Ranulf Flambard, chief tax-collector, was imprisoned under King Henry I. He was the Tower of London’s first prisoner and also became its first escapee.
Flambard had made himself unpopular doing King William Rufus’s dirty work, collecting large taxes and becoming very rich. When William died, his brother Henry I accused the Bishop of extortion and sent him to the White Tower in chains.
Flambard used the cover of the feast of Candlemas to make a bold escape. He had a rope smuggled to him in a gallon of wine. He invited his guards to join him for a great banquet. When they were completely drunk and snoring soundly, he seized his chance. He tied the rope to a column which stood in the middle of a window and, holding his Bishop’s staff, he climbed down the rope. At the foot of the tower, his friends had horses ready and he galloped off to safety.