Constable of the Tower

The Constable of the Tower is the most senior appointment at the Tower of London. In the Middle Ages a constable was the person in charge of a castle when the owner—the king or a nobleman—was not in residence. The Constable of the Tower had a unique importance as the person in charge of the principal fortress defending the capital city of England.

Today the role of Constable is a ceremonial one and mainly involves taking part in traditional ceremonies within the Tower as well as being part of the community that lives within its perimeter. The Constable is also a trustee of Historic Royal Palaces and of the Royal Armouries.

Under the Queen's Regulations for the Army, the office of Constable is conferred upon a field marshal or a retired general officer for a five-year term.[1] The Constable appointed in 2016 is General Sir Nick Houghton.[2] The Constable's ceremonial deputy is the Lieutenant of the Tower of London, currently Simon Mayall; this office is generally entrusted to a general officer of lower rank than the Constable.

At the conclusion of the Constable's Installation ceremony, the Lord Chamberlain symbolically hands over the Queen’s House to the Constable. He in turn entrusts it to the Resident Governor, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of Her Majesty’s Palace and Fortress, the Tower of London.


The office of Constable of the Tower is one of the oldest in England, dating back to within a few years of the Conquest, and has always been one of great honour and dignity. In the past, this appointment has been held by eminent prelates of the Church, prominent politicians and distinguished soldiers. The first Constable, Geoffrey de Mandeville was appointed by William the Conqueror (AD 1066-87) in the 11th century. Formerly, in the absence of the Sovereign, the Constable would have been among the most powerful men in London. Today the Constable retains the right of direct access to the Sovereign. Since 1784 the Constable has always been a senior military officer.

During the medieval period the Constable ran the Tower which included building maintenance, soldiers' pay and, as the Royal menagerie was housed in the Tower, supervision of the 'Keeper of the King’s Animals'. He was also ultimately responsible for the prisoners kept there. The first known prisoner was the Norman bishop Ranulf Flambard in 1100, and the London gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray were the last official prisoners, for a few days in 1952, for refusing to do their National Service. They were sent to the Tower as it was the barracks of the 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) to which they had been assigned.

The Constable’s responsibility for prisoners was made clear in the words with which he was entrusted with them: “You are to guard them securely in the prison of our said tower in such a way that you shall answer for them body for body ... Fail in no part of this on pain of forfeiture of life and limb and all property you hold in our realms.”

Until the expulsion of the Jews in 1290, the Constable was responsible for the regulation and protection of London's Jewry.

Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets

Until 1899, the Constable also held the office of Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets. The Tower Hamlets was an area of SE Middlesex that urbanised as inner East London and included the area of the eponymous modern borough and most of what is now the London Borough of Hackney.

This was an unusual arrangement as Lord Lieutenancy powers were usually exercised at county level; they enabled the Constable to raise local forces to supplement the Tower garrison at times of increased tension, or for use in the field.

Constable's dues

In the Middle Ages it was a profitable position; among the Constable’s entitlements were:

  • any horses, oxen, pigs or sheep that fell off London Bridge
  • any cart that fell into the Tower moat
  • all herbage growing on Tower Hill
  • 6/8d (six shillings and eight pence) annually from each boat fishing between the Tower and the sea
  • 1s (1 shilling) a year from all ships carrying herring to London
  • 2d (2 pence) from each pilgrim who came to London, by sea, to worship at the shrine of St James
  • all swans swimming under London Bridge.

Every ship that came upstream to London had to moor at Tower Wharf to give a portion of its cargo to the Constable, as payment for the protection afforded by the Tower's cannon. These dues included oysters, mussels, cockles, rushes, and wine. The tradition is still maintained today by the Royal Navy, at the annual Ceremony of the Constable's Dues, when one large vessel presents the Constable with a barrel of rum.[3]

Since 1784 the tradition has been for the Constable to be a senior military officer, usually a general officer. Perhaps the most famous Constable was Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who served from 1825 to 1852. During his tenure, the royal menagerie and record office were removed and many buildings were restored to their medieval state. The moat was drained and converted into a parade ground. Yeomen Warders were no longer permitted to buy and sell their places but were to be drawn only from sergeants in the Army. To His Grace's displeasure, tourism at the Tower increased during his Constableship.

Each Constable is now appointed for five years. The new Constable is handed the keys as a symbol of office. On state occasions the Constable has custody of the crown and other royal jewels.

List of Constables

This is an incomplete list of people who have served as Constable of the Tower of London, a post traditionally combined with that of Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets.

Geoffrey de Mandeville1068 (?)First Constable, appointed by William the Conqueror[4][5]
William de Mandeville11001116 (?)Son of Geoffrey I de Mandeville, held Ranulf Flambard
Othuer fitz Count1116?1120Son of Hugh d'Avranches, Earl of Chester.
Hasculf de Tani11201140?
Geoffrey II de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex11401144 (d.)Son of William de Mandeville
no record of Constables during reign of Stephen, 1144-1153[5]
Richard de Lucie11531179 (d.)also Chief Justiciar
Garnier de Isenei
William Longchamp1189Bishop of Ely, Chancellor and Regent
William Puintellus1189Sub-Constable
Walter of Coutances1191Bishop of Rouen
Roger Fitz Renfred1194brother of Walter of Coutances
Geoffrey Fitz Peter1198Chief Justiciar; created Earl of Essex, 1199
Roger de la Dune1205
Geoffrey FitzGeoffrey de MandevilleOctober 1213Son of Geoffrey FitzPeter
William de CornhillNovember 1213Archdeacon of Huntingdon
Eustace de Greinville1214
Stephen LangtonJune 1215Archbishop of Canterbury
Tower occupied by Prince Louis of FranceJune 1216
Walter de Verdun1217
Stephen de Seagrave1220Chief Justiciar
Hugh de Wyndlesore1224
John de Boville and Thomas de Blumvill or Blundeville (probably together)1225Blundeville was Bishop of Norwich, 1226.
Henry Fitz Aucher1227
Ralph de Gatel1230
Hubert de Burgh, Earl of KentJuly 1232
Ralph de Ralegh1232Sub-Constable
William de St. Edmund1233
Hugh Giffard1234
Geoffrey de CrancumbMarch 1235
Hugh Giffard (again)April 1236
Walter de Gray, Archbishop of York and Bertram de Crioyl or Criolle (jointly)1240Midsummer 1242de Criol Constable of Dover Castle 1242-1256
Peter de Vallibus1244
John de PlessetisJune 1244
Peter le Blund1246
Aymon ThorimberghSeptember 1256
Imbert Pugeys1257
Hugh Bigod1258Chief Justiciar
Richard de Culwurth1261
Sir John Mansel or MaunselMay 1261
Richard de Tilbury1261
Hugh le Despencer1262Chief Justiciar, killed at Evesham, 4 August 1265
Roger de Leyburn1265
Hugh Fitz OthoOctober 1265
John Walerand and John de la Lynde (jointly)November 1265
Alan la Zouche1265
Thomas de IppegraveApril 1268
Stephen de EddevilleJuly 1268
Hugh Fitz Otho (again)1269
Walter Giffard1272Archbishop of York
John de BurghDecember 1273
Philip Basset1274
Anthony de Bec1275Bishop of Durham
Richard de WaldegraveJune 1280Sub-Constable
Ralph de Dacre1283
Ralph de SandwichSeptember 1285
Ralph BernersFebruary 1289
Ralph de Sandwich (again)July 1289
John de Cromwell, 1st Baron CromwellMarch 1308
Roger de Swynnerton1321
Stephen de SegraveFebruary 1323
Walter de Stapledon1323Bishop of Exeter
John de WestonNovember 1323
John de Gisors and Richard de Betoigne (jointly)November 1326
Thomas Wake, 2nd Baron Wake of LiddellDecember 1326
John de Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell (again)March 1327
William, Baron la Zouche, of MortimerJune 1328
John de Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell (again)1329
Nicholas de la BecheOctober 1335
William Montagu, 1st Earl of Salisbury13351344
Robert de Dalton1341
John, Baron Darcy (of Knaith)March 13461347 (d.)
John, Baron Darcy (son)June 1347
Bartholomew de Burghersh, 1st Baron Burghersh1355August 1355 (d.)
Robert de Morley, 2nd Baron Morley1355
John de Beauchamp, 1st Baron Beauchamp de Warwick
Richard de la Vache1361
Sir Aleyne de Boxhull1366broke Westminster Abbey's sanctuary 1378
Sir Thomas MurrieuxDecember 1381
Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of KentMay 1387
Sir Thomas Morreux (? son of above)July 1391probably Deputy
Edward (Plantagenet)January 1392September 1397Earl of Rutland
Ralph de Neville, 4th Baron NevilleSeptember 1397October 13971st Earl of Westmorland from 29 September 1397
Edward Plantagenet (again)October 1397August 1399Duke of Albemarle and Earl of Rutland
Sir Thomas de RempstonOctober 1399Drowned at London Bridge, 31 October 1406
Edward (Plantagenet) (again)[6]November 14061413now Duke of York, slain at Agincourt, 1415
John Dabrichecourt14131413
Robert de Morley14131415
William BourchierNovember 1415Earl of Eu, 1419, d. 1420
Roger AstonJuly 1420August 1420
John Holland, Earl of HuntingdonAugust 1420Duke of Exeter
James Fienes, Lord Say1447July 1450Murdered by Jack Cade's mob, 4 July 1450
Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of ExeterJune 1451
William Bourchier, Viscount BourchierSeptember 1460
John Tiptoft, Earl of WorcesterDecember 1461October 1470Executed by Lancastrians, 18 October 1470
John Sutton, Baron Dudley1470
Thomas Grey, Marquis of DorsetApril 1483in office before accession of Edward V in 1483
Sir Robert BrackenburyJuly 1483Killed at Bosworth Field, 22 August 1485
John de Vere, Earl of OxfordSeptember 14851513
Sir Thomas LovellMarch 15131524
Sir William KingstonMay 15241540
Sir John GageOctober 15401553
Edward Clinton, 9th Baron ClintonJuly 1553August 15531st Earl of Lincoln from 1572
Sir John Gage (again)August 15531556
Sir Edward Braye15561557
Sir Robert OxenbridgeJanuary 15571558
Peter Carew15721572
Sir Richard Berkeley of Stoke Gifford1595
Sir William Wade (Lieutenant)[7]16051611
Sir Gervase Helwys (Lieutenant)16111615
Sir George More (Lieutenant)16151617
Sir Allen Apsley (Lieutenant)16171630
Sir Thomas Lunsford (Lieutenant)16411641served for a few days, per Clarendon
Francis, Baron Cottington1640William Balfour was his Lieutenant
Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport1641
John Byron, 1st Baron Byron (Lieutenant)16411642
Sir Thomas FairfaxAugust 1647[7]1650Robert Tichborne was his Lieutenant.
Sir John Robinson, 1st Baronet16601675
James Compton, 3rd Earl of Northampton16751679
William Alington, 3rd Baron Alington16791685
George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth16851688
Robert Lucas, 3rd Baron Lucas16881702
Montagu Venables-Bertie, 2nd Earl of Abingdon17021705
Algernon Capell, 2nd Earl of Essex17061710
Richard Savage, 4th Earl Rivers17101712
George Compton, 4th Earl of Northampton17121715
Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle17151722
Henry Clinton, 7th Earl of Lincoln17231725
Charles Paulet, 3rd Duke of Bolton17251726
Henry Lowther, 3rd Viscount Lonsdale17261731
John Sidney, 6th Earl of Leicester17311737
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Earl Cornwallis17401762
John Berkeley, 5th Baron Berkeley of Stratton17621770
Charles Cornwallis, 2nd Earl Cornwallis17701784
The Lord George Lennox17841784
Charles Cornwallis, 2nd Earl Cornwallis178418051st Marquess Cornwallis from 1792
Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings18061826
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington18261852
Stapleton Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere18521865
Sir John Burgoyne, Baronet18651871
Sir George Pollock18711872
Sir William Maynard Gomm18721875
Sir Charles Yorke18751880
Sir William Fenwick Williams18811881
Sir Richard James Dacres18811886
Robert Napier, 1st Baron Napier of Magdala18861890
Sir Daniel Lysons18901898
Sir Frederick Stephenson18981911
Sir Henry Evelyn Wood19111919
Paul Methuen, 3rd Baron Methuen19201932
George Milne, 1st Baron Milne19331938
Sir Claud William Jacob19381943
Sir Philip Chetwode, 7th Baronet194319481st Baron Chetwode from 1945
Archibald Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell19481950
Alan Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke19501955
Henry Maitland Wilson, 1st Baron Wilson19551960
Harold Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis19601965
Sir Gerald Templer19651970
Sir Richard Hull19701975
Sir Geoffrey Baker1975May 1980
Sir Peter HuntJune 1980July 1985
Sir Roland GibbsAugust 1985July 1990
Sir John Wilfred StanierAugust 1990July 1996
Peter Inge, Baron IngeAugust 1996July 2001Baron Inge from 1997
Sir Roger WheelerAugust 2001July 2009
Richard Dannatt, Baron Dannatt[4]August 2009July 2016
Nick Houghton, Baron Houghton2016


  1. The Queen's Regulations for the Army (Ministry of Defence): Chapter 9, Annex B.
  2. "Lord Houghton of Richmond". Hospitality and Catering News. 11 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  3. Ceremony of the Constable's Dues Archived 2007-12-21 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Dannatt to be next Constable of the Tower of London Ministry of Defence, UK. Defence News, 5 Feb 09. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  5. "Constables and Lieutenants of the Tower of London" W. L. Rutton, Notes and Queries, 10 S. IX, No. 213, Jan. 25, 1908, pp.62–63
  6. "Constables and Lieutenants of the Tower of London" W. L. Rutton, Notes and Queries, 10 S. IX, No. 218, Feb. 29, 1908, pp.161–163
  7. "Constables and Lieutenants of the Tower of London" W. L. Rutton, Notes and Queries, 10 S. IX, No. 222, Mar. 28, 1908, pp.243–246


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