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Archive for June, 2009

Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey, Queen for nine days, executed at the age of 17, was more than just a pawn in the religious and state politics of Tudor England.  We will write more about the end of her short life in a future post, but for today we want to focus on her early life.

Bradgate Park

Jane was born at Bradgate Park in Leicestershire, famous today for its herds of red deer and fallow deer.  Jane was the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset and his wife Lady Frances Brandon.  Through her mother, Jane was great-granddaughter to Henry VII.  Jane had a very difficult childhood, even by the standards of the time.

Bradgate Park (prakashodedra on Flickr: Click image)

Bradgate Park (prakashodedra on Flickr: Click image)

A strict childhood

Her mother, Lady Brandon, was a strict and really very cruel disciplinarian.  She seems to have been irritated by Jane’s personality.  She thought that Jane was too meek and gentle, and attempted to toughen her up with regular beatings. Starved of affection and a mother’s love and understanding Jane became a bookworm.  She turned out to be a very able scholar and quickly mastered skills in the arts and languages. Despite this Jane felt that nothing she could do would please her parents. She confided in a visiting tutor from Cambridge, Roger Ascham, saying,

“When I am in the presence of either Father or Mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it as it were in such weight, measure and number, even so perfectly as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yes presently sometimes with pinches, nips and bobs and other ways … that I think myself in hell.”

Photo of Bradgate Park by American-Psycho-UK on Flickr (click image)

Photo of Bradgate Park by American-Psycho-UK on Flickr (click image)

Jane Grey – scholar

Jane threw herself into her studies and became learned in Latin, Greek and Hebrew as well as modern languages. Through the teachings of her tutors, she became a committed Protestant.  Her faith was clearly a source of strength to her throughout her short life, and at her execution – more of that in a future post.

Young, beautiful and learned Jane, intent
On knowledge, fount it peace; her vast acquirement
Of goodness was her fall; she was content
With dulcet pleasures, such as calm retirement
Yields to the wise alone; — her only vice
Was virtue: in obedience to her sire
And lord she died, with them a sacrifice
To their ambition: her own mild desire
Was rather to be happy than be great;
For though at their request, she claimed the crown,
That they through her might rise to rule the state,
Yet the bright diadem and gorgeous throne
She viewed as cares, dimming the dignity
Of her unsullied mind and pur benignity.

by William Hone (1780 -1842)

Inscribed beneath a portrait of Lady Jane Grey

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Cant you see? The room is full of devils?
Can’t you see? The room is full of devils?

I was recently reading William Westons book  ‘The autobiography of an Elizabethan’ which tells the story of his time as a fugitive Priest in England. I particularly noticed that Weston was a firm believer in what we would now call the ‘occult’. His descriptions of exorcisms and ghostly happenings reveal a belief, common in Tudor times, that the worlds of the spiritual mixed freely with that of mankind.

A room full of devils

Weston described an experience he had in 1588 when he was called to attend upon a dying man. When he tried to hear his confession the man cried that this would be impossible. When pressed the man admitted that he was eternally condemned to the Devil, Weston argued but was told;

“Can’t you see… the room is full of devils? Yes, here where we are. They’re in every nook and cranny. In the ceiling, in the walls.  A thousand. More. Terrible black devils, with fearful faces. They mutter and terrify me. They go on and on. They’re savagely cruel”

William Weston

William Weston

 

Having spent many years working in Hospitals I know that it is quite common for people to see this sort of vision when they are unwell. Nowadays we know that there are many medical conditions in which the sufferer can experience such visions. Of course, in the Tudor period, such symptoms would be seen as clear proof of spiritual activity.

 

Quite a good ghost story

Today, people are likely to be more skeptical, although I did recently hear quite a good ghost story – from a  fellow disbeliever. I won’t say where I heard this, suffice it to say it was someone in an historic house, somewhere in England. This person, a guide to the house was showing a group around. In one room he was telling them about how the room was used in the past. One small girl in the party kept trying to interrupt and eventually he asked her what was the matter.

“Why don’t you listen to that man who is standing next to you?” she said, “What man” he replied, as he could see no-one standing next to him.

Pointing to his side she replied;

That man – the one dressed in grey, the one who keeps pulling on your arm and is trying to tell you that you are getting things wrong!”

As I said, I am a disbeliever ( I think) but sometimes – I wonder, what do you think?

A ghost at Hampton Court? 

Hampton Court interior : by John of Witney (click image)

Hampton Court interior : by John of Witney (click image)

Whilst on the subject of ghosts I thought it might be worth a look at some film taken at Hampton Court. The papers picked up on this story and labelled this the ghost of Henry VIII. If anything, to me this looked like a lady in Tudor dress, again – see what you think, we would love to hear your opinions on this & don’t forget to have a go at the poll below.

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Henry Garnet 1555 - 1606 Note picture of Garnets straw in the background of this image

Henry Garnet 1555 - 1606 Note picture of 'Garnets straw' in the background of this image

On the morning of the 3rd May 1606 Father Henry Garnet was executed at St Pauls churchyard in London.The Stuart
authorities,determined to blame the Jesuit order for the recent gunpowder plot had hunted down the fugitive Priest. Garnet
had been condemned to the traitors death of hanging, drawing and quartering following what would today be labelled a show
trial.Garnet was dragged from the Tower of London through the streets on a hurdle to his place of execution – a scaffold
which had been made higher than usual to allow as many as possible to view the execution.
In an act of mercy King James had ordered that he be allowed to hang until dead so as not to suffer the full horror of this
form of execution. It was a mercy that was not needed because the crowd surged forward and pulled his legs to hasten his end.
Garnets body was quartered as was the custom but when his head was held up to view there were no cheers from a restless and
uneasy crowd.
There is a suggestion that the following lines from Macbeth refer to Garnets execution, ‘Farmer’ was one of his aliases and
Garnet was famous for his ‘equivocal’ answers to questions put to him – not telling direct lies but obscuring the truth in
order to protect others.
Who’s there, i’ the name of
Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer, that hanged
himself on the expectation of plenty: come in
time; have napkins enow about you; here
you’ll sweat for’t.
[Knocking within]
Knock,
knock! Who’s there, in the other devil’s
name? Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could
swear in both the scales against either scale;
who committed treason enough for God’s sake,
yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come
in, equivocator.
It may be that the last part of this verse refers to events after Garnets death
[Knocking within]
Knock,
knock, knock! Who’s there? Faith, here’s an
English tailor come hither, for stealing out of
a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may
roast your goose.
After the execution a piece of blood stained straw was taken as a relic. It was said that a young Catholic in the crowd took
the straw to a Tailor called Hugh Griffin. It was only later, when the blood had dried on the straw that people noticed that
the stain looked like a human face. On closer inspection it was thought the face looked like Garnet. As Garnet was now a
martyr it was inevitable that the image on the straw was viewed as a miraculous happening. The authorities were horrified
that a man viewed by them as a traitor was being celebrated in this manner. Immediate efforts were made to try and capture
the relic and it was suggested that a ‘Popish’ painter had forged the relic.
The straw was eventually smuggled out of England and ended up in France where it disappeared forever -some time during the
French revolution. An idealised likeness of the straw can be seen behind Garnets picture at the top of this post, I thought
it might be interesting to try and re-create the straw which is the picture you can see at the side of this post.

The execution of Father Garnet

On the morning of the 3rd May 1606 Father Henry Garnet was executed at St Pauls churchyard in London. The Stuart  authorities, determined to blame the Jesuit order for the recent gunpowder plot had hunted down the fugitive Priest. Garnet had been condemned to the traitors death of hanging, drawing and quartering following what would today be labelled a show trial. Garnet was dragged from the Tower of London through the streets on a hurdle to his place of execution – a scaffold which had been made higher than usual to allow as many as possible to view the execution.

An act of mercy?

In an act of mercy King James had ordered that he be allowed to hang until dead so as not to suffer the full horror of this form of execution. It was a mercy that was not needed because the crowd surged forward and pulled his legs to hasten his end. Garnets body was quartered as was the custom but when his head was held up to view there were no cheers from a restless and uneasy crowd.

A hidden reference in Macbeth?

 

Lady Macbeth: Photo miss insomnia tulip on Flickr ( Click image)

Lady Macbeth: Photo miss insomnia tulip on Flickr ( Click image)

There is a suggestion that the following lines from Macbeth refer to Garnets execution, and if so, this helps to date the play to sometime just after the execution. Garnet was famous for his ‘equivocal’ answers to questions put to him – not telling direct lies but obscuring the truth in order to protect others whilst ‘Farmer’ was one of his aliases.

Who’s there, i’ the name of

Beelzebub?

Here’s a farmer, that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty: come intime;

have napkins enow about you; here you’ll sweat for’t.

[Knocking within]

Knock,

knock! Who’s there, in the other devil’s name?

Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale;

who committed treason enough for God’s sake,

yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come in, equivocator.

It may be that the last part of this verse refers to events after Garnets death

[Knocking within]

Knock,

knock, knock! Who’s there?

Faith, here’s an English tailor come hither,

for stealing out of a French hose: come in, tailor;

here you may roast your goose.

(Macbeth II, 3)

garnets strawA bloody relic

After the execution a piece of blood stained straw was taken as a relic. It was said that a young Catholic in the crowd took the straw to a Tailor called Hugh Griffin. It was only later, when the blood had dried on the straw that people noticed that the stain looked like a human face. On closer inspection it was thought the face looked like Garnet. As Garnet was now a martyr it was inevitable that the image on the straw was viewed as a miraculous happening.

The authorities were horrified that a man viewed by them as a traitor was being celebrated in this manner. Immediate efforts were made to try and capture the relic and it was suggested that a ‘Popish’ painter had forged the relic. The straw was eventually smuggled out of England and ended up in France where it disappeared forever – some time during the French revolution.

An idealised likeness of the straw can be seen behind Garnets picture at the top of this post, I thought it might be interesting to try and re-create the straw which is the picture you can see at the side of this post.

Mysterious faces in strange places.

Of course – we have no way of knowing exactly what Garnets straw really did look like and a martyrs face on a straw may seem a strange idea. However, this story reminded me of a recently found image. In May 2009 a family in Wales claimed to have seen the face of Jesus on the underside of a lid of marmite. If this sort of thing still happens quite regularly today then it is perhaps no suprise that people from earlier and more traumatic times  saw such things too.

Daily Telegraph Story - click image

Daily Telegraph Story - click image

 

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Prince Arthur: Oldest son of King Henry VII. Died aged 15 in 1502

Prince Arthur: Oldest son of King Henry VII. Died aged 15 in 1502

Despite overthrowing Richard III in battle, Henry’s claim to the throne was weak, and he was surrounded by pretenders to the throne.  Henry’s first action was to declare himself King, and to state that his reign began before the Battle of Bosworth field.  This meant that all challenges to his supremacy since then – including that of Richard III, were to be counted as treason.

catherine_aragon1

Catherine of Aragon

Henry VII consolidates his postition

In order to secure his position internationally he made a treaty with France, and recognised the new county of Spain in arranging for his son Arthur Tudor to marry Catherine of Aragon.  Arthur died in an epidemic in 1502, and Henry’s wife, Elizabeth of York, died a year later in childbirth.  Henry tried to maintain the relationship between England and Spain by obtaining a Papal dispensation for his son, who would become Henry VIII, to marry Catherine in Arthur’s place.  It was not normally permitted for a man to marry his brother’s widow.  People said that the  blow of losing his son and wife in quick succession led Henry to die of a broken heart.

Henry VIII

henry8england-50pc-smaller

Henry VIII became king as the only surviving male heir of Henry VII, despite being one of six siblings.  Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon at only 17 years old.  Henry married Catherine on 11 June 1509, and on 24 June 1509, the two were crowned at Westminster Abbey.  By today’s standards this seems very young – both for marriage and kingship, however only two days after his coronation, Henry had two of his father’s ministers arrested on groundless charges of high treason and executed. This was to become Henry’s primary tactic for dealing with those who stood in his way.

It is sometimes very difficult to unravel human behaviour in our everyday lives let alone in the lives of those who lived hundreds of years ago; to work out why someone develops a particular character.  It seems that from the very outset Henry VIII was a ruthless monarch; but set against the background of relentless wars, rivalry, plots, threats from within and from overseas powers it seems difficult to see how this could have been otherwise?

Westminster Abbey: picture by René Ehrhardt on Flickr (Click image)

Westminster Abbey: picture by René Ehrhardt on Flickr (Click image)

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Henry VII and the Tudor Heritage
There has been some discussion on the blog about Henry VIII’s ruthlessness in his desire to obtain a male heir to the throne.  We decided to try to trace Henry’s history back to his father to see if the story of Henry VII’s rise to power might shed some light on the man Henry VIII came to be.
Henry’s Lineage
Henry Tudor, as he was known, before becoming King Henry VII, was born at Pembroke Castle in Wales.  He was the only son of a widow, Margaret Beaufort.  Margaret was the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress Katherine Sywnford.  Katherine eventually became third wife to John of Gaunt in 1396, and their children were made legitimate by papal decree, however their descendants were to be forever barred from taking the throne.  John of Gaunt’s legitimate heirs included Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI – however Henry VII came to the throne by a more complex route.
The War of the Roses
Henry VII’s rise to power is set against a background of strife between the Houses of Lancaster and York.  Henry usurped the crown on 22nd August 1485 after the Battle of Bosworth Field, which marked the culmination of the War of the Roses, the demise of the House of York and the end of the Plantagenet Dynasty.  Henry Tudor was a Lancastrian, and had been hurried away to Brittany when the Yorkist Edward IV returned to the throne following an overthrow of his rule.
The Princes in the Tower
Following the death of Edward, Richard III came to the throne by very dubious means; and proved to be an unpopular monarch When Edward IV died on 9 April 1483, his sons King Edward V, aged 12, and Richard, Duke of York, aged 9, were next in line to the throne. Richard, however, had the king’s guardian and other advisors arrested and taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were later executed, allegedly for planning to assassinate Edward V. Richard then took Edward and his younger brother to the Tower of London, having declared them to be illegitimate.  The fate of the boy princes remains unknown however they were never seen again. It is presumed that they either died or were killed there. There is no record of a funeral.  In 1674, the skeletons of two children were discovered under the staircase leading to the chapel.  These were believed to be the remains of the two princes.
The Battle of Bosworth Field
Henry waited in Brittany, aware of Richard III’s lack of popular support, and making alliances with France and Scotland, and Lancastrian supporters in England and Wales in preparation for his invasion at Mill Bay in Pembrokeshire – not far from his birthplace.  Henry amassed an army of 5,000 soldiers as he marched north from Wales to Bosworth.  Richard met him with an army of 8,000, Richard, who was the tallest monarch in English history at 6’4, astride a white courser.  Richard is said to have fought very bravely and ably, however he was deserted by several of his nobles during the battle who switched sides to join Henry.
Richard fell, having killed Henry’s standard bearer – and as he was preparing to strike Henry himself.  He was surrounded before this could happen, and died as the last king to lead his troops in battle on English soil.  Tradition holds that his final words were “treason, treason, treason, treason, treason”.  Richard’s naked body was exposed for public view before being buried in Leicestershire.
Henry VII

Henry VII

There has been some discussion on the blog about Henry VIII’s ruthlessness in his desire to obtain a male heir to the throne.  We decided to try to trace Henry’s history back to his father to see if the story of Henry VII’s rise to power might shed some light on the man Henry VIII came to be.

Pembroke Castle: Birthplace of Henry VII (Photo by Matt West on Flickr: Click image)

Pembroke Castle: Birthplace of Henry VII (Photo by Matt West on Flickr: Click image)

Henry’s Lineage

Henry Tudor, as he was known, before becoming King Henry VII, was born at Pembroke Castle in Wales.  He was the only son of a widow, Margaret Beaufort.  Margaret was the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress Katherine Sywnford.  Katherine eventually became third wife to John of Gaunt in 1396, and their children were made legitimate by papal decree, however their descendants were to be forever barred from taking the throne.  John of Gaunt’s legitimate heirs included Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI – however Henry VII came to the throne by a more complex route.

The War of the RosesKing_Richard_III

Henry VII’s rise to power is set against a background of strife between the Houses of Lancaster and York.  Henry usurped the crown on 22nd August 1485 after the Battle of Bosworth Field, which marked the culmination of the War of the Roses, the demise of the House of York and the end of the Plantagenet Dynasty.  Henry Tudor was a Lancastrian, and had been hurried away to Brittany when the Yorkist Edward IV returned to the throne following an overthrow of his rule.

The Princes in the Tower

The Princes in the Tower : John Everett Millais 1878

The Princes in the Tower : John Everett Millais 1878

Following the death of Edward, Richard III came to the throne by very dubious means; and proved to be an unpopular monarch When Edward IV died on 9 April 1483, his sons King Edward V, aged 12, and Richard, Duke of York, aged 9, were next in line to the throne. Richard, however, had the king’s guardian and other advisors arrested and taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were later executed, allegedly for planning to assassinate Edward V. Richard then took Edward and his younger brother to the Tower of London, having declared them to be illegitimate.  The fate of the boy princes remains unknown however they were never seen again. It is presumed that they either died or were killed there. There is no record of a funeral.  In 1674, the skeletons of two children were discovered under the staircase leading to the chapel.  These were believed to be the remains of the two princes (*See below)

The Battle of Bosworth Field

Henry waited in Brittany, aware of Richard III’s lack of popular support, and making alliances with France and Scotland, and Lancastrian supporters in England and Wales in preparation for his invasion at Mill Bay in Pembrokeshire – not far from his birthplace.  Henry amassed an army of 5,000 soldiers as he marched north from Wales to Bosworth.  Richard met him with an army of 8,000, Richard, who was the tallest monarch in English history at 6’4, astride a white courser.  Richard is said to have fought very bravely and ably, however he was deserted by several of his nobles during the battle who switched sides to join Henry.

Bosworth Skirmish : Tancread on Flickr (CLick image)

Bosworth Skirmish : Tancread on Flickr (CLick image)

Richard fell, having killed Henry’s standard bearer – and as he was preparing to strike Henry himself.  He was surrounded before this could happen, and died as the last king to lead his troops in battle on English soil.  Tradition holds that his final words were “treason, treason, treason, treason, treason”.  Richard’s naked body was exposed for public view before being buried in Leicestershire.

Bosworth Battlefield : Jams_123 on Flickr - Click image)

Bosworth Battlefield, tranquil now but once the scene of a Kings death: Jams_123 on Flickr - Click image)

(* By the way – we know this is controversial! See this link for an alternate view)

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The Tower of London at night : Antoine Debroye on Flickr (click image)

The Tower of London at night : Antoine Debroye on Flickr (click image)

for alleged treason. Gerard had been facing accusations that he had tried to turn people from loyalty to Queen Elizabeth. As
part of his examination, he had been tortured which had left him in a weakened physical state. Had he eventually been found
guilty then he would have faced a terrible execution. A decision was made that Gerard would try to escape – but how could
this be done?
After bribing the warder, Gerard had been allowed to visit and conduct mass with a fellow Catholic called John Arden who had
been imprisoned following accusations of involvement in an anti-Government plot. Gerard was being held in a part of the Tower
of London called the Salt Tower which was across a garden from the Cradle Tower, where Arden was being held. Whilst visiting
Arden one day, Gerard realised that the Cradle Tower was close to the outside wall, which overlooked the moat at the foot of
the Tower of London. Gerard worked out that with outside assistance, it might be possible to lower oneself from the top of
the tower to the other side of the moat.
A letter (written partly in orange Juice) asking for help was smuggled out to Richard Fulwood, an old servant of Gerards, and
also to John Lillie a Catholic sympathiser. On October 3rd, 1597 Gerard and Arden were allowed to spend the evening together.
As soon as they warder had gone they began to loosen the stone around the bolt on a door which led to the roof of the cradle
tower. They reached the roof at midnight, in time to see a rowing boat containing three men approach the walls. As they were
about to make contact,a man came from a house below and assuming the men were fishing began to engage them in conversation.
Gerard waited patiently for the man to leave but by the time he left it was too late for an escape that night. The tide had
risen on the Thames and as the men rowed back towards Old London Bridge they were pinned by the rising water against the
piles of the bridge. At this point there was a danger of the boat capsizing – drowning the would be rescuers. Luckily, they
were saved by the presence of a large sea going boat and the skills of a group of sailors who managed to rescue them.
Thinking that the escape was doomed, Gerard was suprised to hear next day that the rescusers were going to try again. Waiting
again until they had been locked in the Tower together, Gerard and Arden climbed onto the roof. Throwing down a weighted cord
they raised up a rope that had been tied to it by the rescuers below. The plan had been to slide down the rope but the angle
it made meant that instead the escapers had to pull themselves hand over hand along it’s length. It is worth remembering that
Gerard had recently been tortured by being suspended in manacles, which made a hazardous descent even more difficult.
After his companion managed to climb down gerard realised that the rope which had been straight was now sagging – making the
climb even more difficult. Holding the rope between his legs, Gerard pulled himself out from the high roof. Half way across
he became exhausted and at one point was left hanging in the darkness, strength failing. Incredibly he managed to find
strength and reached the end of the rope too weak to pull himself up without help from Arden. Gerard was assisted into the
waiting boat which was rowed at speed away from the Tower of London.
Gerard was eventually smuggled out of England and escaped to live the rest of his life as an exile in Rome. Here, he wrote
his life story, ‘The Autobiography of an Elizabethan’ which is where the above account is taken from. I can really reccomend
this book to anyone who is interested in Elizabethan history. Whilst I at it I can also recommend the story of these times to
any Hollywood producer who happens to read this!

In 1597 the Tower of London was the scene of an incredible and daring escape. Had this happened recently it would end up being re-enacted by Hollywood. As it is, this is a little known event – but hopefully, a better known one when you have read this post.

Having been betrayed and captured by Pursuivants, the Jesuit Priest John Gerard had been imprisoned in the Tower of London, awaiting trial for alleged treason. Gerard had been facing accusations that he had tried to turn people from loyalty to Queen Elizabeth. As part of his examination, he had been tortured which had left him in a weakened physical state. Had he eventually been found guilty then he would have faced a terrible execution. A decision was made that Gerard would try to escape – but how could this be done?

Bribery & a secret message to the outside

After bribing the warder, Gerard had been allowed to visit and conduct mass with a fellow Catholic called John Arden who had been imprisoned following accusations of involvement in an anti-Government plot.

A map of the Tower of London 1597

A map of the Tower of London 1597

Gerard was being held in the Salt Tower – across a garden from the Cradle Tower, where Arden was being held. Whilst visiting Arden, Gerard realised that the Cradle Tower was close to the outside wall, overlooking the moat. Gerard calculated that with outside assistance, it might be possible to lower oneself by rope from the top of the tower to the other side of the moat and freedom.

squeeze

A letter written in Orange Juice – click image to see our earlier post on this subject

A letter (written partly in orange Juice) asking for help was smuggled out to Richard Fulwood, an old servant of Gerards, and also to John Lillie a Catholic sympathiser. Between them they helped to work out a possible, but dangerous escape plan.

A failed escape – which nearly ends in tragedy.

On October 3rd, 1597 Gerard and Arden were allowed to spend the evening together. As soon as they warder had gone they began to loosen the stone around the bolt on a door leading to the roof of the Cradle tower. They reached the roof at midnight, in time to see a rowing boat containing three men approach the walls. As they were about to make contact, a man came from a house below and assuming the men were fishing, began to engage them in conversation.

Gerard waited patiently for the man to leave but by the time he departed it was too late for an escape that night. Meanwhile, the tide had risen on the Thames and as the men rowed back towards Old London Bridge they were pinned by the rising water against the piles of the bridge. At this point there was a danger of the boat capsizing – drowning the would be rescuers. Luckily, they were saved by the presence of a large sea going boat and the skills of a group of sailors who managed to rescue them.

Old London Bridge - the Thames is powerful and dangerous at this point

Old London Bridge – the Thames is powerful and dangerous at this point

A second attempt is made

Thinking that the escape was doomed, Gerard was suprised to hear next day that the rescusers were going to try again. Waiting again until they had been locked in the Tower together, Gerard and Arden climbed onto the roof. Throwing down a weighted cord they raised up a rope that had been tied to it by the rescuers below. The plan had been to slide down the rope but the angle it made meant that instead the escapers had to pull themselves hand over hand along its length. It is worth remembering that Gerard had recently been tortured by being suspended in manacles, which made a hazardous descent even more difficult.

After his companion managed to climb down, Gerard realised that the rope which had been straight was now sagging – making the climb even more difficult. Holding the rope between his legs, Gerard pulled himself out from the high roof. Half way across he became exhausted and at one point was left hanging in the darkness, strength failing.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London

‘I managed to work myself as far as the middle of the rope, and there I stuck. My strength was failing and my breath, which was short before I started, seemed altogether spent’

Incredibly he managed to struggle on, reaching the end of the rope too weak to pull himself up without help from Arden. Gerard was assisted into the waiting boat which was rowed at speed away from the Tower of London.

Escape and exile from England.

Gerard was eventually smuggled out of England and escaped to live the rest of his life as an exile in Rome. Here, he wrote his life story  ‘ The Autobiography of an Elizabethan‘  from which the above account is taken. His book is packed with stories about his life in Elizabeths England – well worth a read if you are interested in this period. Also, if you do read it then pass it on to any movie producers you come across as this would make a really great historical epic!

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