List of prisoners of the Tower of London

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Tower of London
The 15th century Tower in a manuscript of poems by Charles, Duke of Orléans (1391-1465) commemorating his imprisonment there (British Library).
The Two Princes Edward and Richard in the Tower, 1483 by Sir John Everett Millais, 1878, part of the Royal Holloway picture collection

From an early stage of its history, one of the functions of the Tower of London has been to act as a prison, though it was not designed as one. The earliest known prisoner was Ranulf Flambard in 1100 who,[1] as Bishop of Durham, was found guilty of extortion. He had been responsible for various improvements to the design of the tower after the first architect Gundulf moved back to Rochester. He escaped from the White Tower by climbing down a rope, which had been smuggled into his cell in a wine casket.

Other prisoners include:







  • Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton imprisoned (like his father had been earlier) and sentenced to death for his part in the Essex Rebellion of 1601 but was lucky to escape execution and be released only with the accession of James I in 1603.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh spent thirteen years (1603–1616) imprisoned at the Tower but was able to live in relative comfort in the Bloody Tower with his wife and two children. For some of the time he even grew tobacco on Tower Green, just outside his apartment. While imprisoned, he wrote The History of the World.
  • Guy Fawkes, famous for his part in the Gunpowder Plot, was brought to the Tower in 1605 to be interrogated by a council of the King's Ministers. When he confessed to treason, he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered in the Old Palace Yard at Westminster; however, he escaped his fate by jumping off the scaffold at the gallows which in turn broke his neck and killed him.
  • Sir Everard Digby. Gunpowder Plot conspirator, imprisoned in 1605 until hanged, drawn and quartered in 1606.
  • Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland KG (1564 – 1632) suspected of being part of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and spent the next 17 years as a prisoner. He also paid a fine of £30,000.
  • Nicholas Woodcock spent sixteen months in the "gatehouse and tower" for piloting the first Spanish whaleship to Spitsbergen in 1612.
  • Sir Thomas Overbury was imprisoned in the Tower by King James I on 22 April 1613. He died on 15 September 1613 after being poisoned, and his murder resulted in one of the biggest scandals of the era.
  • Niall Garve O'Donnell, an Irish nobleman (a one-time ally of the English against his cousin, Red Hugh O'Donnell) and his son Neachtain for turning against the Crown in 1608, where they stayed till their deaths.
  • Domhnáill Ballaugh Ó Catháin, the last chieftain of Clan Ó Catháin died in the Tower in 1626.
  • William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, was imprisoned from 1640 to 1645 before his execution for treason.
  • Major William Rainsborowe, Leveller, was imprisoned in Dec of 1660, on suspicion of treason and released on Bail in February 1661.
  • William Penn, Quaker and future founder of Pennsylvania, was imprisoned for seven months in 1668-69 for pamphleteering.
  • Samuel Pepys, civil servant and diarist, was imprisoned for six weeks in 1679 for maladministration.
  • James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth imprisoned and executed in the tower in 1685 following the Monmouth Rebellion.[4][5][6]
  • Judge Jeffries was imprisoned in 1688-89 after the defection of James II. He died there of kidney disease.



  • Roger Casement was caught buying guns from Germany to support The Easter Rising, in 1916.
  • Norman Baillie-Stewart was a British officer caught selling military secrets to Germany and served four years in the Tower in 1933, but was not executed, because England was not at war with Germany.
  • Josef Jakobs, a German spy, was executed there on 15 August 1941.[7]
  • Rudolf Hess, deputy leader of the Nazi Party, was the last state prisoner to be held in the Tower, in May 1941.[8]
  • The Kray twins, were among the last prisoners to be held,[9] for a few days in 1952, for failing to report for national service.


  1. ^ a b c Parnell 1993, p. 54
  2. ^ a b Impey & Parnell 2000, p. 45
  3. ^ - Thomas Flamank
  4. ^ 'James the Second, 1685: An Act to Attaint James Duke of Monmouth of High-Treason. (Chapter II. Rot. Parl. nu. 2.)', Statutes of the Realm: volume 6: 1685-94 (1819), p. 2. Date accessed: 16 February 2007.
  5. ^ "Tower of London: Fact sheet" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  6. ^ Spencer, Charles, Blenheim, Chapter 3: John Churchill, p.54: "Monmouth had a particularly grisly end, the executioner's axe striking seven times before his head severed"
  7. ^ Sellers 1997, p. 179
  8. ^ Impey & Parnell 2000, p. 123
  9. ^ The Tower, Channel 4, 2008-08-01, retrieved 2008-08-01 
  • Impey, Edward; Parnell, Geoffrey (2000), The Tower of London: The Official Illustrated History, Merrell Publishers in association with Historic Royal Palaces, ISBN 1-85894-106-7 
  • Parnell, Geoffrey (1993), The Tower of London, Batsford, ISBN 978-0-7134-6864-9 
  • Sellers, Leonard (1997), Shot in the Tower: The Story of the Spies executed in the Tower of London during the First World War, Leo Cooper, ISBN 978-1848840263 

External links[edit]