Sunday, June 28, 2009

Question from Nikki - Elizabeth's arrival at the Tower in Mary's reign

I am reading, "Elizabeth: The Struggle For The Throne," by David Starkey. In Chapter 22, The Tower, he claims that Elizabeth did not arrive through Traitor's Gate, as is famously proclaimed.

"Bearing in mind the lowness of the tide, it would anyway have been impossible, since Traitor's Gate was a water-gate. Instead, Elizabeth landed at Tower Wharf and entered the Tower across the drawbridge, to the west of the fortress."

Is this true?


PhD Historian said...

Does Starkey offer a footnote to any documentation to support his claim for Elizabeth entering the Tower via the wharf? (I do not have a copy of his book handy.)

I have always read that Elizabeth entered the Tower via the same route as her mother: through Traitor's Gate.

It is true that Traitor's Gate was a water gate ... barges and lighters floated through the gate to the base of the stairs within. In the modern day, the gate is subject to tidal shifts and can become quite dry at low tide. But the Thames is a very different river today from what it was in the sixteenth century. I'm not sure that the gate was subject to tidal changes then.

But even if it was, tides change according to the phases of the moon and do not rise and fall at the same time every day. It would be difficult (but not impossible) to know whether the tide was high or low at the hour and on the day that Elizabeth entered the Tower.

So if Starkey has a footnote to documentation, we might better be able to believe him. In the absence of a footnote, I have to wonder whether or not he is simply speculating.

Kathy said...

I saw a documentary on the Tower a while back -- sorry I can't recall the name of it which makes this a bit useless as a citation. But they said the same thing, that Elizabeth did not enter through Traitors' Gate but landed at a different set of stairs, which I believe, still exists. I'm going to the Tower in about a week. I'll check on that very question and see what they say.

Nikki said...

PHD, I read the same as you...that Elizabeth entered via the same route as Anne.

The footnote is a the very end of the next paragraph. Foxe, Acts and Monuments VIII, pp. 600-25; Chronicle of Queen Jane and Queen Mary, ed. Nichols, pp.70-1.

The book reads:

"But we must not exaggerate, or let others exaggerate for us. Much of our knowledge of these grim moments comes from a tract entitled The Miraculous Preservation of the Lady Elizabeth, now Queen of England, which was appended to John Foxe's, Acts and Monuments, otherwise known as the Book of Martyrs. The tract is broadly reliable. But, like most martyrologies, it exaggerates its subject's sufferings. The present moment is one example. According to the Miraculous Preservation Elizabeth at first refused to get out of the boat at Traitor's Gate and, when she did, she made an affecting speech. 'Here landeth as a true subject, being prisoner, as ever landed at these stairs,' she is supposed to have said.

The sentiments were certainly Elizabeth's. But the actual words cannot have been delivered, as the contemporary Tower diarist makes it clear that Elizabeth did not go into the Tower through Traitor's Gate. Bearing in mind the lowness of the tide, it would anyway have been impossible, since Traitor's Gate was a water-gate. Instead, Elizabeth landed at Tower Wharf and entered the Tower across the drawbridge, to the west of the fortress. This was scarcely less dreadful, however, as the sequence of narrow causeways and drawbridges took her past the Tower menagerie, with its roaring lions. Just as alarming, probably, were the guards lining the route. 'What! Are all these harnessed men here for me?' she asked Sir John Gage. 'No, madam,' he replied. 'Yes,' she said, 'I know it is so. It needed not for me, being, aslas, but a weak woman.' Some of the guards are supposed to have behaved with unsoldiery deference, doffing their caps, kneeling and crying out: 'God save your grace!' Their enthusiasm meant little, however, when Elizabeth passed under the Bloody Tower and glimpsed, on the other side of the court, the scaffold on which Lady Jane Grey had been executed. Then she was led through the Coldharbour gate."

The next to the last sentence relates to my 2nd post. Was the scaffold put up in front of the present Queen's Apartments?

Antonia said...

Kathy - perhaps you are thinking of the documentaries on the Tower of London itself? I recently rented these and saw the same thing you did, that Elizabeth entered by the Wharf rather than the water gate. It was the curator, Anna Key, who came to this conclusion and also stipulated that the name "traitor's gate" was not known in Elizabeth's time.

Considering Key has huge access to the records at the Tower, I'm inclined to believe she is correct - and Starkey has regurgitated her facts.

For reference, the documentary is just called "The Tower" and is split into separate parts. The one discussing where Elizabeth disembarked is the episode on the prisoner's of the Tower. I think it's the second episode of the series.

A quick Google brings up the Amazon page for the series:

Roland H. said...

Anne Boleyn did not enter through Traitors' Gate at her imprisonment. The contemporary chronicler (Henry Wriothesley said that she came in through the 'court gate' (also now then as 'Tower Gate') - meaning the Byward Tower via the drawbridge from the wharf.

Elizabeth came in the same way according to the 'Chronicle of Queen Jane and Queen Mary'.

Kathy said...

Antonia, that is quite probably the documentary I saw. I remember being fairly impressed with the evidence and their conclusion. As I said, I'll ask next week and see if I can find anything out about it.

PhD Historian said...

Roland H is correct: the Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary does indeed state that Elizabeth came into the Tower on 18 March 1553(4) via "the drawbridge." Having been brought to the Tower from Westminster "at Xth of the clock in the forenoone by water," she must have landed at Tower wharf and proceeded in by what was known then as the "Tower at the Gate." Known now as the Byward Tower, it had a drawbridge that extended due south across the old moat to the wharf. The moat is long since dry, and the Byward Tower was rebuilt and extended south to the wharf area, eliminating the drawbridge.

The author of the Chronicle is believed to have been a person living and working within the Tower and was thus an eye-witness to the events. We can be reasonably certain that his account is accurate.

It is true that the name "Traitor's Gate" was not applied until well after the Tudor period.

As for Nikki's question regarding the placement of the scaffold, if Elizabeth entered via the Byward Tower and proceeded along the south side of the Outer Ward to the gate beneath the Bloody Tower, turned left and went up the stairs to the Coldharbour Gate, then turned right into the old Royal Apartments, as Starkey describes, it would not have been possible for her to see the scaffold (even if it was still standing, a month after use). The Hayward map of the Tower from 1597 indicates clearly that the Coldharbour Tower itself would have been between Elizabeth and the scaffold. And a wall extending a considerable distance southwest from the Coldharbour Tower would have prevented anyone from seeing anything at all on the green.

If Starkey accepts the Chronicle's account of Elizabeth's entry into the Tower, why does he not accept its description of the placement of the scaffold for Jane's execution?

PhD Historian said...

By the way, "Traitor's Gate" is beneath St Thomas's Tower, and was probably known as St Thomas's Gate in the sixteenth century.

Nikki said...

Thanks for all of your answers. Yet another disappointment that the Beefeaters are telling "stories" to the public. I wish they would tell the real history, it's more interesting most of the time!

Finding out that they're not telling the truth makes me want to question their statements as they're speaking to the crowd!! I'm sure that wouldn't go over well...

Roland H. said...

One thing I forgot to mention – while David Starkey is correct that Princess Elizabeth entered by the Byward Tower drawbridge (as opposed to Traitors’ Gate); that she went ‘past the Tower menagerie’ (p. 22) is not.

The zoo area was the Lion Tower at the far west end of the Tower of London (around where the outside ticket booth is presently situated). Elizabeth would not have gone anywhere near there following the path to the royal lodgings in the inmost ward (as described by PhD Historian).

The use of Traitors’ Gate is overrated, especially by the Beefeater tour guides. During the tour I took, it was mentioned that Jane Grey was taken in through there, which is nonsense. At her accession, Jane landed at the wharf, and went in by the Byward Tower. When she went to her trial at the Guildhall, she went by foot, not by barge. Jane, Archbishop Cranmer, and the Dudley brothers would’ve been marched from the inner ward to the Byward Tower to the Middle Tower, and then past the Lion Tower to the Bulwark Gate leading to Tower Hill. From there, they walked the mile or so through the city to the Guildhall. Afterwards, they would’ve returned the same way.

Interestingly enough, Traitors’ Gate captured the imagination of Elizabeth I’s contemporaries as well, probably due to John Foxe’s exciting and dramatic narration of her ‘landing’ there as a prisoner-princess. In 1599, Traitors’ Gate was pointed out as where Queen Elizabeth entered as prisoner even though it was not true (see: ‘The Elizabethan Tower of London’ by Anna Keay, p. 50 note 91).

Lara said...

Here's an update from Kathy after her visit to the Tower:

Elizabeth's entrace. She did not come in through Traitor's Gate, nor did Anne Boleyn. They landed at stairs west of Traitor's Gate. There are still stairs there -- though not original. From there she came up over a small drawbridge and into something that sounded like the Sally Port Gate. I didn't get that spelled out, so I will have to check it. The original drawbridge is gone, though there is a modern replacement. The original gear for the bridge is still there. Over the drawbridge, she would have gone through the Byward Tower (original door still there) and walked down the outer walkway to the main entrance, up into what is now Tower Green and in through the Queen's House where her mother had been held. The Queen's House connects to the tower where she is usually considered to have been held, but there seems to be a good possibility that she was actually held in the Queen's House.

From a second message:
Correction: Sorry I was wrong about the Queen's House being where Anne Boleyn was held in the Tower. She was held in lodgings that were occupying the area south of the White Tower. Elizabeth is always said to have been held in the Bell Tower, but Jo thinks she was really in the Queen's House. She says the two connect, so it would be easy to see where the confusion was.

Kristian said...

After Kathy's update through Lara, I can't help but to notice that for as many historical inaccuracies as it portrays, The Tudors actually seems to have correctly shown Anne Boleyn's entry into the Tower upon arrest.

(Sorry - I know many of you find that show to be crap - but I have had lots of fun going to England or reading in order to prove or disprove what Hirst portrays and through that learned SO MUCH about history!)