Elizabeth I’s ‘sheer terror’ as Mary I had her jailed in Tower of London

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Elizabeth was the only daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn, who was imprisoned and executed at the Tower of London at the orders of her husband. Elizabeth was also jailed in the Tower, although, unlike her mother, was released after two months. The 11th-century London landmark has been used as a fortress, a palace and a prison during its nearly 1,000-year history.

The Tower’s remarkable past continues to be preserved today by a devoted team of 32 Yeoman Warders.

Also known as Beefeaters, the elaborately dressed men and women are recruited exclusively from the Armed Forces.

Their lives guarding the Tower have been chronicled for a new Channel 5 series, ‘Inside the Tower of London’.

Episode 2 of a new season of the programme, which airs tonight, catches up with Beefeater Chris Skaife.

The Tower’s Ravenmaster welcomes two new baby ravens to the Tower, one of whom will be named by the public.

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The latest instalment of the programme also looks at the preparations to welcome the public back to the Tower amid the easing of COVID-19 restrictions last year.

Elizabeth herself was taken to the Tower on March 18, 1554, Palm Sunday, when she was just 20 years old.

Her imprisonment had been ordered by her older half-sister Queen Mary I, the daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Sometimes known as ‘Bloody Mary’, she was convinced that her younger half-sister was plotting against her.

Elizabeth would have been feeling “sheer terror” as she was taken to the Tower, according to historian Claire Ridgway.

The expert, who has written several books about the Tudor dynasty and Anne Boleyn, made the claims in an unearthed 2015 blog for The Tudor Society.

She wrote: “We can only imagine the sheer terror she felt when Mary I’s council turned up at her doorstep on March 16 to formally charge her with being involved in Wyatt’s Rebellion, the revolt which had taken place in January and February 1554.”

Upon acceding to the throne in 1553, Mary had restored Roman Catholicism as the official religion in England.

Her father, Henry, had split England from the Catholic Church and installed himself as head of the Church of England so that he could end his marriage with Catherine after she didn’t give birth to a male heir.

After Henry died and Catholicism had been officially reintroduced, Mary believed that Elizabeth had been conspiring with Protestants in a bid to take the throne from her half-sister.

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Although Elizabeth delayed her imprisonment by writing a passionate letter, she was eventually jailed, being taken to the Tower from central London by boat, along the River Thames.

Although the Tower has a notorious reputation for the brutal treatment of its prisoners, Elizabeth completed her two-month stint behind bars in comparative luxury.

She was held in the royal quarters refurbished by Henry for her mother, Anne.

Despite this, Ms Ridgway wrote: “Elizabeth may well have had luxurious accommodation and around a dozen servants, but she was a prisoner and must have felt that she was surely going to end her days in the Tower just like her mother, executed as a traitor.”

A lack of evidence for Elizabeth’s alleged crimes helped secure her eventual release into house arrest, at the orders of Mary.

Four years later, Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England after Mary’s death in 1558.

‘Inside the Tower of London’ airs on Channel 5 from 8pm-9pm tonight.
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