Constable of the Tower
The Constable of the Tower is the most senior appointment at the Tower of London. In the middle ages a constable was the person in charge of a castle when the owner - the king or a nobleman - was not in residence. The Constable of the Tower had a unique importance as the person in charge of the principal fortress defending the capital city of England.
Today the Constable is a ceremonial role and mainly involves taking part in traditional ceremonies within the Tower as well as being part of the community that lives within the fortress. The office is currently occupied by General Lord Dannatt GCB CBE MC, who assumed the post on 1 August 2009. He is the 159th Constable. The actual number of Constables is uncertain, but 159 is the number arrived at after an estimate during the last century.
At the conclusion of the Constable's Installation ceremony, the Lord Chamberlain symbolically hands over the Queen’s House to the Constable. He in turn entrusts it to the Resident Governor, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of Her Majesty’s Palace and Fortress, the Tower of London.
The office of Constable of the Tower is one of the oldest in England, dating back to within a few years of the Conquest, and has always been one of great honour and dignity. In the past, this appointment has been held by eminent prelates of the Church, prominent politicians and distinguished soldiers. The first Constable, Geoffrey de Mandeville was appointed by William the Conqueror (AD 1066-87) in the 11th century. Formerly, in the absence of the Sovereign, the Constable would have been among the most powerful men in London. Today the Constable retains the right of direct access to the Sovereign. Since 1784 the Constable has always been a senior military officer.
During the medieval period the Constable ran the Tower which included buildings maintenance, soldiers' pay and, as the Royal menagerie was housed in the Tower, supervision of the 'Keeper of the King’s Animals'. He was also ultimately responsible for the prisoners kept there. The first known prisoner was the Norman Bishop Ranulf Flambard in 1100, and the London gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray were the last official prisoners, for a few days in 1952, for refusing to do their National service. They were sent to the Tower as it was the barracks of the 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) to which they had been assigned.
The Constable’s responsibility for prisoners was made clear in the words with which he was entrusted with them: “You are to guard them securely in the prison of our said tower in such a way that you shall answer for them body for body ... Fail in no part of this on pain of forfeiture of life and limb and all property you hold in our realms.”
In the Middle Ages it was a profitable position; among the Constable’s entitlements were:
- any horses, oxen, pigs or sheep that fell off London Bridge
- any cart that fell into the Tower moat
- all herbage growing on Tower Hill
- 6/8d (six shillings and eight pence) annually from each boat fishing between the Tower and the sea
- 1s (1 shilling) a year from all ships carrying herring to London
- 2d (2 pence - pronounced tuppence) from each pilgrim who came to London, by sea, to worship at the shrine of St James
- all swans swimming under London Bridge.
Every ship that came upstream to London had to moor at Tower Wharf to give a portion of its cargo to the Constable, as payment for the protection afforded by the tower's cannon. These dues included oysters, mussels, cockles, rushes, and wine. The tradition is still maintained today by the Royal Navy, at the annual Ceremony of the Constable's Dues, when one large vessel presents the Constable with a barrel of rum.
Since 1784 the tradition has been for the Constable to be a senior military officer, usually a general officer. Perhaps the most famous Constable was Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who served from 1825 to 1852. During his tenure, the royal menagerie and record office was removed and many buildings were restored to their medieval state. The moat was drained and converted into a parade ground. Yeomen Warders were no longer permitted to buy and sell their places but were to be drawn only from sergeants of the army. Much against the Duke's wishes, tourism at the Tower increased during his Constableship.
Each Constable is now appointed for five years. The new Constable is handed the keys as a symbol of his office. At state occasions the Constable has custody of the crown and other regalia. The Constable enjoys the right of direct access to the sovereign head of state.
List of Constables
Portrait Name From To Note Geoffrey de Mandeville 1068 (?) First Constable, appointed by William the Conqueror William de Mandeville 1100 1116 (?) Son of Geoffrey de Mandeville, held Ranulf Flambard Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex 1140 1144 (d.) Son of William de Mandeville no record of Constables during reign of Stephen, 1144-1153 Richard de Lucie 1153 1179 (d.) also Chief Justiciar Garnier de Isenei William Longchamp 1189 Bishop of Ely, Chancellor and Regent William Puintellus 1189 Sub-Constable Walter of Coutances 1191 Bishop of Rouen Roger Fitz Renfred 1194 brother of Walter of Coutances Geoffrey Fitz Peter 1198 Chief Justiciar; created Earl of Essex, 1199 Roger de la Dune 1205 Geoffrey FitzGeoffrey de Mandeville October 1213 Son of Geoffrey FitzPeter William de Cornhill November 1213 Archdeacon of Huntingdon Eustace de Greinville 1214 Stephen Langton June 1215 Archbishop of Canterbury Tower occupied by Prince Louis of France June 1216 Walter de Verdun 1217 Stephen de Seagrave 1220 Chief Justiciar Hugh de Wyndlesore 1224 John de Boville and Thomas de Blumvill or Blundeville (probably together) 1225 Blundeville was Bishop of Norwich, 1226. Henry Fitz Aucher 1227 Ralph de Gatel 1230 Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent July 1232 Ralph de Ralegh 1232 Sub-Constable William de St. Edmund 1233 Hugh Giffard 1234 Geoffrey de Crancumb March 1235 Hugh Giffard (again) April 1236 Walter de Gray, Archbishop of York and Bertram de Crioyl or Criolle (jointly) 1241 Peter de Vallibus 1244 John de Plessetis June 1244 Peter le Blund 1246 Aymon Thorimbergh September 1256 Imbert Pugeys 1257 Hugh Bigod 1258 Chief Justiciar Richard de Culwurth 1261 Sir John Mansel or Maunsel May 1261 Richard de Tilbury 1261 Hugh le Despencer 1262 Chief Justiciar, killed at Evesham, 4 August 1265 Roger de Leyburn 1265 Hugh Fitz Otho October 1265 John Walerand and John de la Lynde (jointly) November 1265 Alan la Zouche, 1st Baron la Zouche of Ashby 1265 Thomas de Ippegrave April 1268 Stephen de Eddeville July 1268 Hugh Fitz Otho (again) 1269 Walter Giffard 1272 Archbishop of York John de Burgh December 1273 Philip Basset 1274 Anthony de Bec 1275 Bishop of Durham Richard de Waldegrave June 1280 Sub-Constable Ralph de Dacre 1283 Ralph de Sandwich September 1285 Ralph Berners February 1289 Ralph de Sandwich (again) July 1289 John de Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell March 1308 Roger de Swynnerton 1321 Stephen de Segrave February 1323 Walter de Stapledon 1323 Bishop of Exeter John de Weston November 1323 John de Gisors and Richard de Betoigne (jointly) November 1326 Thomas Wake, 2nd Baron Wake of Liddell December 1326 John de Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell (again) March 1327 William, Baron la Zouche, of Mortimer June 1328 John de Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell (again) 1329 Nicholas de la Beche October 1335 Robert de Dalton 1341 John, Baron Darcy (of Knaith) March 1346 1347 (d.) John, Baron Darcy (son) June 1347 Bartholomew de Burghersh, 1st Baron Burghersh 1355 August 1355 (d.) Robert de Morley, 2nd Baron Morley 1355 John de Beauchamp, 1st Baron Beauchamp de Warwick Richard de la Vache 1361 Sir Aleyne de Boxhull 1366 broke Westminster Abbey's sanctuary 1378 Sir Thomas Murrieux December 1351 Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent May 1387 Sir Thomas Morreux (? son of above) July 1391 probably Deputy Edward (Plantagenet) January 1392 September 1397 Earl of Rutland Ralph de Neville, 4th Baron Neville September 1397 October 1397 1st Earl of Westmorland from 29 September 1397 Edward Plantagenet (again) October 1397 August 1399 Duke of Albemarle and Earl of Rutland Sir Thomas de Rempston October 1399 Drowned at London Bridge, 31 October 1406 Edward (Plantagenet) (again) November 1406 1413 now Duke of York, slain at Agincourt, 1415 John Dabrichecourt 1413 1413 Robert de Morley 1413 1415 William Bourchier November 1415 Earl of Eu, 1419, d. 1420 Roger Aston July 1420 August 1420 John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon August 1420 Duke of Exeter James Fienes, Lord Say 1447 July 1450 Murdered by Jack Cade's mob, 4 July 1450 Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter June 1451 William Bourchier, Viscount Bourchier September 1460 John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester December 1461 October 1470 Executed by Lancastrians, 18 October 1470 John Sutton, Baron Dudley 1470 Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset April 1483 in office before accession of Edward V in 1483 Sir Robert Brackenbury July 1483 Killed at Bosworth Field, 22 August 1485 John de Vere, Earl of Oxford September 1485 1513 Sir Thomas Lovell March 1513 1524 Sir William Kingston May 1524 1540 Sir John Gage October 1540 1553 Edward Clinton, 9th Baron Clinton July 1553 August 1553 1st Earl of Lincoln from 1572 Sir John Gage (again) August 1553 1556 Sir Edward Braye 1556 1557 Sir Robert Oxenbridge January 1557 1558 Peter Carew 1572 1572 Sir Richard Berkeley of Stoke Gifford 1595 Sir William Wade (Lieutenant) 1605 1611 Sir Gervase Helwys (Lieutenant) 1611 1615 Sir George More (Lieutenant) 1615 1617 Sir Allen Apsley (Lieutenant) 1617 1630 Sir Thomas Lunsford (Lieutenant) 1641 1641 served for a few days, per Clarendon Francis, Baron Cottington 1640 William Balfour was his Lieutenant Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport 1641 John Byron, 1st Baron Byron (Lieutenant) 1641 1642 Sir Thomas Fairfax August 1647 1650 Robert Tichborne was his Lieutenant. Sir John Robinson, 1st Baronet 1660 1675 James Compton, 3rd Earl of Northampton 1675 1679 William Alington, 3rd Baron Alington 1679 1685 George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth 1685 1688 Robert Lucas, 3rd Baron Lucas 1688 1702 Montagu Venables-Bertie, 2nd Earl of Abingdon 1702 1705 Algernon Capell, 2nd Earl of Essex 1706 1710 Richard Savage, 4th Earl Rivers 1710 1712 George Compton, 4th Earl of Northampton 1712 1715 Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle 1715 1722 Henry Clinton, 7th Earl of Lincoln 1723 1725 Charles Paulet, 3rd Duke of Bolton 1725 1726 Henry Lowther, 3rd Viscount Lonsdale 1726 1731 John Sidney, 6th Earl of Leicester 1731 1737 Charles Cornwallis, 1st Earl Cornwallis 1740 1762 John Berkeley, 5th Baron Berkeley of Stratton 1762 1770 Charles Cornwallis, 2nd Earl Cornwallis 1770 1784 The Lord George Lennox 1784 1784 Charles Cornwallis, 2nd Earl Cornwallis 1784 1805 1st Marquess Cornwallis from 1792 Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings 1806 1826 Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington 1826 1852 Stapleton Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere 1852 1865 Sir John Burgoyne, Baronet 1865 1871 Sir George Pollock 1871 1872 Sir William Maynard Gomm 1872 1875 Sir Charles Yorke 1875 1880 Sir William Fenwick Williams 1881 1881 Sir Richard James Dacres 1881 1886 Robert Napier, 1st Baron Napier of Magdala 1886 1890 Sir Daniel Lysons 1890 1898 Sir Frederick Stephenson 1898 1911 Sir Henry Evelyn Wood 1911 1919 Paul Methuen, 3rd Baron Methuen 1920 1932 George Milne, 1st Baron Milne 1933 1938 Sir Claud William Jacob 1938 1943 Sir Philip Chetwode, 7th Baronet 1943 1948 1st Baron Chetwode from 1945 Archibald Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell 1948 1950 Alan Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke 1950 1955 Henry Maitland Wilson, 1st Baron Wilson 1955 1960 Harold Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis 1960 1965 Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer 1965 1970 Sir Richard Hull 1970 1975 Sir Geoffrey Baker 1975 May 1980 Sir Peter Hunt June 1980 July 1985 Sir Roland Gibbs August 1985 July 1990 Sir John Stanier August 1990 July 1996 Sir Peter Inge August 1996 July 2001 Baron Inge from 1997 Sir Roger Wheeler August 2001 July 2009 Richard Dannatt, Baron Dannatt August 2009
- ^ The Queen's Regulations for the Army (Ministry of Defence): Chapter 9, Annex B.
- ^ Ceremony of the Constable's Dues
- ^ a b Dannatt to be next Constable of the Tower of London Ministry of Defence, UK. Defence News, 5 Feb 09. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
- ^ a b "Constables and Lieutenants of the Tower of London" W. L. Rutton, Notes and Queries, 10 S. IX, No. 213, Jan. 25, 1908, pp.62–63
- ^ "Constables and Lieutenants of the Tower of London" W. L. Rutton, Notes and Queries, 10 S. IX, No. 218, Feb. 29, 1908, pp.161–163
- ^ a b "Constables and Lieutenants of the Tower of London" W. L. Rutton, Notes and Queries, 10 S. IX, No. 222, Mar. 28, 1908, pp.243–246
- Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages
- thepeerage.com — Darryl Lundy
- W. L. Rutton, Notes and Queries, pp.62–63 pp.161–163 pp.243–246 "Constables and Lieutenants of the Tower of London" (3-part article), 10 S. IX, (1908)
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