Queer Lives at the Tower: a new perspective on the Tower of London’s history

Tours: 15, 22, 24, 25 and 26 February 2020

Tours: 15, 22, 24, 25 and 26 February 2020

For hundreds of years the Tower of London has left its mark on the capital, as an imposing fortress, royal palace and infamous prison. Now, to celebrate LGBT History Month, Historic Royal Palaces is revealing some of the lesser known stories from this iconic landmark, with a series of new and immersive LGBT+ tours.

Queer Lives at the Tower combines creative storytelling with live performance to explore like never before the lives, loves and experiences of LGBT+ figures linked with the Tower of London, from the 14th Century to the present day, based on extensive research by Historic Royal Palaces curator Matthew Storey.

Co-hosted by the Tower’s very first ‘drag raven’ - who has drawn inspiration from the fortress’s legendary ravens to create an “all singing, all dancing” persona - the tours offer a fresh-take on the site’s 1,000-year history, taking in ancient turrets, military battlements and even a medieval royal bedchamber. Along the way, encounter a host of fascinating characters; from King James I and 20th Century Tower prisoner Roger Casement, to Piers Gaveston, a close favourite of the medieval King Edward II. The tour will uncover how Edward’s dangerous relationships with young men at court led to rebellion and bloodshed, and reveal just how King James I earned the nickname ‘Queen James’.

Written by award-winning playwright, Chris Bush (Sunday Times Edinburgh Competition), and directed by Tom Latter, Queer Lives at the Tower will reflect on the role places like the Tower of London played in some of the darker moments in Britain’s LGBT+ story, from retracing the legislative origins that criminalised homosexual acts to discovering how the homosexuality of Roger Casement was used in Parliament to build a case against him as a traitor to the Crown at the height of the First World War.

The tours will also celebrate stories of defiance, including how - in spite of the risks – reputable gentlemen historically had sexual encounters with soldiers, even collecting buttons from their uniforms as sexual trophies at a time when homosexuality was a criminal offence in the British Army. The Tower has always been a military base, and the tours consider the impact of changing public attitudes on those who live, work and visit the Tower today.

Matthew Storey, Curator, Historic Royal Palaces:

“We are incredibly excited to launch Queer Lives at the Tower, offering an opportunity for people to explore the Tower of London in new and exciting ways. This immersive experience unpicks the pathos and humour of LGBT+ figures associated with this famous fortress, shining a light on long forgotten voices.”

Queer Lives at the Tower is part of Historic Royal Palaces’ dedicated programme of LGBT+ events in 2020, offering a fresh take on some of the palace’s lesser-known histories. The season continues with Queer Lives at Court at Hampton Court Palace on selected dates from 19th April-10th May, and Queer Lives at the Palace - Kensington Palace’s first ever LGBT+ tours - 28th June - 26th July, as part of Pride in London.

For more information and to buy tickets visit www.hrp.org.uk  

Notes to editors

For further information and images, please contact Charlie Oven in the Historic Royal Palaces press office on 020 3166 6340 or email [email protected]


Queer Lives at the Tower

Tower of London

15, 22, 24, 25 and 26 February

Performance Times: 5.30pm (excluding 15 February), 6.30pm and 8.00pm

Tickets: £25



Chris Bush is an award-winning playwright, lyricist and theatre-maker. Her 2018 productions include THE ASSASSINATION OF KATIE HOPKINS (Theatr Clwyd, UK Theatre Award winner 2018), PERICLES (NT – Olivier), STEEL (Sheffield Theatres), THE CHANGING ROOM (NT Connections) and SCENES FROM THE END OF THE WORLD (Yard/Central School). Chris has won awards at the UK Theatre Awards, National Young Playwrights’ Festival, Perfect Pitch, Sunday Times Edinburgh Competition, and a Brit Writers’ Award.


Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.  We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, these palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Historic Royal Palaces cares for Hillsborough Castle and Gardens under a separate contract with the Northern Ireland Office. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk