What Being a Prisoner In the Tower of London Was Like


[MUSIC PLAYING] You probably associate
the Tower of London with torture, mysterious deaths,
and lifetime imprisonment on the whim of
the king or queen. And, look, you’re not wrong. But a life as a
prisoner in the tower could also have its moments. You might be tormented or
even meet a grisly end. But if you were
wealthy enough, you could also throw
one hell of a party in between sessions on the rack. Today we’re
exploring what it was like to be a prisoner
in the Tower of London. Before we get started,
be sure to subscribe to the Weird History Channel. And why not leave
a comment and let us know what topics you
want to hear about next. Now let’s go to London. [MUSIC PLAYING] William the Conqueror built the
Tower of London right after he, uh, conquered England in 1066. Because he was always
off crushing it around England and
Normandy, he needed to leave solid evidence
in London that he was not to be messed with. So he built what would be
later known as the White Tower. With stone walls 15 feet
thick and 90 feet tall, it was clear that William
and his Norman forces weren’t here to play. And neither were later
kings who decided to use the tower as a place to
stash away enemies, criminals, and people who are just too
irritating or inconvenient. It all started with a guy
who was either super evil or maybe he was just in the
wrong place at the wrong time. King Henry I became
King in 1100 AD. And one of the
first things he did was to throw the last king’s
top advisor, Ranulf Flambard, into prison, as one does
with a Ranulf Flambard. The Tower’s first
prisoner wasn’t going to take his new
status lying down, though. If Flambard couldn’t live
his notoriously flamboyant lifestyle in freedom, he
would take it along with him to prison. Flambard brought all
his servants along and had them order
the best food, throwing lavish
feasts as he tried to work all the angles
to get out of jail. If only he had one
of those Monopoly Get Out of Jail Free cards. His wild parties could
come in handy, though. When Ranulf Flambard couldn’t
get out of the Tower of London through legit means, he
decided to take matters into his own hands. We’re talking a good, old
fashioned prison break. He had a rope hidden
in a wine cask that was brought into the prison. Because it didn’t seem
weird that a rich guy who would order up several casks
of wine could have them shipped to him in jail. After wining and
dining the guards, as only a flamboyant
big shot could, he lowered the rope out a window
and climbed down to freedom. He fled the country and later
reconciled with King Henry. He even got his old job back. Future prisoners tried their
best to follow Ranulf’s lead. If you’re going to be imprisoned
in the Tower of London, you might as well
do it in style. A few hundred years
later, William Maxwell added prostitutes to his
lavish party diversion and managed to escape in drag. The moral of the story–
if you want to get out, you’ve got to fight for
your right to party. As time passed, the Tower of
London was used as a prison more often, even though it
was also King Henry III’s primary residence. You heard that correctly– even English kings voluntarily
lived in the tower sometimes. Henry imprisoned 100
Jewish people in the Tower after they were
accused of murdering a young boy, Little
Saint Hugh of Lincoln, later hanging 18 of them. It turns out that being
roommates of the King didn’t inspire much mercy. Later, Edward I imprisoned
almost 700 Jewish people in the Tower of
London, this time for alleged coin clipping–
which, if you didn’t know, is shortchanging people
by cutting or filing off small bits of precious
metals from coins. Who knew? Just to let you know,
there were several times when the Tower of London
played a more positive role in Jewish history. In the 13th century, in the
face of rising anti-Semitism, Jews took refuge from violence
within the Tower’s walls. For the rulers of Britain,
the Tower of London basically function like a secret
inside pocket of the realm. Whether you wanted to
protect something important or hide away
something dangerous, the Tower was there for you. [MUSIC PLAYING] Executing people accused of
petty crimes they probably didn’t commit wasn’t the only
scary thing that went down at the Tower of London. As time went on, torture
became a fact of life. During the 1500s, religious
conflict was always brewing. The Tower of London
was the prison of choice for heretics, who were
tortured until they renounced either Catholicism or
Protestantism, whichever one was out of favor that week. The Tower of London was
stocked with all the latest gadgets and conveniences
for torturing people. The most infamous
piece of equipment nowadays is probably the rack. As the name implies, the
rack is a literal rack that a prisoner’s limbs
would be attached to. When the machinery was
pulled, the prisoner’s body would be stretched out. This was no Pilates
class, though. Joints were
frequently dislocated. And some people’s lives were
ripped from their sockets. The famous conspirator Guy
Fawkes lasted only half an hour on the rack before giving up
his real name to his torturers. Remember, remember,
the 5th of November– and also that being
tortured is no bueno. Torturers didn’t
confine themselves to physical punishment, though. Several prisoners at
the Tower of London were tormented with visions of
the horrors that awaited them, whether in the form of
tours of the devices their captors would
soon use on them or simply by being
allowed to go mad. It’s a good thing the staff
at the Tower of London didn’t know how annoying the
1-877 Kars 4 Kids jingle is. –K-A-R-S, Kars 4 Kids– Other prisoners in the Tower
didn’t have it so bad, though. Once you’d stocked your
Tower of London prison cell with servants, fine
wines, and the best food, the stage was set for the
ultimate jailhouse privilege– conjugal visits. There’s evidence that
Sir Walter Raleigh fathered a child during one
of his stays in the Tower. The baby was born and christened
in the Tower of London as well. I wonder if the guards gifted
the baby with a little toy rack. One of the occupational
hazards of being the servant of a political
VIP was the possibility that, if your boss was sent
to the Tower of London, he or she would take you along. You might be a permanent
guest of the king or queen of England, or even
be tortured or executed. God forbid if you have
to do your own laundry. Not only did good old Ranulf
Flambard bring his own servants to the Tower, but Anne Boleyn
and King John II of France also did as well. Scottish King John
Baliol even brought his wife and his hunting dogs. Not really sure what there is
to hunt in the Tower of London. In addition to access to
servants and the right to get lucky, wealthy
and socially prominent prisoners also could have
pretty much anything they wanted to be brought into the Tower. I would say anything
except the tools to escape. But Ranulf Flambard showed
us that you could even Postmates yourself
an escape ladder if you were crafty enough. Besides a rope cleverly
hidden in a wine cask, wealthy prisoners in
the Tower of London had access to the
finest foods cooked to order, elaborate feasts,
and almost any luxury you can imagine. While your wealth might get
you access to creature comforts during your stay in
the Tower of London, the torturers wouldn’t let
you forget the little things– little things such as Little
Ease, a four-square-foot area where prisoners were kept
intentionally uncomfortable. It’s no wonder so
many Tower prisoners had mental breakdowns,
what with being cooped up in a completely dark space
where you couldn’t sit, lie down, or stand up straight. After a few days of solitary
confinement in Little Ease, the rack may have seemed
like a massage table. Orange may be the new
black in modern prisons, but in the 1500s, velvet and
lace were the new orange. In addition to the
best food cooked to order, fine wines, and
the pleasure of your spouse’s company, wealthy prisoners
in the Tower of London were allowed to dress in
the same swanky clothes they were used to on the outside. No narrow cots bolted to
the walls either– prisoners had their own furniture and
all the comforts of home, if they could afford
to have it brought in. Prisoners even had access
to their favorite hobbies. Sir Walter Raleigh conducted
chemistry experiments in the Tower. And Hugh Percy, the 9th
Earl of Northumberland, played tennis and
kept a fox as a pet. I hope the Earl
and his fox weren’t in prison at the
same time the guy who brought his hunting dogs. The Scavenger’s Daughter
sounds like a fun guest to invite to your
extravagant feast after you’ve spent time
petting your tamed fox and playing a round of tennis. But the Scavenger’s Daughter
wasn’t someone prisoners at the Tower of
London wanted to meet. Also called
Skevington’s Irons, this was a torture device that
did the opposite to the rack, compressing a prisoner
till he or she relented. There aren’t many references to
this device being used often. But on the off
chance that you made the Scavenger’s
Daughter’s acquaintance, you probably wouldn’t have a
nice thing to say about her. If squeezing, stretching,
and being cooped up in an impossibly
small room weren’t enough for a guest of
the Tower of London, the staff torturers
could always be relied on to go above and beyond– by which we mean they
would hang tower prisoners above and beyond floor level
using manacles and iron fetters. A prisoner would
ascend a set of stairs and be attached to an iron
bar by their arm or legs. The stairs would be
removed, leaving the victim to hang in mid-air. Tall prisoners could even
have the dirt floor dug away underneath them, if necessary. Despite the feasts
and conjugal visits, being a prisoner in
the Tower of London was a bit of a mixed bag. Wealthy people could
eat, drink, and be merry in the style to which they
were accustomed on the outside. On the other hand, the
Scavenger’s Daughter was always waiting to
give you the ultimate hug. How would you handle prison
life in the Tower of London? Let us know in the
comments below. And while you’re at it, check
out some of these other videos from our Weird History.

100 thoughts on “What Being a Prisoner In the Tower of London Was Like

  • A lot of the pictures that you used are used completely out of context, depicting other people, events, and even centuries than you're actually describing. I'm a subscriber of yours. I've only seen a few of your videos (I only recently discovered this channel), but I liked the previous ones I saw, and found them commendable for their succinctness and accuracy. I'm afraid this video, however, has fallen short of the mark.

  • Here's to NC & the rest of the USA who pronounce Raleigh as 'Rah-Lee'. 😁
    My ancestor Sir Henry Bedingfield ran the TOL for the Tudors. He was even Elizabeth I's jailor.

  • My ancestor Saint Philip Howard was locked in the Tower for years. His crime was that he was Catholic and had a strong claim to the throne.

  • I live in the Caribbean so it's very unlikely for me to learn about this but this channel is very interesting

  • First thing imma do if I was a prisoner in the Tower of London is toot that mf ass up faaak u mean 💯💯💯🍆🍆🍆

  • Your an idiot. Those Jewish people weren't arrested because they were Jewish. They were arrested because they were breaking the law! So you think every non white person who robs, rapes, murders,… Etc.,etc, should automatically be considered innocent based on their race!? You are fucking retarded! I don't think people even know what the word racism even means anymore!

  • Jews being hated on by many nations and people from all ages and times makes sense. They are the biggest enemy right now in the modern age as they control the media outlets, both social and news. Evil.

  • We can only hope the conservative party and measuring for the carpet it's well you never know I'd willingly lock the map but doubtless they call through the window if one person in particular wasn't so corpulent and the others are so streey they will probably be able to crawl under the door where they belong yours a Labour party supporter

  • Glad I found this channel. Please could you do one on the Lost Princes of the Tower and the folklore associated with them.

  • Almost as pleasant as " Supermax" Colorado, but seriously, there is one small room in the White Tower, which even on the hottest day of the year feels like a deep freeze, it is the scene of the gruesome murder of a former " guest " .

  • Intro music completely blew my eardrums. Very hard to enjoy a video after the massive cortisol spike i just received.

  • This is true because I actually came here for a tour and the person who was touring me and my school said all of these things

  • such a good channel but I have to admit – you guys are speaking so fast that I really struggle to understand

  • You should do video about Josip Broz Tito one of only man that smoked cigar in White House,and that oposed Stalin

  • The background music is irritating. Why do youtubers feel the need to cater to their younger and mostly 'slow' audience. We don't need extra music to entice us to watch. Please stop, the music is not even fitting. True knowledge are black letters printed on a white page or a voice telling us a story. All the other stuff is extra and takes away from credibility.

    It is even worse because the voice of the narrator gets drown out by the shitty music. Very difficult for non native English speakers to follow . So many of them are doing it nowadays.

    Have a look at other guys that made history and science cool for us kids back then without resorting to flashy extras like loud music or flashy images that would give most of us a seizure.

  • My 17th great grandmother was born in the Tower of London. Her father was hanged, drawn, and quartered for high treason.

  • Why do I never trust historical documentaries with an American narrator as much as I do a British one?

  • Solitary confinement also has a harmful effect on prisoners today. A lot of them actually acquire many types of mental disorders and those who already have mental illnesses become a lot worse. Most prisoners in solitary confinement also have a high recidivism rate.

  • I noticed you don't have much topics about Asian History… Asian History is very rich, and you can find a lot of interesting subjects within.
    Nevertheless, You can make life stories during these eras, feature badass historical figures in these eras, or any weird events during these eras…

    ASIAN HISTORY:
    Ancient Mesopotamian Civilizations
    Chinese Dynasties
    Nomadic Tribes (Huns, Mongols, etc)
    Indian Empire
    Unification of Japan; Edo Period; Japanese Empire, Samurai and Ninjas
    Korean Kingdoms
    Vietnam War
    Korean War

    OTHER HISTORY:
    Life of Greeks
    Holy Roman Empire
    Rise of Islam
    Buddhism
    Popes
    Crusades
    Inquisition
    Renaissance
    Age of Discovery
    Enlightenment
    Industrial Revolution
    Great Depression
    Cold War
    Space Exploration

  • I always think of the Princes in the Tower, Richard and Edward of York. There are rumors that their bodies are still somewhere in the tower. I also think it’s interesting how historians now think Richard III was not responsible for their disappearance.

  • I went to the Tower of London and it was pretty interesting. Then again I like this part of history. I also saw the Crown Jewels here. So beautiful.

  • And…..how exactly are modern American prisons much different??
    We give prisoners TVs, radios, and movies….
    It may be illegal for prison guards to torture them, but other prisoners still do it anyway.

  • Not true on Raleigh he was imprissoned for marrying without permission and getting Bess queens favorite pregnant behind Elizabeth’s back. I would have used Katherine grey and Edward Seymour . Queen Anne did not get to bring her servants they were assigned to her among elite and two were relate another was the wardens wife but they were tasked to relay everything she said and did.

  • I served time at the Tower of London. They allowed us to do whatever we wanted. We could even go down to the local pub for a brew, if you had the 💶 for it

  • I got to visit the Tower London.
    In the Towers Chapel, they buried the people’s bodies there after beheading….sans the head because the heads became bird food on a spike over on the London Bridge till it got tossed in the river or lost.
    Only one body had it’s head with it’s body (forgot who). Apparently after he was beheaded, some royal realized there was no portrait of this guy! He was high ranking after all.
    So they shooed the birds away from the head (liked to eat the eyes first) commissioned a painter, showed the head back on, and gave the painter 24 hours to make a portrait.
    I saw that portrait.
    The paining looked good. It the man’s face did look a tad green, like he was sick😅.

    Those Beef Eaters could talk loud and clearly!

  • I went there and I my mum had horrible experiences by sprits when we told the staff there they were shocked they said only happened to staff members he said that maybe she looked like someone and laughed made us laugh a little 😂

  • When I was here back in December, the torture chamber is now the gift shop and exit of the tower. When I walked through the store, I remember feeling uneasy and praying silently. It’s sick that a room filled of screams from innocent men and women being tortured is now some place where you can buy a coffee mug with the Tower of London printed on the side way too overpriced at that too

  • 3:08 "Accused". Wasn't that the one where they all boasted about draining Hugh of his blood? Yeah I'd call that guilty.

  • I just found this channel and I’m very happy!
    I would love to see a TUDORS video
    I really love Tudor House, Henry VIII, Mary Tudor, Anne Boleyn, The six wives and all that Jazz
    Thank you for the history lesson 😍

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