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Locked up in the Tower of London

Annabel’s uncle is a Beefeater, one of the special Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London! He’s always telling her about the famous prisoners the Tower of London has held over the years so she’s taking us on a tour to check the place out for ourselves!

Locked Up in The Tower of London is made possible with support from Historic Royal Palaces.

The Secrets of Hampton Court Palace

Join Zac as he explores Hampton Court Palace, the home of Henry VIII! He’s travelling back in time to witness some of the palaces most famous events for himself.

Both Locked Up in The Tower of London and The Secrets of Hampton Court Palace were made possible with support from Historic Royal Palaces.
10 Episodes
Guy Fawkes is famous to this day – or should that be infamous – for his attempt to blow up Parliament with gunpowder, on November 5th 1605. He was a tall striking-looking man, with a big red bushy beard.  He could speak Spanish because before the plot, he had lived in Spain working with others who wanted a Catholic monarch to take the English throne. He was part of a group of 13 conspirators, led by a man called Robert Catesby. It was Catesby’s idea to try to blow up Parliament, and in doing so they hoped to kill the King and members of the Royal family, who were Protestant, and not Catholic. Guy Fawkes’s job was to guard the 36 barrels of Gunpowder that had been stored in a basement under the House of Lords.  That’s where he was discovered on the night of the plot. An anonymous letter had been sent to a nobleman, sending a warning of the conspirators’ plans. We still don’t know who sent the letter, but it meant the plot could be foiled, and Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators arrested. At first, he gave a false name – John Johnson, and even when his true identity was revealed, he did not show any signs of being sorry for his crimes, nor did he seem afraid of his fate, which was to be executed at the Tower of London on 31st January 1606. You might think that it’s the plot itself that we celebrate on the 5th November each year, but that’s not quite true – it was King James’s  decree that celebrations would be held because the plot was NOT successful! See for privacy information.
The Tower of London has imprisoned several monarchs, and one of the first was John Balliol, who became King of Scotland in 1292.  Whilst the Scottish and English Kings and Queens had lived peacefully side by side, Balliol and his Scottish noblemen were not always loyal to the English.  They were angry about laws made to tax and control them, and some of the nobles even made alliances with the French, who were sworn enemies of the English at that time. This betrayal was too much for King Edward of England.  He decided to take action and invade Scotland.   On 12th March 1296 the English troops invaded Berwick, a Scottish town.  After a bloody battle the Scottish refused to surrender and so the troops ransacked the remaining population and John Balliol was captured and stripped of his Royal Badge.  He became a prisoner of the Tower but because he had been a King, he was permitted to bring a large amount of staff. These included: Lord William de Froxfelde, his chaplain Richard, his pantler Henry, his butler John Clyware and Gantroni, his treasurers Henry, the clerk of the chaplain Peter, his barber Adam, his tailor (a second tailor named Robert also appears later) Three grooms Two esquires A carter A miller A cook and a porter A laundress An officer of the saucery A hunter and his page Two greyhounds Ten running dogs At least two horses (his own palfrey and one horse belonging to Alexander de Balliol ‘who at present has rebelled’!) Although his treatment seems like luxury compared to many of the poor prisoners, it would not have felt particularly luxurious to a King who was used to his own palaces, and who answered to no one. After his release he was able to live out his days in France. See for privacy information.
William Maxwell was part of a group who didn’t think that the English King, George I, nor his descendants, had the right to the English throne.  They had schemes to restore their chosen monarchs to the throne. When captured, some of the group, many of whom were noblemen were released, but William Maxwell was singled out for harsh treatment.  He was to be executed as a warning to others who would plot against the King. On hearing the news about her husband’s fate, Lady Nisdale was desperate to travel to London to see George I to beg for her husband’s life.  It was a tough journey with heavy snows blocking the roads.   She begged the King so much that she had to be dragged from the room.  It was no use. The King was determined that William Maxwell would hang. She hadn’t given up.  In a letter to her sister, which was later found, her plot was described.   One evening, close to the time of execution, two women accompanied Lady Nisdale to the Tower.  She told the guards that she meant to petition the King one last time to release her husband, and that her serving maids wanted to bid farewell to their master. This was a lie. The first maid went in to William’s cell with Lady Nisdale and left a spare cloak.  The second maid then went into the cell. She had an extra set of clothing on and left this, taking the spare cloak to cover herself before she disappeared into the crowd in the bustle of the Tower. Lady Nisdale convinced her husband to put the spare clothing on, and putting on makeup, and covering his face and beard with a handkerchief, he pretended to be the second maid, and was able to sneak past the guards. Lady Nisdale then pretended to talk to her husband to make it seem that he was still in the cell, before making her own escape.  She instructed the guards that he must not be disturbed because he was praying and they believed her – buying her time for her and William to get clear of the guards. A cloak used in this amazing escape survives to this day, and William Maxwell was lucky to be one of the few prisoners to ever manage to evade the fate of a Tower execution. See for privacy information.
Hugh Draper was a wealthy innkeeper from Bristol.  He was popular with his neighbours and was quite an ordinary person.  So how did he end up in the Tower of London? Hugh was interested in sorcery and the occult – these are theories about magic. Just like today, in centuries past, some people have found it interesting to think that they might be able to predict the future or cast spells.  The difference being that it was thought people practicing magic could cause serious harm to others – and if those people were rich or powerful you could expect a harsh punishment. Hugh, with some other men, was accused of casting spells against two members of Queen Elizabeth’s Court and he was imprisoned in 1560.  Although he pleaded his innocence and had burned all his magic books, whilst he was in the tower he carved many strange symbols on the walls of his cells, which you can see to this day if you visit the Salt Tower. The strangest thing of all is that, other than his imprisonment, we don’t know what happened to Hugh Draper after that.  There are no records of his release, or his execution, and there is no trace of or where he went, or how he lived out his life.  The Lieutenant of the Tower, William Warner was thought to be too lenient to prisoners, and had previously disobeyed his orders so perhaps he allowed Hugh Draper to escape… or perhaps Hugh cast a spell and really did disappear in a puff of smoke! See for privacy information.
In Locked Up in The Tower, Annabel’s uncle is a Beefeater, one of the special Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London! He’s always telling her about the famous prisoners the Tower of London has held over the years so she’s taking us on a tour to check the place out for ourselves! One of the most famous prisoners was Sir Walter Raleigh, an explorer from the 17th Century, who is best known for making tobacco popular in England, especially in the royal court. In 1594 Raleigh heard of a “City of Gold” in South America, and set off to find it. He wrote a book about his travels and this made many people believe in the legend of “El Dorado.” He’s one of the Tower of London’s most famous prisoners, having spent several years within the walls, after offending two monarchs, Queen Elizabeth, and later King James 1st.  He displeased the Queen for secretly marrying one of the ladies of the court, and so was first imprisoned and punished by a stay of several weeks.   The next monarch, King James 1st did not like Raleigh and believed he was plotting to remove him from the throne. This earned Sir Walter a ten year stay at the tower, where he was joined by his family and was allowed a degree of freedom to write and study. The legends of El Dorado persisted and so in 1616 he was released to try to find the mythical country one last time.  The expedition failed, not least as the country did not exist, and, on his travels, Sir Walter nearly started a war with the Spanish – a terrible crime which led to his final imprisonment, and eventual execution by beheading in 1618. See for privacy information.
One of the people who spent some time in the Tower of London was Alice Wolf, a common thief who murdered two merchants – Jerome de George and Chales Benche with her husband John Wolf on 16th January 1533.  Alice had enticed the men onto a boat, whereupon they were killed and their bodies thrown overboard. Alice and her husband then went to the merchant’s lodgings and stole a large amount of money. At first John Wolf was the only one to be imprisoned, and in fact briefly let free. But it was decided the pair were too dangerous and so they were both locked up again in the Tower. Alice was held in chains as it was thought “if the diabolic woman should escape we shall be in great jeopardy” She managed to charm the servants of the Lieutenant to get her shackles removed, and to receive better treatment. Bawde, one of the servants, helped her to escape by bringing ropes – but the pair of them were captured and returned to the tower. Bawde would be executed for his part, after being tortured in “A Little Ease” John Wolf was in a different part of the tower. It’s thought he knew of his wife’s plans, although he himself did not manage to escape.John and Alice were sentenced to “hanging by chains” in March 1534 – a gruesome method of execution where the prisoners were hung at low tide at The Pirate’s Gallows in Wapping – where the rising water would drown them. This was the punishment for crimes committed on water. Locked Up In The Tower is supported by Historic Royal Palaces See for privacy information.
One of the people that was really important to the Tower of London was Ranulf Flambard, a Bishop from Normandy who was a trusted advisor to William 1 and King William Rufus. He lived from 1060 to 1128. He helped create the Doomsday book and took care of many affairs for the monarch. His special skill was in raising money for the King. He destroyed churches and got rid of Bishops, took payments from landowners and the church and even out of the pockets of soldiers who thought they were going to war. He was responsible for the building of the White Tower, which fortified the original structure on the site of the Tower of London.  He also was responsible for the building of Durham Cathedral and Westminster Hall, and London’s very first stone bridge. He had a flamboyant personality – was charismatic and popular, although probably quite “marmite” – as the monarch changed opinion changed too.  The new King, Henry 1st declared him to have obtained the money raised by criminal means and by extortion – that’s threatening people.   He was the first prisoner of the Tower although he didn’t stay for long – he arranged for a barrel of wine to be sent with a rope inside, with which he made his escape, after one year. He travelled to France and lived to a comparatively old age, with his large family. Locked Up In The Tower is supported by Historic Royal Palaces See for privacy information.
One of the most famous prisoners of the Tower of London was Anne Boleyn – a Queen! Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, his second wife, in January 1533. In advance of Anne’s coronation, they stayed at the Tower of London where the royal apartments had been refurbished and other lodgings rebuilt or erected for the joyous occasion. Anne proved unable to provide Henry with the son he so desperately sought and by the end of 1535 he was anxious to marry again.  On 2nd May 1536 Anne was arrested at Greenwich. She was accused of adultery with four men and incest with her own brother George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford. In committing these crimes she was also accused of plotting the King’s death and indirectly damaging his health when news of her adultery was made known to him.  Anne was tried in the Lieutenant’s lodgings on the site of today’s Queen’s House. Her judge was her own uncle, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk.   Anne always denied the charges against her and the evidence was circumstantial to say the least! Nonetheless, guilty verdicts were passed. Her brother and the other four men were executed on Tower Hill on 17th May. Anne’s behaviour in her lodging became increasingly hysterical as she saw all hope fade. Letters sent by the Constable of the Tower, Sir William Kingston, to Henry’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell, record that she would kneel down and weep, and in the “same sorrow” fall into a great laughing.   By the day of her execution, 19th May 1536, Anne had regained her composure.  A letter from Kingston describes how he found the Queen that morning: “I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck”, then she put her hands about it, laughing heartily.  I have seen many men and also women executed, and that they have been in great sorrow, and to my knowledge this lady hath much joy in death”. On the scaffold Anne accepted her fate with equanimity “I come hither to accuse no man, not to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good a sovereign lord” The Queen granted a special dispensation to be beheaded with a sword, an expert French executioner had been brought in, who carried out his task quickly and effectively. The prayer book taken with her to the scaffold survives at Hever Castle.  In it, Anne wrote “Remember me when you do pray, that hope doth lead from day to day”.  The Queen was buried in the Chapel royal of St Peter ad Vincula, close to the scaffold site on Tower Green. Locked Up In The Tower is supported by Historic Royal Palaces See for privacy information.
Rudolf Hess was the “Deputy Fuhrer”, second in command to Hitler. He claimed to live a simple life, although he was plagued with health problems – some of which never really existed; it’s thought he had health anxiety. There are prescriptions for sedative medicine, issued to him when he was in the Tower. He was also quite spiritual and believed in signs and superstitions. He is recorded as saying his plan to go to England was an idea he had in a dream. He was behind the laws which treated certain citizens differently – for example preventing Jewish people from marrying and saying where they could and could not live and work. Hess could authorise the death or interment of anyone – and he was responsible for many hundreds of thousands of people being sent to camps or executed. It’s not known why he flew to England but he claimed it was to broker peace – it’s unlikely that Hitler knew of his plans, because when he found out he said that Hess should be shot on sight. Germany was struggling at this time, with strikes and poverty and so it’s possible that an agreement was sought by some German officers, but Hitler would never give up. The Tower of London was used in the second world war to house prisoners of war, especially those who were very high-profile, or thought to be particularly dangerous. Josef Josek was a German spy who was executed by firing squad at the Tower, the last execution to be held at the Tower. Locked Up In The Tower is supported by Historic Royal Palaces See for privacy information.
One of the Tower of London's most famous prisoners was John Gerard, a Jesuit from a northern Catholic family. After studying on the Continent, he returned to England as a Jesuit priest, moving between families until he was captured in 1594. At this time it was against the law to practice the Catholic faith, by order of the King. He was imprisoned first in standard prisons in London – in the Counter, then the Clink prison in Southwark, and finally (in 1597) in the upper chamber in the Salt Tower at the Tower of London. He was tortured but refused to renounce his faith or implicate his friends.  The warders were reasonably kind to him when he wasn’t being tortured, and allowed his friends to send him food, clothing and other items! He asked to be sent oranges which he shared with the guard, and used the juice of the oranges to write secret letters – the juice is invisible but when heated it appears… Having made his plan, he escaped from the Tower in October that year and hid out in houses around England until 1606.  He’s helped us learn a lot about imprisonment, torture and escape from the Tower as he wrote an autobiography in 1609! Locked Up In The Tower, supported by Historic Royal Palaces See for privacy information.
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