Elizabeth is absolutely terrified and enters the Tower of London on March 18, 1554 via Traitors Gate, beneath St Thomas's Tower, believing that she will die in the fortress. She was imprisoned in the Bell Tower.
Events surrounding the Imprisonment of Elizabeth
The collapse of the Wyatt Rebellion resulted in many arrests and executions. Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley had received clemency from Queen Mary up to this point but the rebellion by fellow Protestants lead to their executions on 12th February 1554. Other members of the Grey and Dudley families are waiting a similar fate. On 22 January Robert Dudley, who was a close childhood friend of Elizabeth, had been sentenced to death for treason at the London Guildhall. Sir Thomas Wyatt is also being held, questioned and tortured in the Tower. Staunch Catholic advisors of Queen Mary are eager to wring a confession of Elizabeth's implication from the hapless Wyatt.
Elizabeth in the Tower - Poison?
The Tower held friends and relatives of Elizabeth. The dreaded Tower must have haunted her with memories of her mother Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Elizabeth knew that she could expect no kindness or sympathy from her enemies. There was one thing that must have given Elizabeth some hope. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII and the people loved the young Princess. Her execution might bring a huge backlash against Mary. But Elizabeth had shown herself to the people of England and London on her journey from Hatfield to London - and she had looked pale and ill. She, herself, had pleaded illness in response of her sister's summons to London. Two of Mary's own physicians had reported that Elizabeth had 'watery humors' and perhaps an inflammation of the kidneys. Her recent 'illness' was now another danger. It would give credence to any attempts to kill Elizabeth by administering poison. She must have been terrified of this possibility. The imprisonment of Elizabeth in the Tower of London was fraught with many different dangers. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII and the people loved the young Princess. Her execution might bring a huge backlash against Mary. But Elizabeth had shown herself to the people of England and London on her journey from Hatfield to London - and she had looked pale and ill. She, herself, had pleaded illness in response of her sister's summons to London. Two of Mary's own physicians had reported that Elizabeth had 'watery humors' and perhaps an inflammation of the kidneys. Her recent 'illness' was now another danger. It would give credence to any attempts to kill Elizabeth by administering poison. She must have been terrified of this possibility. The imprisonment of Elizabeth in the Tower of London was fraught with many different dangers.
The Constables of the Tower of London during the imprisonment of Elizabeth
Sir John Gage (1479 - 1557) was the Constable of the Tower, and Lord Chamberlain, when Elizabeth was imprisoned. Despite his advancing years ( he was 75 years old) Sir John Gage had played a prominent role in the defence of London and the Whitehall court during the Wyatt rebellion. When Elizabeth entered the Tower of London Sir John Gage treated her severely although it was said that it was 'more for love of the pope than for hate of her person'. One of the duties of the Constable of the Tower was to escort prisoners to their trials at the Guildhall or Westminster Hall. He was not seen as a benevolent old man to the hapless prisoners incarcerated in the Tower. But Sir John Gage was fair. He not afraid to speak out against members of the Privy Council. And he opposed Stephen Gardiner on the extreme measures he was suggesting against Elizabeth. On May 5th he was replaced by Sir Henry Bedingfield...
Sir John Brydges - the Lieutenant of the Tower of London during the imprisonment of Elizabeth
Sir John Brydges (1492 - 1557) was the Lieutenant of the Tower of London during the imprisonment of Elizabeth. Sir John Brydges was a staunch Catholic and also played a prominent role against the rebels in the Wyatt rebellion. He directed the gunners at the Tower of London to attack the rebels, thus playing a major role in the defeat of Sir Thomas Wyatt. When Sir Thomas Wyatt was placed in the custody of Brydges he was said to have treated him somewhat roughly. He was well rewarded for his loyalty and service on 8 April 1554 when he was created Lord Chandos of Sudeley. A hard soldier and politician his duties included arranging executions and accompanying prisoners to the scaffold. He was therefore responsible for the unpleasant duty of accompanying the tragic Lady Jane Grey to her execution on 12 February. Brydges was clearly charmed by the gentleness of Lady Jane Grey. So much so that he asked her to give him some memorial of her in writing. She wrote a pathetic farewell to him in an English prayer book ( this can now be seen in the British Museum). The compassion that Sir John Brydges showed to Lady Jane Grey would also be shown to Elizabeth...
The imprisonment of Elizabeth in the Bell Tower
Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Bell Tower during her imprisonment in the Tower of London. She followed another famous captive, Sir Thomas More, who was incarcerated in the Bell Tower in 1534. Her accommodation in the Bell Tower was small but comfortable. Her room was on the first floor, and had a large fireplace with three small windows. Some of her familiar servants were imprisoned with her, including Kat Ashley. At the beginning of her imprisonment Elizabeth was allowed to take exercise by walking along the walls of the Tower. The bell which gave the Bell Tower its name was used as a curfew bell to tell the prisoners that it was time to return to their cells. She was closely guarded at these times but she came into contact with some of the children of the guards who lived in the Tower.
Elizabeth is given flowers
The men who guarded Elizabeth when she took her exercise saw no harm when children started talking to her. A little boy was particularly taken with Elizabeth. Elizabeth welcomed the opportunity to forget the terrible danger that she was in and spend time talking to the little boy. He was only about 4 years old and was therefore not regarded as a threat to security by her guards. The little boy started to bring Elizabeth flowers. A nice, innocent gesture which soon came to the attention of the Privy Council - whose spies were constantly keeping watch over Elizabeth. Orders were issued to Sir John Brydges that Elizabeth was to no longer be allowed to take exercise on the castle walls. She was placed in close confinement.
The execution of Sir Thomas Wyatt
The close confinement of Elizabeth coincided with the execution of Sir Thomas Wyatt on April 11, 1554. Despite rough treatment and torture Wyatt had refused to implicate Elizabeth in the rebellion. This he asserted on his speech from the scaffold. Members of the Privy Council were constantly discussing Elizabeth. Many of them were looking for her death. She was in great danger. This must have been a terrifying time for Elizabeth. She would have been aware and saddened at the news of the execution of Sir Thomas Wyatt. The prisoners held in the Tower must have all been waiting for their turn. The pressure and stress must have been almost unbearable. Elizabeth was often interrogated by members of the Council. But, although she must have been terrified, she would not intimidated. She was intelligent, brave and had a quick and active mind. She also had experience of such interrogations during the scandal involving Sir Thomas Seymour. The stress took its toll on the health of Elizabeth. She became pale, suffered with stomach upsets and lost weight. During this dangerous time in the Tower Elizabeth would have been aware of the names of all of the other prisoners being held in the Tower. Robert Dudley was one of those prisoners...
The Wyatt Rebellion
Robert Dudley and Elizabeth in the Tower of London
Robert Dudley was about the same age as Elizabeth when he was sent to the Tower of London (21 years old) He was dashing, handsome, intelligent and reckless. He was a member of the powerful Dudley family. He was the fifth son of John Dudley. His brother was Guildford Dudley who had married Lady Jane Grey. The Dudley family had spent all of their lives at the Royal court. The children had shared many of the same tutors in the classrooms established at the Royal household in Hatfield. Many of these tutors were the brightest minds from Cambridge University - Hatfield was considered to be a satellite of Cambridge University. Elizabeth's young half-brother (King Edward VI) was also taught with the Dudleys, the Greys and Elizabeth. So Robert Dudley was a close childhood friend of Elizabeth. They now shared the dubious twist of fate that had sent them to the Tower of London at the same time. Robert Dudley had been imprisoned in the Beauchamp Tower in the Tower of London on 23 July 1553 - 4 days after his sister-in-law Lady Jane Grey had been deposed as Queen. His father John Dudley had been executed for treason on 23 August 1553. Robert Dudley had married an heiress called Amy Robsart on June 4 1550. Elizabeth had been a guest at their wedding. Amy had been allowed to visit Robert in the Tower in September 1553. He had possibly heard rumors of the Wyatt rebellion the success of which would have meant his release. But of course the Wyatt Rebellion failed and placed Robert and the other sons of John Dudley ( John, Ambrose and Henry Dudley) in even greater danger. On 22 January 1554 Robert Dudley was accompanied to the London Guildhall by Sir John Gage. He pleaded guilty to treason and was sentenced to death. Lady Jane Grey and his brother Guildford Dudley were executed on 12th February. And then Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower on March 18. All his hopes must have gone. Robert was held in the Beaufort Tower and Elizabeth was held in the Bell Tower. It is unlikely that they would ever have met during this time but the two towers were just a walkway from each other. It is possible that they might have signalled to each other. Her close proximity to her childhood friend, Robert Dudley, may well have been some comfort to Elizabeth. Certainly in years to come their shared experiences in the Tower at this terrible time would have built a close bond between them. Is it any wonder that Robert Dudley became a favourite of Elizabeth who she created the Earl of Leicester? Robert and his brothers John, Ambrose and Henry Dudley were eventually released from the Tower of London on 18 October 1554 and Robert was pardoned by Queen Mary on 22 January 1555.
Biography of Lord Robert Dudley
Elizabeth and Sir Henry Bedingfield - the new Constable of the TowerElizabeth is released from the Tower of London
First Elizabeth is placed in close confinement in the Bell Tower, then Sir Thomas Wyatt is executed and a final blow is struck when the Constable of the Tower Sir John Gage is replaced by Sir Henry Bedingfield (1509 - 1583) on 5 May 1554. Many of Mary's supporters were still looking for the death of Elizabeth. Mary had attempted to remove Elizabeth from the line of succession, but Parliament would not allow it. Mary had reluctantly signed the Death warrant of Lady Jane Grey and although she disliked her sister she did not want to be responsible for her death. Sir Henry Bedingfield was a staunch Catholic and one of the powerful men who were instrumental in putting Queen Mary on the throne of England. Mary trusted Bedingfield and had rewarded his loyalty by giving him an annual pension of £100 out of the forfeited estates of the hapless Sir Thomas Wyatt. Elizabeth had never met Sir Henry Bedingfield and knew of the man only by his reputation. Elizabeth was terrified that he had been sent as her 'jailer' in order to arrange her murder. This was not paranoia on Elizabeth's part. She had heard the rumor that staunch Catholic members of Mary's council had sent a warrant for her execution to the Tower without Mary's signature. The warrant had been delivered to the Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir John Brydges. He had checked the warrant, saw it was incomplete and , would not act upon it because it lacked the Queen's signature. Sir John Brydges had saved the life of Elizabeth
Elizabeth had no idea what was going to happen to her. But she believed that she was going to die. She knew that Catholic members of the Privy Council were plotting against her. What she did not know was that she also had and extremely powerful ally. The ally was, of all people, King Philip II of Spain. The Catholic husband of her half-sister Mary. Philip was about to arrive in England. He was politically astute and realised that English were extremely wary of the new, Spanish, Catholic husband of their Queen. He realised that if anything happened to Elizabeth it would be his influence on Mary that would be blamed. Better that Elizabeth was kept alive but closely watched and eventually married off to one of his relatives. He advised Mary to release Elizabeth from the Tower. And Mary, who was besotted with Philip, obeyed. On Saturday 19 May Elizabeth was released from the Tower of London. But she was to be placed under the equivalent of House Arrest at the palace at Woodstock.
Elizabeth imprisoned at Woodstock