Prisoners of the Palace: 10 Famous Prisoners of the Tower of London

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Ranulf Flambard

Ranulf Flambard was a medieval Normal Bishop of Durham and he was a government minister of King William Rufus of England. He was born in 1060 and joined the chancery of King William I. He had a mixed reputation with some resenting how a man of low birth ordered nobles around but in other circles he was proven financier and administrator and managed to increase the royal revenues.

In 1085 he became the keeper of the King’s seal and when he was beset by pirates he protected the seal by throwing it into the ocean. He served William the Conqueror and upon his death his lands were split between Robert Curthose and William Rufus. Ranulf decided to serve under Rufus. He served Rufus well as an administrator, financial adviser and supervisor of construction projects. After the death of Rufus and the succession of Henry I, Ranulf was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Ranulf was charged with embezzlement and he became the first known person to be held in the Tower of London. He was not only the first prisoner of the Tower of London but he was also the first person to escape from the Tower. The rumors suggest that he was able to get his friends to smuggle him wine and rope. He used the wine to get his guards drunk and the rope to escape the Tower. A ship was arranged that contained some of his treasure and his mother and it sailed him to straight to Normandy.

Once he arrived in Normandy he entered into the service of Robert Curthouse. Ranulf convinced Robert to make a play for the English throne which ended in the Treaty of Alton. As part of the treaty Ranulf was pardoned and his bishopric was restored. He stayed with Robert for a time before returning to England and making peace with Henry. He lived out the rest of his days peacefully dying in September of 1128. His chroniclers were largely unkind but he had a substantial influence in politics and religion of the period.

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