Entrance hall in the Martin, or Jewel Tower — George Cruikshank. Final, double-number, December 1840. Ninety-second illustration and fifty-fifth wood-engraving in William Harrison Ainsworth's The Tower of London. A Historical Romance. Illustration for Book the Second, Chapter XXXVII. 9.5 cm high x 9.6 wide, vignetted, bottom of p. 387: running head, "The Martin Tower." 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.]

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It must not be omitted that the Jewel Tower enjoys, in common with its corresponding fortification, the Devereux Tower, the reputation of being haunted. Its ghostly visitant is a female figure robed in white​—​whether the spirit of Anne​ ​ Boleyn, or the ill-fated Jane, cannot be precisely ascertained.

The Martin Tower acquired its present designation of the Jewel Tower, in the reign of James the First, when the crown ornaments were removed to it from a small building, where they had been hitherto kept, on the south side of the White Tower.

The regalia were first exhibited to the public in the reign of Charles the Second, when many of the perquisites of the ancient master of the Jewel House were abolished, and its privileges annexed to the office of the lord chamberlain.

Jane's present prison was far more commodious than her former place of confinement in the Brick Tower, and by Mary's express injunctions, every attention consistent with her situation was shown her. Strange as it may seem, she felt easier, if not happier, than she had done during the latter part of the period of her liberation. Then, she was dissatisfied with herself, anxious for her husband, certain of the failure of his enterprise, and almost desiring its failure,​—​now, the worst was past. No longer agitated by the affairs of the world, she could suffer with patience, and devote herself wholly to God. Alone within her prison-chamber, she prayed with more fervour than she had been able to do for months; and the soothing effect it produced, was such, that she felt almost grateful for her chastening. "I am better able to bear misfortune than prosperity," she murmured, "And I cannot be too thankful to Heaven, that I am placed in a situation to call forth my strength. Oh! that Dudley may be able to endure his trial with equal fortitude! But I fear his proud heart will rebel. Sustain him, Lord! I beseech thee, and bring him to a true sense of his condition." [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. 387-88]


The tower in which Jane was confined still housed the crown jewels in 1840, and was thus known as "The Jewel Tower" rather than "The Martin Tower" at the time that Ainsworth wrote the novel. The location of the crown jewels changed in 1841. At present, there is another "Jewel Tower" in Westminster, one of only four buildings to survive from the old Westminster Palace, when fire largely destroyed the mediaeval building in 1834.

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, Chamber in the Martin, or Jewel Tower (December 1840). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

The novel about "dear Lady Jane" Cruikshank's idea?

Later, Cruikshank would assert to his biographer, Laman Blanchard, that the novel's dealing principally with the tragic reign of Lady Jane Grey and her judicial murder was entirely his own conception:

Mr. Ainsworth was delighted with the idea of such a partnership, and at once acceded to the proposition; and when I told him I had a capital subject for the first work, he inquired what it was; and upon my telling him it was the Tower of London, with some incidents in the life of Lady Jane Grey, he was still more delighted, and then I told him that I had long since seen the room in the Tower where that beautiful and accomplished dear lady was imprisoned, and other parts of that fortress, to which the public were not admitted; and if he would then go with me to the Tower, I would show these places to him. He at once accepted my offer, and off we went to Hungerford Stairs, now the site of the Charing Cross Railway Station; and whilst waiting on the beach for a boat to go to London Bridge, we there met my dear friend, the late W. Jerdan, the well-known editor and part proprietor of the Literary Gazette, who inquired where we were going to. My reply was, that I was taking Mr. Ainsworth a prisoner to the Tower. With this joke we parted. I then took Mr. Ainsworth to the royal prison, and when we arrived there, I introduced him to my friend Mr. Stacey, the storekeeper, in whose department were these "Chambers of Horrors"; and then and there did Mr. Ainsworth, for the first time, see the apartment in which the dear Lady Jane was placed until the day she was beheaded, or, in other words, the day on which she was murdered! and which place I had long before made sketches of, for the purpose of introducing them in a "Life of Lady Jane Grey," and which for many years I had intended to place before the public. I have now most distinctly to state that Mr. Ainsworth wrote up to most of my suggestions and designs, although some of the subjects we jointly arranged, to introduce into the work; and I used every month to send him the tracings or outlines of the sketches or drawings from which I was making the etchings to illustrate the work, in order that he might write up to them, and that they should be accurately described."​[Blanchard Jerrold, Chapter 9, "Illustrations to Harrison Ainsworth's Romances"]

Although Jerrold credits the anecdote as representing the origins of The Tower of London. A Romance, one should treat Cruikshank's account with a certain degree of skepticism as he made similar claims against Charles Dickens for the origins of The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress. Just as the tragic history of Lady Jane Grey seems to have held a certain fascination for George Cruikshank, so, too, did the fate of boys consigned to workhouses.


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Last modified 2 November 2017