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“What Citadels, what turrets, and what towers”: Mapping the Tower of London in Thomas Heywood’s Lord Mayors’ Shows


Kristin Deiter


Although early modern English monarchs promoted a royal ideology that the Tower of London represented sovereign power and authority, Thomas Heywood and his contemporary dramatists challenged that ideology in twenty-four English history plays. In the early 1630s, Heywood also resisted the royal ideology of the Tower in two prose works that helped set the cultural stage for his representations of the Tower in three Lord Mayors’ Shows—annual civic processions through London’s streets, featuring dramatic pageantry, to celebrate the inauguration of the Lord Mayor of London—Londini Sinus Salutis (1635), Londini Speculum (1637), and Porta Pietatis (1638).

In this essay I argue that the Tower’s representations in these Shows, located in their cultural and historical contexts, yield resistant interpretations that resonate with Heywood’s earlier writings. These representations underscored and deepened the conflict between London and the Crown as England moved toward civil war. In fact, the Tower’s representations took place at or near the climax of each of these Lord Mayors’ Shows, when the actual Tower came into its best view during the mayoral procession, heightening the Tower’s transgressive power in the Shows.

After illustrating the Tower’s cultural and historical context in these Shows, including seventeenth-century conflicts between Lord Mayors and royal officials at the Tower, I interpret Heywood’s allusions to the Tower and analyze the Tower’s representations in each Show.

A previously unpublished letter at the Huntington Library, documenting the conflict between the City and the Crown at the Tower, is transcribed in the appendix.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.