The Tudor Society

April 14 – Sir Anthony Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London

On this day in Tudor history, 14th April 1556, in the reign of Queen Mary I, former Constable of the Tower of London, Sir Anthony Kingston died at Cirencester.

Kingston was on his way to London to London to answer charges of treason when he died.

He’d been sent to the Tower for 2 weeks in December 1555 for "contemptuous behaviour and great disorder" in Parliament, but this time was more serious. He was accused of conspiring to rob the Exchequer for money to support Henry Dudley’s plot for an invasion of English exiles from France to topple Mary I and replace her with Elizabeth.

He was lucky to die a natural death, his fellow conspirators were executed.

Let me tell you more about Sir Anthony Kingston...

  • Sir Anthony Kingston was born in around 1508 and was the only son of Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London and gaoler of Queen Anne Boleyn. The Kingstons were from Elmore and Painswick in Gloucestershire.
  • In 1531, Anthony was made keeper of Berkeley Castle and steward of the lordship, and in 1533-4 he served as sheriff of Gloucestershire.
  • In 1536, he was made sergeant of the hawks and then an esquire of the body in 1539. In 1540, he helped receive Anne of Cleves.
  • In 1536, he raised an army of 100 men to help put down the Pilgrimage of Grace rebels and ended up being put in charge of a force of 1000 men from Gloucestershire.
  • Anthony was knighted in 1540 and also inherited his father's estates on the latter's death. He served the king in France in 1544.
  • Historian David Loades notes that Anthony's rise at court was partly due to his father's influence and partly due to his own skill at jousting.
  • Anthony was married twice: Dorothy Harpur, who died two years into their marriage, and Mary Gainsford, widow of Sir William Courtenay. Both unions were unhappy. Anthony sought an annulment from Dorothy, but it was refused, and he was estranged from Mary and kept a mistress. When John Hopper, Bishop of Gloucester, criticised his adultery, Anthony struck the bishop and was fined £500 as a punishment for his violent outburst. Anthony had two illegitimate sons: Anthony and Edmund.
  • In 1549, during the Prayer Book Rebellion in the south-west, Anthony served as provost marshal under Lord Russell. Loades notes that he "behaved with considerable brutality" in the role, ordering the executions of a large number of priests.
  • In 1551, he was appointed to the council in the Marches of Wales.
  • In 1553, on the accession of Lady Jane Grey, Anthony did not raise a force in the name of Queen Jane but was still regarded with suspicion by Mary I, when she came to the throne.
  • In 1555, he sat on the commission that tried the Bishop of Gloucester for heresy, although he found this upsetting, claiming that the bishop had turned him from his evil life.
  • Also in 1555, Anthony was sent to the Tower for two weeks in "contemptuous behaviour and great disorder" in Parliament after opposing the royal council's plans to confiscate the property of Protestant exiles.
  • He was implicated in Henry Dudley's conspiracy and was arrested in April 1556, accused of intending to raise a force in the south-west of England to support an invasion of English exiles from France.
  • Although there was little evidence against Anthony, he was ordered to London and died on 14th April 1556 at Cirencester.

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April 14 – Sir Anthony Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London