The Princes in the Tower: Resurrected
Everyone knows the story of how the Princes in the Tower were taken into custody "for their own protection" by King Richard III, a man much vilified by historical culture. They were seen playing happily on the Tower grounds in 1483. However, neither of the boys were seen following the summer season. Their whereabouts have remained a mystery for over 500 years.
During their suspected murder, King Richard III was on progress. He wasn't physically present at the Tower of London. So to say that he himself committed the deed would be false. However, as others have put forward, it is surmised that he had in fact ordered someone else to do it. And, indeed, it would be all too convenient for him to distance himself from the bloody act, washing his hands of what had happened. It would also make it an alibi, which, if guilty, he could use to corroborate himself.
I have considered the political ramification if in fact he had been responsible for their deaths. They were already deemed illegitimate by Parliament. So in the eyes of the law, they were no longer royalty.
Would he, then, want to take it one step further and kill them, to ensure the security of the crown?
Considering the Motives
No, I highly doubt it. The cost would be far too great.
Infanticide, and furthermore, the murder of two innocent children would not sit well with the people of England. They were the sons of a very popular king. One could argue that he did it in secret to avoid the public ramifications of the act in question. It still doesn't answer why he would murder his two nephews who had already been declared illegitimate.
I didn't know him personally, of course, but I have concluded that he would most prefer to have kept the princes close, but barred from the succession. I do not, in my heart, believe he would have wanted any harm to come to them. Nor do I believe that he would have wanted them to run around England where they could have gained popular support.
Rather, I believe, he would have wanted them in his care and protection.
So this begs the first question: if they were murdered, who would have the most reason to do it?
The Game of Clue
Let's consider others who could have held either the power or the inclination to carry out the murders:
- James Tyrell: Suspected by Thomas More to have been guilty, and apparently confessed under torture. He had no direct access to the Tower and would have needed permission from Richard III to carry it out.
- Duke of Buckingham: Constable of London. He was widely rumored around the time of the princes' disappearance to have committed the act. Motivations remain unclear, as it could have been for the side of York or Lancaster.
- The Duke of Norfolk: Was Constable of the Tower briefly during July of 1483. His motivations could have been based strictly on economics (as the younger Prince currently held the title he coveted).
- Queen Anne Neville: I have to wonder if in fact the Queen of England may have ordered their deaths. Perhaps she viewed the boys as threats to any potential children she may have had. Or, maybe she did it to try to soothe the nerves of her husband, who had newly ascended the throne. We cannot overlook the possibility of her involvement.
- King Henry Tudor: He did not ascend the throne until 1485; however, his mother was arranging his marriage as early as autumn 1483. He needed Elizabeth of York to be declared legitimate, but he needed the princes to be illegitimate so he could marry her. It was quite a conundrum.
- Queen Margaret Beaufort: She would have done anything for her son. Her close relationship with him cannot be refuted. Perhaps, then, she ordered the deaths of the princes to pave the way for Elizabeth of York to become queen. Her husband, Thomas Stanley, was High Constable of the Tower at the time that the princes disappeared.
If the princes were not murdered, as was popularly believed - even their mother thought it so - what was their ultimate fate?
- Death by Natural Causes: Edward V had a jaw infection. Is it possible, in the time of medieval medicine, that he succumbed to this illness? And is it possible that his younger brother Richard perished from something else, perhaps plague? In a time that was fraught with disease, it's very possible. The death of such high nobility would have been catastrophic for the cause. If this is what happened, perhaps they were buried in secret so that they would not be found guilty.
- Escape: Perhaps they fled the Tower, willingly or through the assistance of others. If so, where did they go and what was their ultimate fate?
Hiding in Plain Sight?
There are theories that at least one of the princes survived into adulthood. Here are the accounts below:
- Bricklayer in Essex: In one remarkable case, a man resembling the late King Edward IV knew perfect Latin. In medieval Europe, the vast majority of commoners did not know how to speak this language, reserved exclusively for nobility. He told his employer that he was a son of King Richard III. Still, though, it doesn't explain why he was not accounted for by Richard, who freely acknowledged all of his illegitimate children. Was this man, in fact, the long-lost Richard, Duke of York?
- Sir Edward Guildford and Dr. John Clement: There is a theory posed by one historian which claims that both Edward V and Richard IV survived into adulthood. It postulates that Edward V became Sir Edward Guildford, and Richard IV became Dr. John Clement, President of the Royal College of Physicians. He references a portrait which contains Dr. Clement, with a royal fleur-de-lis and the words, in Latin, which read "John, the rightful heir." This historian also speaks to the fact that very little is known about Dr. John Clement (no records, signature, or portrait), which is unheard of for someone with such a highly-esteemed position. Dr. Clement rose to a high-ranking status in a very short period of time, only over the period of a few months.
The "Great Pretenders"
- Lambert Simnel: The first of the "pretenders." Lambert had apparently come from humble origins and was raised from the age of ten by a kingmaker named Richard Simon. Initially passed off as Richard IV, Simon changed his mind and presented Simnel as the Earl of Warbeck (son of the Duke of Clarence). Following an unsuccessful attempt at an uprising, he was later pardoned by King Henry VII and given a position in the royal kitchen.
- Perkin Warbeck: Around 1490, he first made his declaration of being Prince Richard, the younger of the two princes. There is no confirmed reports of his earlier life, only what was gained from a forced confession later on. He had been in the care of Sir Edward Brampton, who was a Yorkist supporter. Warbeck claimed that, from the years 1483 until 1490, he had lived on the Continent after his escape. He went on to say that two men had come to murder the princes, but his killer had sympathized and let him go free. He reportedly resembled King Edward IV greatly. He also, like Prince Richard IV, had a strong and natural ability for music. In addition, he was fluent in a variety of languages and had international support from many sources. In his confession, drawn out under torture, he claimed to be an imposter. I found three things to be curious: the first, that he was beaten beyond recognition (just how much DID he resemble the late King?). The second, that his potential sister, Elizabeth of York, was forbidden to see him. And the third was that the King of Scotland had himself arranged the marriage between Warbeck and someone from his court. Why would he do such a thing for a commoner?
My Own Conclusion
Until other evidence can come to light, I am of the belief that Perkin Warbeck WAS Prince Richard IV. The evidence, in my opinion, is too compelling. I am of the belief that Edward V did not survive into adulthood and was either murdered or died prior to being murdered. The fact that Edward V himself suspected he would be murdered does, however, point more strongly to that end. His illness of the jaw likely would have made it easier. He was far too important to be kept alive, and I believe it was more likely that it was at the hand of the Tudors than anyone else. It is my opinion that the remains were secreted away and his body is one of the two small coffins which were buried with Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.
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