The gabled Lieutenant’s Lodgings in front of the green appear incongruous against the stone bulk of the surrounding towers, But, along with the more famous profile of the White Tower, or Traitor’s Gate, these buildings are an integral part of the history of the Tower of London. Officially called “The Queen’s House”, it is thought that this structure was originally commissioned by Henry VIIIth for his new wife, Anne Boleyn, although the existing buildings are a remodel of the home she stayed in prior to her execution in 1533.
Much of The Lady of the Tower takes place within the Lodgings, the gardens, and the Bloody Tower, where Lucy’s protagonist, the Countess of Somerset was lodged when Lucy arrived – a most unfortunate circumstance.
Leading from the Lieutenant’s lodgings is a small passageway to the entrance to the Bell Tower, where Sir Thomas More spent his last days.The present residences were constructed in 1540, based on medieval foundations, and have traditionally been the homes of the Lieutenant of the Tower and his deputies. They contain offices, receiving rooms, kitchens and bedrooms, as well as a formal chamber in which many prisoners were questioned – including such traitors as Guy Fawkes. Lady Arbella Stuart was also lodged in the Queen’s House – because she secretly married the love of her life, William Seymour, and became a contender for the throne. This made James I rather uncomfortable, so he imprisoned her to thwart any potential uprisings in her name.
Lady Johanna Sainte John gathered recipes and physicks from friends and family throughout the late 1600’s. Compiled in a leather-bound book of some 300 pages, many of the recipes credit both the source and the person restored, giving us a fascinating glimpse of the health of Lady Johanna and her neighbours. I like to think that just as we do today, she asked far and wide for the best recipes and curatives – and that some of these were contributed by Lucy St. John and her daughter, Johanna’s cousin, Lucy Hutchinson. Both women were renowned herbalists.
Many of the recipes include herbs and flowers that are found in any English garden. Others require more complex compounds that would have been purchased from the apothecary shops in a large city.
Very little went to waste. In this recipe, which calls for vast quantities of sack (probably a lot safer to drink than the water), the wine was reused to treat consumption, once it had done its work in creating the cordial.
Lady Johanna’s Book is now in the Wellcome Library London, a unique collection of medicinal manuscripts and artifacts managed by The Wellcome Trust.
Photo Credit: Wellcome Library, London