The Tower of London Part 2.
The White Tower still has a magnificent collection of early weapons, even though a large amount of weaponry was transferred to the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds in 1996. On display in the tower are many pikes, halberds, maces, axes, and a huge display of horse armour. Henry 8th's suit of armour is on show as well as armour belonging to Charles 1st, Charles 2nd, and James 2nd. There is also a suit of armour believed to be the largest in the world which would fit a man of 6 foot 9 inches, and a tiny suit of armour made for a person under 3 feet tall.
Henry 8th had all the oldest, medieval collection of arms scrapped and the armouries re-stocked with modern weapons, including his own personal collection. He also had a display called The Line of Kings, built at Greenwich and later moved to the White Tower, where a series of life-sized monarchs and some of their knights, in full armour, mounted on their horses were a tremendous tourist attraction. These life- sized statues were added to over the centuries and the last king to be displayed was George 2nd after his death in 1760.
All the armaments captured in the many wars with France were also stored in the tower. As well as captured arms and armaments, ordnance was being manufactured in the tower and a certain Master Walter the Smith is recorded as making ordnance for Edward 3rd for use at the battle of Crecy in 1346. Gunpowder was also being manufactured at the tower for this battle and before the turn of the century the stores of bows and arrows was decreasing and firearms and canon were starting to be stockpiled.
The Board of Ordnance gradually took over the White Tower, its function being to arm Britain's Armies, and also for the design and testing of new weapons. As the Commonwealth expanded more and more, arms and armaments from all over the world started arriving at the tower. There was even a full suit of armour for an elephant sent from India. New armouries had to be built inside the tower grounds to accommodate the thousands of pieces being collected.
As the collection grew over the centuries, new homes had to be found for the exhibits and in 1988 the whole of the artillery on display was moved to Portsmouth. This site at Fort Nelson is now the home of the national collection of artillery. The Royal Armouries in Leeds now display some of the ancient weapons in the collection, but the Tower still holds a fantastic display which should be visited if at all possible when in London.
Early entry to White Tower
Forty eight warrants for torture were issued and the punishments carried out during the Tudor and Stuart period. Eleven were to extract information on robberies, fourteen prisoners were tortured for sedition, nine for treason and nine for 'religious matters.'
The Spanish Armoury collection of instruments of torture contains thumbscrews, spiked collars and bibos, which were iron gauntlets designed to crush the fingers. The rack was a standard torture method where a victim's body was stretched using levers attached to horizontal cogs and gears on a table. Pressure was applied until the victim's joints parted with a crack. Two people generally conducted the torture. One to ask the questions and the other to apply the torture. The rack was known as the Duke of Exeter's Daughter as it was invented by John Holland, Duke of Exeter when he was constable of the tower.
The Scavenger's Daughter was invented by a Lieutenant of the tower, Leonard Skeffington. This machine compressed the victim rather than stretched them. It consisted of a circular plate of steel which the prisoner knelt on with his head down low and his arms close to his sides. Either side of the plate, I assume one under and one above the plate, were curved steel bars shaped like a horseshoe. The scews could be turned and the jaws of the horseshoe slowly closed, forcing the man's back downwards and crushing the internal organs.
Manacles were not so vicious as the Scavenger or the rack as the victim could be made to suffer for hours at a time. The manacles were fixed to a wall well above the height of a man and the man's arms were raised above his head. Chains from the manacles were then fixed to his gauntlets and he was allowed to dangle free when the steps he stood on were removed. One victim later reported that all his blood seemed to flow up into his arms and hands and it felt like it was oozing out of his fingers and his pores, while excruciating pain wracked his chest and belly. He fainted many times during the day he was hung and each time he was revived to prolong his pain.
The first beheading was of William Hastings, Edward 4th's former Lord Chancellor on a charge of treason. The executions took place on Tower Green, a lawn in front of the White Tower.
During Henry 8th's reign, beheadings were commonplace. Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher both died for refusing to acknowledge Henry as head of the Church of England. Thomas Cromwell lost his head for bungling Henry's marriage to Ann of Cleves and the country's reconcilliation with Europe. Henry's wife, Ann Bolyn along with the four men who were accused of being her lovers were all beheaded on the same day. The Countess of Salisbury was beheaded for treason, but after the first stroke of the axe, she jumped up and ran but the executioner followed, hacking at her 11 times until she succumbed. Catherine Howard, Henry's adored and beautiful wife was accused of having affairs and reluctantly Henry had her executed as well. Lady Jane Grey, who took the throne on the death of Henry's son Edward, reigned for nine days before being ousted by Mary 1st. Jane was also beheaded along with her husband. Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned in the tower on three occasionsbefore finally being beheaded for treason in 1618.
In modern times the method of execution was brought up to date and prisoners were either hanged or shot. During the First World War spies were tried in the tower and then shot. Eleven spies were shot in 1916.
The last person to be put to death in the tower was Josef Jakobs for offences under the treachery act. He was shot on 15th August 1941.
Barracks inside Tower
More by this Author
The Pretenders-There were two pretenders to the throne of England in Henry 7th's reign. The first was a boy called Lambert Simnel and the second was Perkin Warbeck. The history of the pretenders begins with one of...
King Henry 9th - England didn't have a King Henry the 9th, as everyone knows, but it very nearly happened, as Henry the 8th was trying desperately to have his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy recognised as his heir. ...
Fletcher Christian was the leader of the mutiny against the tyrant Captain William Bligh on H.M.S. Bounty in the Pacific Ocean, in 1789. The mutineers settled on Pitcairn Island with their native wives. Did he return to...