1601, the Tower of London bore witness to the executions of seven famous prisoners: Lord Hastings in 1483, Queen Anne Boleyn in 1536, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury in 1541, Queen Katherine Howard in 1542, Jane Parker, Lady Rochford in 1542, Lady Jane Grey in 1554 and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex in 1601.
Over time a number of stories emerged about the manner in which these ‘traitors’ lost their heads, perhaps none quite so gruesome – and embellished – as the story surrounding the execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.
Portrait of an unknown woman traditionally thought to be Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
Margaret was born in 1473, the daughter of George of Clarence, the younger brother of King Edward IV, and Isabella Neville. Her childhood was marred by tragedy. In 1476, her mother died in childbirth and in 1478 Edward IV ordered the execution of his own brother, Margaret’s father, for treason