The best-known “princes in the tower” theory is that they were murdered by King Richard III, their uncle, based on the words of Tudor courtier Sir Thomas More. This version, however, has long been questioned, as it may have been an attempt to tarnish the monarch’s name in this way.
The princes were the sons of King Edward IV and when their father died, their uncle, King Richard III, locked them up in the Tower of London, acting as regent at the time. Their disappearance and alleged murder in 1483 has been tacitly called “The Princes in the Tower” and has become one of the greatest mysteries in English history. Many believe that Richard III killed 12-year-old Edward and 9-year-old Richard to take the throne, but there was no proof of that. Incidentally, he became one of the most controversial monarchs in English history.
Now Professor Tim Thornton claims to have solved the mystery and indeed it was King Richard III who was directly involved in the murder of King Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, which took place when they were children.
Sir Thomas More, King Henry VIII’s trusted courtier in the early 16th century, wrote a book detailing this dark history. It is the earliest detailed account of the deaths, exposing two men as murderers, Miles Forrest and John Dighton, who acted under the direct orders of Richard III. The book and its findings were highly skeptical of historians because Sir Thomas was only five years old when the “Princes in the Tower” scandal occurred. It was thought that his book and its theory may have been royal propaganda and published as a Tudor scheme to smear the former king’s name and increase public support for the new House.
Professor Thornton, however, found evidence that the alleged murderer, Miles Forrest, had two sons who became courtiers to King Henry VIII and worked alongside Sir Thomas. He suggests that the two sons spoke to Sir Thomas about their father’s role in the infamous royal assassination and told him about Richard III’s role in the murder of the princes.
It was these inside sources that allowed Sir Thomas to publish his accusations against King Richard III, who for centuries had been portrayed as hideous, hunchbacked and disfigured, in part because William Shakespeare described him as a monstrous tyrant in his play named after the infamous ruler.
According to the professor, because it was difficult to rely on More as a witness, this murder story has become the greatest mystery in British history. But since More had been in close enough contact with the sons of the alleged murderer, it could well be argued that he was not writing about imaginary people in his book, but based on actual accounts.
The murder of two children, one of whom became a monarch after his father’s death, has attracted public attention for more than 500 years. It tops the list of royal misdeeds and scandals because of the strong side effects it had on the royal family. According to the inscription on the urn in which their remains are kept, they were “strangled with pillows on the orders of their treacherous uncle Richard the Usurper.”
Edward IV, the father of the “princes in the tower,” became King of England as a direct descendant of Edward III, who reigned between 1312 and 1377, by inheritance from his mother and father. After a confusing and bloody period of Plantagenet and Lancaster rulers, Edward IV became a Yorkist claim to the throne when his father and brother were killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. And from the age of 19 until his sudden death in 1483 he ruled as monarch.
He had many children, including Edward V; Richard, Duke of York; and Elizabeth, who would later marry Henry Tudor. After his death, his brother Richard took the throne, and is blamed for the deaths of the young princes. But this deed did him little good, for only two years later he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth, defeating, incidentally, Henry Tudor, husband of the murdered princes’ sister.
Richard’s death at battle ended the War of the Roses and centuries of feuding between Yorkists and Lancastrians, ushering in the House of Tudor, led by Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. And their son Henry VIII would later become one of England’s most famous monarchs. Richard’s subsequent history was also unenviable. He was buried in the local monastery and long forgotten. This monastery was later turned into a parking lot and only relatively recently have the remains of the monarch been found and reburied in Leicester Cathedral in 2015.
The mystery surrounding the disappearance and death of the princes came to the fore again in 1674, when the remains of two children were discovered in the Tower of London, and again in the 1930s, when the remains, by then reburied in Westminster Abbey, were re-examined scientifically.
However, at that time there was no technical possibility to reliably determine even the sex of the skeletons, let alone their royal credentials. Later, there were repeated calls to use modern genetic and archaeological methods, such as those used to confirm the remains of Richard III, on these skeletons of two children. In 2013, however, it emerged that the Church of England, with the support of the queen, had for decades denied requests for experts to verify the skeletons. Their argument is that this could set a precedent for testing any number of historical theories associated with many famous people buried in the church. Thus, the identity of these remains to the children of King Edward IV has never been proven.