Monday, November 23, 2015

T is for Tower of London GLORIANA! The ABC's of the Reign of Our Most Gracious Sovereign, Elizabeth

There is a prison whose entrance gate is roughly 1/8 mile from my house.
You may have heard of the place.
Dear Incoming Campers: You are allowed to commence to pants-peeing now.
Some weekday mornings, very early, a bus pulls up to the gate.
The bus driver spent the night driving up and down the highways of the state, collecting prisoners from the county lockups.
(That explains the metal bars over the bus windows.)
It's always made me think there should be a "Go Ahead and Commence to Pants Peeing" sign over the gate. 

In Tudor England, the Tower of London's grounds crew no doubt had plenty of puddles to mop once prisoners entered the Tower; facing execution tends to unloose bladders.
'Tower time' was no 'cool your heels and think over what you've done' - no, Tower time meant 'get your affairs in order.'
Yeah, it got hella real in the Tower.
Elizabeth I was on the receiving end of 'Tower time' in March, 1554 when her half-sister, Mary I, decided to scare the absolute shit out of her.
Image result for Ferris Bueller Jeannie scared face
Mary I had major child-of-a-broken-home baggage.
Her mother was Henry VIII's first wife; Elizabeth's mother Anne Boleyn was his second wife, his trophy wife.

Naturally, Mary - who'd been the third highest-status person in the country until Elizabeth's mother entered the picture - had nothing but seething white-hot fury for Anne Boleyn.
"Am I making myself clear?"
Anne Boleyn retaliated by taking cheap verbal shots at Mary.
Mary responded with perfect and utter dismissive disdain for her father's whore wife.
Things went from bad to worse; when Elizabeth was born, Mary's status dropped further.

The wheel of fortune
does go 'round, however, and in time, Anne Boleyn fell spectacularly from the favor of Mary and Elizabeth's father, the king, and she was arrested, locked up in the Tower of London, and eventually had her head sliced off.
That's not funny!
Elizabeth would have known this; it was a particularly cruel choice of prisons on the part of Mary I, given that Elizabeth's mother was sent to do Tower time - and never walked out, ever again.

Elizabeth's 'crime' was not provable; she'd been implicated in a plot to overthrow Mary I and replace her on the throne.
Mary I, paranoid (and who could blame her?) and vengeful, cared not at all for the feelings of her half-sister; she needed the problem of Elizabeth contained.
What better place than the Tower of London?

Elizabeth tried her darndest to delay/avoid her time in lockup; she dawdled while packing, had her litter
Horse-drawn litter.
move much more slowly than her half-sister in London wished; Elizabeth's delaying tactics were her only defense against the unknown punishments awaiting her when her journey ended.
But delays only bought her so much time - and then time ran out, she was at the intake gate of the Tower on a Sunday morning in March while the skies above pissed down rain on her. 
Into the Tower she went.

The Bell Tower, famous for having shown poet Thomas Wyatt the Elder "such sights/that in my head sticks day and night" also housed Elizabeth.
No using her now-dead mother's apartments which were at that time still in existence; Elizabeth was locked up in the loft-like empty space with exposed brick walls inside the Bell Tower.

The horror of landing inside the Tower of London as a prisoner of the crown was bad enough; for Elizabeth, whose mother famously self-destructed when the shock of arrest caused her to babble uncontrollably, keeping the lid on her feelings was key to her survival.
No hysterics where any secrets might bubble to the surface for her; she proclaimed herself a true subject of the monarch, and not a traitor deserving such low treatment. 

While in the Tower, Elizabeth (who never thought of herself as anything but royal) complained constantly and bitterly to anybody who would listen.
She complained about not being able to take exercise; that her food was pilfered by guards before she had a chance to eat it, that if she ate food cooked by anyone other than her trusted servants it might be poisoned, and? 
Everyone who encountered the queen's half-sister during her incarceration became giddy at her celebrity, her royal stature, her ability to (as every good politician knows) make each person feel she addressed them uniquely.

Mary I, no fool she, realized Elizabeth had that effect on her (Mary's) subjects.

The queen gave special orders intended to lessen the excitement of contact with the flame-haired daughter of Henry VIII; transporting her by water rather than over land, for example.
Didn't work.
Even locked up in the Tower, away from the eyes of the populace, Elizabeth received posies of flowers from a little kid - until Big Sister Mary's guards put a stop to that. 

On the anniversary of the death of Anne Boleyn, Mary I ordered Elizabeth released from the Tower and put under house arrest.
The irony of that date was no coincidence; Mary I wanted it made very clear indeed to Elizabeth that she held Elizabeth's life in her hands.

Walking out of the Tower on 19 May, 1554, Elizabeth was taken by water (lol!) to Richmond, then sent off to Woodstock.
She was still in danger of accusations of treason and trumped-up charges that might have resulted in her assassination or execution, but the hardy young woman survived - and went on to become queen just four years later. 


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