The Tower of London, A Historical Romance

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Title page of the first edition

The Tower of London, A Historical Romance is an 1840 novel by the English writer William Harrison Ainsworth . The novel, published in thirteen monthly parts, describes the life of the English "Nine Day Queen " Jane Gray , focusing in particular on her last days. The bestseller was formative for the image of the Tower of London that still prevails today as a gloomy and eerie prison fortress.

The Tower is a typical Ainsworth book in which he combines novel, romance, history and the detailed description of a London landmark. The Tower established the success of the series, but remained next to Old St. Paul the most successful book, and thus one of Ainsworth's two most successful. In addition to the books by Ainsworth, numerous other novels appeared in the 1840s and 1850s after the sensational success of the Tower, which dealt with the Tower of London or other formative buildings in central London. The Tower of London itself appeared at times in eight different productions on the stages of London.

The first edition illustrated George Cruikshank , who often worked with Ainsworth.

Ainsworth's book sparked renewed interest in the Tower and began to put it at the center of the interest of the educated London bourgeoisie. While it was possible to visit the tower for 200 years in 1840, it was Ainsworth's novel that triggered a rush of visitors. As early as 1841, a guide published by the palace appeared to tell the official history of the building. Finally, in 1851, the palace felt compelled to set up a sales kiosk where tickets for the tower could be bought, a great novelty at the time.


  1. ^ A b Edward Impey and Geoffrey Parnell: The Tower of London. The official illustrated history, London: Merrell 2000, 128 pp., ISBN 1-85894-106-7 , p. 112
  2. ^ A b c Billie Melman: Claiming the Nation's Past: The Invention of an Anglo-Saxon Tradition in: Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 26, No. 3/4 p. 586
  3. Micael Clarke: A Mystery Solved: Ainsworth's Criminal Romances Censured in "Fraser's" by J. Hamilton Reynolds, Not Thackeray in: Victorian Periodicals Review, Vol. 23, no. 2, "Wellesley Index" Special Issue (Summer, 1990), pp. 51-52


  • Llewellyn Ligocki: Ainsworth's Tudor Novels: History as Theme in: Studies in the Novel, Vol. 4, No. 3 (fall 1972), pp. 364-377
  • Andrew Sanders: The Victorian Historical Novel, 1840-1880 , London: Macmillan Press, 1979