The Prince and the Pauper – Chapter Two – Historical Tidbit

Today’s blog and video focuses on one of the most ominous landmarks in London. Mentioned briefly in Chapter 2 of the The Prince and the Pauper, this place is well-known to this day. For Chapter 2 we are exploring…

The Tower of London

The Tower of London has a dark history that includes housing some of the most famous prisoners in England’s past. Though it is only brought up once in Chapter 2, it is important to England’s past and present, including in The Prince and the Pauper. Keep reading or watch the video below to know more.

Here is the excerpt from Chapter 2 where we see the Tower referenced:

“Tom could always find something going on around the Maypole in Cheapside, and at the fairs; and now and then he and the rest of London had a chance to see a military parade when some famous unfortunate was carried prisoner to the Tower, by land or boat. One summer’s day he saw poor Anne Askew and three men burned at the stake in Smithfield, and heard an ex-Bishop preach a sermon to them which did not interest him. ” (p. 5)

What was the Tower?

  • Built in the 1070s by William the Conqueror
  • Took about 20 years to build
  • Had many uses over the years
    • Imprison rivals and enemies to the king/queen
    • Protected kings/queens and their possessions (including the Crown Jewels)
    • Arms/armour were made, tested, and stored here
    • Controlled the supply of the nation’s money

Famous Prisoners

  • Anne Boleyn
  • Henry VIII modernized rooms in order to prepare for her coronation
  • She stayed in these same rooms before being executed
  • Lady Jane Grey
  • Edward VI’s cousin (Henry VIII’s niece)
  • Held the crown for nine days after Edward VI

Image: The Last Moments of Lady Jane Grey

  • Anne Askew
  • Went to Henry VIII to request a divorce from her husband (denied)
  • Arrested on suspicion of heresy 
  • Later released and arrested again
  • Was later tortured and killed

Is the Tower still around?

Yes! You can still visit the Tower of London in London, England. It is a World Heritage Site, which means it is a protected historical site. When visiting, you can view the Crown Jewels, which are a collection of sacred objects that have been important to the royal families over the years.

Supposedly, the Tower is also haunted, which is a draw for some people. Anne Boleyn’s ghost is one that is said to haunt the Tower. Additionally, there are two young boys who were killed in the Tower, and supposedly their ghosts haunt it as well.

In addition to the ghosts that call the place home, some of the guards and their families actually live within the walls of the Tower. So at the end of the day, when all the tourists go home, they have the place to themselves. There is even a pub within the walls that they can visit.

But wait, there were a few other references I didn’t know as well…

Looking back to the passage from The Prince and the Pauper, there were a few other historical references that Twain threw in there:

  • Cheapside – a street and market; one of the largest wealthy areas in London; along many processional routes (including for executions)
  • Smithfield – common location for executions

Tower of London in Pop Culture

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