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As the Tower was considered an impregnable fortress in a strategically important position, possession was highly valued. Mandeville exploited this, selling his allegiance to Matilda after Stephen was captured in at the Battle of Lincoln. Once her support waned, the following year he resold his loyalty to Stephen. Through his role as Constable of the Tower, Mandeville became "the richest and most powerful man in England". Until then the position had been hereditary, originally held by Geoffrey de Mandeville a friend of William the Conqueror's and ancestor of the Geoffrey that Stephen and Matilda dealt with , but the position's authority was such that from then on it remained in the hands of an appointee of the monarch.
The position was usually given to someone of great importance, who might not always be at the castle due to other duties.
The Best Children’s and YA Mysteries of the Past 10 Years : The Booklist Reader
Although the Constable was still responsible for maintaining the castle and its garrison, from an early stage he had a subordinate to help with this duty: the Lieutenant of the Tower. Usually they were given control of the city and were responsible for levying taxes, enforcing the law and maintaining order. The creation in of the position of Lord Mayor of London removed many of the Constable's civic powers, and at times led to friction between the two. The castle probably retained its form as established by until the reign of Richard I — As Longchamp's main fortress, he made the Tower as strong as possible.
The new fortifications were first tested in October , when the Tower was besieged for the first time in its history. Longchamp capitulated to John after just three days, deciding he had more to gain from surrender than prolonging the siege. John succeeded Richard as king in , but his rule proved unpopular with many of his barons , who in response moved against him.
Although under-garrisoned, the Tower resisted and the siege was lifted once John signed the Magna Carta. Even after the Magna Carta was signed, Fitzwalter maintained his control of London. During the war, the Tower's garrison joined forces with the barons. John was deposed in and the barons offered the English throne to Prince Louis , the eldest son of the French king.
War continued between the factions supporting Louis and Henry, with Fitzwalter supporting Louis. Fitzwalter was still in control of London and the Tower, both of which held out until it was clear that Henry III's supporters would prevail. As a result, he was eager to ensure the Tower of London was a formidable fortification; at the same time Henry was an aesthete and wished to make the castle a comfortable place to live.
Most of the work was focused on the palatial buildings of the innermost ward. Beginning around , the castle was expanded to the east, north, and north-west. New creations included a new defensive perimeter, studded with towers, while on the west, north, and east sides, where the wall was not defended by the river, a defensive ditch was dug. The eastern extension took the castle beyond the bounds of the old Roman settlement, marked by the city wall which had been incorporated into the castle's defences. So when the gatehouse collapsed in , the locals celebrated the setback.
Henry III often held court at the Tower of London, and held parliament there on at least two occasions and when he felt that the barons were becoming dangerously unruly. In , the discontented barons, led by Simon de Montfort , forced the King to agree to reforms including the holding of regular parliaments.
Relinquishing the Tower of London was among the conditions.
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Henry III resented losing power and sought permission from the pope to break his oath. With the backing of mercenaries, Henry installed himself in the Tower in While negotiations continued with the barons, the King ensconced himself in the castle, although no army moved to take it. A truce was agreed with the condition that the King hand over control of the Tower once again. Henry won a significant victory at the Battle of Evesham in , allowing him to regain control of the country and the Tower of London.
Cardinal Ottobuon came to England to excommunicate those who were still rebellious; the act was deeply unpopular and the situation was exacerbated when the cardinal was granted custody of the Tower. Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford , marched on London in April and laid siege to the castle, declaring that custody of the Tower was "not a post to be trusted in the hands of a foreigner, much less of an ecclesiastic".
The Earl retreated, allowing the King control of the capital, and the Tower experienced peace for the rest of Henry's reign. A new moat was created in front of the new curtain wall. A new entrance was created, with elaborate defences including two gatehouses and a barbican. The institution was based at the Tower and responsible for organising the state's arms. They hacked a hole in his cell wall and Mortimer escaped to a waiting boat. He fled to France where he encountered Edward's Queen.
They began an affair and plotted to overthrow the King. One of Mortimer's first acts on entering England in was to capture the Tower and release the prisoners held there. For four years he ruled while Edward III was too young to do so himself; in , Edward and his supporters captured Mortimer and threw him in the Tower. During this period, the Tower of London held many noble prisoners of war.
The nobility held captive within its walls were unable to engage in activities such as hunting which were permissible at other royal castles used as prisons, for instance Windsor. Edward III ordered that the castle should be renovated. This tradition began in at least the early 14th century and lasted until When Richard rode out to meet with Wat Tyler , the rebel leader, a crowd broke into the castle without meeting resistance and looted the Jewel House.
However, he was taken away and beheaded on Tower Hill. During this period, the castle also held many distinguished prisoners. The heir to the Scottish throne, later King James I of Scotland , was kidnapped while journeying to France in and held in the Tower. As a result of Henry's victories, such as the Battle of Agincourt , many high-status prisoners were held in the Tower of London until they were ransomed. Much of the latter half of the 15th century was occupied by the Wars of the Roses between the claimants to the throne, the houses of Lancaster and York.
With the help of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick nicknamed "the Kingmaker" Henry recaptured the throne for a short time in Shortly after the death of Edward IV in , the notorious murder of the Princes in the Tower is traditionally believed to have taken place. The incident is one of the most infamous events associated with the Tower of London. The princes were last seen in public in June ;  it has traditionally been thought that the most likely reason for their disappearance is that they were murdered late in the summer of The beginning of the Tudor period marked the start of the decline of the Tower of London's use as a royal residence.
As 16th-century chronicler Raphael Holinshed said the Tower became used more as "an armouries and house of munition, and thereunto a place for the safekeeping of offenders than a palace roiall for a king or queen to sojourne in". Their condition was so poor that they were virtually uninhabitable. In the 16th century, the Tower acquired an enduring reputation as a grim, forbidding prison. This had not always been the case.
As a royal castle, it was used by the monarch to imprison people for various reasons, however these were usually high-status individuals for short periods rather than common citizenry as there were plenty of prisons elsewhere for such people. Contrary to the popular image of the Tower, prisoners were able to make their life easier by purchasing amenities such as better food or tapestries through the Lieutenant of the Tower.
The Tower's reputation for torture and imprisonment derives largely from 16th-century religious propagandists and 19th-century romanticists. The three most common forms used were the infamous rack , the Scavenger's daughter , and manacles. Among those held and executed at the Tower was Anne Boleyn. High-status prisoners could live in conditions comparable to those they might expect outside; one such example was that while Walter Raleigh was held in the Tower his rooms were altered to accommodate his family, including his son who was born there in The Office of Ordnance and Armoury Office were founded in the 15th century, taking over the Privy Wardrobe's duties of looking after the monarch's arsenal and valuables.
The two bodies were resident at the Tower from at least , and by the 16th century they had moved to a position in the inner ward. In the Board was abolished; its successor the Military Store Department of the War Office was also based there until , after which its headquarters staff were relocated to the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich where the recently closed Woolwich Dockyard was converted into a vast ordnance store. Political tensions between Charles I and Parliament in the second quarter of the 17th century led to an attempt by forces loyal to the King to secure the Tower and its valuable contents, including money and munitions.
London's Trained Bands , a militia force, were moved into the castle in Plans for defence were drawn up and gun platforms were built, readying the Tower for war. The preparations were never put to the test. In , Charles I attempted to arrest five members of parliament. When this failed he fled the city, and Parliament retaliated by removing Sir John Byron , the Lieutenant of the Tower.
The Trained Bands had switched sides, and now supported Parliament; together with the London citizenry, they blockaded the Tower.
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With permission from the King, Byron relinquished control of the Tower. Parliament replaced Byron with a man of their own choosing, Sir John Conyers. The last monarch to uphold the tradition of taking a procession from the Tower to Westminster to be crowned was Charles II in At the time, the castle's accommodation was in such poor condition that he did not stay there the night before his coronation.
Although the facilities for the garrison were improved with the addition of the first purpose-built quarters for soldiers the "Irish Barracks" in , the general accommodations were still in poor condition.
When the Hanoverian dynasty ascended the throne, their situation was uncertain and with a possible Scottish rebellion in mind, the Tower of London was repaired. Gun platforms added under the Stuarts had decayed. The number of guns at the Tower was reduced from to 45, and one contemporary commentator noted that the castle "would not hold out four and twenty hours against an army prepared for a siege". The moat surrounding the castle had become silted over the centuries since it was created despite attempts at clearing it. It was still an integral part of the castle's defences, so in the Constable of the Tower, the Duke of Wellington , ordered a large-scale clearance of several feet of silt.
However this did not prevent an outbreak of disease in the garrison in caused by poor water supply, resulting in several deaths. To prevent the festering ditch posing further health problems, it was ordered that the moat should be drained and filled with earth. The work began in and was mostly complete two years later.
The construction of the Waterloo Barracks in the inner ward began in , when the Duke of Wellington laid the foundation stone. The building could accommodate 1, men; at the same time, separate quarters for the officers were built to the north-east of the White Tower. The building is now the headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. It was the last major programme of fortification at the castle.
Most of the surviving installations for the use of artillery and firearms date from this period.
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During the First World War, eleven men were tried in private and shot by firing squad at the Tower for espionage. One such person was Rudolf Hess , Adolf Hitler 's deputy, albeit just for four days in He was the last state prisoner to be held at the castle. In the event of a German invasion , the Tower, together with the Royal Mint and nearby warehouses, was to have formed one of three "keeps" or complexes of defended buildings which formed the last-ditch defences of the capital. The Tower of London has become established as one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.
It has been a tourist attraction since at least the Elizabethan period, when it was one of the sights of London that foreign visitors wrote about. Its most popular attractions were the Royal Menagerie and displays of armour.