The princes in the Tower of London: one of the great mysteries of English history3 min read
In the White Tower, the old keep at the Tower of London, there is a small staircase tucked away near the entrance.
Called the Two Princes Staircase, it’s where the skeletons of two young boys, one aged about 10 and the other 13 were found during renovations in 1674. It’s widely believed the skeletons are of the two princes who disappeared at the site in the late 15th century.
And this is one of the great mysteries of English history.
Though there has yet to be any scientific evidence to back up this story, people throughout history have suspected the bones once belonged to Edward V and Richard Duke of York, the sons of King Edward IV and his Queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Their uncle, Richard III (who was known as Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester prior to his coronation), came after them in the succession.
Although supporters of the Tudors claim that when the king died his brother Richard III had the boys murdered to cement his claim to the throne, there is no contemporary evidence of this.
In any case, Titulus Regius had declared the princes illegitimate, due to Edward IV’s pre-contract.
Richard III had originally taken them into his custody in the White Tower after their father’s death in April of 1483.
There were no recorded sightings of the young princes after that following summer.
Sir Thomas More states in his writings that the princes were buried “at the stair-foot, meetly deep” and certainly in 1674 two skeletons were found buried beneath a stone staircase during alterations at the Tower.
He states also that the princes were smothered with the pillows on their beds by Sir James Tyrell, English knight and loyal servant to Richard III, John Dighton and Miles Forest. Tyrell is reported to have confessed to the crime in 1502 when under sentence of death for treason.
Either way, Richard III is the name most associated with the mystery of the two little princes and It is said that he had them killed as their right to the throne was stronger than his.
But Henry Tudor, who later became Henry VII in 1485 after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, had an even shakier claim to the throne, as his claim was based on the right of conquest.
If the princes were alive in 1485, and they could have been, they would have been a great embarrassment to Henry, and Henry had as much to gain as Richard by the death of the young boys.
Interestingly, there is no proof of Henry’s guilt any more than there is of Richard’s.
Historically, immediately Henry gained the throne he accused Richard of cruelty and tyranny but strangely did not mention the murder of the little princes.
Henry did not announce that the boys had been murdered until July 1486, nearly a year after Richard’s death.
After the bones were discovered buried beneath the stairs in the 17th century, it became widely accepted that they were those of the two princes.
Even Shakespeare, who, of course, was writing during the reign of the Tudors, portrayed Richard III as an evil, scheming, murderous uncle in his play of the same name.
However, their true identity may never be known for certain, and It is likely we will never know exactly what happened to the princes.
Moreover, the two skeletons currently reside in Westminster Abbey, where they were reburied.
DNA testing has never been conducted, as the Church of England, with backing from the Queen and ministers, has continually refused to allow anyone to exhume and examine the remains.
It was refused on the grounds that it could set a precedent for testing historical theories that would lead to multiple royal disinterments….
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