The Prince and the Pauper – Chapter Twenty-Nine – Historical Tidbit

Today’s Historical Tidbit for Ch. 29 focuses on a gruesome part of London’s history. In order to keep the people of London in line, Henry VIII (and many other monarchs before and after him) had a strong visual threat to anyone thinking about going against the Crown. The Historical Tidbit for Chapter 29 is about…


Keep reading or watch the video below to learn more.

When Miles and Edward return from Hendon Hall, they get caught up in a crowd on the London Bridge. While they are there, one of the heads on on display falls and causes chaos on the bridge.

“…and at that instant the decaying head of some former duke or other grandee tumbled down between them, striking Hendon on the elbow and then bounding off among the hurrying confusion of feet. So evanescent and unstable are men’s works in this world!—the late good King is but three weeks dead and three days in his grave, and already the adornments which he took such pains to select from prominent people for his noble bridge are falling.”  (p. 176)

Why were there heads on the London Bridge?

  • On the southern side of London Bridge
  • For 300 years heads were put on spikes
  • They were parboiled and covered in tar
  • Served as a warning to anyone wanting to challenge the Crown
  • They would rot and eventually fall into the river

Famous Heads

  • William Wallace – the first head in 1305
    • Put there by Edward I
  • Jack Cade – led a rebel army
  • Thomas Moore – refused to accept Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England
  • Thomas Cromwell – killed by Henry VIII for treason

Other Facts

  • It was someone’s job to be the Keeper of the Heads
    • He impaled new heads and threw the old ones in the river
  • At one time, 30 heads were counted on the bridge
  • In 1678 the heads were moved to Temple Bar instead
  • Modern-day, there is still a spike on London bridge
    • Could be a sun-dial; could be a reminder of the bloody history of the bridge 
    • Supposedly is just a marker to point to where the original London Bridge crossed the river

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