Gerald Fitz Gerald, the 11th Earl of Kildare died on the 16th November 1585, his life can be viewed through the fall out of the failed Kildare rebellion of 1534.
At just twelve, Gerald Fitz Gerald had received the Earldom of Kildare following the aforementioned unsuccessful rebellion against King Henry VIII by the Silken Thomas, the 10th Earl of Kildare. Silken Thomas was Fitz Gerald's half-brother, he and his uncles James, Oliver, Richard, John and Walter Fitz Gerald, the sons of the 8th Earl of Kildare by Elizabeth St John were all hanged in the first week of February 1537 at Tyburn. At this time Fitz Gerald was raised under the guardianship of his aunt. He later fled to Belgium and Italy returning only after the death of Henry VIII.
Fitz Gerald himself had been accused of treason numerous times and had been twice imprisoned in the Tower of London, he had survived Henry VIII's attempt to capture him and lived through the reign of Edward VI and Mary and was fortunate to have the favour of Elizabeth. He died in London at the age of sixty, Mabel, Countess of Kildare lived for another twenty-five years.
Fitz Gerald first came to my notice as the husband of Mabel Browne, the great great granddaughter of my ancestor Thomas Browne. Mabel, according to tradition met Fitz Gerald at a masked ball and she immediately fell in love with him, and why wouldn't she, he could speak at least two languages, was highly intelligent, and a man who had used his time wisely, he learned and experienced much while in exile. Fitz Gerald also dabbled in alchemy, this 'hobby' caused concern to those less enlighted and just like his father and his father before him, he was quick-tempered, clever and charismatic.
On the 15th August 1100, Bishop Ranulf Flambard was imprisoned in the Tower of London by Henry I on charges of embezzlement.
In the February of the following year, Flambard invited his guards to join him in his cell for a quick glass of vino collapso to celebrate Candlemas. While his inept guards guzzled down their wine, Flambard surreptitiously poured his into his favourite potted plant.
Later that evening, with the plant looking a bit worse for wear and the guards fallen into a drunken stupor, Flambard used a rope that had been smuggled in a gallon of wine to make his escape down the walls of the tower, and on reaching the ground he hot footed it to Normandy where he was welcomed by Henry's brother and rival Robert Curthose.
On receiving the news of Flambard's escape Henry was furious, and it was one William de Mandeville, who was in charge of the tower at that time, who felt the wrath of the king. Henry knew that there was more to it than meets the eye, and just like me, he knew that there is no way you could hide enough rope to scale the walls of large tower in one gallon of wine, and make such a quick get away without being seen.
Some one was in on it!
Henry suspected that Mandeville was involved, however nothing was proved, but he confiscated three of Mandevilles manors anyway and booted him out of his important position within the tower.
Ranulf Flambard was the first person to be imprisoned within the Tower's walls, he was also the first to escape.
Eventually, Flambard arrived back in England and died in Durham in 1128, but what of William de Mandeville?
Well he went on to organise the wedding of his daughter Beatrice, and thank goodness he did, or else I wouldn't be here!
Did you know that on the 16th September 1485, following his victory at the Battle of Bosworth, the Yeoman of the Guard,
the bodyguard of the English Crown we know as Beefeaters, were established this day by King Henry VII.
Confusingly, there are to different groups of soldiers that perform a service within the Tower of the London, that is the aforementioned Yeoman of the Guard, and the Yeoman Warders. The Yeoman Warders are can trace their origins back to the time the Tower of London was a prison when Henry I sent the Bishop of Durham there in 1100. You can read that story here
The Tower of London stands proudly on the banks of the River Thames, guarding our nations capital as it has done
for the last nine hundred years. The tower has been a Royal Palace, a fortress, a place of execution, an arsenal, a Royal Mint, it has of course been a prison holding prisoners such as William the Count of Mortain in 1106 and the Kray twins in 1952 before being taken else where. So with its thick stone walls, its armed guards and huge towers you would expect it to be secure, and of course it is. Every evening, the main gates of the Tower of London are secured by the Chief Yeoman Warder and his armed guard. This event, that has taken place every night without fail for over 500 years, is called the
Ceremony of the Keys.
The Chief Yeoman Warder in his distinctive red coat and Tudor hat emerges from the Byward Tower carrying The Queen’s Keys and a lantern, he walks into Water Lane and is joined at Traitor’s Gate by his armed guard, a salute is given then they proceed to the outer gates. The Chief Yeoman Warder proceeds to lock the series of large gates, outermost first and walks back along Water Lane and back towards Traitor’s Gate, where he is stopped by a sentry and asked to prove his identity.
After confirming that he carries The Queen’s Keys, he walks through the Bloody Tower archway to where the main body of
the guard is assembled. The guard present arms, the Chief Yeoman Warder raises his hat and calls
“God Save Queen Elizabeth” followed by an Amen from the guard. The keys are then taken to the Queen's House for safekeeping accompanied by the Last Post.
This wonderful ceremony has only been delayed once when during WWII a bomb knocked the warders off their feet. It has never been cancelled.
When Edward, the future Edward VIII, was invested as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle on the 13th July 1911, a single arched, silver gilt coronet, was used. It was intended that this coronet be used at the investiture of future Princes of Wales, but following Edward's abdication the coronet did not form part of the crown jewels.
The Duke of Windsor was in self imposed exile in France after his abdication on the 10th December 1936. He left for Europe the following day, not only did he take his private belongings, he took what was not his, the coronet used at his investiture, which stayed in his possession until his death in 1972.
A previous coronet, known as the Coronet of George, was made in 1901 for George, future George V as Prince of Wales to wear at the coronation of his father, Edward VII, in 1902. Apart from the Coronet of George, there was one other coronet owned by a Prince of Wales, this was the Coronet of Fredrick made for Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1728.
When Prince Charles, the present Prince of Wales, was invested at Caernarfon Castle on July 1969, a new coronet had to
be made. Fredrick's coronet was too fragile to be used and the coronet used in 1911 was 'unavailable.' To ask for its return
from the Duke of Windsor would have proved embarrassing and no doubt, Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, would not have entertained the idea. She had disliked both Edward and Wallis Simpson, she blamed them for the problems they caused the country but also for the distress they had inflicted on her husband. I imagine it was simpler to have a new coronet made
rather than have had any contact with the disgraced duke.
The Coronet of Charles followed rules set in place by King Charles II. The Stuart king specified that it must have just two
half arches, rather than the traditional four and has at its centre a globe, over which a cross should stand.
On the 9th May in 1671, Thomas Blood became the first and only man to attempt to steal the Crown Jewels.
Colonel Blood as he would come to be known, was born in Ireland, the son of a blacksmith. Blood had fought for the Royalist forces of Charles I during the English Civil War. However, he switched sides to fight under Oliver Cromwell, his reward for which were land grants and a position in local government. When the new Stuart king was restored to the throne in 1660, Blood was forced to flee back to Ireland where he attempted to kidnap and later killed the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. On returning to England he befriended Talbot Edwards, the keeper of the crown jewels, who living quarters were above the room where the jewels were kept. It was today, in his guise as Parson Blood and accompanied by three others, that he made his attempt to steal the crown jewels.
Blood was captured when Edward's raised the alarm.
Thomas Blood evaded punishment for this crime as he had with the murder of the Duke of Ormonde. He managed to sweet talk his way out by replying "I would endeavour to deserve it, Sire!" when Charles II asked "What if I should give you your life?"
Eventually though the Irish adventurers luck finally ran out, he died following his stint in prison after being convicted of making defamatory remarks about his patron the Duke of Buckingham for which he was also fined £10,000.
Following his release he died on August 24th 1680 - he didn't pay his fine!
Death of Sir Robert Deveraux
On the 25th of February 1601 Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, was executed for treason. He was a soldier and politician and one of Queen Elizabeth I's favourites. This made no difference to the queen when it came to signing his death warrant, she showed no regret in executing Essex like she had fourteen years earlier with the execution of her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots.
Elizabeth knew Essex very well, at the peak of their friendship she had lavished gifts and lands on him for he appealed to
her flirtatious nature. He could be charming, he was handsome and intelligent and in 1586 he had been the queens constant companion, so much so that one of his servants is said to have remarked
"my lord is at cardes or one game or another with her, that he commeth not to his owne lodginge tyll the birdes
singe in the morninge"
But there was another side to Essex, he could be argumentative, moody, difficult and very impulsive. It was this last fault that lead, eventually, to his death. Being the queens favourite had caused divisions, some courtiers gathered under Robert Cecil and others under Devereux. Elizabeth tried hard to calm the tension within her court but Essex was all prestige and glory, charging around the court full of self importance. He had returned from Ireland without permission and later bust into the queens bedchamber whilst she was dressing and at one time, during an argument, drawn his sword on her. His arrogance caused him to take no advice from his friends, he overstepped the mark once to often.
Devereux was interrogated in the Tower of London and then confined elsewhere. It was during this confinement that his
ideas of a 'military coup' were probably planned. He later put his plans into action leading over two hundred soldiers through London. He was captured and interrogated again but this time his crimes brought him into the courtroom at Westminster Hall on the 19th February. He was accused of high treason, found guilty and sentenced to death, his death warrant signed the next day.
Four days later the Earl of Essex, climbed the scaffold and famously said:
“My sins are more in number than the hairs on my head. I have bestowed my youth in wantonness, lust and uncleanness;
I have been puffed up with pride, vanity and love of this wicked world’s pleasures. For all which, I humbly beseech my Saviour Christ to be a mediator to the eternal Majesty for my pardon, especially for this my last sin, this great, this bloody, this crying, this infectious sin, whereby so many for love of me have been drawn to offend God, to offend their sovereign, to offend the world. I beseech God to forgive it us, and to forgive it me – most wretched of all.”
In the courtyard of Tower Green, only a small gathering watched as Essex's head was separated from his body.
He was later buried at the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.
What do you think when you picture this building in your mind?
Do you see a dirty, frightened face peering from behind two clenched fists that cling to two cold iron bars or do you see, as depicted here, a clean tall structure with ivy and roses trailing round its brickwork.
Medieval towers can be found in the inner sections or enclosures of a castle as well as on the outside walls. Often these tall buildings had up to three or four floors and sometimes even a cellar or basement, all reached by spiral staircases that were built into the walls. The floors were always made of wood that were covered with reeds and sweet smelling herbs. Only the third and fourth floors had windows, the first two floors would have only had arrow holes. The fourth floor was not usually a room at all but an open platform that circled the building, whose wall on all sides were capped with what are called Merlons, those zig zaggy patterned walls we all drew on our castle pictures as children.
This platform lead to the final floor, which was the lookout tower that was sometimes topped with a conical roof. These towers were not only used for defending the castle, their other uses were as a chapel, a prison, servants quarters or even a separate area for guests. The chapel tower was often quite different from the normal tower in that it had one room that was two stories high with small stained glass windows and an alter. The family would sit in the first floor and look down whilst other church goers would stand on the wooden floor above the basement. The prison towers were, as we would imagine, a hole dug or cut into rock that was reached through a trap door from above where the guards would live. They were dismal and dark with shackles attached to the damp slimy walls.
The most famous of all towers is our Tower of London, which would have been clearly seen from the River Thames. The tower is made up of three enclosures, the central of which contains the White Tower which has square capped towers on each of its corners. Encircling the tower is the north, east, and west enclosures, built during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. Finally, there is the outer enclosure which surrounds the castle, this was built during the reign of Edward I.
Sir Walter Raleigh, one time favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, was six foot tall and handsome, a heroic adventurer, a poet and a wit to boot.
Raleigh spent his childhood in a small village not far from East Budleigh on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon. History tells us he studied at Oriel College Oxford and in the Middle Temple in London, however at his trial in 1603 he stated that he had never studied law. He quickly came to prominence and then to court and was knighted in 1585.
In all his years in court he is said to have retained his strong West Country accent.
In 1592, Raleigh fell from grace when the queen found out he had secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of her maids of honour. The queen was so angry she had both husband and wife imprisoned in the Tower of London. Later on his release, Raleigh attempted to gain favour and set off on an unsuccessful expedition to find El Dorado, the fabled City of Gold.
Elizabeth died in 1603 and Raleigh soon found that her successor, King James I, was not keen on him either, and that same year he was accused of plotting against the king and sentenced to death, but this was later reduced to life imprisonment.
Another one of Raleigh's talents was writing, in 1614 during his 12 years in the Tower of London, he began his History of the World, he only completed one volume, in it he stated:
"O eloquent, just and mightie death, whom none could advise, thou hast perswaded."
I expect when writing this he didn't imagine it would come so soon.
In 1616 James sent Raleigh to Guiana in a search for gold but two years later he accused of inciting war between Spain and England, James re issued the first death sentence. Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded outside the Palace of Westminster on 29th October 1618. It has been said, as he stood before the block at the Tower of London, he asked to see the axe that was to behead him and of it he said.
"This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases."
Once executed, Raleigh's head was embalmed and presented to his wife, she is said to have carried it with her at all times until she died. Accounts of the beheading record that the head was placed in a red bag, and that it and his body, wrapped in his nightgown, were taken away in a mourning coach by his widow.
On the 18th September 1556, Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon died in Padua, Italy.
A number of 'ailments' have been suggested as the cause of the Earl's death, fever, syphilis, falling down a flight of stairs, even poisoning.
Edward Courtenay had Yorkist blood flowing through his veins, his grandmother was Catherine of York, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Catherine had married William Courtenay, Earl of Devon by 1496.
In 1538, at the age of twelve, Edward joined his parents Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter and Gertrude Blount in the Tower of London. His father was suspected of being in cahoots with Reginald Pole and Gertrude accused of encouraging the traitorous behaviour of her husband. Henry Courtenay was executed at the end of 1539 and his wife released at the start of the following year, however Edward was to remain a prisoner, he would remain in the Tower of London for fifteen years. He was finally released on the 3rd August 1553.
After his release his fortunes improved, he was considered as a possible husband for Henry VIII's daughter Mary and when she married Phillip of Spain he set his sights on Elizabeth who would later become Elizabeth I. Edward and Elizabeth suspected of being involved in the rebellion of Thomas Wyatt and others who were fearing persecution under Mary's rule.
They were both imprisoned, when no evidence was found they were both released and Courtenay fled the country.
I've always wondered why this family, as a possible threat to the Tudor dynasty, were not hunted down like that of the family
of George Duke of Clarance's for instance, Henry VIII had no qualms about seeing off the aged Margaretin Pole and
Henry VII had executed Edward's grandfather.
Maybe, this new generation didn't consider the Yorkists as much of a treat anymore?
Words on the engraving of Courtenay above state:
En! puer ac insons et adhuc juvenilibus annis,
Annos bis septem carcere clausus eram,
Me pater his tenuit vinclis quae filia solvit,
Sors mea sic tandem vertitur a superis.
Behold! a guiltless boy and still in his youthful years,
during twice-seven years had I been shut in prison,
the father held me in these chains which the daughter released,
thus at last is my fate being changed by the gods above."
Interestingly, in this engraving Courtenay stands in front of a crumbling castle, whats the significance of that do you think?
19th May 1536
On the 19th May 1536, Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII was beheaded within the walls of the Tower of London.
A bright, intelligent woman whose strong opinions were partly the cause of her downfall, the failure to produce a male heir another but probably the real reason was the fracturing of the court regarding religion, shameful reasons to end someones life, but the common man had his head placed in the noose for less.
Executions were part of everyday life in Tudor times, beheading was a dignified and honourable means of execution, as opposed to hanging which was shameful, maybe it was considered more important to medieval nobility than whether it was humane or not. Beheading was carried out using a sword in Europe, whereas the axe was more commonly used in England. Execution with a sword was performed with one single stroke and generally did a better job.
This form of execution in Britain was used as far back as Anglo Saxon times, but reintroduced during the reign of William the Conqueror. Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland, had his head taken off with a sword in 1076, the axe was commonly used at a later date. Hanging was the usual punishment for most crimes but down the centuries beheading was the norm for men convicted of treason along with the brutal punishment of drawing, hanging and quartering. Women were hanged but also burnt at the stake. However, noble women often met their death on the 'block' Lady Jane Grey and Margaret Pole the Countess of Salisbury both ended their days this way.
Anne Boleyn, as mentioned, date of executions was set for the 19th of May and she was sentenced to death by burning at the stake or beheading. To spare Anne the pain of a potentially messy execution by axe, something he didn't do for his kinswoman Margaret Pole, whose died a terrible death at the hands of an inexperienced executioner, Henry granted a special dispensation, bringing over an expert French swordsman.
Before Anne died she said
"a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord."
Anne's grave in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula was unmarked until the 19th century. Today her name is carved into the marble floor.
In the image is the Martyrdom of St. Margaret of Antioch in which she is executed with a sword.
After ten years in the workplace I became a mother to three very beautiful daughters, I was fortunate enough to have been able to stay at home and spend my time with them as they grew into the young women they are now. I am still in the position of being able to be at home and pursue all the interests I have previously mentioned. We live in a beautiful Victorian spa town with wooded walks for the dog, lovely shops and a host of lovely people, what more could I ask for.
All works © Andrea Povey 2014. Please do not reproduce without the expressed written consent of Andrea Povey.
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