simone_remy (simone_remy) wrote in bookish,

Tower by Nigel Jones

This is a history of the Tower of London filed in chapters such as; The Menagerie and the Mint; Roses are Blood Red; Great Escapes; Papists,Plots and Poisons and The Henrician Terror. It's one of those books where the author has trawled through histories and biographies to save us the trouble and in doing so he has added lesser known detail to some perhaps familiar tales of the tower. Just a few nuggets:
Lord Nithsdale, who, thanks to his ingenious wife escaped, in drag, on the eve of his execution was given a head start by that same ingenious wife, who remained alone in the cell and carried on a two sided conversation for half an hour before bidding a tearful farewell to an empty cell.
Sir Isaac Newton, M.P. and mathematician spent the latter part of his life as Master of the Royal Mint waging war against counterfeiters. His personal Moriarty was a man named William Chaloner, who nearly got the better of him but was pursued by Newton to Tyburn.
Then there is the revelation that the entire stock of gunpowder for the Royal Navy was stored in the tower's armoury while the Great Fire of London raged a heartbeat away. Samuel Pepys was instrumental in pressing sailors and having it rowed safely away to Woolwich Arsenal, but it was a close thing.
Lastly a note about one of my favourite characters from the Civil War and Restoration period, Honest John Lilburne, a fiery and feisty leveller, imprisoned in the tower for sedition, became a Quaker convert and ended his tempestuous days in relative peace.
This book is just stuffed with such details ranging in date from 1066 to 1966 and is well worth a read.
Tags: subject: history

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