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Princes in the Tower Were Murdered by Richard III, Concludes Historian

Princes in the Tower Were Murdered by Richard III, Concludes Historian

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Evidence has emerged that may have solved one of the world’s longest-standing murder mysteries. The Huddersfield University professor, Tim Thornton, believes that his recent discoveries have confirmed the claim that King  Richard III , the final king of England from the House of York, murdered his two young nephews in 1483 to secure his own hold on the crown.

The children of Edward IV of England depicted in a painting by Pedro Américo. (Public domain)

The children of Edward IV of England depicted in a painting by Pedro Américo. ( Public domain )

Did Richard III Really Murder His Nephews?

The accusation against Richard III first gained widespread attention in 1513, when the famed statesman and philosopher Sir Thomas More published his scathing biography  The History of King Richard III . Historians have long wondered whether More’s contention that Richard III ordered the execution of his nephews was credible, but Professor Thornton asserts that his research proves it was. Thornton has identified two associates of More as the sons of one of the hired assassins who actually committed the murders, concluding that More discovered the true story about the fate of the two princes through his contact with these individuals.

Thornton introduced his research and explained the reasons for his conclusions in the December 28 edition of  History, the Journal of the Historical Association . “This has been the greatest murder mystery in British history, because we couldn’t really rely on More as an account of what happened—until now,” Thornton exclaims in  a Huddersfield University news release  which presents the professor’s research findings. 

“I have shown that the sons of the chief alleged murderer were in court in Henry VIII’s England, and that they were living and working alongside Sir Thomas More,” Thornton continues. “He wasn’t writing about imaginary people. We now have substantial grounds for believing that the detail of More’s account of a  murder is credible.”

Did Sir Thomas More discover the truth? Portrait by Hans Holbein. (Public Domain)

Did Sir Thomas More discover the truth? Portrait by Hans Holbein. ( Public Domain )

A Real-Life Shakespearean Tragedy

Sir Thomas More’s story of how Richard III ordered the  murder of his two innocent nephews is a sordid tale that seems like something straight out of  Game of Thrones . This is likely not a coincidence, since  Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin  has confessed to being fascinated with Richard III  and has expressed a deep interest in the historical questions surrounding his rise to power.

According to More’s account, Richard III’s associate Sir James Tyrell contracted two men, Miles Forest and John Dighton, to dispose of Edward V, age 12, who had served briefly as king after the death of his father, Edward IV (Richard III’s brother), and Edward V’s brother Richard, age 9, who carried the title of Duke of York. After a little more than two months on the throne, Edward V was replaced by Richard III, following a series of machinations that led to the young king and his brother being declared illegitimate and therefore unfit to serve. 

Richard III then arranged for his two nephews to be housed in the  Tower of London , supposedly for their own safety. But they disappeared from public view shortly after Richard III officially ascended to the throne. Even at the time, this led many to conclude that Richard III had secretly ordered their execution, presumably to prevent them from contesting his legitimacy at some point in the future.

The Murder of the Princes in the Tower. Did Richard III really order the execution of his nephews Edward V and Prince Richard? (Public domain)

The Murder of the Princes in the Tower. Did Richard III really order the execution of his nephews Edward V and Prince Richard? ( Public domain )

Dastardly Deeds: Richard III and his Short-Lived Reign

Unfortunately for Richard, his exuberance at becoming the king was short-lived. In 1485, just two years after his ascension, Richard III lost his crown and his life to Henry Tudor (Henry VII) at the  Battle of Bosworth Field , thus ending the exceedingly brief reign of the final House of York sovereign.

The story of Richard’s ascension, and the dastardly deeds he allegedly perpetrated to assure it, were immortalized by  Shakespeare in his play  Richard III . This oft-performed work from the Bard, which was based entirely on More’s writing, has helped cement Richard’s historical reputation as a ruthless usurper and child killer.

Given the often brutal nature of palace intrigue that was normal among European aristocracy in the Middle Ages, More’s claim that Richard III had his nephews murdered to protect his claim to the throne hardly seems far-fetched. In 1674 workmen found a wooden box that held two child-sized skeletons buried beneath a staircase in the Tower of London, adding strength to the conclusion that the two  Princes in the Tower  didn’t make it out of their sanctuary alive. 

Richard III and the Ghosts by William Blake. (Public domain)

Richard III and the Ghosts by William Blake. ( Public domain )

Was Richard III  Really Guilty? 

Given the passage of time, there is no way to prove for certain that Richard III ordered the murder of his nephews. Historians have been split on whether or not More’s account was credible, with many concluding that he slandered Richard III at the behest of the Tudors ( Henry VII  and Henry VIII ), who would have had reason to portray their House of York predecessor in the worst possible light. More was appointed Lord Chancellor of England by  Henry VIII  in 1529, demonstrating that the famed statesman was considered a reliable ally by the House of Tudor at that time ( a situation that would change dramatically  a few years later). 

But Thornton is convinced that his discoveries have come close to putting the mystery to rest. Not once and for all, since historians are a naturally contentious bunch who are slow to surrender their pet theories even when evidence seems to contradict them. And until someone invents a time machine, there will always be a degree of uncertainty associated with historical events that occurred in the distant past. Nevertheless, if Sir Thomas More did in fact have inside sources, as Thornton argues, that would seem to tip the balance in favor of the “Richard III did it” hypothesis. This is a tentative conclusion, but under present circumstances a firm judgment remains elusive.

Top image: Portrait of King Richard III, based on lost contemporary original, in the British Royal Collections. Right: The Princes in the Tower by John Everett Millais. Source: British School /  Public Domain ; John Everett Millais /  Public Domain

By Nathan Falde

Comments

Nobody who has read Richard III ‘s letter to their mother Elizabeth when has had killed her brother and abducted the 12 year old Edward V but did not yet have his 9 year old younger brother, The Duke of York, in his control, aassuming that they have a reasonable level of intelligence, can bee in any doubt whatsoever that Richard murdered his nephews. As soon as he had both of his nephews in his control in the Tower they disappeared. He didn’t need to kill his remain. ing nephew, the Duke of Clarence’s son because he was under attainder due to his father’s treason. Henry Tudor, AKA Henry VII had him murdered eventually. Richard III’s own son was already dead.

Mr. Jon T. Todd

Nobody who has read Richard III ‘s letter to their mother Elizabeth when has had killed her brother and abducted the 12 year old Edward V but did not yet have his 9 year old younger brother, The Duke of York, in his control, aassuming that they have a reasonable level of intelligence, can bee in any doubt whatsoever that Richard murdered his nephews. As soon as he had both of his nephews in his control in the Tower they disappeared. He didn’t need to kill his remain. ing nephew, the Duke of Clarence’s son because he was under attainder due to his father’s treason. Henry Tudor, AKA Henry VII had him murdered eventually. Richard III’s own son was already dead.

Mr. Jon T. Todd

And off we go again on yet another speculative did he, didn't he exercise concerning Richard and The Princes.
This is such a cold case now and totally unlikely to ever have even remote proof one way or the other (unless they exume the bodies in Westminster for DNA testing..... and even that doesn't prove villainy by Richard).
There is, however, other players in this ongoing saga of which it may prove useful to explore in more depth. So, my suggestions for scrutiny would be Buckingham and Henry Tudor himself ; at least as order givers. Both had much to gain by the Princes being "removed" on a permanent basis. Buckingham always had his eye on the main chance and would have literally sold his soul to gain Kingship. Extremely fickle and certainly untrustable at any level, he coveted the crown and its power mercilessly. He felt he had good claim and was no doubt being very Machiavellian behind Richard's back. Manipulating chess pieces, as it were. Being Lord Constable of the Tower was obviously extremely useful to him. However, could do nothing with the princes alive.
No one had more reason for the certainty of death for the Princes than Henry Tudor himself. We must remember that he had made efforts toward the crown before and certainly before the legitimacy of the princes had been put in doubt. He was, after all, the most readily available champion of the Lancastrian cause for a few years. Abley assisted by his mother who was a politically extremely dangerous woman and would stop at nothing to see her son crowned King. Even if the claim was tenuous at best. Certainly contestable from a number of sources.
And then there is Richard who, on the face of it, didn't really need his nephews dead. He had them bastardised, with all of the business of the Elizabeth Woodville and his brothers marriage being nul and void because of prenuptial contracts with Eleanor. The Princes wouldn't have been able to come back from that and Richard could have made a very comfortable, if obscure, overseas arrangement for them providing they never came back. Him killing them wasn't totally necessary so why do it. Buckingham and Tudor being a different ball game entirely. Their ambitions required death. You've only got to look at the obsession of Henry after becoming King of thoroughly exterminating as much of the Plantagenet line as he could find over the years. Perhaps the sign of an insecure and guilty conscience.
However, as I said at the beginning ; who can say with an certainty what exactly did happen. It's always the Victor's who write history.

King Crimson 1#

Caesar A. Mendez's picture

Sorry. Had to use a line from a 1960’s women’s hair coloring product commercial (which was almost as famous as: “Try it you’ll like it!”). Historically claims for ‘definitive’ proof to the guilt of Richard III & sometimes his innocence  is just “Par to the Course” as they say. It’s a Cold Case that at this point that there will never be a “Smoking Gun”.  And wait wasn’t there documentation to prove that one of the princes was still alive & living a the life of minor-nobility years after Richard III was dust & bones? Not sure for the sourse; it could have been Ancient Origins or Nation Geographic or another sourse. And another thing if Richard wanted to kill his nephews wouldn’t he use that old reliable Arsenic? It’s been used for centuries to fake deaths caused by any number of sicknesses. Though this death by “sickness” of the 2 princes may of been odd but not unheard of. And if you think about it if Richard III did kill these 2 boys he actually did Henry Tudor (VII) a favor by eliminating 2 obstacles  to Henry’s  own claim to the Throne.  

Sabentley66's picture

Really enjoyed reading and watching this! I have been fascinated with this historical account of The War of the Roses. As soon as I Googled the term, I have been addicted. I have read much fiction and a bit of non fiction on the subject of the princes.Maybe some things that I mention are the liberties taken by author, but a series by Phillipa Gregory of this long history building between the House of York and the Tudor Dynasty, was greatly affected in many, many ways by the Earl of Warwick and his daughters. While a fictional writer, Ms Gregory is a respected historical researcher in bringing these events to the world, and leans to the romantic side, the Earl of Warwick, aka The Kingmaker, was real, and I believe, paramount in his own ambitious desires, in affecting the relationships and family dynamics of the York Brothers and their wives, and it seemed to be a great cause of the tearing down of...and building up the resentments and problems within the York/Woodville/Warwick families. I was surprised not to hear a mention of him.
Also, lacking was any mention of the rumors of the Woodville women/Queens being witches. I felt that if the factual pertention does mention that, it could have played a huge part in Elizabeth's marriage to Edward being put into question, therefore adding to the fate of the young Princes...
I also have read reports of a switch being concocted by the two white queens, with a nephew, resulting in the reign of Henry VII a turning up claimant as the young prince from hiding, causing much speculation. Any truth in that, idk...but a curious rumor indeed.

Lastly, that these royals were much led by ambition over family for about every line. These were three brothers, afterall...the York reign was a tragedy in between . It is unthinkable to me in modern times to ever have such a curse of conscious to allow all of the horrible things that came between them to do so. I enjoyed, and look forward to more, while believe also, there can really be no final conclusion. Even if DNA could be used, it would at best and/or worst, as if the Prince, still will not be sure of rest. Or if not prince, who?, can prove who? And then open a whole new can of worms! But would be exciting anyway!!

Stephanie Bentley

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