These snippets of gossip and history about the ‘chief Fortresse or Tower of London’ date from the 1650s.
William of Normandy the Conquerer was the first erector of the Tower of London. The first part that was built was the great square and White Tower (although black to some) which was about the year 1078. It stood naked and single without other buildings a good while. It was by some injury of the Heavens and violence of tempests sore shaken and some part tumbled down, which was repaired by Henry the first, who also caused a Castle to be built under the said White Tower on the South side towards the Thames. The first Keeper of the Tower of London was call’d Constable Ostowerus. About the beginning of the Raign of Richard the first, William Longshank, Bishop of Ely, enclos’d the Tower of London with an outward Wall of stone embattail’d, and also caused a deep ditch to be cast about the same. The Lion Tower was built by Edward the fourth. Frederick the Emperor having sent a present of three Leopards, they were first kept at Woodstock, but afterwards all such wild Beasts, as Lions, together with Leopards and Linxes, have been kept in that part of the Tower.
The first gold that was coin’d in the Tower was in the raign of Edward the third and the peeces were called Florences. In the year 1458 there were Jousts and Tournements in the Tower. Anno 1478 the Duke of Clarence was drowned in a Butt of Malmsey within the Tower, and five years after the young Edward the fifth with his Brother were by the practises of Richard the third, stifled there betwixt two fetherbeds, as the current story goes. Queen Elizabeth, wife to Henry the 7th, died in the Tower anno 1502 in Child-birth, and the year before there was running at tilt there. The Chappel in the high white Tower was burnt Anno 1512. Queen Anne Bullein was beheaded in the Tower 1541 and a little after the Lady Katherine Howard, both Wifes to Henry the eight. In Henry the eights time the Tower was ever and anon full of prisoners, among others, Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, was clap’t there close Prisoner: and they took away from him all his Books. The young Lady Jane was beheaded there not long after, and upon the Scaffold she made a most ingenious Speech full of pity, That she came thither to serve for an example to posterity, that innocence cannot be any protection against greatness, And that she was come thither not for aspiring to a Crown, but for not refusing one when it was offered Her.
Queen Elizabeth may be said to have gone from the Scaffold to the Tower. In her dayes Robert Earl of Essex lost his head in the Tower, which he might have kept on many years longer had he not been betrayed by the Lady Walsingham; to whom after the sentence of condemnation he sent a Ring, which the Queen had given him as a token that she would stick to him in any danger. The Lady delivered not this ring, and being a little after upon her Death-bed, she desired to speak with the Queen, and having disburdended a great weight which lay upon her Conscience for that act, the Queen flung away in a fury, and never enjoyed herself perfectly after that, crying O Essex, Essex. And this Earl was the last who was executed within the walls of the Tower.
In King James’s time, for 22 years, there was no blood spilt in the Tower or upon Tower-hill, only Sir Gervase Elwayes was hanged there. The Earl of Castlehaven was brought from the Tower to be executed for horrid kinds of incontinencies in Charles the firsts time; afterwards in the raign of the long Parliament, and ever since the Tower of London has had more number of Prisoners than it had in the compasse of a hundred years before.
This stately Tower of London serves not only for a Gaol to detain prisoners, but for many other uses. It is a strong Fort or Citadel, which secures both City and River, it serves not only to defend but to command either, upon occasion. It serves as a royal Rendezvous for Assemblies and Treaties. It is the Treasurey for the Jewels and Ornaments of the Crown. It is the place for the Royal Mint and Coynage of Gold and Silver. It is the chiefest Magazin and Armory, or Arsenal for the whole Land. There, only, is the Brake or Rack, usually call’d the Duke of Exeters Daughter, because he was the first inventor of it.
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