The Tower of London. A Historical Romance. Illustration for Book the Second, Chapter XXXVII. 7.6 cm high x 9.5 wide, vignetted, bottom of p. 384: running head, "Nightgall's Confession." Elizabeth has vindicated herself sufficiently that Mary dare not order her execution on such flimsy evidence as Renard has engineered. On the other hand, with Lord Guildford Dudley's involvement in the recent rebellion a matter of fact, Mary feels that she has had no choice but to order the execution of Lady Grey, who has been a prisoner in the Martin Tower since her injudicious return to plead with Mary for her husband's life. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]— George Cruikshank. Final, double-number, December 1840. Ninetieth illustration and fifty-third wood-engraving in William Harrison Ainsworth's
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The Martin Tower (or, as it is now termed, the Jewel Tower, from the purpose to which it is appropriated), where Jane was confined by the queen’s commands, lies at the north-eastern extremity of the ballium wall, and corresponds in size and structure with the Develin, or Devereux Tower, at the opposite angle. Circular in form, like the last-mentioned building, and erected, in all probability, at the same period — the latter end of the reign of John, or the commencement of that of Henry the Third, it consists of two stories having walls of immense thickness, and containing, as is the case with every other fortification, deep recesses, terminated by narrow loop-holes. A winding stone staircase, still in a tolerable state of preservation, communicates with these stories, and with the roof, which was formerly embattled, and defended on either side by two small square turrets. Externally, on the west, the Martin Tower has lost its original character; the walls being new-fronted and modernized, and a flight of stops raised to the upper story, completely masking the ancient door-way, which now forms the entrance to the jewel-room. On the east, however, it retains much of its ancient appearance, though in part concealed by surrounding habitations; and when the building now in progress, and intended for the reception of the regalia, is completed, it will be still further hidden. * While digging the foundations of the proposed structure, which were sunk much below the level of the ballium wall, it became apparent that the ground had been artificially raised to a considerable height by an embankment of gravel and sand; and the prodigious solidity and strength of the wall were proved from the difficulty experienced by the workmen in breaking through it, to effect a communication with the new erection.
Within, on the basement floor, on the left of the passage, and generally hidden by the massive portal, is a small cell constructed in the thickness of the wall; and further on, the gloomy chamber used as a depositary for the crown ornaments, and which requires to be artificially lighted, is noticeable for its architecture, having a vaulted and groined roof of great beauty. The upper story, part of the residence of Mr. Swift, the keeper of the regalia, at present comprehends two apartments, with a hall leading to them, while the ceiling having been lowered, other rooms are gained. Here, besides the ill-fated and illustrious lady whose history forms the subject of this chronicle, was confined the lovely, and, perhaps guiltless, Anne Boleyn. The latter fact has, however, been doubted, and the upper chamber in the Beauchamp Tower assigned as the place of her imprisonment. But this supposition, from many circumstances, appears improbable, and the inscription bearing her name, and carved near the entrance of the hall, is conclusive as to her having been confined in this tower.[Ch. XXXVII. —How Jane was imprisoned in the Martin Tower; How she was visited by Roger Ascham; How she received Feckenham's announcement that the time of her execution was fixed; and how she was respited for three days,"pp. 385-86]
Cruikshank provides as a tailpiece to Chapter 36 a scene for the following chapter, although of course, the cozy Victorian fireplace and tidy parlour are entirely anachronistic in the context of Ainsworth's narrating the fates of Courtenay and Elizabeth after Mary indicts Lady Jane Grey on the charge of treason.
The tower in which Jane was confined still housed the crown jewels in 1840, and was thus known as "The Jewel Tower" at the time Ainsworth wrote the novel. The location of the crown jewels changed in 1841. At present, there is another tower of that name in Westminster, one of only four buildings to survive from the old Westminster Palace. The Westminster Jewel Tower, which William of Sleaford and Henry de Yevele built between 1365 and 1366 to house the personal treasure of Edward III, survived the disastrous fire of 1834 because it was protected by a moat linked to the River Thames.
The Martin Tower, which King Henry III built between 1238 and 1272, was chiefly a prison. In 1669, the former Jewel House was demolished, and the Crown Jewels moved into Martin Tower, where they remained from then until 1841; hence, Ainsworth refers to the Martin Tower on the eastern battlements which Queen Mary dares to visit during the height of battle as the Jewel Tower. Today, it houses an exhibition entitled "Crowns and Diamonds," based on the making of the Crown Jewels. In 1671, Colonel Thomas Blood and his men tried to steal the Crown Jewels from the Martin Tower. On 30 October 1841, rapidly spreading flames began to engulf the Martin Tower. Alarmed efforts were made to save the priceless regalia from destruction. In the midst of the general panic, the firefighters realised too late that the Keeper of the Jewel House had only the key to the outer room; the Lord Chamberlain had the other important key, that to the barred cabinets themselves. Rescue crews had to bend the bars protecting the jewels with crowbars.
Other illustrations of the Jewel Tower
Left: The earlier wood-engraving in Chapter 30, South-east View of the [Martin] Jewel Tower (November 1840). Right: The wood-engraving in the Chapter 37, Entrance Hall in the Martin or Jewel Tower (December 1840). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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Last modified 2 November 2017