The Grafitti of the Tower of London



The graffiti commemorating the Dudleys.  Beauchamp Tower.  Photo Spitalfieldlife 

I am, to be honest not a fan of graffiti, also known as graffito, neither do I know anyone who is. However, if you are talking historical graffiti, and from no less than the Tower of London, well that is definitely a different ball game and count me in.


Examples of graffiti including an oak leaf and acorns dated 1537.  Photographer unknown.

There are 268 examples of graffiti carved by prisoners who while incarcerated within the Tower walls, sometimes languishing there for many years,  wiled the time away leaving behind messages that have endured to this day.  I suspect they would have been shocked to know  their carvings would survive for so long, some over 500 years old,  to be marvelled  at as well as now carefully preserved.  Some of the prisoners were high status including Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester who was imprisoned with his brothers  after his father’s plot to put Lady Jane Grey, his daughter in law,  on the throne went pear shaped.     The Dudley graffiti which  is to be found in the Beauchamp Tower,  commemorating  Robert and his brothers features roses for Ambrose, carnation or  gillyflowers for Guildford, oak leaves for Robert, rober being Latin for oak leaf,  and honeysuckle for Henry.  The carving is thought to have been completed by John Dudley, the fifth brother,  who added his name at the bottom.  The carved letters read 

“You that these beasts do wel behold and se may deme with ease wherefore here made they be with borders eke wherein four brothers names who list to serche the grounde” 

 Guildford and Jane were unsurprisingly executed.   The other brothers were released but John died almost immediately afterwards at Penshurst Place.  He seems to have suffered greatly during his imprisonment and was said to have been ‘crazed for want of air‘ (1).  Robert would go on to become a close and dear  friend to Elizabeth I.  

Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel was imprisoned by Elizabeth.  His name is also to be found in the Beauchamp Tower accompanied with the words

‘The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall get with Christ in the world to come.

Arrested for practicing his Christian faith in 1585,  Arundel was to die in the Tower in 1595.


The Arundel Graffiti.  Beauchamp Tower





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