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TOWER OF LONDON.
There is not, in this country, a building so replete with historical associations as the Tower OF LONDON. Its early character as a palace, a prison, and a fortress, immediately connected with the metropolis, has rendered an acquaintance with its annals indispensable to a knowledge of the history of our great nationannals which frequently supply, in their detail, those secret springs of political action, in the absence of which, the historian too frequently substitutes fancy for truth, and consequently produces, in the result of his labours, a mere tale founded on facts.
The opinions of antiquaries have been somewhat divided as to the origin of the Tower of London: by some it is supposed to have been erected by Julius Cæsar; but the majority have attributed the undertaking to William the Conqueror. The former conjecture was strengthened by a discovery made in 1777: it appears, that while employed in digging the foundations of a new office for the Board of Ordnance, the workmen at a considerable depth, came to some foundations of ancient buildings, below which were found three gold coins and a silver ingot: one of the coins was of the time of the emperor Honorius; the others of Arcadius, his brother, who reigned over the Eastern, as Honorius did over the Western Empire. The ingot was in the form of a double wedge, four inches long, weighing 10 oz. 8 gr. troy, and on the centre was impressed But the short time that the Roman conqueror remained in Brilain, together with his total silence upon the subject of any such work on his part, are circumstances which have been deemed sufficiently strong to throw considerable doubt upon the Roman origin of these poetically-styled “Towers of Julius:" indeed, antiquarians have become nearly unanimous in ascribing the foundation of this citadel to the policy of the bold Norman.
It is, however, somewhat remarkable, that the earliest describer of the Tower, Fitz-Stephen, who lived in the twelfth century, has not ventured to suggest who laid its foundations: “ London (says this ancient chronicler) hath on the east part, a Tower
EX. OFFIC. HONORII.
Palatine, very large and very strong, whose court and walls rise up from a deep foundation. The mortar is tempered with the blood of beasts." Whether the writer intended the latter expression to bear a literal meaning, or to convey thereby a bold metaphor of the dark purposes to which the Tower of London was devoted, înust of course be left to the judgment or fancy of the reader: but although in the course of its annals as a palace, its royal tenants “ welcom'd shout and revelry"—yet as a prison must it chiefly be regarded by posterity; calling up, in our recollections connected with its annals, tales of fearful and melancholy interest; associating it but too closely with the idea of a structure whose walls have indeed been cemented with blood! “To those who remember (says Hallam) the annals of their country, that dark and gloomy pile affords associations, not quite so numerous and recent as the Bastile, yet enough to excite our hatred and horror. But standing, as it does, in such striking contrast to the fresh and flourishing constructions of modern wealth, the proofs and the rewards of civil and religious liberty, it seems like a captive tyrant, reserved to grace the triumph of a victorious republic; and should teach us to reflect in thankfulness, how highly we have been elevated in virtue and happiness above our forefathers.”*
We now proceed to relate, as far as our limits will admit, particulars connected with the above subject in its historical point of view; and will also submit to the reader in the course of our task, a list of the Tower Curiosities open to public view.
The lofty square building with white turrets, so conspicuous from Tower-hill and the surrounding neighbourhood, is that White Tower, which we have before remarked as the reputed work of William the Conqueror, who appointed Gundulph, then Bishop of Rochester, as principal supervisor and surveyor in this undertaking. But in the time of its founder, the Tower presented a naked and isolated appearance; and in the succeeding reign (that of William Rufus) is said, “ by the injury of the heavens and violence of tempest” to have been “sore shaken :' our ancient chroniclers further tell us, and with much feeling, that the said Rufus “ challenged the investiture of prelates, and pill'd the people pitifully, to spend the treasure about the Tower of London and the great Hall at Westminster.” In this reign and that of Henry I, it appears that needful repairs were executed; and Stow in describing the improvements made by these monarchs, says “ they also cansed a castle to be builded nnder the said Tower, to wit, on the south side towards the Thames, and also encastelated the same round about."
• Hallam's Constitutional History of England, vol. i. chap. 3
The first four Constables of the Tower are stated to have heiu, As by virtue of the office, a portion of land that had formerly appertained to the priory of the Holy Trinity; which land, situate in East Smithfield, they turned into a vineyard; an asumption which in Stephen's time was relinquished in favour of the church. Under Geoffrey de Magnaville, its fourth constable, the Tower was fortified against Stephen: but the struggle with the usurper proved ineffectual, and the intrepid constable was ultimately compelled to surrender.
In the reign. of Henry. I. Ralph Flambard, Bishop of Durham and favorite of William Rufus, was committed to custody in the Tower-seemingly as a peace-offering, on the part of Henry, to the citizens, whom he wished to conciliate; for the part which Flambard had taken in the tyranny and exactions of the preceding reign had rendered him highly unpopular. But our national fortress does not appear in this instance to have possessed the character for strength which it soon after attained: for during a most jovial imprisonment, the light-hearted captive received a rope, concealed in a vessel of wine: with the wine he held an extra carouse, in which his jailors joined with such hearty good will, that they were soon reduced to a state of insensibility; upon which, the crafty prelate fastened the rope to the middle co.. Jumn of his window, let himself down, and escaped to Normandy.
The Tower was further improved by the celebrated Thomas a Becket, chancellor to Henry II. In the succeeding reign, during the absence of Richard I. in the Holy Land, an important addition was made by Longchamp, Bishop of Ely: that warlike and ambitious churchman maintained this position against John and his partisans, and “enclosed the Tower of London with an outward wall of stone embattailed, and also caused a deep ditch to be cast about the same, and thought to have environed it with the Thames." Longchamp was ultimately dispossessed of the Tower, but was permitted to retire to the priory of Bermondsey; from thence he stole to Canterbury, and in the disguise of a female hawker, escaped from that place to Dover; where, sitting by the sea-side, and waiting for a boat, he is said to have been accosted by some fishermen's wives, enquiring the price of his wares: he could only answer with a burst of laughter: this Chancellor of England-this Bishop of Ely, said to have been even born in England, could not speak a single word of English !-a curious instance of the extinction of the native language amongst the rude nobility of that period.
In the year 1215, the great struggle ensued between John and his barons: the city surrendered to the latter, and siege was laid to the Tower, which held out until the signing of the great