Duke of Exeter's daughter

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The Duke of Exeter's daughter was a torture rack in the Tower of London. Its presence is said to have been due to John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter, the constable of the Tower in 1447, whence it got its name.[1]

Blackstone wrote in c. 1765 (Commentaries, ii. sec. 326):

The trial by rack is utterly unknown to the law of England, though once when the duke of Exeter and Suffolk, and other ministers of Henry VI, had laid a design to introduce the civil (i.e. Roman) law into the kingdom as the rule of government, for a beginning thereof they erected a rack for torture, which was called in derision the Duke of Exeter's daughter, and still remains in the Tower of London. Where in Queen Elizabeth's reign it was used as an engine of state, not of law, more than once. But when in the reign of Charles I, upon the assassination of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, by John Felton, it was proposed in the privy council to put the assassin to the rack, in order to discover his accomplices, the judges being consulted, declared unanimously that no such proceeding was allowable by the laws of England.[2]


  1. ^ "Definition of DUKE OF EXETER'S DAUGHTER • Law Dictionary • TheLaw.com". The Law Dictionary. 12 July 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  2. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Duke of Exeter's Daughter". Encyclopædia Britannica. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 651.