The Tower of London s Yeoman

Tower of Londons

Many famous and infamous figures have called the Tower home over the centuries. Here are just a handful…

From its early history as a palace to its modern day status as one of the capital's major tourist attractions, the Tower of London has served a variety of purposes across the generations. But it made its most prominent mark as a prison, as these much-mythologised figures knew only too well...

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The Gunpowder Plot developed after James I took the throne and turned out to be rather less tolerant of Catholicism as initially hoped. Deciding regicide was the answer, a group of men conspired to blow up the House of Lords and murder the King in the process. One of them was called Guy Fawkes.

In the early hours of 5 November 1605 the plot was foiled when Fawkes was caught with barrels of gunpowder. While his stubborn personality actually earnt the grudging respect of the King, Fawkes was still sent to the Tower of London for some thorough sessions of torture. Within days Fawkes broke and gave his confession. However, he managed to avoid the pain of being hanged and quartered by leaping from the scaffold and breaking his neck, cheating the public of his grisly humiliation.

The unfortunate end of Henry VIII's second wife began with her imprisonment at the Tower of London on 2 May 1536. She faced an array of garish charges, including adultery, incest, and witchcraft - accusations that are considered largely fabricated today. She faced trial at the Tower itself and was sentenced to death. Fortunately for her, she was spared the pain of being burnt alive - the standard punishment for females guilty of treason.

Instead, she was given an execution befitting a once lavish queen - a master swordsman was brought in from France to give her a swift death, on the grounds of the Tower of London. She was reportedly cheerful on the day, as if happy to be free of her troubles. Some years later, Henry's fifth wife Catherine Howard would also meet a similar fate at the Tower.

The Tower of London is one of the capital's major tourist attractions.

A top ranking Nazi, Rudolf Hess was Adolf Hitler's right hand man and carried the hefty title of Deputy Fuhrer. In 1941 at the height of World War II, he embarked on perhaps the most bizarre mission of the entire conflict by flying solo to the UK in an apparent attempt to try and negotiate a truce with the UK.

Crash-landing his plane in rural Scotland, he was discovered by a startled farmer and taken into custody.

Hess was eventually banged up in the Tower of London, where he was treated well and even signed autographs for his warders. It wasn't to be his home for long, though. After the war he was tried in Nuremberg and received a life sentence, which eventually led him to Spandau Prison in Berlin. He died there in 1987, aged 93.

One of the Tower's most fleeting but most celebrated inmates was William Wallace, the Scottish patriot immortalised as "Braveheart". A major player in the Wars of Scottish Independence, he lead a series of campaigns to drive English forces from his homeland, becoming a national hero in the process. However, his stubborn refusal to accept the reign of Edward I would make a martyr of him.

His military successes ended with his capture at Robroyston in August 1305. Wallace was taken to London where he was put on trial at Westminster Hall for treason and violence against civilians. He then spent a very brief spell at the Tower of London, which would have actually felt like a merciful pause before he suffered the agony of being hanged, drawn and quartered.

Ronnie and Reggie Kray were at the helm of the East End organized crime scene during the 50s and 60s. England's most notorious gangsters, they operated under the guise of celeb-schmoozing nightclub owners in the West End, but were eventually imprisoned in 1968.

That wasn't when they were sent to the Tower of London, though. The twins actually had their brief "stay" at the Tower back in 1952, when they were just a pair of unknowns. It was punishment for misbehaving during their National Service, and assaulting a corporal in the process. Their barracks happened to be at the Tower, and so that was where they were confined as punishment.

Source: yesterday.uktv.co.uk
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