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Famous people imprisoned at the Tower of London
The Tower of London was begun by William the Conqueror in 1066 when he had a wooden palisade built where the White Tower now stands. In 1097 this was rebuilt in stone and over the following centuries successive monarchs extended and improved the fortress.

In earlier centuries it has been used as a Royal residence in times of conflict but its most famous function was that of a prison and place of execution for people deemed a particular threat to the monarch and therefore the State.

Tower of London
Tower of London

Here is a selection of some of the famous prisoners held in the Tower from 1101 until 1941, listing when they were held there, why and what happened to them.

12th Century 15th Century 18th Century
13th Century 16th Century 19th Century
14th Century 17th Century 20th Century


12th century

Rannulf Flambard
Bishop of Durham
1100-1101 The first known prisoner of the Tower of London was sent there by Henry I. Flambard was also the first known to have escaped. Using sheets tied together, he climbed from his window in the White Tower and fled the stronghold.


 

13th century

Hubert de Burgh
Earl of Kent

1232-1234 Being regent to Henry III made de Burgh one of the most powerful men in the land but this didn't stop him being imprisoned in the Tower when he fell out of favour with Henry in 1232. De Burgh spent two years in the Tower and although he was eventually pardoned he never regained his former power after his release.
   
Gruffydd ap Llewelyn
Fighter for Welsh independence
1241-1244 Also using sheets tied together, he attempted to escape, this time from the roof of the White Tower. The sheets didn't hold and he fell to his death.
   
John de Balliol
King of Scotland
1296-1299 Captured by the English in Scotland in 1296, he was kept prisoner in different castles throughout England including three years in the Salt Tower. He was eventually released into exile to his estates in France.


 

14th century

William Wallace
Fighter for Scottish independence
1305 Betrayed to the English, he was imprisoned in the Tower for a short time before being executed at Smithfield.

Portrait
   

David II
King of Scotland

1346-1356 Captured at the Battle of Neville's Cross in Durham. He was kept in the White Tower until he was moved to make way for an even more important prisoner, King John II of France. Moved to Odiham Castle in Hampshire, he was released on payment of a ransom the following year.
   
John II
King of France
1356-1360 Captured at Poitiers by Edward the Black Prince. He was imprisoned with his son in the White Tower. He was also kept for a time at other locations including at Hertford Castle in Hertfordshire.

He was eventually released so that he could return to France to raise his own ransom, his son being kept in England as part of the agreement. But while in France his son escaped, breaking the agreement, and so John, seeing his honour at stake, returned to London in 1364, dying there the same year.
   
Richard II
Plantagenet King of England
1399 Deposed by the future Henry IV, he was imprisoned in the White Tower. Forced there to abdicate, he was then transferred to Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire where he was murdered the following year.

Portrait


 

15th century

James I
King of Scotland
1406-1408 Captured at sea en route to France when his ship was blown ashore at Flamborough Head, Yorkshire. When his father, Robert III, heard of his capture he reputedly died of a broken heart.

The new Scottish King was kept in the Tower for two years before being moved to
Nottingham Castle. He stayed there until 1424 when he was released on payment of a ransom.
   
Charles, Duke of Orleans 1415-1440 Captured at the Battle of Agincourt. After a quarter of a century of imprisonment at the Tower and other castles he was released on payment of a ransom.
   
Henry VI
Lancastrian King of England
1465-1470
1471
Deposed twice by the future Edward IV he was imprisoned both times in the Wakefield Tower where in 1471 he was murdered while at worship.

Portrait
   

Margaret of Anjou
Wife of Henry VI

1471-1476 Captured at the Battle of Tewkesbury. After being kept at the Tower and other castles she was released on payment of a ransom and went into exile in France.

Portrait
   
George, Duke of Clarence
Brother of Edward IV
and Richard III
1477-1478 He was imprisoned in the Bowyer Tower by his brother for treason. He was murdered at the Tower the following year, reputedly by being drowned in a barrel of wine.
   
Edward V
Uncrowned Yorkist King of England
1483 Imprisoned by his uncle, the future Richard III, on the death of his father Edward IV. He was murdered with his brother, probably in the Garden Tower which has since become known as the Bloody Tower.

Portrait
   

Duke of York
Brother of Edward V

1483 Imprisoned by his uncle, the future Richard III, on the death of his father Edward IV. He was murdered with his brother, probably in the Garden Tower which has since become known as the Bloody Tower.


 

16th century

Sir Thomas More
Politician
1534-1535 Imprisoned by Henry VIII in the Bell Tower for high treason. He was publicly beheaded on Tower Hill. He is buried in the Tower's chapel, St Peter ad Vincula.

Portrait
More in the Tower
   
Anne Boleyn
Second wife of Henry VIII
1536 Imprisoned in the Lieutenant's House by her husband Henry VIII for treason (adultery). She was beheaded using the French method of a sword instead of an axe. She was one of seven people who were given private executions on Tower Green, away from the eyes of the public. She is buried in the Tower's chapel, St Peter ad Vincula.

Portrait
   
Thomas Cromwell
Politician
1540 Imprisoned by Henry VIII. He was publicly beheaded on Tower Hill.

Portrait
   
Catherine Howard
Fifth wife of Henry VIII
1542 Imprisoned by her husband Henry VIII. She was one of seven people who were beheaded on Tower Green, away from the eyes of the public. She is buried in the Tower's chapel, St Peter ad Vincula.

Portrait
   
Anne Askew
English Protestant
1546 The only woman to have been tortured at the Tower, Anne Askew had been arrested under the charge of heresy, a result of her openly preaching her Protestant beliefs. She was imprisoned in the Cradle Tower and burnt at the stake at Smithfield.
   
Thomas Cranmer
Archbishop of Canterbury
1553-1554 Imprisoned in the Bloody Tower he was taken to Oxford where he was burnt at the stake in 1556.

Portrait
   
Guilford Dudley,
Husband of Lady Jane Grey
1553-1554 Executed on the same day as his wife, he was publicly beheaded on Tower Hill. He is buried with her in the Tower's chapel, St Peter ad Vincula.
 
Lady Jane Grey,
Uncrowned Tudor Queen of England and Ireland
1553-1554 Deposed and imprisoned in the Lieutenant's House by Mary I. Executed on the same day as her husband, she was one of seven people who were beheaded on Tower Green, away from the eyes of the public. She is buried in the Tower's chapel, St Peter ad Vincula.

Portrait
   
Princess Elizabeth
Future Elizabeth I, Tudor Queen of England and Ireland
1554 Imprisoned in the Bell Tower for eight weeks by her sister Mary I. She was transferred to Woodstock in Oxfordshire.

Portrait


 


17
th century

Guy Fawkes
Gunpowder Plot conspirator
1605-1606 Arrested during the night of November 4-5th whilst preparing to blow up Parliament during the next day's royal opening by the Catholic James I. He was kept at the Queen's House before being executed in front of the Houses of Parliament in January the following year.

Portrait
   
Sir Walter Ralegh
Adventurer
1592
1603-1616
1618
In 1592 Ralegh was imprisoned in the Brick Tower by Elizabeth I for marrying one of her ladies-in-waiting without her permission. In 1603 James I accused him of treason and had him imprisoned for a second time, this time in the Bloody Tower.

He spent the next 13 years there during which he wrote his bestselling "History of the World". He was released in 1616 to command an expedition to find gold in South America, but when this failed he was rearrested on his return to England in 1618 and put once more in the Tower. The same year he was beheaded in front of the Houses of Parliament.

Portrait
   
William Laud
Archbishop of Canterbury
1640-1645 Impeached by Parliament for being a threat to Protestantism he was imprisoned for treason and publicly beheaded on Tower Hill.

Portrait
Sir William D'Avenant
Poet Laureate
1650-1652 A supporter of the executed Charles I, D'Avenant was on his way from exile in France to the USA when his ship was captured in the English Channel. He was imprisoned in the Tower but later released.

Portrait
   
William Penn
Quaker founder of Pennsylvania
1668-1669 Imprisoned for publishing controversial religious pamphlets. He was released after seven months.

Portrait
   
Samuel Pepys
Diarist
1679 Imprisoned for maladministration in his job at the Admiralty. He was released after six weeks.

Portrait
   
Duke of Monmouth
Son of Charles II
1685 Imprisoned after being defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor. He was publicly beheaded on Tower Hill. He is buried in the Tower's chapel, St Peter ad Vincula.

Portrait
   
Judge Jeffreys
Judge
1688-1689 Notorious for his severity at dealing with opponents to the crown he was especially active during the reign of the Catholic James II. He dealt brutally with supporters of the Monmouth Rebellion in the West Country in what became known as the "Bloody Assizes".

But when James II fled the country after the Glorious Revoluton of 1688 Jeffreys was imprisoned in the Tower, dying the following year in the
Bloody Tower due to excessive alcohol consumption.
   
Duke of Marlborough
Soldier and future commander
of British forces during the War of the Spanish Succession and victor at Blenheim in 1704
1692 Imprisoned for suspicion of harbouring sympathies for the exiled James II. He was released after six weeks.

Portrait


 

18th century

Sir Robert Walpole
Future Prime Minister
1712 Imprisoned for corruption. He was released after six months and from 1721 until 1742 became Britain's first and longest ever serving "Prime Minister" under George I.

Portrait
   
Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat
Scottish Jacobite
1746-1747 Captured after the Battle of Culloden he became the last ever man to be beheaded in Britain when he was publicly executed on Tower Hill. He is buried in the Tower's chapel, St Peter ad Vincula.

Portrait
   
Flora Macdonald
Scottish Jacobite
1746-1747 Imprisoned for helping Charles Stuart "Bonnie Prince Charlie" <Portrait> escape to the continent after defeat at the Battle of Culloden. She was released the following year.

Portrait
   
Henry Laurens
American leader and president of the Continental Congress
1781-1782 Captured on a diplomatic mission en route to the Netherlands during the American War of Independence. He was released in exchange for the British General Cornwallis who had surrendered at Yorktown in Virginia, the defeat which heralded the end of British involvement in America.


 

20th century

Rudolf Hess
Deputy to Adolf Hitler
1941 Captured in Scotland where he had flown to from Germany. He was kept in the Lieutenant's House for four days before being transferred to Mytchett Place, a country house in Surrey.


 

Notes

1. The Lieutenant's House was also known as the Queen's House or the King's House depending on who was on the throne.

2. The last execution at the Tower of London took place in 1941 when a spy was executed by firing squad.


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