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The Tower & The Traitors by Barbara Leonie Picard

No building has played so dramatic a part in English history as the Tower of London. It has from time to time dominated the scene as a fortress and a palace, but it is as a prison that the Tower is chiefly remembered—and most notably as a prison for the high-born and for those accused of plotting against the sovereign. Treason is inescapably associated with the Tower of London.

In The Tower & The Traitors Barbara Leonie Picard sets the scene by describing briefly the history of the Tower, and then she devotes the main part of the book to stories of some of the most famous prisoners and the reasons for their imprisonment. Most were Tudors and Stuart figures. The first, Sir Thomas More, was a victim of Henry VIII, and he is followed by two of the King’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Kathryn Howard. Then comes Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Thomas Overbuy, and their stories are succeed by the attempt of Thomas Blood to steal the Crown jewels. A chapter on the Monmouth rebellion deals with the Duke of Monmouth and the notorious Judge Jefferies. It is true that a great deal, if not most, of the history of the Tower is sombre, but the book ends with a delightful account of the escape of the fifth Earl of Nithsdale.

Ms. Picard in bringing to life the history of the Tower, casts a wider light on particular aspects of English history. Her stories are well complimented by William Stobb’s illustrations.

Barbara Leonie Picard was born in England in 1917 of mixed German-Venezuelan and French parentage. A long time resident of Lewes, Sussex, England, she died in 2011 at the age of 93. Several of her books were short-listed for the Carnegie Medal, and were selected as Notable Children’s Books by the American Library Association.