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A Hidden History of the Tower of London (ePub)

England's Most Notorious Prisoners

British History London P&S History Social History

By John Paul Davis
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 25.3 MB (.epub)
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781526761774
eBook Released: 12th August 2020

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History Hit

An article written by the author for Dan Snow's History Hit: '5 Most Daring Escapes from the Tower of London'

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Famed as the ultimate penalty for traitors, heretics and royalty alike, being sent to the Tower is known to have been experienced by no less than 8,000 unfortunate souls. Many of those who were imprisoned in the Tower never returned to civilisation and those who did, often did so without their head! It is hardly surprising that the Tower has earned itself a reputation among the most infamous buildings on the planet.

There have, of course, been other towers. Practically every castle ever built has consisted of at least one; indeed, even by the late 14th century, the Tower proudly boasted no less than 21. Yet even as early as the 1100s, the effect that the first Tower had on the psyche of the local population was considerable. The sight of the dark four-pointed citadel – at the time the largest building in London – as it appeared against the backdrop of the expanding city gave rise to many legends, ranging from the exact circumstances of its creation to what went on within its strong walls. In ten centuries what once consisted of a solitary keep has developed into a complex castle around which the history of England has continuously evolved. So revered has it become that legend has it that should the Tower fall, so would the kingdom.

Beginning with the early tales surrounding its creation, this book investigates the private life of an English icon. Concentrating on the Tower’s developing role throughout the centuries, not in terms of its physical expansion into a site of unique architectural majesty or many purposes but through the eyes of those who experienced its darker side, it pieces together the, often seldom-told, human story and how the fates of many of those who stayed within its walls contributed to its lasting effect on England’s – and later the UK’s – destiny. From ruthless traitors to unjustly killed Jesuits, vanished treasures to disappeared princes and jaded wives to star-crossed lovers, this book provides a raw and at times unsettling insight into its unsolved mysteries and the lot of its unfortunate victims, thus explaining how this once typical castle came to be the place we will always remember as The Tower.

Fabulous! This wonderful book, A Hidden History of the Tower of London, England's Most Notorious Prisoners written by John Paul Davis, is GOLD! He covers the Tower's beginning with William the Conqueror in 1066 and continues throughout 1000 years to the present time. Now that includes all the characters we are all familiar with...Henry II, John the Gaunt, Mathilde, Edward and his love Elizabeth Woodville (another author of British history calls her The White Queen) Margaret Beaufort, Henrys V, VI, VII, and of course the great beastie of them all, Henry VIII of Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced Beheaded, Survived. They're all in this wonderfully written book. How was Mr. Davis able to write just a few pages per character when there are books and books written about each one of these historical figures. And then there is the star of the book, The Tower of London! I cannot even imagine what it must be like to be inside it, as I have never been, standing in the rooms that held Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard! This is a fabulous book! I give it 25 stars!!! It was fascinating, interesting and answered questions that I have of the place. Alas, we'll probably never really know what happened to the Princes in the Tower, or I should say, who murdered them? and who is the ghost that haunts the Tower!! A great great read!

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GoodReads, Ellie

This book is a good book to read for a history of the Tower as you can tell though the writing how much the author is passionate about his subject. The Tower of London casts a long and sometimes infamous shadow and anyone who is interested in the history of the UK needs to know something about the Tower. The book covers from the foundations of the Tower, in the mind of the Conqueror, up to the present day, and has interesting stories within about prisoners, eras, and a possible origin story for J. R. R. Tolkien's, Lord of the Rings.

NetGalley, Zoe Pollock

The Tower of London is an iconic building having imprisoned no less than 8000 unfortunate souls since it was built in the reign of William the Conqueror. Inspired by new research, Davis offers a fascinating account of the plotters, rebels, pretenders, murderers, escapees and others who found themselves incarcerated within its walls. But, as Davis also points out, the Tower has played host to diverse royal functions and served as an observatory, menagerie, place of capital punishment and a museum. To this day the Crown Jewels can be viewed there. And according to legend, should the famous ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall. A compelling history of one of London’s most famous landmarks.

Read the full review here

Julian Stockwin

Now I have to admit here and now I am a super fan of the Tower of London, just because so much went on of which we know about for fact and other events that are still not concrete. Plus if you have ever seen the videos on YouTube of ‘Billy the Beefeater’ you will understand that man can bring any story to the masses with an added tone of amusement and sarcasm. So I was really hoping to get sent this book to review and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The book goes through 20 chapters telling all that happened in periods of history from the first tower being built right up to WW2 when it received bomb damage and where Rudolph Hess was held when he flew over to the UK to negotiate a peace treaty. Included are all the famous faces of history including Henry VIII and his six wives, Henry III, Elizabeth I, Guy Fawkes, the many that were executed and so much more.

This book is very well written and researched by the author John Paul Davis, it is very comprehensively written and doesn’t waffle on around the facts, you get all the beautiful detail and facts. The book doesn’t contain many pictures or drawings, apart from the one small part in the middle of the book, but these aren’t really needed. It’s a fine book, well divided into subjects. I will say this now, this might well be the best book I’ve read so far this year. A five out of five.

UK Historian

John Paul Davis's history of the iconic Tower of London is as complete and informative as anyone could possibly want. Striking fear iunto the hearts of the 8000 people incarcerated in the Tower, the building is as imposing now as it ever was, and the author's complete and thorough knowledge is imparted in grand style.

Books Monthly

This was a historical and insightful tutorial to say the least. Although the book reads like a tome at times, covering the world renown tower through the royal reigns (i.e. Willam the Conquerer to King George VI), the copious amount of information kept me engaged while and I was pleased in the end.

Keep in mind that a bulk of the research is committed to the agonized prisoners who once filled the cells and endured excruciating torture (everyone from poets to kings and queens). John Paul Davis peppers up the overall experience of those who perished (and in some cases absconded) by describing the architectural progress of the tower, key battles and events, and royal succession. The accounts are significant in their own ways, and as an American who only knows enough about British history and various monarchs, I can only conclude that some of these prisoners did not die in vain and were pivotal in England’s overall success and development.

If the history doesn’t fancy your interest, check out some of the ghost stories in the back of the book. And the ravens, don’t forget about he ravens.

NetGalley, Ryan Whitson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love this kind of book and couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

I thought that the different sections were great and I will admit my favourite periods in the book were those in the run up to the end of the Tudor period. Personally I am not a huge fan of the time of James I and after that until we get to Victorian times but there were still a few interesting characters in that period.

I liked the descriptions given as to why the people were in the Tower, the different escapes that were attempted, those that were successful, and those that weren’t, the things that had affected the Tower through its different periods of construction too including fires and more recently attacks from the IRA. It was a genuinely interesting book and I found it to be an easy read too – definitely one I would recommend – it was packed with detail!

NetGalley, Donna Maguire

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Loved this - I've only been the once but so enjoyed reading about the history of it.
Loved the writing style, so accessible and interesting.

For anybody interested in history, an absolute must read.

NetGalley, Maria Martignetti

The Tower of London is my most favourite place to visit. Jam packed with History, full of atmosphere, I read everything and anything I can get my hands on written about it.

Full of facts and information, I’d recommend this to all history fans of all ages.

NetGalley, L. J

It goes right back to when the Tower was first erected by William The Conquerer who wanted those upstart Londoners, living within the old walls, to know who was boss. They definitely got the message although it was a “sport” from time to time to torment rebellion of one form or another and the Tower usually played an integral part in the game. Often it was where those in power sheltered. Often it was where those who failed were housed and taught the errors of their ways. In the centuries it went from being a home and stronghold of the monarch to a combination of home and prison and then solely prison, expect for the Yeoman Warders and ravens who live there.
It is a fascinating place to visit and thanks to the guides, quite entertaining. This book is a good adjunct to a first hand visit or a great prep for a future one. Either way, it is complete and very detailed.
Four purrs and two paws up.

NetGalley, Susan Johnston

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An interesting and fascinating read, well researched and full of information.
I found it engrossing and informative, an excellent read.
Highly recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

This book is a 1000 year history of the Tower of London. Certainly a fascinating place both architecturally and historically, the book is chock full of stories, rumors lives and deaths of it’s many and varied inhabitants over the years.

NetGalley, Andrea Johnson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If you enjoy the Tower of London, then you really are going to need to grab a copy of this book. Get the ins and outs of daring escapes, fires, prisoners of renown, and the little known history that lay behind the Tower of London.

While reading through this book, there were several pieces that were presented that I was acquainted with, but there were many that I had never heard of. We know of some of the higher profile nobility that were held within the tower, but this book gives you so much more.

The stories presented in this book, and the tidbits of history left me wanting to dig deeper! To whet the appetite of a historian - well, you can imagine the copious amounts of notes, highlighting, and research that could be delved into.

A great and amazing read - I look forward to hearing more from this author in the future! Well written, and full of wonderful information, this book is a winner!

NetGalley, Rebecca Hill

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but when I come across a book like this I really have to ask myself why. Packed full of the people and events surrounding the Tower of London, author John Paul Davis really brings history alive in "A Hidden History of the Tower of London". It honestly surprised me how little I knew. This book is very informative and written in a very engaging way.

NetGalley, Dawn Lewis

I love learning about the tower of London. Even more so about the hidden history of it. Really interesting book with loads of information that I never knew about it! 4 stars

NetGalley, Millie Scott-Allen

This is a very comprehensive book of those imprisoned in the Tower. As a Tudor fan I found it pretty interesting and it was a great way to learn more about the Tower itself.

NetGalley, Amy McElroy

This is a (very) comprehensive history of the life and times of those who at one time or another inhabited the Tower of London from its inception by William the Conqueror. It was remodeled several times throughout the years, so much so that William wouldn't have recognized it.

NetGalley, Joyce Fox

A interesting read about the history behind the tower and all that lt has seen.

NetGalley, Samantha Redworth

About John Paul Davis

John Paul Davis is the international bestselling author of ten thriller novels and three historical biographies. His debut thriller, The Templar Agenda, was a UK top 20 bestseller; The Cortés Trilogy has also been an international bestseller, rising to #33 in the UK kindle chart and #18 in the US.


As well as being a thriller author, his debut work, Robin Hood: The Unknown Templar, has been the subject of international attention, including articles in The Sunday TelegraphThe Daily MailYorkshire Post and Nottingham Evening Post, mentions in USA Today and The Independent and reviews in the Birmingham Post and Medieval History Journal. His second work, Pity for the Guy, was the first full-length biography of Guy Fawkes and was featured on ITV’s The Alan Titchmarsh Show in November 2011. His most recent work of non-fiction, The Gothic King, was released in April 2013.


He was educated at Loughborough University and lives in Warwickshire. His websites are www.officiallyjpd.com and www.theunknowntemplar.com. Twitter @unknown_templar

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