In 1272 King Edward I (1272-1307) came to the throne determined to complete the defensive works begun by his father and extend them as a means of further emphasising royal authority over London. Between 1275 and 1285 the King spent over 21,000 on the fortress creating England's largest and strongest concentric castle (a castle with one line of defences within another). The work included building the existing Beauchamp Tower, but the main effort was concentrated on filling in Henry III's moat and creating an additional curtain wall on the western, northern and eastern side, and surrounding it by a new moat. This wall enclosed the existing curtain wall built by Henry III and was pierced by two new entrances, one from the land on the west, passing through the Middle and Byward towers, and another under St Thomas's Tower, from the river. New royal lodgings were included in the upper part of St Thomas's Tower. Almost all these buildings survive in some form today.
Despite all this work Edward was a very rare visitor to his fortress; he was, in fact, only able to enjoy his new lodgings there for a few days. There is no doubt though that if he had been a weaker king, and had to put up with disorders in London of the kind experienced by his father and grandfather, the Tower would have come into its own as an even more effective and efficient base for royal authority.
King Edward's new works were, however, put to the test by his son Edward II (1307-27), whose reign saw a resurgence of discontent among the barons on a scale not seen since the reign of his grandfather. Once again the Tower played a crucial role in the attempt to maintain royal authority and as a royal refuge. Edward II did little more than improve the walls put up by his father, but he was a regular resident during his turbulent reign and he moved his own lodgings from the Wakefield Tower and St Thomas's Tower to the area round the present Lanthorn Tower. The old royal lodgings were now used for his courtiers and for the storage of official papers by the King's Wardrobe (a department of government which dealt with royal supplies). The use of the Tower for functions other than military and residential had been started by Edward I who put up a large new building to house the Royal Mint and began to use the castle as a place for storing records. As early as the reign of Henry III the castle had already been in regular use as a prison: Hubert de Burgh, Chief Justiciar of England was incarcerated in 1232 and the Welsh Prince Gruffydd was imprisoned there between 1241 and 1244, when he fell to his death in a bid to escape. The Tower also served as a treasury (the Crown Jewels were moved from Westminster Abbey to the Tower in 1303) and as a showplace for the King's animals.After the unstable reign of Edward II came that of Edward III (1327-77). Edward III's works at the Tower were fairly minor, but he did put up a new gatehouse between the Lanthorn Tower and the Salt Tower, together with the Cradle Tower and its postern (a small subsidiary entrance), a further postern behind the Byward Tower and another at the Develin Tower. He was also responsible for rebuilding the upper parts of the Bloody Tower and creating the vault over the gate passage, but his most substantial achievement was to extend the Tower Wharf eastwards as far as St Thomas's Tower. This was completed in its present form by his successor Richard II (1377-99).
The Tower in Tudor Times:A royal prison
The first Tudor monarch, Henry VII (1485-1509) was responsible for building the last permanent royal residential buildings at the Tower. He extended his own lodgings around the Lanthorn Tower adding a new private chamber, a library, a long gallery, and also laid out a garden. These buildings were to form the nucleus of a much larger scheme begun by his son Henry VIII (1509-47) who put up a large range of timber-framed lodgings at the time of the coronation of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. The building of these lodgings, used only once, marked the end of the history of royal residence at the Tower.
The reigns of the Tudor kings and queens were comparatively stable in terms of civil disorder. However, from the 1530s onwards the unrest caused by the Reformation (when Henry VIII broke with the Church in Rome) gave the Tower an expanded role as the home for a large number of religious and political prisoners.
The first important Tudor prisoners were Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher of Rochester, both of whom were executed in 1535 for refusing to acknowledge Henry VIII as head of the English Church. They were soon followed by a still more famous prisoner and victim, the King's second wife Anne Boleyn, executed along with her brother and four others a little under a year later. July 1540 saw the execution of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex and former Chief Minister of the King - in which capacity he had modernised the Tower's defences and, ironically enough, sent many others to their deaths on the same spot. Two years later, Catherine Howard, the second of Henry VIII's six wives to be beheaded, met her death outside the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula which Henry had rebuilt a few years before.
The reign of Edward VI (1547-53) saw no end to the political executions which had begun in his father's reign; the young King's protector the Duke of Somerset and his confederates met their death at the Tower in 1552, falsely accused of treason. During Edward's reign the English Church became more Protestant, but the King's early death in 1553 left the country with a Catholic heir, Mary I (1553-8). During her brief reign many important Protestants and political rivals were either imprisoned or executed at the Tower. The most famous victim was Lady Jane Grey, and the most famous prisoner the Queen's sister Princess Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth I). Religious controversy did not end with Mary's death in 1558; Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) spent much of her reign warding off the threat from Catholic Europe, and important recusants (people who refused to attend Church of England services) and others who might have opposed her rule were locked up in the Tower. Never had it been so full of prisoners, or such illustrious ones: bishops, archbishops, knights, barons, earls and dukes all spent months and some of them years languishing in the towers of the Tower of London.
Little was done to the Tower's defences in these years. The Royal Mint was modified and extended, new storehouses were built for royal military supplies. In the reign of James I (1603-25) the Lieutenant's house - built in the 1540s and today called the Queen's House - was extended and modified; the king's lions were rehoused in better dens made for them in the west gate barbican.
The Restoration and After:The Tower and the Office of Ordnance
After a long period of peace at home, the reign of Charles I saw civil war break out again in 1642, between King and Parliament. As during the Wars of the Roses and previous conflicts, the Tower was recognised as one of the most important of the King's assets. Londoners, in particular, were frightened that the Tower would be used by him to dominate the City. In 1643, after a political rather than a military struggle, control of the Tower was seized from the King by the parliamentarians and remained in their hands throughout the Civil War (1642-9). The loss of the Tower, and of London as a whole, was a crucial factor in the defeat of Charles I by Parliament. It was during this period that a permanent garrison was installed in the Tower for the first time, by Oliver Cromwell, soon to be Lord Protector but then a prominent parliamentary commander.