Ranulf Flambard – 1100

By | January 27, 2017

Ranulf was the first prisoner in the newly built Tower of London


An illustration of the escape from the Tower of London

An illustration of the escape from the Tower of London

Ranulf Flambard was born at Bayeux in Normandy about 1060; his father was a priest. He moved to England and joined the court of William the Conqueror. Ranulf was a skilled financier and, although he enjoyed William’s favour, the nobility disliked him. They gave him the nickname “Flambard” which means “incendiary”. When William died on 9 September 1087 Ranulf became chaplain and treasurer to his son William (II) Rufus. Ranulf encouraged the public to support William and his vices and mad schemes. In 1089 Ranulf was put in charge of Canterbury and in September 1093 he became a judge.

The following year William Rufus summoned 20,000 men to Hastings to join an expedition to fight his brother, Robert Curthose, in Normandy. Ranulf also went to Hastings and there he took from each man the ten shillings that their villages had given them for their keep.

While William Rufus was in Normandy Ranulf ran the country. He oversaw the building of the first stone bridge in London and the king’s hall at Westminster. On 5 June 1099 he became the Bishop of Durham. When William Rufus died under mysterious circumstances in the New Forest on 2 August 1100, Ranulf fell from favour. Henry I had him imprisoned in the Tower of London on 15 August 1100 for treason. Ranulf was the first prisoner in the newly built Tower, then comprising only the square keep now known as the White Tower.

On 2 February 1101 after 171 days of captivity, Ranulf became the first person to escape from the Tower of London. Friends sent in a cask of wine and Ranulf allowed his jailers to share it with him. When they were lying in a drunken stupor, Ranulf broke open the cask and found a rope concealed within. He used it to climb down to the ground where his friends were waiting with horses.


Tower of London, London, England


Wednesday 15 August 1100


Ranulf fled to Normandy with his elderly mother, where he became an advisor to Robert, Duke of Normandy. Ranulf later made peace with Henry and returned to England in 1106. As a penance Ranulf completed the magnificent nave of Durham Cathedral. Ranulf died on 5 September 1128.

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