Constable of the Tower

General The Lord Dannatt, dressed in full ceremonial uniform of HM's Constable of The Tower

The Constable of the Tower is the most senior appointment at the Tower of London. In the Middle Ages a constable was the person in charge of a castle when the owner—the king or a nobleman—was not in residence. The Constable of the Tower had a unique importance as the person in charge of the principal fortress defending the capital city of England.

Today the role of Constable is a ceremonial one and mainly involves taking part in traditional ceremonies within the Tower as well as being part of the community that lives within its perimeter. The Constable is also a trustee of Historic Royal Palaces and of the Royal Armouries.

Under the Queen's Regulations for the Army, the office of Constable is conferred upon a field marshal or a retired general officer for a five-year term.[1] The Constable appointed in 2016 is General Sir Nick Houghton.[2] The Constable's ceremonial deputy is the Lieutenant of the Tower of London, currently Simon Mayall; this office is generally entrusted to a general officer of lower rank than the Constable.

At the conclusion of the Constable's Installation ceremony, the Lord Chamberlain symbolically hands over the Queen's House to the Constable. He in turn entrusts it to the Resident Governor, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of Her Majesty's Palace and Fortress, the Tower of London.


The office of Constable of the Tower is one of the oldest in England, dating back to within a few years of the Conquest, and has always been one of great honour and dignity. In the past, this appointment has been held by eminent prelates of the Church, prominent politicians and distinguished soldiers. The first Constable, Geoffrey de Mandeville was appointed by William the Conqueror (AD 1066-87) in the 11th century. Formerly, in the absence of the Sovereign, the Constable would have been among the most powerful men in London. Today the Constable retains the right of direct access to the Sovereign. Since 1784 the Constable has always been a senior military officer.

During the medieval period the Constable ran the Tower which included building maintenance, soldiers' pay and, as the Royal menagerie was housed in the Tower, supervision of the 'Keeper of the King's Animals'. He was also ultimately responsible for the prisoners kept there. The first known prisoner was the Norman bishop Ranulf Flambard in 1100, and the London gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray were the last official prisoners, for a few days in 1952, for refusing to do their National Service. They were sent to the Tower as it was the barracks of the 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) to which they had been assigned.

The Constable's responsibility for prisoners was made clear in the words with which he was entrusted with them: “You are to guard them securely in the prison of our said tower in such a way that you shall answer for them body for body ... Fail in no part of this on pain of forfeiture of life and limb and all property you hold in our realms.”

Until the expulsion of the Jews in 1290, the Constable was responsible for the regulation and protection of London's Jewry.

Lord Lieutenant of the Tower HamletsEdit

Until 1899, the Constable also held the office of Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets. The Tower Hamlets was an area of SE Middlesex that urbanised as inner East London and included the area of the eponymous modern borough and most of what is now the London Borough of Hackney.

This was an unusual arrangement as Lord Lieutenancy powers were usually exercised at county level; they enabled the Constable to raise local forces to supplement the Tower garrison at times of increased tension, or for use in the field.

Constable's duesEdit

In the Middle Ages it was a profitable position; among the Constable's entitlements were:

  • any horses, oxen, pigs or sheep that fell off London Bridge
  • any cart that fell into the Tower moat
  • all herbage growing on Tower Hill
  • 6/8d (six shillings and eight pence) annually from each boat fishing between the Tower and the sea
  • 1s (1 shilling) a year from all ships carrying herring to London
  • 2d (2 pence) from each pilgrim who came to London, by sea, to worship at the shrine of St James
  • all swans swimming under London Bridge.

Every ship that came upstream to London had to moor at Tower Wharf to give a portion of its cargo to the Constable, as payment for the protection afforded by the Tower's cannon. These dues included oysters, mussels, cockles, rushes, and wine. The tradition is still maintained today by the Royal Navy, at the annual Ceremony of the Constable's Dues, when one large vessel presents the Constable with a barrel of rum.[3]

Since 1784 the tradition has been for the Constable to be a senior military officer, usually a general officer. Perhaps the most famous Constable was Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who served from 1825 to 1852. During his tenure, the royal menagerie and record office were removed and many buildings were restored to their medieval state. The moat was drained and converted into a parade ground. Yeomen Warders were no longer permitted to buy and sell their places but were to be drawn only from sergeants in the Army. To His Grace's displeasure, tourism at the Tower increased during his Constableship.

Each Constable is now appointed for five years. The new Constable is handed the keys as a symbol of office. On state occasions the Constable has custody of the crown and other royal jewels.

List of ConstablesEdit

This is an incomplete list of people who have served as Constable of the Tower of London, a post traditionally combined with that of Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets.

Portrait Name From To Note
Geoffrey de Mandeville 1068 (?) First Constable, appointed by William the Conqueror[4][5]
William de Mandeville 1100 1116 (?) Son of Geoffrey I de Mandeville, held Ranulf Flambard
Othuer fitz Count 1116? 1120 Son of Hugh d'Avranches, Earl of Chester.
Hasculf de Tani 1120 1140?
Geoffrey II de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex 1140 1144 (d.) Son of William de Mandeville
no record of Constables during reign of Stephen, 1144-1153[5]
Richard de Lucie 1153 1179 (d.) also Chief Justiciar
Garnier de Isenei
William Longchamp 1189 Bishop of Ely, Chancellor and Regent
William Puintellus 1189 Sub-Constable
Walter of Coutances 1191 Bishop of Rouen
Roger Fitz Renfred 1194 brother of Walter of Coutances
Geoffrey Fitz Peter 1198 Chief Justiciar; created Earl of Essex, 1199
Roger de la Dune 1205
Geoffrey FitzGeoffrey de Mandeville October 1213 Son of Geoffrey FitzPeter
William de Cornhill November 1213 Archdeacon of Huntingdon
Eustace de Greinville 1214
Stephen Langton June 1215 Archbishop of Canterbury
Tower occupied by Prince Louis of France June 1216
Walter de Verdun 1217
Stephen de Seagrave 1220 Chief Justiciar
Hugh de Wyndlesore 1224
John de Boville and Thomas de Blumvill or Blundeville (probably together) 1225 Blundeville was Bishop of Norwich, 1226.
Henry Fitz Aucher 1227
Ralph de Gatel 1230
Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent July 1232
Ralph de Ralegh 1232 Sub-Constable
William de St. Edmund 1233
Hugh Giffard 1234
Geoffrey de Crancumb March 1235
Hugh Giffard (again) April 1236
Walter de Gray, Archbishop of York and Bertram de Crioyl or Criolle (jointly) 1240 Midsummer 1242 de Criol Constable of Dover Castle 1242-1256
Peter de Vallibus 1244
John de Plessetis June 1244
Peter le Blund 1246
Aymon Thorimbergh September 1256
Imbert Pugeys 1257
Hugh Bigod 1258 Chief Justiciar
Richard de Culwurth 1261
Sir John Mansel or Maunsel May 1261
Richard de Tilbury 1261
Hugh le Despencer 1262 Chief Justiciar, killed at Evesham, 4 August 1265
Roger de Leyburn 1265
Hugh Fitz Otho October 1265
John Walerand and John de la Lynde (jointly) November 1265
Alan la Zouche 1265
Thomas de Ippegrave April 1268
Stephen de Eddeville July 1268
Hugh Fitz Otho (again) 1269
Walter Giffard 1272 Archbishop of York
John de Burgh December 1273
Philip Basset 1274
Anthony de Bec 1275 Bishop of Durham
Richard de Waldegrave June 1280 Sub-Constable
Ralph de Dacre 1283
Ralph de Sandwich September 1285
Ralph Berners February 1289
Ralph de Sandwich (again) July 1289
John de Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell March 1308
Roger de Swynnerton 1321
Stephen de Segrave February 1323
Walter de Stapledon 1323 Bishop of Exeter
John de Weston November 1323
John de Gisors and Richard de Betoigne (jointly) November 1326
Thomas Wake, 2nd Baron Wake of Liddell December 1326
John de Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell (again) March 1327
William, Baron la Zouche, of Mortimer June 1328
John de Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell (again) 1329
Nicholas de la Beche October 1335
William Montagu, 1st Earl of Salisbury 1335 1344
Robert de Dalton 1341
John, Baron Darcy (of Knaith) March 1346 1347 (d.)
John, Baron Darcy (son) June 1347
Bartholomew de Burghersh, 1st Baron Burghersh 1355 August 1355 (d.)
Robert de Morley, 2nd Baron Morley 1355
  John de Beauchamp, 1st Baron Beauchamp de Warwick
Richard de la Vache 1361
Sir Aleyne de Boxhull 1366 broke Westminster Abbey's sanctuary 1378
Sir Thomas Murrieux December 1381
Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent May 1387
Sir Thomas Morreux (? son of above) July 1391 probably Deputy
  Edward (Plantagenet) January 1392 September 1397 Earl of Rutland
  Ralph de Neville, 4th Baron Neville September 1397 October 1397 1st Earl of Westmorland from 29 September 1397
  Edward Plantagenet (again) October 1397 August 1399 Duke of Albemarle and Earl of Rutland
Sir Thomas de Rempston October 1399 Drowned at London Bridge, 31 October 1406
  Edward (Plantagenet) (again)[6] November 1406 1413 now Duke of York, slain at Agincourt, 1415
John Dabrichecourt 1413 1413
Robert de Morley 1413 1415
William Bourchier November 1415 Earl of Eu, 1419, d. 1420
Roger Aston July 1420 August 1420
John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon August 1420 Duke of Exeter
James Fienes, Lord Say 1447 July 1450 Murdered by Jack Cade's mob, 4 July 1450
Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter June 1451
William Bourchier, Viscount Bourchier September 1460
John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester December 1461 October 1470 Executed by Lancastrians, 18 October 1470
John Sutton, Baron Dudley 1470
Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset April 1483 in office before accession of Edward V in 1483
Sir Robert Brackenbury July 1483 Killed at Bosworth Field, 22 August 1485
John de Vere, Earl of Oxford September 1485 1513
Sir Thomas Lovell March 1513 1524
Sir William Kingston May 1524 1540
  Sir John Gage October 1540 1553
  Edward Clinton, 9th Baron Clinton July 1553 August 1553 1st Earl of Lincoln from 1572
  Sir John Gage (again) August 1553 1556
Sir Edward Braye 1556 1557
Sir Robert Oxenbridge January 1557 1558
Peter Carew 1572 1572
  Sir Richard Berkeley of Stoke Gifford 1595
  Sir William Wade (Lieutenant)[7] 1605 1611
  Sir Gervase Helwys (Lieutenant) 1611 1615
Sir George More (Lieutenant) 1615 1617
Sir Allen Apsley (Lieutenant) 1617 1630
Sir Thomas Lunsford (Lieutenant) 1641 1641 served for a few days, per Clarendon
  Francis, Baron Cottington 1640 William Balfour was his Lieutenant
  Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport 1641
  John Byron, 1st Baron Byron (Lieutenant) 1641 1642
  Sir Thomas Fairfax August 1647[7] 1650 Robert Tichborne was his Lieutenant.
Sir John Robinson, 1st Baronet 1660 1675
  James Compton, 3rd Earl of Northampton 1675 1679
William Alington, 3rd Baron Alington 1679 1685
  George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth 1685 1688
Robert Lucas, 3rd Baron Lucas of Shenfield 1688 1702
Montagu Venables-Bertie, 2nd Earl of Abingdon 1702 1705
  Algernon Capell, 2nd Earl of Essex 1706 1710
Richard Savage, 4th Earl Rivers 1710 1712
George Compton, 4th Earl of Northampton 1712 1715
  Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle 1715 1722
  Henry Clinton, 7th Earl of Lincoln 1723 1725
  Charles Paulet, 3rd Duke of Bolton 1725 1726
Henry Lowther, 3rd Viscount Lonsdale 1726 1731
John Sidney, 6th Earl of Leicester 1731 1737
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Earl Cornwallis 1740 1762
John Berkeley, 5th Baron Berkeley of Stratton 1762 1770
  Charles Cornwallis, 2nd Earl Cornwallis 1770 1784
  The Lord George Lennox 1784 1784
  Charles Cornwallis, 2nd Earl Cornwallis 1784 1805 1st Marquess Cornwallis from 1792
  Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings 1806 1826
  Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington 1826 1852
  Stapleton Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere 1852 1865
  Sir John Burgoyne, Baronet 1865 1871
  Sir George Pollock 1871 1872
  Sir William Maynard Gomm 1872 1875
  Sir Charles Yorke 1875 1880
  Sir William Fenwick Williams 1881 1881
  Sir Richard James Dacres 1881 1886
  Robert Napier, 1st Baron Napier of Magdala 1886 1890
  Sir Daniel Lysons 1890 1898
  Sir Frederick Stephenson 1898 1911
  Sir Henry Evelyn Wood 1911 1919
  Paul Methuen, 3rd Baron Methuen 1920 1932
  George Milne, 1st Baron Milne 1933 1938
  Sir Claud William Jacob 1938 1943
  Sir Philip Chetwode, 7th Baronet 1943 1948 1st Baron Chetwode from 1945
  Archibald Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell 1948 1950
  Alan Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke 1950 1955
  Henry Maitland Wilson, 1st Baron Wilson 1955 1960
  Harold Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis 1960 1965
  Sir Gerald Templer 1965 1970
Sir Richard Hull 1970 1975
Sir Geoffrey Baker 1975 May 1980
Sir Peter Hunt June 1980 July 1985
Sir Roland Gibbs August 1985 July 1990
Sir John Stanier August 1990 July 1996
  Peter Inge, Baron Inge August 1996 July 2001 Baron Inge from 1997
Sir Roger Wheeler August 2001 July 2009
  Richard Dannatt, Baron Dannatt[4] August 2009 July 2016
  Nick Houghton, Baron Houghton 2016


  1. ^ The Queen's Regulations for the Army (Ministry of Defence): Chapter 9, Annex B.
  2. ^ "Lord Houghton of Richmond". Hospitality and Catering News. 11 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  3. ^ Ceremony of the Constable's Dues Archived 2007-12-21 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b Dannatt to be next Constable of the Tower of London Ministry of Defence, UK. Defence News, 5 Feb 09. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  5. ^ a b "Constables and Lieutenants of the Tower of London" W. L. Rutton, Notes and Queries, 10 S. IX, No. 213, Jan. 25, 1908, pp.62–63
  6. ^ "Constables and Lieutenants of the Tower of London" W. L. Rutton, Notes and Queries, 10 S. IX, No. 218, Feb. 29, 1908, pp.161–163
  7. ^ a b "Constables and Lieutenants of the Tower of London" W. L. Rutton, Notes and Queries, 10 S. IX, No. 222, Mar. 28, 1908, pp.243–246


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