The Bloody Tower at Tower of London

The Bloody Tower at Tower of London

Historical background to the Bloody Tower at Tower of London in a nutshell

The Bloody Tower, Tower of London
The Bloody Tower, Tower of London

Built in the 1220s under the reign of King Henry III, the Bloody Tower is located on the south side of the fortress, facing the Thames River, adjacent to the Wakefield Tower. which was formerly home to the royal apartments.

Spiked portcullis at the Bloody Tower, Tower of London |  © mytimelessfootsteps, georgina_daniel

When it was built, the tower was intended to control the main river entrance to the Tower of London. However, in 1280, under Edward I, the outer defensive wall was built which meant the entrance via the Bloody Tower was now land locked. Consequently, the tower’s entrance archway became the main access point between the inner and the outer ward with a narrow cobbled passage on the ground floor. The entrance archway is blocked by spiked portcullis, controlled with a lifting mechanism that still remains in operation today. The Bloody Tower, like many of the medieval era has both an upper and lower chamber.

The Tower underwent further expansions between 1360 – 1362 under the reign of Edward III but the most significant changes came in the 17th century when the prison Tower became home to Sir Walter Raleigh, his family and his servants.

Origin of the name ‘Bloody Tower’

The Bloody Tower was originally known as the Garden Tower, which was related to the Constable’s Garden. No one really knows how, why or what inspired the name ‘Bloody Tower’ but all research seems to suggest a strong association with the mysterious disappearance and supposed murder of two young princes in 1483. The Tower derived its name from the 1560s when it was believed that the princes were murdered. More on this below.

Prisoners of the Bloody Tower at Tower of London

There were a number of prisoners at the Bloody Tower. Archbishop Tudor Cranmer, Bishops Ridley and Latimer, Protestant martyrs condemned to death in 1556 by Queen Mary I who was Catholic. Thomas Overbury, poet and courtier was poisoned in Bloody Tower in 1613. Judge Jeffreys died at the Tower in 1688. Amongst all of the prisoners, the most notable high status ones were Sir Walter Raleigh and the two young princes.

Sir Walter Raleigh

One of the most famous prisoner of the Bloody Tower was Sir Walter Raleigh. He was an Englishman, an officer, an explorer and a poet who fell from grace and was imprisoned by James I.

Raleigh had an inquisitive mind, a passion for poetry and science.

Raleigh was a prisoner of high status. He spent thirteen years here. The Tower was extensively renovated to accommodate his wife, his two sons and he was allowed three servants. He was given access to a courtyard outside the Bloody Tower. This was an opportunity for Raleigh to do his daily exercise and to cultivate a small garden in which he could grow some exotic plants that caught his interests while travelling in South America.

Raleigh's Garden at the Bloody Tower
Garden at the Bloody Tower, Tower of London | Photo credit: https:hrp.org.uk

In his garden, he grew plants to create medicinal potions. Today, a visit to the garden at the Bloody Tower and you shall see plants such as mint, bistort and rosemary which Raleigh had used in his remedies.

A visit to the Tower of London today and take a look inside the Bloody Tower, Sir Walter Raleigh’s Study | Photo credit hrp.org.uk

Now, after 400 years since his execution, a visit to the Bloody Tower reveals a complex and a brilliant man, who famously introduced “potato” to English tables, and less famously, tobacco. It all appears that he was just an adventurous man whose spirit was crushed by imprisonment.

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh was denied his liberty but not his comfort. He was assigned two rooms on the second floor of the Bloody Tower. His family could visit and he could grow plants. He was in captivity for thirteen years. During his imprisonment he wrote a book, “History of the World” which was published in 1614. Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded four years later in 1618 at the Old Palace Yard, Palace of Westminster.

Walter Raleigh, © akg-images / De Agostini Picture Library

hrp.org.uk

Read more on Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh’s book, History of the World is available for purchase on Amazon as reprint or as cloud versions. Options below.

An Abridgment Of Sir Walter Raleigh’s History Of The World: In Five Books (1698) Paperback. 470 pages. Published 2010

by Walter Raleigh (Author)

This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world’s literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.

Kessinger Publishing

The History of the World Kindle Edition

418 pages. March 29 2016

by Sir Walter Raleigh  (Author), C.A. Patrides (Editor) 

Download the Kindle version or buy it in Hardcover or Paperback.

This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This book may have occasional imperfections
such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact,
or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections,
have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works
worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.

Palgrave MacMillan

Princes at the Tower | Edward V and Richard Duke of York | Murder and Mystery at the Bloody Tower

Despite the many prisoners who had seen their last days in the Bloody Tower, by far the saddest and most gruesome of events that made the Bloody Tower infamous was the mysterious disappearance of the two young princes.

The two Princes, Edward V and his younger brother, Richard Duke of York – sons to King Edward IV were under the guardianship of their uncle, Richard Duke of Gloucester who was their Lord Protector. They were brought to the Tower of London and was confined to the walls of the Bloody Tower. According to the Yeoman Warder tour I joined, the Princes may have watched from the top floor windows of the Bloody Tower the Coronation procession of their uncle, Richard Duke of Gloucester, proclaimed as King Richard III when it should have been Edward V, the older prince. The two Princes were last seen alive in June 1483. Mystery surrounds their disappearance.

The two Princes - Edward and Richard

The two Princes, Edward V and his younger brother, Richard Duke of York – sons to King Edward IV . The two Princes were last seen alive in June 1483. Mystery surrounds their disappearance.

Photo credit hrp.org.uk

It is said that their disappearance is so because they were murdered in the late summer of 1483. There are conflicting theories as to who ordered their murders.

According to the traditionalists theory, it is believed that the Princes were killed on their uncle Richard’s orders. On the other hand, the revisionists argue that his successor, Henry VII had equal cause to remove the two Princes, as they stood as much in his path to the throne as they did in Richard’s. (Richard III was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 by the Lancastrian Henry Tudor, who ascended to the throne as King Henry VII.

About two-hundred years or so later since the disappearance of the Princes from the Bloody Tower, skeletons were discovered behind the stairs leading to the White Tower in 1674. These were later removed to the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey at the command of Charles II.

Georgina says: There are inundated stories of the Tower being haunted by the many poor souls who lost their lives here. One such story/legend is that the Bloody Tower is haunted by the ghosts of the two princes. It was reported back in the 15th century where the Tower Guards spotted shadows of two small figures gliding down the stairs in white night shirts. The figures were said to stand silently, hand in hand, before fading back into the stones of the Bloody Tower.

The skeletons were re-examined in 1933. It proved to be those of two boys aged about 12 and 10, the same ages as the Princes when they disappeared. The disappearance of the Princes still remains a cold case as to who was responsible for their death.

If you wish to learn more and delve deeper into the mystery of the missing princes in sinister circumstances, the following books either in print or cloud is highly recommended.

The Princes In The Tower by Alison Weir (2008-06-05) Paperback – 1 Jan. 1823

Avaialble on Kindle, Hardback and Paperback

The stories of the Bloody Tower, as are all other stories of prisoners in other accommodations within the Tower of London grounds such as the Queen’s House and the Beauchamp Tower are spellbindingly intriguing. Even though there are so many books, articles, blogs dedicated to the iconic fortress, palace and prison, it still holds many secrets, unsolved mysteries and ghosts that linger the grounds of the Tower of London. It is hard to keep away from the Bloody Tower, and the wider Tower of London, especially if you are a history buff. For visitors generally, the Tower of London reflects the journey of 1000 years of British history and it is a destination not to be missed.


If you have enjoyed reading this article, you may also be interested in other London related articles:

Discover London | London MyCityMyTown | Christmas in London | All posts on the blog


I sincerely hope that this post is valuable to you in planning your visits to the Bloody Tower at Tower of London. If so please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you. Subscribe to join us at My Timeless Footsteps to receive all the latest news and events. As always, I am contactable at ggdaniel166@gmail.com for any further info or to design your itinerary for you.

Have a splendid time exploring London

Georgina xx

Books on Prisoners of the Bloody Tower
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Prisoners of the Bloody Tower
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A beginner's guide to the secrets and unsolved mysteries at the Bloody Tower of Tower of London | Tower of London | Princes at the Tower | English History | British history | English monarchs | Sir Walter Raleigh | Walter Ralegh | Visit London | London | Landmarks in London | UNESCO listed in England via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/A beginner's guide to the secrets and unsolved mysteries at the Bloody Tower of Tower of London | Tower of London | Princes at the Tower | English History | British history | English monarchs | Sir Walter Raleigh | Walter Ralegh | Visit London | London | Landmarks in London | UNESCO listed in England via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

Books on Prisoners of the Bloody Tower | Intriguing tales of Prisoners of the Bloody Tower

Books on Prisoners of the Bloody Tower | Intriguing tales of Prisoners of the Bloody Tower

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About the Bloody Tower at Tower of London

Built in the early 1220s as access gateway to the Thames, the Bloody Tower was originally known as the Garden Tower because it was next to the Constable’s garden. The Tower was not intended to be a prison but it became home to a number of prisoners, notably Sir Walter Raleigh and the two princes. The tower gained its reputation in the 16th century as the Bloody Tower when the notorious murders of the princes, Edward V and Richard Duke of York that supposedly took place within the walls of the tower were discovered. To learn more about the Bloody Tower, navigate to The Bloody Tower at the Tower of London, while on this page, there are carefully selected and recommended reading items – books on the prisoners of the Bloody Tower should you wish to delve deeper into learning more about the famous prisoners that resided here, Sir Walter Raleigh and the royal princes.

*Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page

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Tower of London | 51.5081° N, 0.0759° W

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh
Walter Raleigh, © akg-images / De Agostini Picture Library

Walter Raleigh (also spelled as Ralegh) was an English gentleman, writer, poet, adventurer, politician, courtier and a soldier who introduced ‘potato’ to the English dinner tables. A charming nobleman, he was one of the most famous explorers during the reign of Elizabeth I. He pioneered the colonisation of North America and helped defend England against the Spainish Armada. Raleigh was rewarded handsomely by the Queen and received his knighthood in 1585.

When Queen Elizabeth I died, James I succeeded to the throne in 1603 who imprisoned Raleigh at the Tower of London. While confined to the walls of the Tower, he wrote ‘History of the World‘. In 1616, Raleigh was released to head an expedition to South America, during which his men attacked a Spanish settlement. He was forced to abandon his mission. Upon his return, he was imprisoned at the Bloody Tower to appease the Spaniards until his beheading in 1618.

Suggested reading: Bloody Tower at the Tower of London

Below is a selection of books, some written by Walter Raleigh himself which are available as reprints and some books written about him. Enjoy perusing each of the carefully selected books to learn more of this infamous adventurer. You can purchase them as Paperback, Hardcover or instant download on Kindle.

Books on Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life and Legend Kindle Edition – by Mark Nicholls +  P. Williams  

The Poems of Sir Walter Raleigh: Now First Collected (Classic Reprint) Paperback – 27 Jun. 2012

The Roanake Voyages 1584-1590: Vol II: English Voyages to North America Paperback – 28 Mar. 2003

The Letters Of Sir Walter Ralegh Hardcover – Illustrated, 1 July 1999


Sir Walter Raleigh 174 Success Facts – Everything You Need to Know about Sir Walter Raleigh Paperback – 5 Jun. 2014

The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana by Sir Walter Raleigh (Exploring Travel) Paperback – 4 Dec. 1997

An Abridgment Of Sir Walter Raleigh’s History Of The World: In Five Books (1698) Paperback – 10 Sept. 2010

Sir Walter Raleigh A Biography Kindle Edition. Also available in Paperback and Hardcover

Click on the images to view the synopsis and Buy on Amazon


The Princes – Edward V and Richard Duke of York

The two princes, Edward and his younger brother, Richard mysteriously disappeared in 1483 from the Bloody Tower. The princes, sons of Edward IV were brought to the Tower by their uncle and Lord Protector, Duke of Gloucester for their ‘own protection’. Duke of Gloucester later became King Richard III. The princes were never seen alive again.

Below is a list of books written on the mysterious disappearance and the sinister plot that may have transpired during this fifteen century era. There are various opinions as to who was responsible for their disappearance and/or murder. This mystery remains unsolved till today.

Books on the Missing Princes at the Tower

Richard III and the Princes in the Tower Paperback – 7 Aug. 2014 by Alison Weir

The Survival of the Princes in the Tower: Murder, Mystery and Myth Kindle Edition by Matthew Lewis (Also available in Paperback and Hardback)

The Mythology of the ‘Princes in the Tower‘ Kindle Edition by John Ashdown-Hill (Available in Paperback and Hardback as well)

The Princes in the Tower : Cold Case Re-opened Kindle Edition by Mark Garber (Available as Audiobook as well)

The Killer of the Princes in the Tower: A New Suspect Revealed Hardcover – 30 Jun. 2021

Pre order Price Guarantee

The Princes in the Tower: Did Richard III Murder His Nephews, Edward V & Richard of York? Kindle Edition by Josephine Wilkinson

Richard III and the Princes in the Tower: The Possible Fates of Edward V and Richard of York Paperback – Illustrated, 30 Oct. 2016 by Gerald Prenderghast

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Click on the images to view synopsis and Buy on Amazon


What do you think of the selection above? Have you read any of these books? I sincerely hope that the selection is valuable to you in knowing more about British History and in particular about the Tower of London. Do share your thoughts in comments below. The following related articles may also be of value to you in planning your visit to the Tower of London.

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Books on prisoners of the Bloody Tower
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A Must Read on British History-carefully selected books on the famous prisoners at the Bloody Tower to complement Tower of London series. Visit London | Princes in the Tower | Walter Raleigh | British History | Landmark of Britain | A Palace Fortress and a Prison | Stories on Tower of London | Visit Britain | Most popular attraction in London | Must visit sites in Britain | UNESCO | via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/A Must Read on British History-carefully selected books on the famous prisoners at the Bloody Tower to complement Tower of London series. Visit London | Princes in the Tower | Walter Raleigh | British History | Landmark of Britain | A Palace Fortress and a Prison | Stories on Tower of London | Visit Britain | Most popular attraction in London | Must visit sites in Britain | UNESCO | via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/
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