The Tower of London – The Brothers Grimm
Commonplace Book – Pages 24 – 27
The Wakefield Tower housed Edward I’s sumptuous throne room in the 13th c.
As a medieval spiritual haven, the Chapel of St. John in the White Tower was no refuge for the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1381. Peasant uprisers dragged him out and killed him.
At the southeast corner of the old wall that once surrounded the Roman city of Londinium, William the Conqueror began work on the White Tower about 1078.
Still officially a Royal Palace, the Tower has not been a principal home to a monarch since King Henry VIII died in 1508.
Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, was beheaded on May 19, 1536 and now lies under a floor memorial in the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula. Her 1533 coronation was occasion for one the Tower’s fist gun salutes. She was the first reigning queen to be executed inside the Tower. She was dispatched with a sword, rather than an axe.
1244: Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Fawr. A Welsh prince. He fell to his death whilst trying to escape from a cell in the Tower.
1415: Charles I Valois, Duke of Orleans. Wounded at the Battle of Agincourt. Captured for 25 years.
1471: Henry VI of England. Imprisoned and murdered supposedly by Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
1554: Queen Elizabeth I. Imprisoned for 2 months for allegedly being involved in Wyatt’s Rebellion.
1606: Guy Fawkes is brought to the Tower for his part in the Gunpowder Plot. He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered in the Old Palace Yard at Westminster. However, he jumped off the scaffold, which in turn broke his neck.
1746: Lady Teresa Traquair became a voluntary prisoner to be with her husband.
John Gerard, S.J. An English Jesuit priest operating undercover during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, was captured and tortured in the Salt Tower before making a daring escape by rope across the moat.
Sir Walter Raleigh was implicated in a plot to overthrow James I in 1603. He was jailed indefinitely and spent 13 years imprisoned in the Bloody Tower with his wife and two children. Sometimes he grew tobacco on Tower Green. While imprisoned he wrote “The History of the World.”
In the Garden Tower, on ‘Bloody Tower, Edward V and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury were murdered supposedly on the orders of their uncle Richard III in 1483. Two skeletons were found buried under the White Tower stairs 191 years later, but they couldn’t be positively identified.
In 1671 the crown jewels were kept in the Martin Tower. An Irish adventurer named Thomas Blood – aka ‘Colonel Blood’ – disguised himself as a clergyman and befriended the jewel house keeper. He arrived one morning with 3 friends, asking to see the jewels. As the keepers unlocked the door, the 4 overcame him and ran off with St. Edward’s crown and the royal orb. The thieves made it out of the Tower gate, but 3 of them – including Blood – were captured with their loot along the wharf. Blood told hi captors he would speak only to King Charles II. He emerged with a pardon and 500£/yr pension. Some say that Charles, strapped for cash, was in on the plot to steal and sell the jewels.
The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm named their story collection ‘Children’s and Household Tales and published the first of its 7 editions in Germany in 1812. During their lifetimes the collection sold modestly, at first only a few 100 copies a year. The early editions weren’t even aimed at children.
In the original ‘Snow White’ the evil stepmother is forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes till she died. In ‘The Goose Maid’, a treacherous servant is stripped, thrown into a barrel studded with sharp nails and dragged through the streets.
Serious scholars of medieval literature, the Brothers Grimm began collecting fairy tales as a favor for a friend. Indignant at Napoleon’s French rule in their home region of Hesse, the brother’s saw in ‘Hansel and Gretel’ and ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ a way to save German culture and oral tradition.
The oldest of 6 children, Jacob and Wilhelm were born a year apart in the mid-1780s in Hanau, a market town less than a day’s ride from Frankfurt. Their father, Philip a son of a clergyman, was educated in law and served as Hanau’s town clerk. Their mother, Dorothea, gave the boys freedom to wander the countryside. Nothing remains of the Grimm’s birthplace after an aerial bombing during WWII.
By 1761, the family had moved to Steinaw, another small trade center where the father took the position of district magistrate. The Grimms lived well in a large turreted stone house that doubled as the local courthouse. It survives today as a museum of Grimm manuscripts and memorabilia.
Then in 1796 their father died at the age of 44 and Dorothea was forced to move her family of 6 children. With financial help from Dorothea’s sister (a lady-in-waiting for a Hessian princess), Jacob and Wilhelm, at 13 and 12, were sent north to the city of Kassel to attend the Lyceum. Sharing the same room and bed, the boys coped with loneliness and social slights by studying 10 hours a day. The physical effort took its toll on Wilhelm. Already of delicate health, he suffered a serious asthma attack at school. Weak lungs and recurring illnesses would vex him for the rest of his life.
Wilhelm at 39 would marry a childhood friend, Dortchen Wild, daughter of a pharmacist. Jacob, a lifelong bachelor, was by far the dominant partner intellectually, initiating most of their projects. Their mother died in 1808. Money grew scarcer. Employed as a librarian for the detested resident French ruler, Jacob could barely support his siblings. Wilhelm was too sick to work. In 1812, the Grimms were surviving on 1 meal a day.
The Jacob and Wilhelm moved from their jobs in Kassel to teach at universities in Gottingen and Berlin. Between them they published more than 35 books. Wilhelm died of an infection in 1859 at the age of 73. Jacob died 4 years later.