Lieutenant of the Tower of London

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The Tower of London seen from the Thames

The Lieutenant of the Tower of London served directly under the Constable of the Tower. The office was appointed at least since the 13th century. There were formerly many privileges, immunities and perquisites attached to the office. Like the Constable, the Lieutenant was usually appointed by letters patent, either for life or during the King's pleasure.[1]

The Lieutenants had custody of many eminent prisoners of state, including Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More, Lady Jane Grey, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I) and Sir Walter Raleigh. At least five of the Lieutenants, Sir Edward Warner,[2] Sir Gervase Helwys,[3] Isaac Penington,[4] Colonel Robert Tichborne,[5] and Sir Edward Hales,[6] themselves later became prisoners in the Tower.


Edward I to Henry VIII[edit]

The earliest known Lieutenant was Giles de Oudenard at the beginning of the reign of Edward I, while Anthony Bek, later Bishop of Durham, was Constable. The next Lieutenant of whom there is record was Ralph Bavant, who served during John de Crumwell's tenure as Constable.[7]

In the reign of Henry V, Sir Roger Aston served as Lieutenant under William, Lord Bourchier, who was then Constable. Among their notable prisoners was James I of Scotland.[7] Sir Robert Scott served as Lieutenant in 1424 during the reign of Henry VI.[8] During the reign of Edward IV, Richard Haute (died 8 April 1487) was Lieutenant from 1471 to 1473.[9][10] John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford was Constable in the reign of Henry VII, at which time Sir John Digby was his Lieutenant.[7]

St. Peter ad Vincula, a chapel on Tower Green, is the resting place of several of the Lieutenants of the Tower.

According to some sources, in the reign of Henry VIII Sir Thomas Lovell (died 25 May 1524) served as Lieutenant from Michaelmas 1512;[11] however according to other sources, he was Constable of the Tower.[12] Among the prisoners of state in Lovell's custody was the Pretender to the Crown, Lambert Simnel.[11] The Lieutenant from 1513 to 1520 was Sir Richard Cholmondeley (died 1521).[13] Cholmondeley held office during the Evil May Day riots of 1517. During the riots, he furiously ordered the firing of some of the Tower's artillery at the city during rioting by gangs of young Londoners, who took control of London for several days, drawing the ire of the city elders. In 1520, he resigned his post at the Tower due to ill health. He died in March 1521 (1522 by the modern calendar system) in St Katharine's by the Tower.[14]

Cholmondeley was succeeded by Sir Edmund Walsingham,[15] Sir William Sidney, Sir Anthony Knyvet, and Sir Walter Stonor.[7] Walsingham had personal charge of a number of eminent prisoners of state during his tenure, among them the Countess of Salisbury, Viscount Lisle, Anne Boleyn, Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More.[15][16] Leonard Skeffington, son of Sir William Skeffington (died 31 December 1535) is also said to have served as Lieutenant during the reign of Henry VIII and to have invented an instrument of torture used in the Tower; however there appears to be no record of his appointment or tenure as Lieutenant.[17]

Edward VI to Charles I[edit]

During the reign of Edward VI, Sir John Markham was appointed Lieutenant in 1549 but dismissed on 31 October 1551 for leniency towards his prisoners, including the Protector Somerset and Sir Michael Stanhope.[18] Sir Arthur Darcy also served briefly as Lieutenant during Edward VI's reign.[19][7] Sir Edward Warner was appointed Lieutenant in October 1552.[2]

During the crisis after the death of Edward VI, Warner held the Tower of London for John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, and was immediately removed from his post on Queen Mary's accession. In 1554 he was a prisoner in the Tower, but was pardoned in 1555.[2][20] Queen Mary appointed John Brydges, 1st Baron Chandos as Lieutenant from August 1553 to June 1554. He is said to have 'rigorously' shaken the rebel Thomas Wyatt when he was brought to the Tower, and to have called him a "villain and unhappy traitor".[citation needed] He had custody of Lady Jane Grey, who gave him her prayer book as a memento when she was executed, and of the future Queen Elizabeth, whom he was considered to have treated too leniently.[21] He was succeeded by his brother, Sir Thomas Bridges (died 1559).[7][22] Sir Henry Bedingfield was appointed in October 1555 and served until the end of 1556.[23] He was succeeded by Sir Robert Oxenbridge, who was appointed Lieutenant in 1556, and was Constable in 1557.[24][7]

When Elizabeth I acceded to the throne in November 1558, she reappointed Sir Edward Warner as Lieutenant[2] jointly with Sir Thomas Cawarden.[25][20] They served together for less than a month, from 17 November to 10 December 1558, and Cawarden died shortly thereafter in August 1559.[26] Warner's most notable prisoner was Lady Katherine Grey, who had incurred the Queen's wrath by secretly marrying Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford. Warner was dismissed about 1561 for excessive leniency,[2][20] and was succeeded by Sir Richard Blount, after whose sudden death Sir Francis Jobson was appointed on 20 August 1564. Jobson was Lieutenant during the Northern Rising, and according to Narsingha held office until his own death on 4 June 1573.[27] However according to other sources Sir Owen Hopton was appointed Lieutenant in 1570.[28] Among his prisoners were Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, and Norfolk's son and heir, Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel.[29] Financial difficulties occasioned Hopton's resignation in the summer of 1590.[28] Hopton was followed in office by Sir Michael Blount,[30] Sir Richard Berkeley (appointed in 1596)[31] and Sir Drue Drury, who was appointed in November 1595, but resigned due to ill health in September 1596.[32][33] Sir John Peyton was appointed Lieutenant in June 1597, and as Lieutenant was present at the execution in 1601 of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. Another of Peyton's eminent prisoners was Sir Walter Raleigh. On 30 July 1603, shortly after the accession of James I, Peyton was relieved of his post, and appointed Governor of Jersey.[34][35]

Sir William Wadd, engraving after an original portrait

Sir George Harvey (died 10 August 1605) was the first Lieutenant of the Tower under King James.[36] He was succeeded by Sir William Waad, who was Lieutenant during the Gunpowder plot. Waad retired from public life in 1613, and was succeeded in the office by Sir Gervase Helwys, who was appointed on 6 May 1613. During Helwys' tenure as Lieutenant, his prisoner, Sir Thomas Overbury, was poisoned, and on 20 November 1615 Helwys was hanged on Tower Hill for the murder.[3] In October 1615, Sir George More was appointed Lieutenant 'to keep close watch over Robert and Frances Carr, earl and countess of Somerset, over the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury'.[37] In January 1617 More was said to be ‘weary of that troublesome and dangerous office’, and sold it, in March of that year, to Sir Allan Apsley for £2500.[37][38][36] Sir Thomas Warner also served as Lieutenant by appointment of James I at some time before embarking on colonial ventures in April 1620.[39]

Apsley continued to serve as Lieutenant under Charles I until his death. He was succeeded on 18 October 1630 by Sir William Balfour. Balfour resigned the office on 22 December 1641,[40] and on 22 December the King appointed Sir Thomas Lunsford as Lieutenant, sparking opposition from the House of Commons which forced the King to replace Lunsford with Sir John Byron on 26 December.[41] Byron resigned on 11 February 1642, again as a result of pressure from the Commons,[42] and was replaced by Sir John Conyers, who served until 11 August 1643, when he surrendered the office to Sir Robert Harley.[43][44] The London alderman and Lord Mayor Isaac Penington is said to have been appointed Lieutenant in July 1643, and as Lieutenant to have accompanied Archbishop Laud to his beheading on Tower Hill in 1645. Penington spent the last years of his life as a prisoner in the Tower, and died there on 16 December 1661.[4][36] He was succeeded in the Lieutenancy by Francis West (died 11 August 1652).[45]

Cromwell and later[edit]

John Barkstead

Under the Protector Oliver Cromwell, John Barkstead was appointed to the Lieutenancy in August 1652, and held the office until 1659.[46] In August 1647 Colonel Robert Tichborne was appointed Lieutenant.[5] Both Barkstead and Tichborne were regicides, and Tichborne died a prisoner in the Tower after the Restoration.[5] They were followed in the office by Colonel Thomas Fitch and Colonel Herbert Morley (appointed 7 January 1660).[47][36]

After the Restoration of Charles II, Morley was replaced by Sir John Robinson, who was appointed Lieutenant in June 1660 and continued in the office until May 1679, when the King dismissed him as a result of pressure from the Commons.[48][36]

Among those appointed in subsequent reigns were Thomas Cheke, esquire, Sir Edward Hales (who was appointed 13 June 1687, and was himself a prisoner in the Tower with his brother, Charles, in January 1689)[6] and Sir Bevill Skelton during the reign of James II; John Farewell, during the reign of William I; Charles Churchill (appointed in 1702, resigned in 1706),[49] and Lieutenant-General William Cadogan, (1709–1712), during the reign of Queen Anne, and Lieutenant-General Sir Hatton Compton,[50] Lieutenant-General Vernon, and General Loftus.[36]


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  2. ^ a b c d e Croly 2004.
  3. ^ a b Bellany 2004.
  4. ^ a b Lindley 2004.
  5. ^ a b c Lindley 27430 2004.
  6. ^ a b Hopkins 2004.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Bayley 1825, p. 665.
  8. ^ Fleming 2008.
  9. ^ Fleming 2004.
  10. ^ Richardson II 2011, p. 597.
  11. ^ a b Gunn 2004.
  12. ^ "History of Parliament". Retrieved 18 June 2013.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  13. ^ Baker 2004.
  14. ^ Chamley, Benson (June 2003). "Sir Richard Cholmondeley, Cheshire's most famous unknown". The Family History Society of Cheshire Magazine. 
  15. ^ a b Robison 2004.
  16. ^ "History of Parliament". Retrieved 17 June 2013.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  17. ^ Lyons 2004.
  18. ^ Cameron 2004.
  19. ^ Leedham-Green 2004.
  20. ^ a b c "History of Parliament". Retrieved 18 June 2013.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  21. ^ Norris 2004.
  22. ^ However, according to Ashley, Thomas Brydges was deputy under his brother, Sir John Brydges (Ashley 2004)
  23. ^ Weikel 2004.
  24. ^ "History of Parliament". Retrieved 18 June 2013.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  25. ^ Robison 2008.
  26. ^ "History of Parliament". Retrieved 18 June 2013.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  27. ^ Narasingha 2004.
  28. ^ a b "History of Parliament". Retrieved 18 June 2013.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  29. ^ Craig 2004.
  30. ^ Baker 2008.
  31. ^ Strachan 2004.
  32. ^ "History of Parliament". Retrieved 18 June 2013.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  33. ^ Lowe 2004.
  34. ^ Evans 2004.
  35. ^ Bayley 1825, pp. 665-6.
  36. ^ a b c d e f Bayley 1825, p. 666.
  37. ^ a b Knafla 2004.
  38. ^ Round 2004.
  39. ^ LaCombe 2004.
  40. ^ Furgol 2004.
  41. ^ Morgan 2004.
  42. ^ Hutton 2004.
  43. ^ Hopper 2004.
  44. ^ "House of Lords Journal Volume 6: 11 August 1643". pp. 177–178. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  45. ^ Lindley 29081 2004.
  46. ^ Durston 2004.
  47. ^ Peacey 2004.
  48. ^ Seaward 2004.
  49. ^ Snell 2004.
  50. ^ Haydon 2004.