The Disappearance of Herne in the Curfew Tower, George Cruikshank's ninth steel-engraving for Windsor Castle. An Historical Romance for the ninth instalment in Ainsworth's Magazine (originally published in the April 1843 number). "Book the Fourth: Cardinal Wolsey," Chapter XI, "How Tristram Lyndwood and Mabel were liberated," facing p. 233. 10 cm high by 14.2 cm wide, framed. Once again the illustrator organizes the scene around two central characters, here, Henry the Eighth, in agitated mood, and the seemingly passive Herne the Hunter, quietly defying Henry even as the warrior-king discharges his pistol directly (and fruitlessly, as it turns out) at the spirit of Windsor Forest. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Passage Illustrated: Herne trapped in the Curfew Tower

"Ah, dastards! have you let him brave you thus? But I am glad of it. His​ capture is reserved for my own hand."

"Do not expose yourself to this risk, my gracious liege," said Suffolk.

"What! are you too a sharer in their womanish fears, Suffolk?" cried Henry. "I thought you had been made of stouter stuff. If there is​danger, I shall be the first to encounter it. Come," he added, snatching​a torch from an arquebusier. And, drawing his dag, he hurried up the​steep steps, while Suffolk followed his example, and three or four​ ​ arquebusiers ventured after them.

Meanwhile Shoreditch and Paddington ran out, and informed Bouchier that​the king had arrived, and was mounting in search of Herne, upon which​the captain, shaking off his fears, ordered his men to follow him, and​opening the little door at the top of the stairs, began cautiously to​descend, feeling his way with his sword. He had got about half-way down,​when Henry sprang upon the platform. The light of the torch fell upon​the ghostly figure of Herne, with his arms folded upon his breast,​standing near the pile of wood, lying between the two staircases. So appalling was the appearance of the demon, that Henry stood still to​gaze at him, while Bouchier and his men remained irresolute on the​stairs. In another moment, the Duke of Suffolk had gained the platform,​and the arquebusiers were seen near the head of the stairs.

"At last, thou art in my power, accursed being!" cried Henry. "Thou art hemmed in on all sides, and canst not escape!"​

"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed Herne.

"This shall prove whether thou art human or not," cried Henry, taking deliberate aim at him with the dag.

"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed Herne. And as the report rang through the room, he​ ​ sank through the floor, and disappeared from view.

"Gone!" exclaimed Henry, as the smoke cleared off; "gone! Holy Mary! then it must indeed be the fiend. I made the middle of his skull my aim,​and if he had not been invulnerable, the bullet must have pierced his​brain.

"I heard it rebound from his horned helmet, and drop to the floor," said Bouchier.​ [Book the Fourth, "Cardinal Wolsey." Chapter XI. "How Tristram Lyndwood and Mabel were liberated," p. 233]


Henry, determined to eliminate the threat that Herne poses, chases him to the top of the Curfew Tower. However, when Henry (never one to hide behind his royal status) confronts the "demon," and discharges a primitive firelock pistol or dag directly at the phantom, Herne disappears. The illustration implies that Henry is successful in entrapping Herne as his soldiers, armed with swords and muskets, are both descending and ascending to the windowless chamber. The caption of the illustration immediately suggests to the reader that, appearances to the contrary, Henry will not succeed in his his attempt to neutralize Herne. Cruikshank has chosen precisely the right textual moment for realisation as Henry's men have blocked both exits and Henry fires his pistol directly at the shadowy figure in the lower-left corner. The dark plate matches effectively the atmosphere of suspense and the nocturnal setting in the tower in which the prisoner Mark Fytton had met his death earlier in the story. The torches and muzzle flash illuminate Henry in chiaroscuro throwing a pool of light like a stage spotlight at Henry's feet. Thus, although as in the text we see Suffolk, Henry's companion, clearly, Cruikshank keeps Herne in a mysterious shadow, and the "light of the torch" does not illuminate Herne, contrary to Ainsworth's description of the scene. Cruikshank has intuitively made the right decision.

Other Views of the Curfew Tower from Delamotte

Above: W. Alfred Delamotte's 1842 architectural studies of the interior and exterior of the Curfew Tower. Left, Curfew Tower, from Thames Street, Book One, Chapter 2. Centre, Eastern View of the Curfew Tower, Book One, Chapter 2. Right, Interior of the Curfew Tower, Book One, Chapter 2. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Other Views of the Curfew Tower

A Brief History of the Curfew Tower, 1227-1863

King Henry III ordered the construction of the Curfew Tower, which derives its name from its bells, between 1227 and 1230 at the extreme western end of the castle's fortifications as part of the new defences following the siege of Windsor during the reign of King John. The D-shaped tower contains a thirteenth-century dungeon, and has some of the oldest masonry in Windsor Castle. Its walls are thirteen feet thick at the base, and rise to a height of one hundred feet. Its position commands the northwest angle of the defences of the castle's lower ward. In 1477, King Edward IV effected the greatest change in its history by allowing the College of St. George to repurpose it as a belfry. At that time, the College had labourers construct an internal timber frame to house the bells and a clock mechanism with an external face. The College's bells and clock have remained in place since the late fifteenth century. Structurally, however, the tower had remained unchanged for centuries, until architect Anthony Salvin (1798-1881), an expert on Mediaeval and Tudor architecture, carried out necessary structural restorations in 1863.

Salvin's work included giving the tower a completely new stone face, raising the height of the upper walls and adding a large semi-conical roof modeled on one at Carcassone. The story goes that it was Emperor Napoleon III who suggested this new look while visiting Queen Victoria in 1855. Salvin's alterations gave us the Curfew Tower that we see today, still fulfilling its role as the chapel clock and bell tower, as it has done for over 500 years.​["Image of the Month: The Curfew Tower"]


Ainsworth, William Harrison. "Preface" to Rookwood. A Romance. With 12 illustrations by George Cruikshank. London: George Routledge, 1882. Pp. xxxiii-xxxviii.

Ainsworth, William Harrison. Windsor Castle. An Historical Romance. Illustrated by George Cruikshank and Tony Johannot. With designs on wood by W. Alfred Delamotte. London: Routledge, 1880. Based on the Henry Colburn edition of 1844.

Chesson, Wilfred Hugh. George Cruikshank. The Popular Library of Art. London: Duckworth, 1908.

Cracknell, Eleanor. "Image of the Month: The Curfew Tower." College of St. George, Windsor Castle. Web. Accessed 4 July 2018.

Jerrold, Blanchard. The Life of George Cruikshank. In Two Epochs. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. 2 vols. London: Chatto and Windus, 1882.

Johnson, E. D. H. "The George Cruikshank Collection at Princeton." George Cruikshank: A Revaluation. Ed. Robert L. Patten. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. P., 1974, rpt. 1992. Pp. 1-34.

Patten, Robert L. Chapter 30, "The 'Hoc' Goes Down." George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art, vol. 2: 1835-1878. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers U. P., 1991; London: The Lutterworth Press, 1996. Pp. 153-186.

Plowman-Craven.​"Case Study — Curfew Tower, Windsor Castle." Harpenden, Hertfordshire. Web. Accessed 4 July 2018.

Vann, J. Don. "Windsor Castle in Ainsworth's Magazine, June 1842-June 1843." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: MLA, 1985. P. 23.

Worth, George J. William Harrison Ainsworth. New York: Twayne, 1972.

Last modified 4 July 2018