Constable of the Tower

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General The Lord Dannatt, dressed in full ceremonial uniform of HM's Constable of The Tower Constable Dannatt.jpg
General The Lord Dannatt, dressed in full ceremonial uniform of HM's 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.

Contents

Today the role of Constable is a ceremonial one and mainly involves taking part in traditional ceremonies within the Tower as well as being part of the community that lives within its perimeter. The Constable is also a trustee of Historic Royal Palaces and of the Royal Armouries.

Under the King’s Regulations for the Army , the office of Constable is conferred upon a field marshal or a retired general officer for a five-year term. [1] The Constable appointed in 2022 is General Sir Gordon Messenger. [2] The Constable's ceremonial deputy is the Lieutenant of the Tower of London, currently Sir George Norton; this office is generally entrusted to a general officer of lower rank than the Constable.

At the conclusion of the Constable's installation ceremony, the Lord Chamberlain symbolically hands over the King's House to the Constable. He in turn entrusts it to the Resident Governor, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of His Majesty's Palace and Fortress, the Tower of London.

History

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 building 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.”

Until the expulsion of the Jews in 1290, the Constable was responsible for the regulation and protection of London's Jewry.

Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets

Until 1889, the Constable also held the office of Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets. The Tower Hamlets was an area of SE Middlesex that urbanised as inner East London and included the area of the eponymous modern borough and most of what is now the London Borough of Hackney.

This was an unusual arrangement as Lord Lieutenancy powers were usually exercised at county level; they enabled the Constable to raise local forces to supplement the Tower garrison at times of increased tension, or for use in the field.

Constable's dues

In the Middle Ages it was a profitable position; among the Constable's entitlements were:

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. [3]

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 were 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 in the Army. To His Grace's displeasure, 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 office. On state occasions the Constable has custody of the crown and other royal jewels.

List of Constables

This is an incomplete list of people who have served as Constable of the Tower of London, a post which since 1660 has been traditionally combined with that of Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets.

PortraitNameFromToNote
Geoffrey de Mandeville 1068 (?)First Constable, appointed by William the Conqueror [4] [5]
William de Mandeville 11001116 (?)Son of Geoffrey I de Mandeville, held Ranulf Flambard
Othuer fitz Count1116?1120Son of Hugh d'Avranches, Earl of Chester.
Hasculf de Tany 11201140?
Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex 11401144 (d.)Son of William de Mandeville
no record of Constables during reign of Stephen, 1144–1153 [5]
Richard de Lucie 11531179 (d.)also Chief Justiciar
Garnier de Isenei
William Longchamp 1189Bishop of Ely, Chancellor and Regent
William Puintellus 1189Sub-Constable
Walter of Coutances 1191Bishop of Rouen
Roger Fitz Renfred 1194brother of Walter of Coutances
Geoffrey Fitz Peter 1198Chief Justiciar; created Earl of Essex, 1199
Roger de la Dune 1205
Geoffrey FitzGeoffrey de Mandeville October 1213Son of Geoffrey FitzPeter
William de Cornhill November 1213Archdeacon of Huntingdon
Eustace de Greinville 1214
Stephen Langton June 1215Archbishop of Canterbury
Tower occupied by Prince Louis of France June 1216
Walter de Verdun 1217
Stephen de Seagrave 1220Chief Justiciar
Hugh de Wyndlesore 1224
John de Boville and Thomas de Blumvill or Blundeville (probably together)1225Blundeville was Bishop of Norwich, 1226
Henry Fitz Aucher 1227
Ralph de Gatel 1230
Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent July 1232
Ralph de Ralegh 1232Sub-Constable
William de St. Edmund 1233
Hugh Giffard of Boyton, Wiltshire [6] 1234
Geoffrey de Crancumb March 1235
Hugh Giffard (again)April 1236
Walter de Gray, Archbishop of York and Bertram de Crioyl or Criolle (jointly)1240Midsummer 1242de Criol Constable of Dover Castle 1242–1256
Peter de Vallibus 1244
John de Plessetis June 1244
Peter le Blund 1246
Aymon Thorimbergh September 1256
Imbert Pugeys 1257
Hugh Bigod 1258Chief Justiciar
Richard de Culwurth 1261
Sir John Mansel or MaunselMay 1261
Richard de Tilbury 1261
Hugh le Despencer 1262Chief 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 1265
Thomas de Ippegrave April 1268
Stephen de Eddeville July 1268
Hugh Fitz Otho (again)1269
Walter Giffard 1272Archbishop of York
John de BurghDecember 1273
Philip Basset 1274
Anthony de Bec 1275Bishop of Durham
Richard de Waldegrave June 1280Sub-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 SegraveFebruary 1323
Walter de Stapledon 1323Bishop 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
William Montagu, 1st Earl of Salisbury 13351344
Robert de Dalton 1341
John, Baron Darcy (of Knaith) March 13461347 (d.)
John, Baron Darcy (son)June 1347
Bartholomew de Burghersh, 1st Baron Burghersh 1355August 1355 (d.)
Robert de Morley, 2nd Baron Morley 1355
Beauchamp 1430.jpg John de Beauchamp, 1st Baron Beauchamp de Warwick
Richard de la Vache 1361
Sir Aleyne de Boxhull 1366Broke Westminster Abbey's sanctuary 1378
Sir Thomas MurrieuxDecember 1381
Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent May 1387
Sir Thomas Morreux (? son of above)July 1391probably Deputy
Edward of Norwich Duke of York.jpg Edward (Plantagenet) January 1392September 1397Earl of Rutland
Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland.png Ralph de Neville, 4th Baron Neville September 1397October 13971st Earl of Westmorland from 29 September 1397
Edward of Norwich Duke of York.jpg Edward Plantagenet (again)October 1397August 1399Duke of Albemarle and Earl of Rutland
Sir Thomas Rempston October 1399Drowned at London Bridge, 31 October 1406
Edward of Norwich Duke of York.jpg Edward (Plantagenet) (again) [7] November 14061413now Duke of York, slain at Agincourt, 1415
John Dabrichecourt 14131413
Robert de Morley14131415
William Bourchier November 1415Earl of Eu, 1419, d. 1420
Roger Aston July 1420August 1420
John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon August 1420Duke of Exeter
James Fienes, Lord Say 1447July 1450Murdered 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 1461October 1470Executed by Lancastrians, 18 October 1470
John Sutton, Baron Dudley 1470
Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset April 1483In office before accession of Edward V in 1483
Sir Robert Brackenbury July 1483Killed at Bosworth Field, 22 August 1485
John de Vere, Earl of Oxford September 14851513
Sir Thomas Lovell March 15131524
Sir William Kingston May 15241540
Hans Holbein the Younger - Sir John Gage RL 12207.jpg Sir John Gage October 15401553
Edward Fiennes de Clinton, 1st Earl of Lincoln from NPG.jpg Edward Clinton, 9th Baron Clinton July 1553August 15531st Earl of Lincoln from 1572
Hans Holbein the Younger - Sir John Gage RL 12207.jpg Sir John Gage (again)August 15531556
Sir Edward Braye 15561557
Sir Robert Oxenbridge January 15571558
Peter Carew 15721572
RichardBerkeley(D1604).jpg Sir Richard Berkeley of Stoke Gifford1595
Sir William Wadd late Lieutenant of the Tower.png Sir William Wade (Lieutenant) [8] 16051611
Gervase.jpg Sir Gervase Helwys (Lieutenant)16111615
Sir George More (Lieutenant)16151617
Sir Allen Apsley (Lieutenant)16171630
Sir Thomas Lunsford (Lieutenant)16411641Served for a few days, per Clarendon
Francis Cottington, 1st Baron Cottington from NPG.jpg Francis, Baron Cottington 1640 William Balfour was his Lieutenant
Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport after Sir Anthony Van Dyck.jpg Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport 1641
John1stLordByron.jpg John Byron, 1st Baron Byron (Lieutenant)16411642
Thomas Fairfax Baron of Cameron.jpeg Sir Thomas Fairfax August 1647 [8] 1650 Robert Tichborne was his Lieutenant.
Sir John Robinson, 1st Baronet 16601675
3rdEarlOfNorthampton.jpg James Compton, 3rd Earl of Northampton 16751679
William Alington, 3rd Baron Alington 16791685
George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth by John Riley.jpg George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth 16851688
Robert Lucas, 3rd Baron Lucas of Shenfield 16881702
Montagu Venables-Bertie, 2nd Earl of Abingdon 17021705
Algernon Capel, 2nd Earl of Essex by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt.jpg Algernon Capell, 2nd Earl of Essex 17061710
Richard Savage, 4th Earl Rivers 17101712
George Compton, 4th Earl of Northampton 17121715
Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt.jpg Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle 17151722
NewcastleLincoln.jpg Henry Clinton, 7th Earl of Lincoln 17231725
3rdDukeOfBolton.jpg Charles Paulet, 3rd Duke of Bolton 17251726
Henry Lowther, 3rd Viscount Lonsdale 17261731
John Sidney, 6th Earl of Leicester 17311737
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Earl Cornwallis 17401762
John Berkeley, 5th Baron Berkeley of Stratton 17621770
First Marquis of Cornwallis.jpg Charles Cornwallis, 2nd Earl Cornwallis 17701784
George Lennox.jpg The Lord George Lennox 17841784
First Marquis of Cornwallis.jpg Charles Cornwallis, 2nd Earl Cornwallis 178418051st Marquess Cornwallis from 1792
Lord Moira.jpg Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings 18061826
Lord Arthur Wellesley the Duke of Wellington.jpg Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington 18261852
Stapleton Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere by Mary Martha Pearson (nee Dutton).jpg Stapleton Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere 18521865
John-fox-burgoyne.jpg Sir John Burgoyne, Baronet 18651871
Sir George Pollock, 1st Baronet(3 4 Profile).jpg Sir George Pollock 18711872
Sir William Maynard Gomm by William Salter.jpg Sir William Maynard Gomm 18721875
Field Marshal Sir Charles Yorke.jpg Sir Charles Yorke 18751880
William Fenwick Williams.jpg Sir William Fenwick Williams 18811881
Richard James Dacres.jpg Sir Richard James Dacres 18811886
Robert Napier, 1st Baron Napier of Magdala - Project Gutenberg eText 16528.jpg Robert Napier, 1st Baron Napier of Magdala 18861890
Daniellysons.jpg Sir Daniel Lysons 18901898
Sir Frederick Stephenson.jpg Sir Frederick Stephenson 18981911
Sir Evelyn Wood.jpg Sir Henry Evelyn Wood 19111919
Paul Methuen, 3rd Baron Methuen.png Paul Methuen, 3rd Baron Methuen 19201932
George Francis Milne.jpg George Milne, 1st Baron Milne 19331938
LtGen Claud William Jacob.jpg Sir Claud William Jacob 19381943
Philipchetwode.jpg Sir Philip Chetwode, 7th Baronet 194319481st Baron Chetwode from 1945
Archibald Wavell2.jpg Archibald Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell 19481950
Alan Brooke at desk 1942.jpg Alan Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke 19501955
Hmwilson1944.jpg Henry Maitland Wilson, 1st Baron Wilson 19551960
Sir Harold Alexander 026065 Fix.jpg Harold Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis 19601965
Sir gerald templer.gif Sir Gerald Templer 19651970
Sir Richard Hull 19701975
Sir Geoffrey Baker 1975May 1980
Sir Peter Hunt June 1980July 1985
Sir Roland Gibbs August 1985July 1990
Sir John Stanier August 1990July 1996
Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge KG, GCB.JPG Peter Inge, Baron Inge August 1996July 2001Baron Inge from 1997
Sir Roger Wheeler August 2001July 2009
General Sir Francis Richard Dannatt, KCB, CBE, MC - York 2007-09-22 (RLH).jpg Richard Dannatt, Baron Dannatt [4] August 2009July 2016
Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton GCB, CBE, ADC Gen. MOD 45155682.jpg Nick Houghton, Baron Houghton20161 August 2022
Gordon Messenger museum (cropped).jpg Sir Gordon Messenger 1 August 2022

Notes

  1. The Kings's Regulations for the Army (Ministry of Defence): Chapter 9, Annex B.
  2. "Lord Houghton of Richmond". Hospitality and Catering News. 11 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  3. Ceremony of the Constable's Dues Archived 2007-12-21 at the Wayback Machine
  4. 1 2 Dannatt to be next Constable of the Tower of London Ministry of Defence, UK. Defence News, 5 Feb 09. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  5. 1 2 "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
  6. Davies, Susan J. "Giffard, Godfrey". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/10649.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. "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
  8. 1 2 "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

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References