Tower Green & Scaffold site

Walk in the footsteps of those condemned to death by order of the state

Walk in the footsteps of those condemned to death by order of the state

When

  • Open daily

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Famous heads that rolled at the Tower

Execution inside the Tower was a privilege reserved for those of high rank, or for those who had dangerously strong popular support, to keep them away from the gawping crowds. Ten people were beheaded on Tower Green which stretches to the west of the White Tower.

The beheaded queens

The most well known among those executed on or near Tower Green were three former queens of England. Two of those queens were wives of Henry VIII.

Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, was in her early 30s and Catherine Howard, Henry's fifth wife, was barely in her 20s. Both were accused of adultery, but neither may have been guilty.

The third queen to meet her end within the Tower was 16-year-old Lady Jane Grey. She was on the throne for just nine days, and was the innocent pawn in a failed military coup by her father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland.

Expert and blundering executions

Anne Boleyn was executed by the clean stroke of an expert swordsman shipped in from France especially for the occasion. On the day of her execution, she enquired, 'I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck.'

By contrast, Margaret Pole who was another victim of the axe was said to be much less lucky in her final moments. A blundering executioner was said to have ‘hacked her head and shoulders to pieces’.

The execution site memorial

Today, at the very site of these executions on Tower Green you can see a memorial sculpture and quote dedicated to those who were condemned to death by order of the state.

'Gentle visitor pause awhile: where you stand death cut away the light of many days: here jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life: may they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage : under there restless skies.'

Brian Catling, creator of the execution site memorial.

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