The Tragedies of the Tower: The Ghosts of the Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of the most iconic landmarks in the United Kingdom, and it has stood as a visible example of the monarchy’s might and power for almost 1000 years. While it has served at various times as a royal residence, it has a far more notorious history as a prison where unfortunates of all kinds were left to wait for mercy or execution.
Between the cold stone walls and the ravens that are kept in residence, the Tower of London is an imposing structure, steeped in both blood and history. It makes sense that some of the former residents, tied by suffering and sad fates, have reappeared in the form of ghosts.
Henry VI was a weak monarch, but he did not deserve the death that was waiting for him at the Tower of London. He had been imprisoned by political rivals who kept him alive to rule in his name, but in 1471, they decided that he was doing more harm than good. Word was given out that he died of grief after hearing about his son’s death, but historians now believe that he was murdered under the orders of Edward IV, who was crowned the day after. Every year at midnight on the anniversary of his death, the ghost of Henry VI paces Wakefield Tower where he was slain.
Guy Fawkes is remembered as one of the men who tried to blow up the House of Lords, and when he was caught, his punishment was severe. In 1606, he was tortured before being being judged guilty of high treason. He was dragged behind a horse to the gallows, where he was hung and then quartered, his body parts sent to distant areas of England to warn others. For years after his death, records from the era contain notes about his screams and cries coming from the room where he awaited execution.
Margaret Pole, the former Countess of Salisbury, would not go quietly. In 1541, she was sentenced to execution for the mere crime of being related to those who committed treason, and when she was taken to the place of execution at Tower Green, she ran from the man holding the ax. She was finally brought in front of her executioner, but her suffering didn’t end then. He was inexperienced at his bloody work, and his first cut gashed her shoulder. It took more than ten blows to strike her head from her body, and according to the Calender of State Papers, he “hacked her head and shoulders to pieces.” Ghostly reenactments of this terrible scene have been glimpsed at Tower Green for years on May 27th, the anniversary of her death.
For Richard III to become King of England in 1483, he had to get rid of two young princes. Edward V, a twelve-year-old, and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York, stood to inherit, but Richard III held them at the Tower of London, where they were never seen again after his coronation. Rumors ran rampant that Richard III had the two young princes murdered, and throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, guards reported seeing two young boys in bloody nightshirts wandering hand in hand through the tower’s dark halls.
These are just a few of the ghosts that haunt the Tower of London, and even after the Tower was closed as a prison in the middle of the 20th century, the ghosts have stayed, mourning their sad lives and hasty deaths.