Ever since its construction, the Tower of London has been an imposing landmark at the heart of the capital. The threat of being ‘sent to the Tower’ entered common parlance as the most severe punishment possible, but the fate of the prisoners who were taken beyond its walls could be truly terrifying.
Torture was used in the Tower prison, with the rack and the Scavengers Daughter among the most famous and feared devices. It is possible that the excruciating pain these inflicted could draw a confession from even an innocent prisoner.
It was those found guilty of treason who endured the worst suffering, including the notorious Guy Fawkes. Fawkes was interrogated in November 1605 after his failed attempt to blow up Parliament. He was later hung, drawn and quartered alongside his accomplices.
Even those lucky enough to escape physical torture didn’t go unscathed. Being found guilty or innocent was rarely a quick process, it is known that some of the prisoners in the Beauchamp Tower were held in confined quarters for what could be months or even years.
There was little to do, and this placed the captives under immense psychological strain, leading to depression and acute boredom. In a bid to fill their time and express their beliefs, prisoners would carve graffiti into the walls of the Tower, where much of it remains to this day.
One such prisoner was Thomas Miagh, held at the Tower but never charged. His etched words, ‘MY LIBERTIE DENIED’, have inspired the design that features on the final coin in the 2020 Tower of London Collection. Heraldic artist Timothy Noad has laid these words over a Norman arched window, which unifies all four coins in the 2020 collection. Each coin features the exclusive Tower of London mint mark and comes with packaging created in collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces.