seymour, 9th Earl of Hertford, was beheaded in January for plotting the murder of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland. Sir Miles Partridge, Sir Ralph Vane and Sir Thomas Arundel were all hung (Arundel beheaded) on 26th February for implication in the Dudley treason.
1553. John Dudley, 16th Earl of Northumberland, was beheaded in August, along with Sir Thomas Palmer for their roles in bringing Lady Jane Grey to the throne.
1554. Lord Guilford Dudley and Lady Jane Grey were both executed on 12th February: Dudley on Tower Hill; Jane in a private ceremony among the inner ward. Later that month, Jane was followed by her father Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, for his role in the rebellion. Sir Thomas Wyatt and Lord Thomas Grey were also executed for leading the same rising.
1556. Henry Peckham and John Daniel were hung in June for initiating a plot to rob the Exchequer.
1573. Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was beheaded in June for his role in at least one Catholic plot against Elizabeth.
1595. Five unnamed youths were hung and disembowelled in July for causing a disturbance.
1601. Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, was beheaded in the inner ward in February on charges of treason. His father-in-law Sir Christopher Blount joined him on Tower Hill for his role in the Essex rebellion.
1615. Lieutenant of the Tower Sir Gervais Elwes was hung in November for his role in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury.
1631. Mervin Touchet, Lord Audley was beheaded for commanding one of his servants to rape his wife.
1641. Sir Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, was despatched in May on Tower Hill as the likely fall guy in parliament’s struggles with Charles I.
1644. Sir Alexander Carew was beheaded two days before Christmas for offering to surrender Plymouth to the royalists.
1645. Sir John Hotham senior and his son of the same name were beheaded for verbal attacks on parliament and their support of Charles I, respectively. Archbishop William Laud followed later that month on similar charges of treason.
1650. Colonel Eusebius Andrews was beheaded in April for his involvement in a plot against Cromwell’s New Model Army.
1651. Brown Bushell was beheaded for offering Scarborough Castle to the royalists. In August one Christopher Love and an accomplice by the name of Gibbons were beheaded for his plot against Cromwell’s Commonwealth.
1654. John Gerrard was executed in July for plotting against Cromwell. Nine days later Don de Pantaleon SA followed him on accusations of murder.
1658. Sir Henry Slingsby and Sir John Hewitt both lost their lives in June for attempting to raise an army for Charles I.
1662. Sir Henry Vane was executed in June on charges of treason.
1680. William Howard, Viscount Stafford was executed on 29th December on being found guilty of securing – or transferring – funds for a secret Catholic army intent on murdering Charles II.
1683. Algernon Sidney was beheaded three weeks before Christmas on accusations he was embroiled in the fictitious Popish Plot.
1685. James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, was drastically beheaded – after several attempts – in May for leading a rising against his uncle, James II. His head was later reattached for his portrait to be taken.
1687. Richard Cane was hung for desertion.
1696. Sir William Parkyns was beheaded in April after being charged of plotting the murder of William III.
1697. Sir John Fenwick was executed in January after also being privy to a plot to assassinate the king.
1700. Michael van Bergen, Katherine Truerniet and Gerhardt Dromelius were all despatched at East Smithfield – also known as Little Tower Hill – after being found guilty of the murder of one Oliver Norris.
1716. Sir James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater and William Gordon, Viscount Kenmure were both beheaded in February for their roles in the Jacobean Rising the previous year.
1743. In July of that year, Corporals Samuel and Malcolm Macpherson, as well as Private Farquhar Shaw, were all lined up against the south-east wall of the royal chapel of St Peter ad Vincula and despatched by the 3rd regiment of the King’s Guards on crimes of leading a desertion.
1746. General William Boyd, Earl of Kilmarnock and Arthur Elphinstone, Baron Balmerino were both beheaded in August for their roles in the second Jacobean Risings. In December they were followed by Charles Radclyffe, Earl of Derwentwater.
1747. Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat was beheaded in April for his support of the Jacobite Risings.
1760. Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl of Ferrers, was hanged at Tyburn in May.
1780. William McDonald, Charlotte Gardiner and Mary Roberts were all hung at Tyburn in July for their roles in the Gordon Riots.
1914. Carl Hans Lody was despatched by firing squad in November in the East Casements rifle range on crimes of being a German spy.
1915. German spy Karl Friedrich Muller was shot in the Tower rifle range in June. Haike Marinus Petrus Jansson and Wilhelm J Ross were executed in the Tower ditch a month later on similar charges. The same was true of Ernst Waldemar Melin in September, Fernando Buschman, George Traugott Breekow and Irvin Guy Ries in October and Albert Meyer in December, all of whom were found guilty of being German spies and shot in the Tower rifle range.
1916. Ludovico Zendery Hurwitz was the final spy of the war to be shot at the rifle range in April that year.
1941. Josef Jacobs was despatched by firing squad in August in the East Casements rifle range.

List of Escapees

1101. Ranulf Flambard
1322. Roger Mortimer, later Earl of March
1320s. Thomas Berkeley
1378, Robert Hauley and John Shakell
1413. Sir John Oldcastle
1422 and 1424. Sir John Mortimer (twice)
1463. Sir Humphrey Neville
1534. Alice Tankerville
1552. Brian O’Connor
1553. Thomas Stucley
1560. William Ogier
1561. Sir Anthony Fortescue
1597. Father John Gerard and John Arden
1610. William Seymour, 2nd Duke of Somerset
1643. Daniel O’Neill
1644. Hugh Oge MacMahon
1642 or 48. Edward Martin, Dean of Ely
1648. Arthur, Lord Capell, recaptured and later beheaded
1648. Michael Hudson
1651. George Cooke
1651. Lt General John Middleton
1652. Lt General Sir Edward Massey
1652. Thomas Dalyell
1654. Major General Robert Montgomerie
1654. Thomas – possibly John – Tudor
1658. Colonel Mallory
1660. John Lambert
1665. William Lea
1673. William Arton – or Alton
1690. Lord Edward Griffin
1691. Major General William Dorrington
1694. Colonel John Parker
1695. Donough MacCarthy, 4th Earl of Clancarty
1715. William Maxwell, 5th Earl of Nithsdale
1722. Christopher Layer
1736. George Kelly
1916. Subaltern