The Bloody Tower is probably the most famous location within the Tower of London. It was built in the 1220’s as the Garden Tower and was the main entrance into the Tower from the river. However with the addition of the outer wall, it became the gateway from the outer ward into the inner ward.
Important prisoners held here include the young princes, Edward and Richard, 2 Bishops and an Archbishop and a notorious judge. In 1483 Edward, the heir to the throne as Edward V, and his younger brother Richard were placed in the tower on the death of their father, Edward IV, by their uncle the Duke of Gloucester, who became regent. He then had the boys declared illegitimate and took the throne in Edward’s place as Richard III. The young princes were never seen after the summer of that year. Tradition held that Richard had them murdered, although in more recent times a second theory has been put forward that they survived in prison throughout Richard’s short reign and were in fact murdered by Henry VII when he took the throne following Richard’s death at the Battle of Bosworth. The princes were a threat to both King’s claim to the throne, but the major difficulty is that 2 year period between the summer of 1483 and the summer of 1485 when there are no records of anyone seeing the princes alive.
Other prisoners have included the protestant Archbishop Cranmer and Bishops Latimer and Ridley before their executions on the orders of Queen Mary; Sir Thomas Overbury, jailed for refusing a diplomatic mission in 1585 and subsequently poisoned by his wife and a close friend and ‘Hanging Judge’ Jefferys who was imprisoned in the tower when caught fleeing the country following the Glorious Revolution during which James II was forced to flee the country and William of Orange was invited to take his place on the throne. Jefferys died a natural death before it could be decided what was to become of him.
The name ‘Bloody Tower’ seems to date from the 16th century. The Tower’s own website says it relates to the murder of the princes although another source says it was because of the suicide within the Tower of Henry Percy 8th Duke of Northumberland, who was found shot through the head, whilst awaiting trial in 1585. It was concluded that he had committed suicide although rumours circulated that he had in fact been murdered.