The Missing Princes
Elizabeth Woodville had never been very popular in England. She was viewed as a commoner and a witch. The general opinion was that she seduced Edward IV into marriage using witchcraft, and was not a fit Queen for England. Upon Edward IV’s death, she feared for her sons. She did not trust Richard III, who had been left as the Lord Protector by his older brother upon his death, and tried to hide her sons away from him. That was all in vain though. Richard managed to get hold of both the boys, and had them live in the Tower of London.
Contrary to popular belief, the Tower of London was not actually a prison at this time. It was a royal residence. So saying the boys were ‘locked up’ in the Tower of London, simply meant they were living there. They were often seen playing on the grounds of the Tower, and their disposition was cheerful enough.
In July 1483 Richard III took the throne of England. His reasons for doing so, as stated historically, was because the marriage between Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV was deemed bigamous, due to documentation which had been found, showing that Edward had been married before. The Princes therefore were illegitimate and not rightful contenders for the throne. Richard III was the next in line.
At around this time, the two princes disappeared. No official word was ever declared, stating that the boys had died or gone to live abroad or anything at all really. They just disappeared as if they had never been born.
In fact, she eventually went on to make public peace with Richard III. She convinced her eldest son the Marquis of Dorset, to abandon his plans with Henry Tudor and support Richard. And apparently she also contemplated marrying her eldest daughter Elizabeth to Richard himself.
This could mean two things. One, that she did not blame Richard for whatever fate had befallen her sons. Or two, that she simply decided it was better to play on the side of the winning team, and at that point in time, Richard III was definitely winning.
So who killed the princes, if they did indeed die?
James Tyrrell: A servant of Richard III, James confessed to the murders during the reign of Henry Tudor. It is believed this confession was extracted during torture, and therefore is not taken very seriously. He admitted to the murder of the Princes, but could not advise where the bodies were buried.
Duke of Buckingham: Henry Stafford, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham is another possible murderer of the two Princes. Initially Buckingham was a staunch supporter of Richard III and his right-hand man. Eventually greed overcame him, when he was convinced that he himself was a claimant to the throne, as he was a legitimate descendant of John of Gaunt (Henry Tudor was an illegitimate descendant, and had less of a claim). But before he could have any chance of deposing Richard and proclaiming himself King, he would need to get rid of the two Princes who would also be in his way. According to a manuscript discovered in the early 1980s in the College of Arms collection, the Princes were murdered "be [by] the vise" of the Duke of Buckingham. There is some argument over whether "vise" means "advice" or "devise".
Henry Tudor: King Henry VII, as he was proclaimed after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, is another possible murderer of the Princes. Again, their murder would have occurred by somebody other than Henry, but by his orders, as he was out of the country at the time of their disappearance. Once he ascended to the throne he quickly deposed of any possible claimants, including Richard III’s illegitimate son, John of Gloucester. If he it was so easy for him to kill possible claimants to the throne, why would he hesitate in killing the princes?
Margaret Beaufort: Margaret was a hard woman, but one you cannot help but admire due to her courage and resourcefulness in a time when women were better to be seen and not heard. Margaret was very ambitious, and as the mother of Henry Tudor, she always had his welfare foremost in her mind. It is suggested that she may have had the boys killed with a view of raising her son to the throne of England. A goal which was ultimately reached.
It is interesting to note that during the reign of Henry VII, two ‘pretenders’ came forward at different times, claiming to be the younger prince, Richard. This leads many historians to suspect that the boys were not killed at all, but were spirited away to live in quiet seclusion for the rest of their lives. It’s nice to imagine that this was indeed their fate.
A Sinister Find and a Few Hauntings
In 1933 the bones removed and examined. By measuring certain bones and teeth, the leading anatomist, Professor William Wright, together with the archivist of Westminster Abbey, Lawrence Tanner and president of the Dental Association George Northcroft, it was concluded that the bones did indeed belong to two children of the approximate age of the two princes at the time of their disappearance. No attempt was made to determine whether the bones were those of a male or female, as it was assumed they were the princes. This has caused the examination to be criticized. No further scientific examination has been conducted since 1933, including DNA analysis, as this would requite royal consent, which has not been granted.
More than likely!
The ghosts have been seen from as early as their disappearance. They have been seen gliding down the stairs, in white night shirts. They have also been seen ‘playing’ on the battlements and around the grounds. Childrens’ laughter has also been heard, which has been attributed to the Princes.
Put together by Ashley Hall 2013