The Tower as a Palace

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In the early thirteenth century the precincts of the Tower, with the outer and inner wards, enclosed 26 acres, of which 14 acres were devoted to open courts, greens, and gardens, while the rest were covered with complicated series of buildings.

The fortress and arsenal had then also become a Royal palace as well as a State prison for noble captives and for the safe keeping of hostages; it remained for centuries thereafter a place of refuge for the Sovereign should need arise.

In Tudor times the Royal barges, adorned with banners and embroideries, still plied up and down the Thames, transferring members of the gentry and luxury equipment whenever Royalty moved between the Tower and its other dwellings. As late as 1604, when James I was officially welcomed to the Tower, William Hubbocke was able to remind him that:

At the gates salute you not only your faithful Lieutenant and the whole troop of armed men, but there also welcomes you, as it were with one obeisance, all England, France, and Ireland, the sovereign power of which, by the possession of this one place, you do clasp and grip in your hand. For this Tower is the pledge for them all.

It was not until 1660 that the Tower ceased to be linked with Royal ceremonies. The splendid procession of Charles II for his coronation at Westminster was the last of its kind to set out from the Tower gates.

Next page: A Tower of Many Uses