From Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown, comes this background from The English Historical Fiction blog:
On a December night in 1840, a sizable group of writers, editors, publishers, printers and illustrators gathered at the Sussex Hotel, in the fashionable town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, for a dinner party. It is possible that Charles Dickens, the young author of Oliver Twist and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, was invited to the party. Most definitely in attendance was George Cruikshank, the talented illustrator of Oliver Twist.
The host of this lavish affair was the famed 35-year-old novelist William Harrison Ainsworth. The occasion: the successful serialization over the last year of his fifth novel, The Tower of London: A Historical Romance, which told the story of the tragic Lady Jane Grey, beginning with her arrival by barge at the Tower to launch her nine-day-reign and ending with her decapitation on Tower Green on July 10, 1553. . . .
That dazzling night at Royal Tunbridge Wells, Ainsworth, mercifully, could not know that his books would go out of print, that fellow writers such as Edgar Allan Poe would describe his prose as "turgid pretension."
Yet he is not without a legacy. The book celebrated that night, The Tower of London: A Historical Romance, triggered a new kind of interest in William the Conqueror's castle keep. It was an interest that deepened through the Victorian age, and is part of the reason visitors pour into the Tower, to the tune of 2 million a year. . . .
Ainsworth opened the door to a more illustrious period in the Tower's history. It's true that the novel's prose is melodramatic ("heaving bosoms," "piercing black eyes" and "sinister smiles") and the pages are crowded with Gothic characters (not one or two but three supporting characters who are giants--and a dwarf!) along with august personages of the past. But Ainsworth's diligent research brings to life the grounds, the kitchens, the passageways, the prison cells and the beautiful chapels of the Tower. He made full, imaginative use of the Tower of London, as a setting for a story of high drama. And Cruikshank's 40 engravings and 58 woodcuts play their suggestive part.
And in the center of it all is Lady Jane Grey, a character of undeniable pathos, surrounded by conspiracies. Ainsworth invests the Spanish ambassador, Simon Renard, with the malevolent abilities of a Blofeld straight from Bond. Northumberland is formidable indeed.There is an energy to the book, and an eerie, even frightening atmosphere. The rack, the Scavenger's Daughter and the infamous Little Ease are all present and accounted for.
So, in addition to making the Tower of London a great tourist site, William Harrison Ainsworth might have contributed to the common view of Queen Jane Dudley as a great romantically tragic victim. As I commented on my Radio Maria US show last Saturday, I think that view was corrected by Leanda de Lisle in her book The Sisters Who Would be Queen: Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Tragedy, which I reviewed here.