List of prisoners of the Tower of London

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.

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

Other prisoners include:

12th centuryEdit

13th centuryEdit

14th centuryEdit

15th centuryEdit

16th centuryEdit

  • Sir William de la Pole. A nephew of Edward IV and thus potential Yorkist claimant to the throne, he was incarcerated at the Tower for 37 years (1502–1539) for allegedly plotting against Henry VII, thus becoming the longest-held prisoner.
  • Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare, a powerful Irish lord; held in the tower in 1526 and again in 1530, and again in 1534; he was executed in 1534 when his son "Silken Thomas" rebelled against the crown.
  • Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare ("Silken Thomas"), held in the Tower from 1535 with five of his uncles until their executions in 1537.
  • John Frith, a contemporary of William Tyndale, was imprisoned for 8 months before being tried for heresy and burnt at the stake in Smithfield on 4 July 1533, he is considered to be the first Protestant martyr.
  • Saint John Fisher was executed on Tower Hill on 22 June 1535. Thomas Cranmer's consecration as Archbishop of Canterbury had taken place in March 1533, and, a week later, John Fisher was arrested.
  • Saint Thomas More was imprisoned on 17 April 1534 for treason. He was executed on 6 July 1535 and his body was buried at the Tower of London.
  • Blessed Thomas Abel, chaplain to Queen Catherine of Aragon, was imprisoned for refusing to accept the annulment of her marriage to Henry VIII. He was put to death in Smithfield on 30 July 1540.
  • Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII of England, was imprisoned on 2 May 1536 on charges of High Treason: adultery, incest, and witchcraft. She remained a prisoner until 19 May 1536 when she was beheaded by a French swordsman on Tower Green.
  • In 1539, Hugh Latimer opposed Henry VIII's Six Articles, with the result that he was imprisoned in the Tower of London (where he was again in 1546).
  • Adam Sedbar, Abbot of Jervaulx, imprisoned in 1537 for taking part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, before being hanged, drawn and quartered.
  • Blessed Richard Whiting Abbott of Glastonbury Abbey was imprisoned in 1539 for a short time before being returned to Glastonbury to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
  • Blessed Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury was imprisoned from 1539 until her beheading in 1541 for treason.
  • Thomas Cromwell was imprisoned by Henry VIII in 1540 before his execution.
  • Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, was imprisoned in 1542 before her execution.
  • Lady Rochford, sister in law to queen Anne Boleyn, held there before her execution with Catherine Howard.
  • Anne Askew, Protestant reformer, was imprisoned and tortured for heresy in 1546 before being burnt at the stake.
  • Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, was imprisoned in the Tower and set to be executed at the time of Henry VIII's death in 1547. Edward VI granted him as a reprieve, but he remained in the Tower until pardoned by Mary I in 1553.
  • Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, and his steward Sir John Thynne. Although Somerset was released from the Tower and restored to the Council, he was executed for felony in January 1552 after scheming to overthrow John Dudley, Earl of Warwick's regime.
  • Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was imprisoned in 1553 before being sent to Oxford in 1554 to be burnt at the stake for heresy.
  • Lady Jane Grey, uncrowned Queen of England and her husband Guilford Dudley were imprisoned in the tower from 1553 until 12 February 1554, when they were beheaded by order of Queen Mary I.
  • In the reign of Edward VI Stephen Gardiner was imprisoned in the Tower (1548 – 1553) for his failure to conform. Upon Mary's accession to the throne he was restored to his see and made Lord Chancellor.
  • The future Queen Elizabeth I was imprisoned for two months in 1554 for her alleged involvement in Wyatt's Rebellion.
  • In 1566 Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox was sent to the Tower, and was released after the murder of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley in 1567.
  • Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton was imprisoned from October 1571 to May 1573 for his part in the Ridolfi plot to assassinate Elizabeth I and replace her on the English throne with Mary, Queen of Scots.
  • Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland, for involvement in several pro-Catholic and Marian plots, from November 1571 to after June 1573, a few weeks in late 1582, and from December 1584 to June 21, 1585, when he was found shot to death in his cell; brought in as a suicide.
  • Saint Henry Walpole was imprisoned in 1593. While incarcerated in the Salt Tower, he carved his name in the plaster along with those of saints Peter, Paul, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and Gregory the Great. He was put to death in York on 7 April 1595.
  • Saint Philip Howard was committed to the Tower of London on 25 April 1585. He died alone on Sunday, 19 October 1595.
  • Robert Poley, spy and messenger for the court of Queen Elizabeth I, was imprisoned on the charge of treason. He used his time in the Tower to gather information on his fellow prisoners. He was released a year and a half later.
  • Queen Elizabeth imprisoned Anne Vavasour along with Edward de Vere and their illegitimate son, from March to June 1581.
  • John Gerard, an English Jesuit priest operating undercover during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when Catholics were being persecuted. He was captured in 1594 and tortured and incarcerated in the Salt Tower before making a daring escape by rope across the moat in 1597.
  • William Wright, another Jesuit priest who was arrested in the aftermath of The Gunpowder Plot.

17th centuryEdit

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Conn O'Neill, young Irish nobleman of the Ó Néill dynasty, held in the Tower from 1615 due to fears of a rebellion to restore the dynasty's power in Ulster. No record of him exists after 1622.
  • Sir Francis Nethersole, secretary to Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia was imprisoned for several months in early 1634 for having offended Charles I by questioning the king's support for his sister.
  • William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, was imprisoned from 1640 to 1645 before his execution for treason.
  • John Barwick, English royalist churchman and Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, was charged with high treason. He was committed (April 1650) first to the Gatehouse prison at Westminster, and then to the Tower of London. He was released, without any trial, in August 1652.
  • Sir Anthony Jackson acted as Herald in proclaiming Charles II as King of England after the execution of Charles I. Captured at the Battle of Worcester, Sir Anthony was committed to the Tower of London in 1651 for "invading this nation with Charles Stuart". He was only released at the beginning of the Restoration in 1659.
  • John Lambert, Parliamentary general and politician, led the Army in declaring against Parliament and was appointed Major-General. He was imprisoned in March 1660 after his soldiers fled the March on London. He escaped the Tower within a month, descending a silk rope to a waiting barge. He was recaptured and briefly held in the Tower again before being transferred to Guernsey.
  • Major William Rainsborowe, Leveller, was imprisoned in Dec of 1660, on suspicion of treason and released on Bail in February 1661.
  • John Downes, regicide and friend of Cromwell. Though he signed the death warrant he escaped execution as he tried to save the King. He was imprisoned from 1660 until his death in 1666.
  • Henry Oldenburg, first Secretary to the Royal Society, was imprisoned for one month in 1663 on suspicion of espionage. He had been corresponding with scientists across Europe.
  • William Penn, Quaker and future founder of Pennsylvania, was imprisoned for seven months in 1668-69 for pamphleteering.
  • Francis Lovelace, governor of New York colony who was overthrown by the Dutch forces, 1673; on his return in disgrace to England, he was eventually committed to the Tower.
  • 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.

18th centuryEdit

19th centuryEdit

20th centuryEdit

  • Roger Casement was imprisoned for 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 until 1937, but he was not executed, because England was not at war with Germany.
  • The last state prisoner to be held in the Tower, Rudolf Hess, the deputy leader of the Nazi Party, in May 1941.[7]
  • The last person to be executed in the Tower, Josef Jakobs, Nazi spy, shot by a firing squad on 15 August 1941.[8]
  • The last people to be held in the Tower, the Kray twins.[9] They were imprisoned 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). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-27. 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. ^ Impey & Parnell 2000, p. 123
  8. ^ Sellers 1997, p. 179
  9. ^ The Tower, Channel 4, 2008-08-01, retrieved 2008-08-01

External linksEdit