A brief survey of its history
The Normans, headed by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, defeated the English at Hastings in 1066, which led to the founding of many castles at strategic sites as a way to keep England under control. One of the most important of those was the Tower of London.
The construction of the White Tower began in 1078 with Gundulf and probably ended by 1100. Several extensions have been added along the time, especially during the 12th and 13th centuries throughout the reigns of Richard the Lionheart, Henry III and Edward I. In 1841, a fire destroyed most of the Tower and renovations had to be carried out, mainly with the financial help of the Duke of Wellington. The Tower was restored between 1870 and 1880 by Antony Salvin and John Taylor. It was also damaged during the World Wars but then repaired which allowed its reopening.
Purposes along time
At the beginning, it was used as a royal residence. After 1100 it also became a prison guarding famous prisoners during the 16th and 17th century. In the 13th century, the Royal Menagerie opened until 1832 and the Royal Mint (which achieved the production of coins) until 1968. It was also the place of the Record Office, which has held government documents from the 13th onwards until 1997. For nearly 600 years, the Tower has kept the arms and armours of the army as well as valuable goods (The Office of Ordnance) and the Crown Jewels were stored there from the late 14th onwards. Many of these goods have now been displaced, except for the Crown Jewels. Nowadays, the function of the Tower of London is purely touristic.
1) Ranulf Flambard (1060-1128): In 1100, he becomes the 1st prisoner entering the White Tower but also the 1st to escape.
2) The Princes of the Tower: Edward 5 (12) and his brother Richard (9) were imprisoned there by their uncle Richard who then usurped the crown. They were probably murdered and their skeletons were found in a staircase of the White Tower in 1614.
3) Sir Thomas More (1478-1534) refused to agree with the marriage of Henry VIII with Anne Boleyn and to see him as Supreme Head of the Church of England. He was accused of treason and beheaded. He is buried in the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula and venerated by the Catholics as “Saint Thomas More”
4) Anne Boleyn (1500–1536) was the mistress and later the 2nd wife of Henry VIII and has been Queen of England for 3 years. She was beheaded on Tower Green in 1536. Her body is also buried in the Chapel Royal of St. Peter and Vincula
5) Elizabeth I (1533-1603) was believed to be implicated in “the Wyatt Rebellion” and other Protestant rebellions to overthrow Mary I. She was released after 3 months and became Queen of England 4 years later.
6) Guy Fawkes (1570-1606): Leader of the Gunpowder plot (1605). He planned to assassinate James I and destroy the houses of Parliament with explosives. He was finally executed in 1606.
Célia Amand, Elodie Feron, Maxime Job
- Mr. Delabastita’s course notes: « Histoire des littératures et des civilisations anglophones » [LANG B003]