Old and New London: Volume 2. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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Cæsar's Tower—Bishop Gundulfus—Henry III.'s Buildings—The White Tower—Free Access to the Tower claimed by London Citizens—Flambard's Escape—Prince Griffin—Thomas de Beauchamp—Charles of Orleans-Lord Cobham—Wyatt and his Cat—Murder of the Young Princes—The Earl of Surrey—Pilgrims of Grace—Lady Jane Grey—Sir Thomas Wyat—The "White Rose of York."
The Tower has been the background of all the darkest scenes of English history. Its claims to Roman descent we have before noticed. There can be little doubt that the Roman wall that ran along Thames Street terminated in this fort, within which bars of silver stamped with the name of Honorius have been discovered. Our Saxon chapter showed that Alfred unquestionably built a river-side stronghold on the same site. Alfred has been long forgotten within the Tower walls, but the name of Caesar's Tower Shakespeare has, by a few words, kept alive for ever. This castle—for centuries a palace, for centuries a prison, and now a barrack, a show-place, a mere fossil of the sterner ages—was commenced, in its present form, by Gundulf, the Bishop of Rochester, for that stern represser of Saxon discontent, William the Conqueror. This Benedictine friar, who had visited the Easle built the White Tower, the first St. Peter's Church, and the Hall (or Jewel) Tower. He lived to the age of eighty, and saw the Tower completed.
The next great builder at the Tower was Henry III., who erected Corfe, Conway, and Beaumaris Castles. He added to the tall square White Tower the Water Gate, the great wharf, the Cradle Tower, the Lantern (where his bedroom and private closet were), the Galleyman Tower, and the first wall of the enceinte. He adorned the St. John's Chapel, in the White Tower, with frescoes, and gave bells to St. Peter's Church on Tower Green. In the Hall Tower, from which a passage led through the Great Hall into the Lantern, he built that small private chapel before whose cross, says Mr. Dixon, Henry VI. was afterwards stabbed.
The embankment and wharf which the Water Gate commanded was Henry's greatest work. The land recovered from the river, and much exposed to the sweep of the tide, was protected by piles, enclosed by a front of stone. The London citizens rejoiced when, in 1240, the Water Gate and wall both fell, under the action of high spring-tides. The next year the Barbican fell again, and people said that the spirit of St. Thomas à Becket had appeared, and, indignant at the infringement of public rights, had struck down the walls with a blow of his crucifix. After wasting more than 12,000 marks, the king at last secured a firm foundation, and reared the Water Gate as it now stands. The saints obnoxious to the walls raised against London citizens were propitiated by an oratory called the Confessor's Chapel, the martyr giving his name to the gate itself.
The whole wharf, 1,200 feet long, lay open to the Thames, except a patch of ground at the lower end, near the Iron Gate, which led to the Hospital of St. Catherine the Virgin, where sheds and magazines were built (now the docks). To the river-front there were three stairs. The Queen's Stairs, where royalty landed, lay beneath the Byeward Gate and the Belfry, with a passage by bridge and postern through the Byeward Tower into Water Lane. The Water-way passed under St. Thomas's Tower to the flight of steps in Water Lane, and was generally known as Traitor's Gate, the entrance for prisoners. The Galleyman Stairs (seldom used) lay under the Cradle Tower, by which there was a private entrance to the royal quarters.
Under the Plantagenet kings, says Mr. Dixon, the Tower warden claimed a right, very obnoxious to the London citizens, of putting "kiddles" or weirs filled with nets in front of the Tower Wharf, and, indeed, in any part of the Thames. For sums of money any one could buy licences of the Tower wardens to set kiddles in the Thames, Lea, and Medway with nets that stopped even the smallest fish. Ceaseless were the complaints of this intolerable injustice, till Richard I. surrendered the Tower rights on religious grounds, for the salvation of his soul and those of his ruthless ancestors; but the warden soon reasserted his privileges.
By Magna Charta all kiddles were to be removed from the Thames. The warden still disregarding these claims of the citizens, the Sheriff of London, on one occasion, made a raid, and by force of arms destroyed all the obnoxious nets. In the reign of Henry III. this quarrel assumed a more serious aspect. Enraged at the kiddles placed in the Medway, Jordan de Coventry and a body of armed men proceeded to Yantlet Creek, near Rochester, carried off thirty kiddles, and made prisoners of five men of Rochester, seven men of Strood, and three men of Cliff, with nine other malefactors, and threw them into Newgate. The Rochester men resolved to bring the case before the king, and it was tried at his palace at Kennington. The justiciar who attended for the Crown was a collateral ancestor of Sir Walter Raleigh. The mayor's defence for putting the Kentish men into gaol was that they were infringing the rights of the City, lessening the dignity of the Crown, and, according to an express clause of Magna Charta, incurring the ban of excommunication. The judges agreed with the mayor, and the prisoners were each fined £10, and the captured nets were burnt with rejoicings in Westcheape.
The White Tower, says the latest chronicler, is
ninety feet high, and from twelve to fifteen feet thick.
It is built in four tiers—the vaults, the main floor,
the banqueting-floor, and the state floor. Each tier
contains three rooms, not counting the stairs, corridors, and small chambers sunk in the solid wall. In
each storey there is a large west room running north
and south the whole length of the tower, an east
room lying parallel to the first, and a cross chamber
at the south-west corner. The rooms are parted
by walls never less than ten feet thick. On each
angle of the tower is a turret, one of which is round.
The vaults have no stairs or doors of their own.
Loopholes in the wall let in the damp river air,
but little light. The cross-chamber vault, or Little
Ease, is darker and damper than its two brethren.
There is some ground for belief, says Mr. Dixon,
that Little Ease was the lodging of Guy Fawkes.
On the walls of the vaults are many inscriptions;
amongst them is one of Fisher, a Jesuit priest mixed
up in the Powder Plot. It runs—
"Sacris vestibus indutus,
Dum sacra mysteria
Servans, captus et in
Hoc angusto carcere
That is, "While clad in the sacred vestments, and administering the sacred mysteries, taken, and in this narrow dungeon immured."
Out of the north-east vault a door opens into a secret hole built in the dividing wall. This place has neither air nor light, and is known as Walter Raleigh's cell. Absurd legend!
The main floor consists of two large rooms and the crypt. One of the rooms was a guard-room. The crypt, a lofty room, was used as a prison for three of the Kentish men taken with Sir Thomas Wyat, in Mary's reign. There are two niches in the solid wall, and the largest of these is also called Raleigh's cell, though he was never confined there. Mr. Dixon suggests that it may have been "the secret jewel-room in the White Tower," often mentioned in old records. The long room on the banqueting-floor was a banqueting-hall, and is the only room in the keep which boasts a fireplace. The cross-chamber, the chapel of St. John the Evangelist, occupied two tiers of the Keep. On this tier Bishop Flambard, Prince Griffin, John Baliol, and Prince Charles d'Orleans were confined.
On the state-room floor was the great councilchamber, a lesser hall where the justiciaries sat, and the galleries of St. John's Chapel, from which there was a passage into the royal apartments. The roof is flat, and strong enough to bear the carronades of later times. The largest of the four turrets, built for a watch-tower, was the prison of poor Maud Fitzwalter, King John's victim, and was afterwards used as an observatory by Flamstead, Newton's contemporary.
The Keep, though a palace, was also a fortress, and security, rather than comfort, was what its builder had in view. It had originally only one narrow door, that a single man could defend. One well-stair alone connected the vaults with the upper floors. The main floor had no way up or down, except by the same staircase, which could only be approached through a passage built in the wall. The upper tiers had other stairs for free communication with the council-chamber and the parapets. Thus we still have existing in the White Tower the clearest and most indelible proofs, better than any historian can give, of the dangers that surrounded the Conqueror, and the little real trust he had in the fidelity of those surrounding him.
The second church of St. Peter was built by Edward I. The bills for clearing the ground are still preserved in the Record Office in Fetter Lane. The cost of pulling down the old chapel was fortysix shillings and eight pence.
The Tower, says Mr. W. Dixon, was divided into two parts, the inner and the outer ward. The inner ward, or royal quarter, was bounded by a wall crowned by twelve towers. The points of defence were the Beauchamp Tower, the Belfry, the Garden Tower (now called the Bloody Tower), the Hall Tower, the Lantern, the Salt Tower, the Broad Arrow Tower, the Constable Tower, the Martin Tower, the Brick Tower, the Flint Tower, the Bowyer Tower, and the Devilin Tower. The inner ward contained the Keep, the Royal Galleries and Rooms, the Mint, the Jewel-house, the Wardrobe, the Queen's Garden, St. Peter's Church, the open Green, and in later days the Lieutenant's house. In the Brick Tower the master of the ordnance resided; in the Lantern turret lights were kept burning at night as river signals.
The outer ward contained some lanes and streets below the wall and works which overlooked the wharf. In this ward stood the Middle Tower, the Byeward Tower, the Water Gate, the Cradle Tower, he Well Tower, the Galleyman Tower, the IronGate Tower, Brass Mount, Legge Mount, and the overed ways. Into it opened the Hall Tower, afterwards called the Record Tower, and now the Jewel-house. Close by the Hall Tower stood the Great Hall, the doors of which opened into this outer court. Spanning the ditch on the Thames side was the Water Gate, or St. Thomas's Tower, and under the building was the wide arch so often depicted by painters, and called Traitor's Gate.
Into the outer ward, says Mr. Dixon, the Commons had always claimed a free access. On stated occasions the right of public entry to all citizens was insisted on with much ceremonial. The aldermen and commoners met in Barking Church on Tower Hill, and chose six sage persons to go as a deputation to the Tower, and ask leave to see the king, and demand free access for all people to the courts of law held within the Tower. They were also to beg that no guard would close the gates or keep watch over them while the citizens were coming or going, it being against their freedom for any but their own guard to keep watch during that period. On the king granting their request the six messengers returned to Barking Church, reported progress, and sent the citizen guard to keep the ground. The Commons then elected three men of standing to act as spokesmen and presenters. Great care was taken that no person should go into the royal presence who had sore eyes or weak legs, or was in rags or shoeless. Every one was to have his hair cut close and his face newly shaved. Mayor, aldermen, sheriff, cryer, beadles, were all to be clean and neat, and every one was to lay aside his cape and cloak, and put on his coat and surcoat.
The exact site of the two courts of justice Mr. Dixon has clearly made out. The King's Bench was held in the Lesser Hall, under the east turret of the Keep. The Common Pleas were held in the Great Hall by the river—a hall long since gone, but which stood near the Hall Tower, to which it gave a name. It seems to have been a Gothic edifice in the style of Henry III. After Henry VI.'s death, Hall Tower was turned into a Record Office.
One of the first prisoners ever lodged in the Tower that Gundulf built for William the Conqueror was Ralph Flambard, Bishop of Durham, the very treasurer and justiciar who had helped by his cruel greediness to collect the very money by which it was built. On the death of William Rufus, this prelate was seized by the Commons and thrown into the Tower, with the consent of Henry I. He was not kept very close, and one night, plying the Norman soldiers who guarded him with wine, Flambard, who had had ready a coil of rope sent to him in a wine-jar, let himself down from a window sixty-five feet from the ground, and escaped safe to France.
In the north-east turret of the White Tower King John imprisoned Maud, the beautiful daughter of Robert Fitzwalter, Lord of Baynard's Castle, whose untimely fate we have noticed in a former chapter. In the banqueting hall, Edward I. lodged John de Baliol, whom he had stripped of his crown at the battle of Dunbar. It was from this campaign that Edward returned with the coronation-stone of Scotland, on which our own monarchs have ever since been crowned. Baliol, according to existing records, seems to have lived in state in the White Tower, having his chaplain, tailor, pantler, barber, clerk of the chapel, chamberlain, esquires, and laundress in attendance; and his dogs and horses in the stables waiting his commands, at the cost of seventeen shillings a day. He remained a prisoner 189 days, after which he was given up to the Papal nuncio, John de Pontissera, on condition of residing abroad. Fifty years after another regal Scotchman, David, son of the brave Robert Bruce, was taken prisoner and brought here by Queen Philippa, at the battle of Neville's Cross, while Edward was away chastising France.
Every new effort to widen England brought fresh prisoners to the Tower, and next came to Flambard's old room, Griffin, Prince of Wales, whom his brother David had surrendered to the English king. Resolute to escape, he tore up his bed-clothes, knotted them into a rope, and dropped ninety feet from the leads of the White Tower. Being a heavy man, however, the rope unluckily snapped, and he was killed in the fall. His son remained a prisoner, but was afterwards released, returned to Wales, and fought against Edward I. Slain in battle, his head was brought to London, and fixed on the turret of his old prison.
Edward II. and his cruel queen, Isabella, kept court in the Tower; and here the Prince Joanna de la Tour was born. John de Cromwell, the Constable, was dismissed from office for having let the royal bed-chamber become so ruinous that the rain penetrated through the roof. Here, in Edward's absence, Isabella fell in love with Roger Mortimer, a Welsh chief, who was then in prison in the Tower. By the connivance, no doubt, of the guilty wife, Mortimer escaped by the kitchen chimney, and down the river, to France. His death and the king's barbarous murder at Berkeley Castle were the result of these fatal days of dalliance in the White Tower.
The Beauchamp Tower, on the west wall of the fortress, derives its name from Thomas de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, son of the earl who fought at Crecy and Poictiers. He was appointed by the House of Commons governor to the young king, Richard II., and his first act, in company with Gloucester, Arundel, and other great barons, was to march on London, and seize and put to death the young king's mischievous favourite, Sir Simon de Burley, whose greediness and insolence had rendered him hateful to the nation. This act of stern justice Richard never forgave; and directly he came of age the earl was banished to his own Warwick Castle, where he built Guy's Tower. The king resolved on obtaining despotic power. The earl was invited to dine with the king, and was seized as he was leaving the royal table, where he had been welcomed with special and treacherous hospitality. The king's uncle, the good Duke of Gloucester, was decoyed from his castle of Plasley by the king himself, then hurried over to Calais, and suffocated by his guards. Lord Arundel, another obnoxious lord, was also executed by this royal murderer. Beauchamp, in his trial before the House of Peers, pleaded a pardon he had obtained under the Great Seal for all offences. The Chief Justice declared the pardon had been repealed by the king. Ultimately the earl's castles, manors, and estates were all forfeited, and he was sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered. The king, however, afraid to put to death so popular a man, banished him to the Isle of Man, and then recalled him to his old prison in the Tower. Two years later, on the accession of Henry IV., the earl was released. He was buried in the nave of St. Mary's Church, Warwick, which he had built.
The next captive in the banqueting-hall of the White Tower was that poet-warrior, Charles of Orleans, grandson of Charles V. of France, and father of Louis XII., a gay knight, whom Shakespeare has glanced at in the play of Henry V. He had been a rival of Henry (when Prince of Wales) for the hand of Isabella of Valois, the widow of Richard II. She had married him, and died a year after in childbirth. The young prince shortly after, for reasons of state, was induced to marry a second wife, Bona, daughter of Bernard, Count of Armagnac. At Agincourt Charles was found sorely wounded among the dead, and carried to England: he was placed in the White Tower, where a ransom of 300,000 crowns was placed upon his head; for the knights of those days, however chivalrous, drove hard bargains with their prisoners. Orleans was twenty-four years old then, and he remained in the Tower five-and-twenty years. He had a daughter by Queen Isabella, and it was to Henry's interest, as he had married a French princess, and claimed the throne of France, that Orleans should die without having a son. Charles spent the long years of his imprisonment looking out on the Thames and the hills of Surrey, and writing admirable French and English verses, which still exist. After Henry's death, and when Joan of Arc had recovered nearly the whole of France, the ransom was raked together, and Charles was released. He then married a third wife, Mary of Cleves, and by her had the son who afterwards became the invader of Italy, Louis XII.
The reign that saw Charles of Orleans enter the White Tower also saw Sir John Oldcastle, "the good Lord Cobham," brought to the Beauchamp Tower. This Kentish nobleman, who had fought bravely in France and in Wales, was a favourer of the Lollard reformers, and a despiser of the monks. He accepted Wycliffe's doctrines, denied the real presence, read the Bible openly, and sheltered Lollard preachers. The great enemy of this bold man was Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had introduced from Spain the savage custom of burning contumacious heretics. Disobeying a citation of the primate, Lord Cobham was sent to the Tower. Before a synod Oldcastle boldly asserted the new doctrines, and was sentenced to be burnt to death. "Ye judge the body," said the old soldier to the synod, "which is but a wretched thing, yet am I certain and sure that ye can do no harm to my soul. He who created that will of His own mercy and promise save it. As to these articles, I will stand to them even to the very death, by the grace of my eternal God."
In the Beauchamp Tower, when the monks spread reports that Cobham had recanted, he issued a bold denial that he had changed his view of "the sacraments of the altar," of which St. Paul had said to the Corinthians, "The bread which we break is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"
The people were deeply agitated, and one October night, four weeks after, a band of citizens broke into the Beauchamp Tower (with or without the connivance of the guards), released Cobham, and carried him safely to his own house in Smithfield. There, defying the primate and the monks, Cobham remained for three months. The Lollards at last, probably urged forward by the primate's spies, agreed to meet, 100,000 strong, in St. Giles's Fields, and choose Lord Cobham as their general. The king, enraged at this, collected his barons, closed the City gates, put a white crusader's cross on his royal banner, rode with his spears into St. Giles's Fields, and dispersed the Lollard party, who were waiting for the good lord. For four years Cobham wandered through Wales and England, with 1,000 marks set on his head. Fisher, a skinner, the leader of the band that released Oldcastle from the Tower, was tried at Newgate, and afterwards hung at Tyburn, and his head stuck on London Bridge. Eventually, after a hard fight, Oldcastle was betrayed in Wales by a Welsh adherent named Powis. He was brought to London, and without further trial, he was burnt in front of his own house, in Smithfield, the first man there burnt for the true faith.
In the old monastic plays this brave and consistent man was always represented as a coward and buffoon. Shakespeare himself, following the convention, named his Falstaff at first Oldcastle; then, probably having his attention drawn by some better-read friend to the injustice done to the memory of a good man and true Protestant, he changed it to Falstaff, unfortunately, another brave soldier of Cobham's period, whom tradition had unjustly slandered. It is a singular fact that a "Boar's Head" in the Borough, not that in Eastcheap, had belonged to the great Falstaff of the French wars. The man who wrote in the epilogue to the Second Part of King Henry the Fourth, the words "Oldcastle died a martyr," says Mr. Hepworth Dixon, "was a Puritan in faith." This dictum we hold, nevertheless, to be extremely doubtful, as nearly all the religious passages in Shakespeare's plays point to a great reverence for Roman Catholic traditions; and surely an honest writer can free a good man from slander without necessarily believing in his doctrines. Moreover, Lord Cobham was a Protestant, but by no means a Puritan, and probably as far apart in belief from the later martyrs of Smithfield as the Lollards were from John Wesley.
There is a pretty tradition connected with the Tower in the time of the Wars of the Roses. Sir Henry Wyatt, of Allington Castle, in Kent, father of the poet, and grandfather of the unfortunate rebel, was imprisoned in the Tower for being a resolute Lancastrian. He was thrown into a cold and narrow tower, where he had neither bed to lie on, sufficient clothes to warm him, or enough food to eat. One day a cat came into his dungeon, and he laid her in his bosom to warm him, "and by making much of her won her love." After this the cat would come several times a day, and sometimes bring him a pigeon. The gaoler dressed these pigeons, without inquiring where they came from. Sir Henry Wyatt after this retained an affection for cats, and was always painted with one by his side. One day, when Wyatt was being tortured with the barnacles, Richard III., who was present, exclaimed with regret, "Wyatt, why art thou such a fool? Thou servest for moonshine in water. Thy master," meaning Henry of Richmond, "is a beggarly fugitive: forsake him and become mine. Cannot I reward thee?" To which Wyatt replied, "If I had first chosen you for my master, thus faithful would I have been to you if you should have needed it. But the earl, poor and unhappy though he be, is my master; and no discouragement, no allurement, shall ever drive me from him, by God's grace."
And now came, in due sequence, Gloucester's murder of the two princes, his nephews, usually said to have been in the Bloody Tower, but the locality of the crime is still uncertain. Bayley, the fullest and best historian of the Tower, thinks it highly unlikely that Gloucester would have sent the two young princes to such a mere porter's lodge as the Bloody Tower—a tower, moreover, which, in an official survey of the reign of Henry VIII., is called the Garden Tower, showing that the popular name is of later date. When sent to what was to be their tomb, Edward V. was twelve, and Richard, Duke of York, was eight. They stood between the Crookback and the crown, but not for long. Their mother was in sanctuary at Westminster. The Protector had already thrown out rumours that the children were illegitimate, and a bishop had been base enough, it is said, to have sworn to a previous secret marriage of the licentious Edward. Lord Hastings, under an accusation of witchcraft, had just been dragged from the council-chamber, and beheaded on a block of timber on Tower Green. Murder followed murder fast, and the word soon went forth for the children's death. Brackenbury, the Governor of the Tower, receiving the order, when on his knees in St. John's Chapel, refused to obey or to understand it. Gloucester, told of this at midnight in Warwick Castle, instantly rose from his bed, and sent Sir James Tyrrell, his Master of Horse, to London, with power to use the keys and pass-words of the Tower for one night. Two dogged ruffians, John Dighton and Miles Forrest, rode at Tyrrell's heels. It is said that one boy had his throat cut, and the other was smothered with a pillow. Tyrrell stood near the gate while the deed was doing, and saw the bodies of the poor children when all was over, then rode back to York to tell Richard. The two murderers, helped by an obsequious Tower priest, carried down the bodies, dug a hole near the gateway wall, and threw them in. They were afterwards re-interred, in a fit of superstition, by Richard, behind a staircase in the Keep. In Charles II.'s time the bones were found under the steps, and removed to a royal tomb in Henry VII.'s Chapel, Westminster Abbey. The last-named king had tried hard to find the bodies, and prove that Perkin Warbeck was not the son of Edward IV.; but the priest who had removed them was dead, and the search was unsuccessful. Sir Thomas More and Lord Bacon both agree that the children were murdered by Richard's command.
The pride and cruelty of Henry VIII., his theologic doubts, and his Bluebeard habit of getting rid of his wives, sent many victims to the Tower. One of the most venerable of these was John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, a determined opponent of the king's marriage with a Protestant beauty. He was imprisoned in the Belfry Tower, on the ground floor of which lived the Lieutenant. Fisher had professed belief in an hysterical Kentish girl, subject to fits, whom the monks had persuaded to utter rhyming prophecies against the divorce of Queen Catherine. The poor maid of Kent, urged forward by the priests, at last went too far, declaring that, if Henry put away his Spanish wife, he would die in seven months, and his daughter Mary would ascend the throne. Such prophecies, when spread among fanatics, are apt to produce their own fulfilment. Henry gave the signal, and in a very short time the monks who instigated the nun, and the nun herself, were in a cart bound for Tyburn. Fisher himself was soon arrested, and browbeaten by Cromwell, who told him he believed the prophecies true because he wished them to be true. Fisher was eighty years old, and might have been spared, had not Paul III. at that very time, unfortunately, and against the king's express command, sent him a cardinal's hat. "Fore God," said Henry, with brutal humour, "if he wear it, he shall wear it on his shoulders." The death-warrant was at once signed. They brought the old man the news that he seemed to have expected, at five a.m. He slept till seven, then rose and donned his bravest suit, for what he called his marriage-day. He passed to the scaffold with the New Testament in his feeble hands. When he opened the book, he read the passage, "This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." A few hours after the old grey head fell on Tower Hill it was spiked upon London Bridge. The room over Coldharbour Gateway, says Mr. Dixon, where the Maid of Kent was imprisoned, was long known as the Nun's Bower.
The poet Earl of Surrey was another of Henry's victims, and he passed from the Tower to die on the block for blazoning the Confessor's arms upon his shield. His father, too, the third Duke of Norfolk, had a narrow escape from the same block, though he was a near relation of Henry, and the uncle of two queens. He was charged £22 18s. 8d. a month, and yet complained of having no exercise and wanting sheets enough for his bed. Luckily for him, Henry expired the very night the warrant for his execution was signed, and he escaped.
The Beauchamp Tower bears on its walls records of earlier prisoners than the duke—abettors of that very Pilgrimage of Grace which he had helped to put down. This last great struggle of English Popery against the Reformation brought many of the old North country families to this place of durance.
The royal decree for putting down monastic houses had, in 1536, set all Yorkshire in a ferment. A vast rabble had armed and threatened to march on London, hang Cromwell, weed the Court of evil councillors, restore Queen Catherine, and revive the religious houses. The pilgrims fastened on their breasts scrolls displaying the five wounds of Christ. Near Appleby a band of these fanatics stopped a lawyer named Aske, who was returning to London from a Yorkshire hunting party, and chose him as their general. Aske determined to make Henry Percy, sixth Earl of Northumberland, the commander-in-chief. Percy, who had been a lover of Anne Boleyn, was the Warden of the East and Middle Marches. The earl was afraid to join them; but the pilgrims demanded the earl's brothers, Thomas and Ingram, in spite of the tears and remonstrances of their mother. York at once surrendered to the 30,000 pilgrims. At Pomfret Castle they enrolled Lord Darcy among their band. At Doncaster Bridge, however, the Duke of Norfolk met the wild rout, and by proffered pardon and promises of the changes they desired, soon broke up the host.
In the meantime lesser rebellions of the same kind prospered for a while. Foremost among the leaders of these were the Bulmers, one of whom had had the command of Norham Castle. Sir John Bulmer brought with him to the camp a dangerous and fanatical woman, named Margaret Cheyne, his paramour, and a bastard daughter of the Duke of Buckingham, whom Henry VIII. had beheaded. When the first pilgrimage failed, and the news came that Cromwell was not disgraced, that no parliament was to be held at York, and that the king would place garrisons in Newcastle, Scarborough, and Hull, the Bulmers, urged on by this wild woman and Adam Sedburgh, Abbot of Jervaulx, and the Abbot of Fountains, resolved on a new pilgrimage. Thomas and Ingram Percy had been deprived of their command in the North by Earl Henry, and were ready for any desperate effort. They defied the king's new lieutenant, and prepared for a fresh outbreak. As Norfolk's army approached, the rebels seized Beverley, and Sir Francis Bigod prepared to fight for the old order of things; but Yorkshire was afraid of the king's power, and a vain attempt on Chillingham Castle, and another on Hull, led to total ruin. A few days more, and the ringleaders were all arrested and packed in the Tower. Aske, Darcy, Bigod, Sir Thomas Percy, the Abbot of Jervaulx, Sir John Bulmer, all perished at Tyburn, and Margaret Cheyne was burnt in Smithfield.
The next prisoners of importance who came to the Beauchamp Tower, the Garden Tower, and the Nun's Bower, were Lady Jane Grey, her young husband, and the ambitious nobles who forced on her the fatal crown to which she was indifferent. The nine days' reign of poor Lady Jane Grey filled the Tower prisons with the Dudleys, who had driven the mild, tender-hearted girl to usurp the crown on the death of Edward VI. With the Queen came Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland; John, the young Earl of Warwick; Lord Robert, already married to luckless Amy Robsart; Lord Ambrose Dudley, a mere lad; Lord Guildford, the weak youth who had married Lady Jane to gratify his father's ambition; and Lord Henry Guildford, his brother. The duke was shut in the Gate House, Lord Ambrose and Lord Henry in the Nun's Bower, Jane herself in the house of the Deputy-Lieutenant, Lord Robert in the lower tier of the Beauchamp Tower, Lord Guildford in the middle tier. In two places, on the north side of his prison, and, in one instance, just above the name of the Abbot of Jervaulx, Guildford carved his wife's name, "Jane."
Lady Jane Grey's claim to the throne arose in this way. Mary, the sister of Henry VIII., on the death of her husband, Louis XII. of France, married her stalwart lover, Charles Brandon, afterwards Duke of Suffolk. She had issue, two princesses, Frances and Eleanor. Frances married Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset, and Lady Jane was the eldest of her three daughters. When King Edward, that precocious boy, died—as some still think, of poison—at Greenwich Palace, Dudley kept his death secret for a whole day, and then sent for the Lord Mayor and the richest aldermen and merchants of London, and showed them forged letters-patent giving the crown to Lady Jane, who had already married his son. The duke's first effort was to seize the Princess Mary, but here he failed; faithful friends had instantly warned her of her danger, and she had already taken flight, to rouse her adherents to arms. Lady Jane was then, against her will, proclaimed queen. She was taken to the Tower from Sion House, and was received as a monarch by crowds of kneeling citizens, her husband walking by her side, cap in hand. She refused, however, to let Guildford be proclaimed king, and the lad cried petulantly at her firmness. Mary's friends fast rising in Norfolk, Dudley was sent against them, with a train of guns and 600 men. As they rode along Shoreditch, the distrusted duke said to Lord Grey, "The people press to see us, but no man cries 'God speed you!'" In London all went wrong. Ridley, Bishop of London, denounced Mary and Popery, but the crowd was evidently for the rightful heiress.
The rebellion was soon over. Dudley could do nothing in Norfolk without more men. The great nobles were faithless to the Queen of Nine Days. The tenth day Mary was proclaimed in Cheap, and in St. Paul's Churchyard. The archers came to the Tower and demanded the keys, which were given up. Grey rushed into his daughter's room, and found Lady Jane sitting, unconscious of her fate, beneath a royal canopy. "Come down, my child," said the miserable duke; "this is no place for you." From a throne the poor girl passed quickly to a prison.
In the middle room of the Beauchamp Tower, where Warwick and his brother Guildford were confined, Lord Warwick, in the dreary hours, carved an emblematic cipher of the family names, which has never yet been accurately read. Two bears and a ragged staff stand in a frame of emblems—roses, acorns, geraniums, honeysuckles—which some folks, Mr. Dixon says, fancy to indicate the initial letters of his kinsmen's names—the rose, Ambrose; the geranium, Guildford; the oak, Robert. Lord Robert (reserved for future greatness) carved in the lower room the plain words, "Robert Dudley." When sent to the upper room (probably after Guildford's death), he carved on the wall his emblem, an oak-branch, and the letters "R. D."
Lady Jane, with her two gentlewomen by her side, spent her time at Deputy Brydges' house, securely guarded, reading the Greek Testament, and mourning for her father's inevitable fate. Norfolk, released from prison, presided in Westminster Hall at the trial of his enemy, Dudley. The Duke, Warwick, and Northampton were condemned to death. Dudley and his son turned Roman Catholics, but failed to avert their doom. Wyat's mad rebellion brought Lady Jane and her foolish husband to the block. On the scaffold she declared her acts against the Queen were unlawful; "but touching the procurement and desire thereof, by me or on my behalf," she said, "I wash my hands thereof in innocency before God, and in the face of you, good Christian people, this day." She refused the executioner's help, drew the white kerchief over her own eyes, and said to the kneeling executioner, "I pray you dispatch me quickly." Kneeling before the block, she felt for it with inquiring hands. As she laid down her fair young head, she exclaimed, "Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!" and the heavy axe fell.
It was while Lady Jane and the Princess Elizabeth were prisoners in the Tower that Wyat's mad rebellion was crushed, and the reckless man himself was locked up in the middle chamber of the Beauchamp Tower. On the slant of the window looking towards the Green can still be seen carved the name of "Thomas Cobham, 1555" (the cousin of the leader of the rebels). The final break-down of Wyat, in his attempt to stop the Spanish match, we have already described in our chapter on Ludgate Hill, where the last throws of the game were played, and we need not recur to it here. The last moments of Wyat are still to be reviewed. Wyat is described as wearing, when taken prisoner, a coat of mail with rich sleeves, a velvet cassock covered with yellow lace, high boots and spurs, and a laced velvet hat. As he entered the Tower wicket, Sir John Brydges, the Lieutenant, threatened him, and said, "Oh, thou villain—traitor; if it were not that the law must pass upon thee, I would stick thee through with my dagger." "It is no mastery, now," said Wyat, contemptuously, and strode on.
In the Tower, out of the moonshine of vanity and display, Wyat for a time faltered. He made a charge against Courtney, son of the Marquis of Exeter, and a descendant of Edward IV.; and even raised a suspicion against the Princess Elizabeth, which Renard, the Spanish Ambassador, used with dangerous effect. Chandos, the Keeper of the Tower, had planned a scene, as Wyat was led to execution, that should draw from him an open accusation of Elizabeth and Courtney. On his way to death he was taken into the Garden Tower, where Courtney lay. The Lord Mayor and the Privy Council were there, Courtney himself was brought in, but Wyat had nothing to allege. On the scaffold Wyat told the people that he had never accused either the Princess or Courtney of a knowledge of the plot; and a priest, eager for fresh victims, reminded him that he had said differently at the Council. "That which I then said, I said," replied Wyat; "that which I now say is true." And the axe fell.
The Courtney mentioned above was nearly all his life a prisoner in the Tower. His father was executed for treason by Henry VIII. On Mary's accession he was released, and seemed for a time to have persuaded himself that she would accept him as a husband. He was made Earl of Devon, and was called by his friends "the White Rose of York." As the Spanish marriage drew near, people began to mention Courtney as a fine husband for Elizabeth, who seems to have really had some youthful liking for the weak, handsome aspirant. On the outbreak of Wyat's rebellion he was again thrown into the Tower. After Mary's marriage, however, he was released and sent abroad. He died suddenly at Padua. On Courtney's death the house of York was represented by the descendants of the Duke of Clarence, Edmund and Arthur, nephews of the Cardinal Pole. For some vague suspicion of encouraging the claim of Mary Queen of Scots to the English throne they were imprisoned for life in the Tower. In the Beauchamp Tower inscriptions by both brothers are still to be seen. Arthur has written, among other inscriptions—
"A passage perilous maketh a port pleasant."
Among the residents of the Tower, in Mary's cruel reign, were Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley. Cranmer, who had refused to fly when Mary marched to London, proved but faint of heart when thrown into the Garden Tower. He had resolved to stay to own his share in the changes which had been made in the days of Edward VI., but the fireless cell soon brought down his courage, and he trembled for his life. There was more of Peter than of Paul about him. The Tower's solitude led the way to his miserable recantation at Oxford. But he revived when Latimer and Ridley came to share his prison, and they searched the Scriptures together for arguments against Feckenham, the Queen's confessor, whom they met daily at the Lieutenant's, where they dined, and whose last argument was the Smithfield fire.
THE TOWER (continued).
Queen Elizabeth's Prisoners in the Tower—The Bishop of Ross at work again—Charles Bailly—Philip Howard—Earl of Essex—Sir Walter Raleigh in the Tower—James I. and the Gunpowder Plot—Guy Fawkes—Father Garnet—Percy—Arabella Stuart—Murder of Sir Thomas Overbury—Felton—Prynne—Strafford and Laud—A Long Roll of Notable Tower Prisoners—The Spa Fields Riots—The Cato Street Conspirators.
And now we come to Elizabeth's prisoners, the Roman Catholic plotters against her throne and life. In a room of the Belfry Tower are the names of the Countess of Lennox and her five attendants. This countess was first cousin to Elizabeth, and married by Henry to the fourth Earl of Lennox. While Elizabeth was proposing Lord Robert Dudley to Mary as a husband, offering, as the condition of her accepting a Protestant husband, to at once appoint Mary heir to the throne, the Countess of Lennox was proposing her son Darnley, a Catholic. Immediately before the latter marriage taking place the countess was sent to the Tower, not to be released till Darnley's miserable death. Lennox himself was assassinated, and the countess, released from the Tower, died poor, and was buried in Westminster Abbey at the Queen's expense.
Of other victims of Mary Queen of Scots the Tower bears traces. One of these was a young Fleming, named Charles Bailly, who was employed by the ambassador in London, John Leslie, the intriguing Bishop of Ross, to carry dangerous letters to Brussels and Madrid, respecting the plots of the Duke of Norfolk. In vain Elizabeth had said to the duke, "Take care, my lord, on what pillow you lay your head." He plotted on till he blundered into the Tower. The Earl of Northumberland collected 10,000 men, in hope to rescue Mary and restore the Catholic religion, and in a few days was a hunted fugitive. Norfolk was released after many lying promises. The Bishop of Ross at once determined on a new effort. A Papal bull was to be launched, deposing the Queen; the Catholic lords were to seize the Tower; Norfolk was to march to Tutbury, rescue Queen Mary, and bring her to London to be crowned. In the meantime he wrote a treasonable book, which was printed at Liege, entitled "A Defence of the Honour of Mary, Queen of Scotland." Bailly, on his return with the book and some dangerous letters referring to Norfolk, was arrested at Dover. The Cobham already mentioned as one of Wyat's adherents, having charge of the prisoner and the letters, and being a Catholic, resolved to befriend the bishop. He therefore sent him the letters to change for others of a more harmless character. Burleigh, however, by a Catholic spy, discovered the truth, and put Charles Bailly to the rack. The plot disclosed led to the instant arrest of the Duke of Norfolk and the Bishop of Ross. In the good Lord Cobham's room Charles has inscribed the following words:—
"I.H.S. 1571. Die 10 Aprilis. Wise men ought circumspectly to see what they do, to examine before they speak, to prove before they take in hand, to beware whose company they use, and, above all things, to whom they trust.—Charles Bailly."
In a prison in the Tower the Bishop of Ross confessed the Norfolk and Northumberland plots, and declared Mary's privity to the death of Darnley. He has left his name carved in the Bloody Tower, with a long Latin inscription, now half erased, Eventually, squeezed dry of all secrets, and full of cramps and agues, he was contemptuously released and sent abroad. Norfolk died denouncing his religion, and begging pardon of the Queen. He was the first political offender who suffered in Elizabeth's reign. Northumberland was executed at York, and left his title to his brother Henry, who perished in the Tower. The new earl soon fell into treason. Misled by Jesuit intriguers, he was waiting for the landing of the Duke of Guise and a Catholic crusade against Elizabeth, when he was thrown into the Tower, where he remained a whole year in the Bloody Tower untried. On Sunday, June 21, 1585, he shot himself as he lay in bed, to prevent the confiscation of his estates. An absurd rumour was spread by the Catholics that the earl was murdered by order of Hatton and Raleigh. Cecil and Raleigh's other rivals did their best to perpetuate such a calumny. A modern historian, in the face of all evidence, has given affected credence to the report.
Another pseudo-Catholic martyr of this reign was Philip Howard, a son of the Duke of Norfolk and Mary the daughter of the Earl of Arundel, a weak intriguing man. He has left in the large room of the Beauchamp Tower this inscription, carved in an Italian hand:—
"The more suffering for Christ in this world, so much the more glory with Christ in the life to come.—Arundell. June 22, 1587."
Arundel was a pervert, and had been captured while on his way to join the army of Philip of Spain. Having lost favour with Elizabeth for having gone over to the Church of Rome, Arundel had despaired of further progress at Court, and had fled to Spain on the very eve of the Armada. By means of bribes paid by his wife, Arundel contrived to have mass celebrated in his cell. For this offence he was condemned to death; but the Queen pardoned the poor fanatic, and he lingered in prison for ten years, at the end of which he died—poisoned, as the Jesuits said; but more probably from the injury he had done his health by repeated fasts.
Of that wilful and unfortunate favourite of Elizabeth, the Earl of Essex, we shall say little here. His story belongs more naturally to another part of our work—the chapter on the Strand, where he lived. His rash revolt we have already glanced at. At the age of thirty-five he laid down his head on the block on Tower Green. He was attended by three divines, to whom he expressed deep penitence for his "great sin, bloody sin, crying and infectious sin," and begged pardon of God and his sovereign. He never mentioned his wife, children, or friends; took leave of no one, not even of those present; and when he knelt down to pray, exhibited considerable agitation of mind.
On James's accession, that great man, yet not without many a stain, Sir Walter Raleigh, became a tenant of the Bloody Tower. He had been imprisoned before by Elizabeth in the Brick Tower, for having seduced Elizabeth Throgmorton, one of her maids of honour.
"A very great part of the second and long imprisonment of the founder of Virginia," says Mr. Dixon, "was spent in the Bloody Tower and the adjoining Garden House, writing at this grated window, working in the little garden on which it opened, pacing the terrace on this wall, which was afterwards famous as Raleigh's Walk. Hither came to him the wits and poets, the scholars and inventors of his time—Jonson and Burrell, Hariot and Pett—to crack light jokes, to discuss rabbinical lore, to sound the depths of philosophy, to map out Virginia, to study the shipbuilder's art. In the Garden House he distilled essences and spirits, compounded his great cordial, discovered a method (afterwards lost) of turning salt water into sweet, received the visits of Prince Henry, wrote his political tracts, invented the modern war-ship, wrote his 'History of the World.'"
Raleigh was several times in the Tower; but many vaults and cells pointed out by the warders in absurd places—such as the hole in Little Ease, a recess in the crypt, a cell in the Martin Tower, and one in the Beauchamp Tower—were never occupied by him. After the seduction of his future wife, Raleigh was placed in the Brick Tower, the residence of Sir George Carew, Master of the Ordnance, and his own cousin, and was released upon his marriage. As a first step towards peace with Spain, James I., on his accession, imprisoned Raleigh in the Bloody Tower. The pretext for his seizure was his aiding Lord Cobham, the brother-in-law of Cecil, in a plot to raise Arabella Stuart to the throne. Cobham, clinging to life with the baseness of Claudio, in Measure for Measure, accused Raleigh of complicity, and then retracted. A report was spread that Raleigh had tried to stab himself while sitting at the Lieutenant's table. He remained a prisoner for fourteen years. His wife and son were allowed to live at the Tower, where her husband and his three poor servants lived on five pounds a week. He was at last, from poverty, obliged to part with his faithful friend, Thomas Hariot, whom he had sent to Virginia in 1584, and whose mathematical discoveries Descartes is said to have stolen.
During this long imprisonment, Raleigh was allowed to use a hen-roost in the garden near the Bloody Tower as a place for distilling and for chemical experiments. There he made balsams and cordials, and occupied himself with many scientific inquiries. When increased suspicions fell on Raleigh, he was deprived of this still-room, and his wife and two children (for a second son had been born since his imprisonment) were sent from the Tower. He then became so ill from the chill of the cell that he was allowed to live in the Garden House, which had been the still-room where he studied. Here he discovered a cordial still used by doctors; here he discoursed of naval battles with Prince Henry, who, after one of these visits, cried out to his attendants, "No man but my father would keep such a bird in a cage." Here he finished the first volume of his "History of the World," assisted, it is said, by Ben Jonson and other scholars. Here, bit by bit, King James stripped him of houses and lands, including Durham House and Sherborne Castle.
After his release and unsuccessful voyage to seek for gold in Guiana, Raleigh returned to the Tower, and was placed in a poor upper room of the Brick Tower. He had at first pleasant rooms in the Wardrobe Tower. But Spain had now resolved on his death, and James was ready to consent. His enemies urged him in vain to suicide. The morning he died, Peter, his barber, complained, as he dressed his master to go to the scaffold, that his head had not been curled that morning. "Let them comb it that shall have it," answered Raleigh.
In a chamber of the house of the Lieutenant of the Tower, looking out on the Thames, several oak panels bear inscriptions, some of them probably written by King James, to record the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot; for in this chamber Guy Fawkes was first examined by Cecil, Nottingham, Mountjoy, and Northampton. Two of the inscriptions run thus:—
"James the Great, King of Great Britain, illustrious for piety, justice, foresight, learning, hardihood, clemency, and the other regal virtues; champion and patron of the Christian faith, of the public safety, and of universal peace; author most subtle, most august, and most auspicious:
"Queen Anne, the most serene daughter of Frederick the Second, invincible King of the Danes:
"Prince Henry, ornament of nature, strengthened with learning, blest with grace, born and given to us from God:
"Charles, Duke of York, divinely disposed to every virtue:
"Elizabeth, full sister of both, most worthy of her parents:
"Do Thou, all-seeing, protect these as the apple of the eye, and guard them without fear from wicked men beneath the shadow of Thy wings."
"To Almighty God, the guardian, arrester, and avenger, who has punished this great and incredible conspiracy against our most merciful Lord the King, our most serene Lady the Queen, our divinely disposed Prince, and the rest of our Royal House; and against all persons of quality, our ancient nobility, our soldiers, prelates, and judges; the authors and advocates of which conspiracy, Romanised Jesuits, of perfidious, Catholic, and serpent-like ungodliness, with others equally criminal and insane, were moved by the furious desire of destroying the true Christian religion, and by the treasonous hope of overthrowing the kingdom, root and branch; and which was suddenly, wonderfully, and divinely detected, at the very moment when the ruin was impending, on the 5th day of November, in the year of grace 1605—William Waad, whom the King has appointed his Lieutenant of the Tower, returns, on the ninth of October, in the sixth year of the reign of James the First, 1608, his great and everlasting thanks."
Fawkes was confined in a dungeon of the Keep. He would not at first disclose his accomplices, but, after thirty minutes of the rack, he confessed all. It is not known who first proposed the mode of destruction by powder, but Fawkes, a pervert, who had been a soldier, was selected as a fitting worker-out of the plan. To the last Fawkes affirmed that when the conspirators took oath in his lodgings in Butcher's Row, Strand, Father Gerard, who administered the sacrament, was ignorant of the purpose of their oath. Fawkes, with Keyes, Rookwood, and Thomas Winter, were drawn on hurdles to Palace Yard, and there hung and disembowelled. Digby, Robert Winter, Grant, and Bates were hung near Paul's Cross.
Father Garnet was found hiding at Hendlip Hall, in Worcestershire. He was at first confined in the Keep, then in a chamber on the lower tier of the Bloody Tower. When it was said to him, "You shall have no place in the calendar," "I am not worthy of it," he replied, "but I hope to have a place in heaven." In the Tower, Garnet was persuaded by a spy to converse with another priest in an adjoining cell, and their conversations were noted down by spies. He confessed that in Elizabeth's time he had declared a powder plot to be lawful, but wished to save as many as he could. Garnet's servant, Little John, in fear of the rack, stabbed himself in his cell. On the scaffold before St. Paul's, Garnet asserted the virtue of Anne Vaux, with whom it is certain he had carried on an intrigue, and hoped the Catholics in England would fare no worse for his sake.
Another Tower prisoner in this reign was the Earl of Northumberland, a patron of science. His kinsman, Thomas Percy, had been deep in the plot, and was the man who hired the cellar where the barrels of powder were laid. He was allotted a house in the Martin Tower, at the north-east angle of the fortress, afterwards the Jewel House, where Colonel Blood made his impudent dash on the regalia. There he remained for sixteen years, pacing daily on the terrace which connected his rooms with the Brick Tower and the Constable's Tower, and which still bears his name. A sun-dial fixed for him on the south face of the Martin Tower, by the famous astronomer Hariot, is still to be seen there. Accused of wishing to put himself at the head of the English Catholics, he was fined £30,000, deprived of all his appointments, and sentenced to imprisonment for life. He spent his time in mathematical studies, and kept Hariot by his side. He was a friend of Raleigh, and was visited by men of science. He was at last released by the intercession of his beautiful daughter Lucy, who had married Hay, a Court favourite, afterwards Earl of Carlisle.
Nor must we forget that fair prisoner, Arabella Stuart, a kinswoman of James, who was sent to the Tower for daring to marry her relation, William Seymour, who was also of royal descent. Seymour escaped to France, but she remained five years in the Tower, in neglect and penury, and died at last, worn out with pining for freedom, her mind a wreck.
The murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in the Tower is one of the darkest of the many dark pages in the reign of James I. It was the last great crime committed in the blood-stained building where so many good and wise men had pined away half their lives. Overbury, a poet and statesman of genius, was the friend of the king's young Scotch favourite, Carr. When a handsome boy he had been injured in a tilt, and had attracted the king's attention. James, eager to load his young Ganymede with favours, wedded him to the divorced wife of Lord Essex, a beautiful but infamous woman, whose first marriage had been conducted at Whitehall with great splendour, Inigo Jones supplying the scenery, and Ben Jonson, in beautiful verse, eulogising the handsome couple in fallacious prophecies. Carr ruled the king, and Overbury ruled Carr. All went well between the two friends, who had begun life together, till Overbury had exerted himself to prevent Carr's marriage with the divorced Lady Essex. The lady then resolved on his death. She tried to bribe assassins and poisoners, and, all these plans failing, the king was persuaded to send him as an envoy to Moscow. Overbury refusing to go, was thrown into the Bloody Tower. Here Lady Essex exerted all her arts to take away his life. An infamous man, named Sir Gervaise Helwyss, was appointed Lieutenant of the Tower, and a servant of Mrs. Turner, the infamous poisoner (mentioned in our chapter on Paternoster Row), placed as keeper in the Bloody Tower. Poisoned jellies and tarts were frequently sent to Overbury by Lady Essex in the name of Carr, and poisons were mixed in almost everything he took. Yet so strong was the poet's constitution, that he still bore up, till a French apothecary was sent to him, who administered medicines that soon produced death. The marriage of Lady Essex and Carr, now made an earl, soon took place, and was celebrated with great splendour at Whitehall. The Earl of Northampton, who had aided Lady Essex in this crime, died a few months afterwards, and all was for a time hushed up. In the meantime Overbury's friends had printed his fine poem of "The Wife" (the model of virtue held out for his friend's example), and five editions of the poem had roused public attention. Just at this time, a boy employed in the Tower by the French apothecary who gave Overbury his coup de grâe, fell sick in Flanders, and confessed his crime to the English resident. Gradually the murder came out. The Lieutenant of the Tower half confessed, and the criminals were soon under arrest. Hands were also laid on Carr and his wife, Mrs. Turner, Weston, the man placed in charge of Overbury, and an apothecary, Franklin. The nation was infuriated and cried for vengeance. There were even rumours that the same wretches had poisoned Prince Henry, the heir to James's throne. Helwyss was hung in chains on Tower Hill; Mrs. Turner at Tyburn; Franklin and Weston were contemptuously put to death. The trial of the greater culprits followed. The countess pleaded guilty, and was condemned to death; and in Carr's case the chief evidence was suppressed. Eventually the earl and countess were pardoned. They left the Bloody Tower and the Garden House, and lived in seclusion and disgrace. The only child of these murderers was the mother of that excellent Lord William Russell who was afterwards beheaded.
Mention of every State prisoner whom the Tower has housed would in itself fill a volume. We must therefore confine ourselves to brief notices of the greater names. Nor must his innocence prevent our mentioning, after the murderers of Overbury, that patriarch of English philosophy, Lord Bacon, who, on his sudden fall from greatness, when Buckingham threw him as a sop to appease the people, was confined here for a period which, though short, must have been one of extreme mental agony. He was only imprisoned one day in the Lieutenant's house. "To die in this disgraceful place, and before the time of His Majesty's grace, is even the worst that could be," said the great man, whose improvidence and whose rapacious servants had led him to too freely accept presents which his enemies called "bribes."
But we must hasten on to the reign of Charles, when Felton struck that deadly blow in the doorway at Portsmouth, and Charles's hated favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, fell dead. Felton, an officer whose claims had been disregarded, had stabbed the duke, believing him to be a public enemy. He was lodged in the Bloody Tower, and as he passed to his prison the people cried, "The Lord bless thee!" The Parliament Remonstrance against the duke, which Felton had read in the "Windmill" Tavern, in Shoe Lane had first roused him to the deed. The turning-point of Charles's fate was the committal of the nine members—Holles, Eliot, Selden, Hobart, Hayman, Coryton, Valentine, Strode, and Long—to the Tower. They had carried resolutions against the tax by tonnage and poundage proposed by the king. These men, so active against Laud and despotic power, were lodged in the Lieutenant's House. Two were at once pardoned; the others were heavily fined. The ringleader, Eliot, refused to retract, died in confinement, resolute to the last, and he was buried in the Tower.
Then came to the Tower that tough, obstinate lawyer, Prynne, who, for an attack on theatres, was put in the pillory, fined £5,000, and had both his ears shorn off. After four years' imprisonment Prynne again attacked Archbishop Laud's Popish practices, and was again punished. But the tide was now turning. Presently through the Tower gates passed Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, that dark bold spirit that had resolved to brave it out for despotism, and in the attempt was trodden under foot. Charles gave him up to the people, in one of his feeble and vain attempts to conciliate those whom he had wronged. When there was fear Strafford might be torn to pieces on his way to the scaffold, he said, "I care not how I die, by the executioner or by the people." He stopped under Laud's window for his blessing, but Laud, in the act of blessing, swooned. Four years after Laud also perished on Tower Hill. As he went to the scaffold, says his last historian, his face turned from purple to ghastly white. A poor, narrowminded, cruel man, it is a pity his enemies did not send him over to France, and there leave him to trim altars and arrange processions to his heart's content.
The Tower prisoners of Charles II.'s time were men of less mark and of less interest. The first offender was James Harrington, the author of that political romance, "Oceania," the publication of which Cromwell had been too magnanimous to resent. He eventually became insane, and after several changes of prison, died and was buried next Raleigh, in St. Margaret's Church. In the same foolish revelling reign the Duke of Richmond got shut up in the Tower for three weeks, being compromised for proposing marriage to Frances Terese, one of the king's mistresses (the "Britannia" of our English halfpence). The Duke eventually eloped with her, but he survived the marriage only a few years. In 1665 Baron Morley was sent to the Tower for stabbing a gentleman named Hastings in a street fight, with the help of a duellist named Captain Bromwich. He pleaded benefit of clergy, and peers being, at that period of our history, allowed to murder without punishment, he was acquitted.
The half-mad Duke of Buckingham seems to have been fond of the Tower, for he was no less than five times imprisoned there. The first time (before the Restoration), Cromwell had imprisoned him for marrying the daughter of Fairfax. The last time, he accompanied Shaftesbury, Salisbury, and Wharton, for opposing the Courtier Parliament. Penn, the eminent Quaker, was also imprisoned in the Tower in Charles's reign, nominally for writing a Unitarian pamphlet, but really to vex his father, the Admiral, who had indirectly accused the Duke of York of cowardice at sea, on the eve of a great engagement with the Dutch. Stillingfleet at last argued the inflexible prisoner into Christianity, and he was released.
When, on the discovery of the Rye House Plot, Lord William Russell was arrested, he was sent to the Tower first, and then to Newgate. "Arbitrary government cannot be set up in England," he said to his chaplain, "without wading through my blood." The very day Russell was removed from his prison, and Charles II. and James visited the place, the Earl of Essex, in a fit of despair at being mixed up in the Rye House Plot, or from fears at his own guilt, killed himself with a razor. He was imprisoned at the time in lodgings between the Lieutenant's house and the Beauchamp Tower.
Lord Stafford (one of the victims of Titus Oates and his sham Popish Plot) was imprisoned in the Tower, and perished under the axe on Tower Hill. When the rabble insulted him, Stafford appealed to the officials present. Sheriff Bethel brutally replied, "Sir, we have orders to stop nobody's breath but yours."
Another victim of this reign was the famous Algernon Sidney, a stern opponent of Charles, but no plotter against his person. The wretch Jeffreys hounded on the jury to a verdict. Sidney's last words in court were a prayer that the guilt of his death might not be imputed to London. On his way to Tower Hill, he said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and I die for the old cause."
Another turn of Fortune's wheel, and James, Duke of Monmouth, the fugitive from Sedgemoor, was found half-starved in a ditch, and was brought to his prison lodgings at the Lieutenant's house. He proved a mere craven, offered to turn Catholic to save his life, and talked only of his mistress. Tenison, the Vicar of St. Martin's Church, refused him the sacrament, and the last words of the prelates in attendance were, as the axe fell, "God accept your imperfect repentance."
James fled, and the next State prisoner was that cruel and brutal myrmidon of his, Judge Jeffreys. Detected in the disguise of a sailor, he was taken, and with difficulty saved from the enraged mob. He was discovered at a low ale-house in Wapping by a man whom he had once bullied and frightened in court. He spent his time in the Bloody Tower drinking, of which he at last died. He was at first buried near the Duke of Monmouth, then removed to St. Mary Aldermary. Our readers will remember the cruel jest played upon Jeffreys in the Tower, by a man who sent him a barrel, apparently full of Colchester oysters, but which when opened proved to contain only a halter.
In 1697, when Sir John Fenwick was in the Tower for a plot to assassinate King William, his friends, afraid he would "squeak," interceded that he should be beheaded. It was certainly very unlike a gentleman to swing, but he was so proud of being beheaded, that he grew quite tractable when the request was granted.
The Scotch Jacobite lords were the next visitors to the Tower. When the white cockade was trodden into the mire, the leaders of the chevalier's followers soon found their way there. The Earl of Derwentwater (about whom so many north-country ballads exist) and Lord Kenmure, the grandson of Charles II., perished on Tower Hill. Derwentwater's last words were, "I die a Roman Catholic. I am in perfect charity with all the world; I thank God for it. I hope to be forgiven the trespasses of my youth by the Father of infinite mercy, into whose hands I commend my soul." Kenmure, who had expected a pardon, came on the scaffold in a gay suit. "God bless King James," he cried, as he knelt to the block. Lord Winton filed the bars of his window, and escaped.
Lord Nithsdale also escaped, thanks to his brave wife. His escape is one of the prettiest romances connected with the Tower. Failing to obtain mercy from George I., who shook her from him, she struck out, in her love and despair, a stratagem worthy of a noble wife. With the help of some female friends and a useful Welsh servant girl, she disguised her husband as her maid, and with painted cheeks, hood, and muffler, he contrived to pass the sentries and escape to the house of the Venetian agent. The next morning the earl would have perished with his comrades.
In 1722, Pope's friend Atterbury, the Jacobite Bishop of Rochester, was thrown into the Tower, and, with ferocious drollery, it was advised that he should be thrown to the Tower lions. Layer, a barrister, one of his fellow-conspirators, was chained in the Tower and soon after executed. The unlucky '45 brought more Scottish lords to the Tower; the Earl of Cromartie, the Earl of Kilmarnock, Derwentwater's younger brother, Lord Balmerino, and that hoary old rascal, Simon, Lord Lovat, whom Hogarth sketched on his way to London, as he was jotting off the number of the rebel clans on his mischievous old fingers. Cromartie was spared: of the rest, Kilmarnock died first; then the scaffold was strewn with fresh sawdust, the block new covered, a new axe brought, and the executioner re-clad, by the time old Balmerino appeared, calm and careless, as with the air of an old soldier he stopped to read the inscription upon his own coffin. At Lovat's execution, in 1747, a scaffold fell with some of the spectators, and the doomed man chuckled and said, "The mair mischief, the mair sport." "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori," said the greatest rascal of his day; and then declaring himself a true Catholic, Lovat died, the last State criminal beheaded on Tower Hill. A stone with three rude circles in St. Peter's Church marks the grave of the three Scotch Jacobites.
Of Wilkes's imprisonment in the Tower we shall have occasion to speak elsewhere.
Then came other days, when Pitt frightened England with rumours of revolutionary conspiracies. The leaders of the London Corresponding Society, and the Society for Constitutional Information, were seized in 1794—the Habeas Corpus Act being most tyrannically suspended. Among the reformers then tried on a charge of constructive treason were Horne Tooke, the adversary of Junius, Thelwall, and Hardy, a shoemaker (secretary of the Corresponding Society). Erskine defended Hardy, who was acquitted; as also were Home Tooke and Thelwall, to the delight of all lovers of progress.
Sir Francis Burdett's story will come more naturally into our Piccadilly chapter, but a few facts about his imprisonment in the Tower will not be out of place. In 1810 he was committed by a Tory House of Commons for a bold letter which he had written to his constituents on the case of John Gale Jones, a delegate of the Corresponding Society, who had been lodged in Newgate for a libel on the House. Burdett denied the power of the House to order imprisonment, or to keep men in prison untried.
The year 1816 brought some less noble prisoners than Sir Francis to the Tower. The Spa Fields riots were followed by the arrest of Watson, a bankrupt surgeon, Preston, a cordwainer, and Hooper, a labourer, all of whom were members of certain socialist clubs.
The desperate but foolish Cato Street conspirators of 1820 were the last State prisoners lodged in the Tower, which Mr. Dixon seems to think was thus robbed of all its dignity. The cells that have held Ings, the butcher, and Davidson, the negro, can never be perfumed sufficiently to hold noble traitors or villains of mediaeval magnitude. Thistlewood, that low Cataline, who had served in the army, was lodged in the Bloody Tower, as the place of honour, Brunt in the Byeward Tower, Ings and Davidson in the Water Gate, and Tidd in the Seven-Gun Battery.