Traitors Gate

Traitors Gate is the water gate built between 1275 and 1279, and is located under St. Thomas' Tower, part of the Tower of London. It leads directly from the River Thames to the Tower of London. For over 300 years, it has been known as the Traitors Gate because of the number of prisoners accused of treason that passed through the gate, never to be seen again!

Many unfortunate and important state prisoners were taken by barge down the Thames, often going past London Bridge where the heads of the newly executed traitors were stuck onto spikes and displayed on the bridge!

Originally, it was built for King Edward I so that he might enter the Tower by river and reach his royal residence in St. Thomas' Tower. However, over the years the Tower of London was used less as a royal residence and more as a prison, particularly for those prisoners accused of treason.

Two of its most famous visitors were Anne Boleyn and her daughter, Princess Elizabeth - later to become Elizabeth I.

Anne Boleyn was 29 when she was taken through Traitors Gate. She was the second wife of Henry VIII's six wives; he had been madly in love with her but as she failed to produce the male heir he so desired, this love turned to hate. His attentions turned to her Lady-in-Waiting, Jane Seymour.

Anne Boleyn was arrested on concocted charges of treason, adultery and incest, and taken to the Tower of London by barge via the famous Gate. Although not put in the dungeon, she was executed two weeks later on the 19th May 1536, when her daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was just 3 years old. King Henry VIII was then free to marry Jane Seymour, who became his third wife, although not for long!

Princess Elizabeth's story is equally poignant: On Palm Sunday 1554, Elizabeth's arrest was ordered by her sister, Queen Mary (Bloody Mary). Mary believed that Elizabeth was involved in a rebellious plot to bring about her downfall, and had her taken to the Tower of London.

Elizabeth, knowing what happened to her mother, Anne Boleyn, once she had passed through the Gate, and believing that she, too, would never leave alive, at first refused to land at the Gate. However, a heavy downpour of rain made her change her mind. Fortunately, for Elizabeth, her story had a happy ending because after 8 weeks, she was released. She became Queen Elizabeth I in 1558 and ruled for 45 years - the last of the Tudor dynasty.

Of course, if you visit the Tower of London, you can see Traitors Gate. The good news is that even if you don't have time to visit the Tower to see it, it is clearly visible from the River Thames. So, when you take any River Thames Cruises, make sure you ask your guide to point it out to you - it's a fascinating, albeit bloody part of London's history!

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