One of the first of many to die in Henry VIII’s quest for a male heir, Thomas Abel created this bell during his several years spent in the tower. As chaplain to Henry VIII’s first wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon, he refused to acknowledge the pair’s divorce and the King’s subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn. Several centuries after being hung, drawn, and quartered for his defiance of the King, Thomas was made a saint, and this marking remains a symbol of his martyrdom for the Christian religion.
Giovanni Battista Castiglione
Many of the writings on the wall refer to Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, written in support of each sister’s claim to the English crown. However, the E shown above is assumed to have been written by the future Queen Elizabeth I’s tutor, Giovanni Battista Castiglione, during his known time in the tower. He was imprisoned in 1556 after Mary, the reigning monarch, and half-sister to Elizabeth, imprisoned him for smuggling letters to Elizabeth during her imprisonment. While he was later released, he remained jailed long enough to complete other inscriptions which he also signed.
One of the most elaborate graffito is a memorial to the Dudley brothers, who were imprisoned for the part they played in trying to place Lady Jane Grey on the English throne. While the writing has been damaged over the years, the carving by John Dudley once said, “You that these beasts do wel behold and se may deme with ease wherefore here made they be with borders eke wherein 4 brothers names who list to serche the grounde.” This poem references the Dudley family crest, carved in the center, and John’s four brothers that were imprisoned alongside him. The roses, carnations, oak leaves, and honeysuckle around the border are meant to represent Ambrose, Guildford, Robert, and Henry, respectively, with John’s signature at the bottom. All four mentioned were charged and convicted traitors by 1553, but only Guildford, Jane’s husband, was executed. Shortly after, the brothers were released, and John died only 10 days later. Robert Dudley, imprisoned at the same time as the future Queen Elizabeth I, would later become her favorite, and also her rumored lover.
Topics: History, Learning Guide