The Princes in the Tower; The Defence Case for Henry VII


The Princes in the Tower is one of British history’s greatest tragedies and has long been a spectre looming large over the English Middle Ages in particular. Two young brothers, one 12-years-old and the other just 10, were forcibly removed from public view shortly after their father’s death and were never seen again. The reason this story has resonated through history is for the fact that these two children happened to be Royal Princes; in fact, in the case of the elder child, Edward, he was no longer a Prince but a King. As the only male children of King Edward IV, upon their father’s death at Westminster in 1483 they became the highest ranking nobles in the realm, Edward ascending to the throne as King Edward V whilst his brother becoming the Heir presumptive and maintaining his status as the dual Duke of York and Norfolk. Although still children, the foundations had been set for their dominance of the Kingdom’s governance for the foreseeable future and undoubtedly there were great hopes for these sons of York.

This golden future however would never materialise for the Princes. Shortly after young Edward’s ascension and traditional acknowledgement as King, he was imprisoned by his Uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester who surreptitiously seized the throne from his nephew. Richard alleged that the brother he had loyally served for the entirety of his reign was in fact illegitimate, thereby rendering his sons not of the true royal line. Further to that, Richard official allegation was that his brother Edward IV had been previously betrothed before his marriage to the Princes’ mother Elizabeth Woodville, thus ensuing any offspring betwixt the two were bastards by the law of the church. It was an act that would become known as Titulus Regius and ensured Richard himself was able to seize the crown as Richard III. It was a controversial move but as the Duke was in all probability the most powerful magnate in the realm and had support amongst other nobles who were in opposition to the detested Woodville faction that compromised the Princes maternal family, he was successful in his coup.

After their imprisonment in the Tower of London in the summer of 1483, although initially spotted playing in the grounds of the Royal fortress they were never seen again and their ultimate fate has endured as one of England’s great mysteries. As a royal murder intrigue, many have resolved to appropriate blame towards various persons of the period, most notably their Uncle Richard III and his successor Henry VII. Other suspects have included the Duke of Buckingham and a Yorkist Knight James Tyrell. Although the case will never be given a conclusive answer, I feel the recent rise in those finding Henry Tudor guilty in spite of the lack of compelling evidence needs to be addressed in a coherent manner. Guilt in a British court can only be ascertained if the defendant has been proved to have committed the crime and not on circumstantial evidence and as such it will be impossible to prove guilt in this case. That said, it is possible to argue the case for a not guilty plea.

Henry Tudor had never met the Princes in question as their paths had never had reason to cross. Henry came from a staunch Lancastrian family; His father Edmund Tudor and uncle Jasper Tudor were the half-brothers to King Henry VI and had therefore valiantly fought for the House of Lancaster until its eventual demise with Henry VI’s death in 1471, possibly at the behest of the aforementioned Richard of Gloucester.  As a result of the fall, Henry was exiled from the Kingdom the same year with his Uncle Jasper and spent his formative years in the Duchy of Brittany. He was 14 when he left and would not set foot in England until a few days prior to the Battle of Bosworth where he defeated Richard III. He was 28 by this point.
Henry Tudor’s claim to the throne was weak to say the least. At time of his ascension there were an estimated 29 other nobles with a greater claim to the throne than his.  Henry’s claim came through his mother Margaret Beaufort who was the sole inheritor of the illegitimate Beaufort line, offspring of John of Gaunt at the end of the 15th century. Directly related from King Edward III through this line, it gave Henry Tudor a slight claim to the throne but due to the plethora of other, legitimate claimants ahead of him this claim remained insubstantial to covet the crown. That is, until Richard III seized the throne from his nephews and targeted any Yorkists who refused to transfer their allegiance from the young boys to him. The result was that Henry suddenly became the person that both exiled Lancastrians and disenfranchised Yorkists flocked towards in order to relieve them from the reign of Richard. The consequence was of course that Henry would mobilise this support and eventually claim the Crown of England through the right of conquest if not predominantly through right of bloodline.
Henry naturally would not have been able to become King of England if the two Princes were still alive, the same issue that Richard faced as King. If Richard was a usurper, then Henry was usurping the usurper and his position was even weaker. The accusation from Ricardian supporters is that once Henry was King, he killed the Princes in order to secure his throne and then married their sister who was now considered the true heir following their death. Henry was now King through right of conquest and through his wife’s legal claim to the crown. Supporters of Richard III thus consider Henry Tudor most likely to be the monster who committed the atrocity against the two Princes, pointing to the ruthlessness of the Tudor dynasty as a whole for supporting this act. But what of the evidence…well, quite simply, there isn’t any.

i) The two Princes were last seen in public around June 1483. They had been noted as playing in the grounds of the Tower of London shortly after imprisonment, presumably content and unaware of their impending fate. Their Uncle had been named their protector and it is probable they felt no harm came to them. With regards to Henry Tudor, without the possibility of a flying visit in 1471 as a teenage boy to visit his half-uncle King Henry VI during the short Readeption, Henry Tudor did not step foot into England until August 1485, two full years after the Princes were last seen. Henry had spent the entirety of their imprisonment as an exile in Brittany, spending his time as a virtual prisoner of the Duke of Brittany and evading capture by King Edward IV.  His influence in England was non-existent and in fact many were not even aware of him or his claim. The idea that Henry Tudor had arranged for the death of the Princes from his base in Brittany is absurd to say the least. No man within Richard’s retinue would seriously consider killing the Princes at the behest of some distant Welshman in a foreign land with no money and no apparent prospects.

ii) If Henry was unable to murder the children through orders from afar, then supporters of Richard III gleefully point out that he certainly could have killed them upon his ascension to the throne of England. As all-powerful King, the Tower of London would have come under his jurisdiction and all prisoners within the walls would fall within his remit. Henry would have jealously guarded his throne and it is an historical fact that both he and his son systematically wiped out the remaining Plantagenet claimants throughout their reigns. One only needs to consider the executions of Edward Plantagenet in 1499 and his sister Margaret Pole in 1541 for evidence of this. However, once again one must wonder why the Princes had not been released by those in the Tower after learning of Henry’s victory in the ensuing weeks before the victor’s arrival in London. Is it likely that the boys were still alive a full two years after their disappearance just for Henry Tudor to finally kill them? Surely someone, somewhere would have released details of this. Many consider Henry VII to be so powerful once he took over that he instantly began rewriting history and destroying the remnants of the Yorkist regime, yet is it not true that Henry faced almost continuous rebellions in his early reign from outcast Yorkists eager to recapture the throne? Surely someone would have made public that Henry was responsible for the deaths of the boys if that was the case. Their silence is in itself telling…the boys had been murdered under the previous Yorkist regime.


iii) If the children had not survived until 1485 when Henry Tudor took the throne and thus was able to have access to them, one wonders why had the previous King, Richard, failed to publically display the children in the aftermath of their disappearance two years earlier. Suffering damaging accusations from disenfranchised Yorkists and Lancastrians alike over his role in their disappearance and probable death, if this was not the case then surely it would have been easier to Richard to produce them publically to redeem his reputation somewhat, a reputation don’t forget that arguably cost him his life.

iv) Henry Tudor never sanctioned an official public version which some use against him as an admission of guilt. Of course, it was not in Henry’s interests to dwell on the murder of his brothers-in-law as it merely reminded the people that he had come to the throne because of their tragedy. Another idea that he never revealed their fate is because, as a stranger to the land, he simply did not know. Their fate was clearly a closely guarded secret and is possible that it was taken to the grave by the few who would have been involved in their disposable. If no one qualified their fate to the King, then it was not possible for him to reveal their whereabouts. In the Bill of Attainder that Henry brought against Richard III after the Battle of Bosworth, specific reference to the Princes was omitted although it did carry an obscure mention of Richard’s “shedding of infant’s blood”. This was the closest the Tudor regime officially came to accusing Richard of involvement in the deaths.

v) Although Henry Tudor had as much to gain as King Richard from the deaths of the children, in 1483 Henry was not necessarily a genuine contender to the throne. He was a partner in the so-called Buckingham conspiracy but his prospects as an alternative King to Richard were not particularly promising. Richard however had a great deal to gain in the short term from their deaths and in order for him to secure his crown he had to ensure the Princes could not be used against him. It follows that he was responsible, or at least knowledgeable, of their disappearance after 1483.

vi) James Tyrell was a York loyalist who once confessed to committing the murders on behalf of his patron, Richard III. His evidence is interesting in that he appears to be the only such person to have admitted to the crime although this confession did come under torture by the Tudor regime and therefore considered inadmissible. That said, it is the closest we have come to a confession of any kind and clearly exonerates Henry Tudor from wrongdoing. That is, if one believes Tyrell’s story.

vii) Various contemporary chronicles from the period refer to rumours about the disappearance and murder of the Princes, notably the Croyland Chronicle and the raconteurs Dominic Mancini ad Philippe de Commines who report on rumours of the Princes deaths as early as winter 1483, a date as stated above logistically near-impossible for Henry to have an involvement.  Chronicles were never consistent in their reporting and much of what has been said would be disproved by later antiquarians but nonetheless they remain important insights into the lives of the period they cover and the public feeling.

viii) One primary reason it is unlikely that Henry Tudor was involved in the slaying of the Princes is the very fact that not only did he marry the boy’s sister, but their mother was instrumental in the politicking that brought him to the crown. Elizabeth Woodville was drastically removed from power after the death of her husband and although expected to remain the premier female in the realm through her son, once he had been imprisoned by her brother-in-law Richard her very existence was under threat. By the end of 1483, often considered the period the Princes were done away with, Elizabeth Woodville began conspiring with Henry Tudor’s mother Margaret Beaufort to put Henry Tudor on the throne of England. The provision of this of course was that Henry would have to marry the Princes’ sister, Elizabeth of York, a concession that Henry was only too happy to agree too. The Yorkists loyal to the deceased Edward IV and by extension his sons Edward and Richard quickly defected to Henry Tudor’s cause, led by Elizabeth and the Woodville faction. It is almost impossible to believe that this family would agree to join the cause of Henry Tudor if he was responsible for the deaths of their beloved Princes, or equally if they believed them to still be alive. The Woodville faction allowed the Tudor claim to be realised through Elizabeth of York as they were certain that her brothers were dead and understood they would only remain a degree of power by inserting Elizabeth as Queen. This was duly done and the Woodville’s never regained the power they had enjoyed under Edward’s IV and V.

ix) Henry, as shown, may not have known the fate of the Princes as he had been exiled from the country at the time they disappeared from view. Throughout his early reign Henry was beset with uprisings and rebellions, none more so than the revolt that appeared under the leadership of Perkin Warbeck who claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, the younger Prince. Henry’s behaviour during this rebellion was certainly of a nervous nature, unsure who this man was and determined to investigate further. Henry’s alarm at the rising of this “Richard” certainly points to his innocence regarding the murder of the Princes. If he had committed or ordered the act himself, he had no need to become so worried over the rebellion for he would have known the Prince was dead. In reality, Henry was suitably worried enough to crush the uprising with full military strength.

With this in mind, Henry Tudor at best is a minor suspect in the case of the Princes deaths and not a serious one.  He was accepted as a family member by the Princes’ own sister and mother, was not in the country at the time of the death and won the loyalty of men who would never disassociated themselves with the Princes had they believed they still lived. As for the real culprit, the jury still remains undecided. From Richard III to the Duke of Buckingham, and from James Tyrell to perhaps another unidentified suspect, there remains a lack of prove to satisfactorily close the case. In my opinion ultimate responsibility would fall on the shoulders of Richard III. His dying brother’s wish was for his loyal and hardy younger Richard to be Protector of his young sons, both in official office and in a familial capacity. Whether Richard ordered the killing himself or not, the fact remained that the Princes did not receive the protection of his uncle and their tragic death by an unknown source remains something that ultimately he must be held accountable for. No amount of revisionism by the Richard III society will be able to undo this blemish against the character of Richard. Henry Tudor…we therefore find you Not Guilty.

52 thoughts on “The Princes in the Tower; The Defence Case for Henry VII

  1. Interesting article, but the comments were painful at times to read. Why the vitriol? Can we not have an intellectual debate over a fascinating period of history without mocking people? To disagree is one thing, to call everyone who disagrees with your view stupid is another. There are more than two sides to this debate and there’s any number of possibilities for what may have happened; which is why we’re still interested in the topic over five hundred years later. I realize there are many people who are passionate about their opinions (I myself am one of them) and that insults have been hurled about online by both Ricardians and anti-Ricardians alike but that doesn’t make it right. Insulting each other doesn’t accomplish anything except wasting time that could be better spent actually discussing (politely) the pros and cons of the topic at hand.

  2. Interesting post and of course there is nothing to point to either Richard or Henry Tudor having the illegitimate sons of Edward iv killed, nor any reason for the former, but Henry had them made legitimate again and one turning up would be a huge threat. The fact is nobody knows the true fate of the Princes and anyone who states they do are making a personal statement, not one of fact. I don’t believe Richard killed them but I don’t believe Henry Tudor did either. If anyone did it was Thomas Stanley on behalf of his wife, Margaret Beaufort who had the best motivation to ensure her son had as few rivals as possible. Henry could not go back on his sacred vow to marry Elizabeth of York and he had to make her legitimate. If her brothers were alive that was a problem. Buckingham also got the blame, his own motivation is more murky, his rebellion was murky, his own accusations against Richard murky, he was a murky character. He had motivation, means, opportunities and someone else to blame.

    The mystery will never be resolved. Who knows, perhaps Richard of England really was whom he claimed to be. I also agree, Henry didn’t systemically exterminate the Plantagenet male line. He executed young Warwick under pressure. He merely imprisoned the exiled Edmund de la Pole and his brothers. Henry Viii executed Edmund but Richard was killed at Pavia fighting for the French in 1525. The line continued with the children of Margaret Pole and the Courtney family. A number of them fell during the invented Exeter plot in 1538/9 with poor Margaret Pole being savaged to death in May 1541. However, a few of the younger family members lived on and Reginald Pole became Archbishop of Canterbury under Mary I. They have numerous descendants today.

  3. Theories but no evidence regarding what Stillington did with the information.

    As for motives – as suggested, the supposition that the king would be glad of it and reward the perpetrator. And why kill them? There was already unease about what Richard was doing, already scepticism about the bastardisation of EIV’s children; he had much to gain by being rid of potential focus for insurrection.

    But if Richard had nothing to gain, who did? And if someone else did kill them then I ask again – why didn’t Richard appear to notice?

  4. It’s not so much “convenient” as completely justified to put the blame on Richard. If he didn’t have them killed he didn’t keep them safe. And July isn’t really early summer in the UK.

  5. I have one theory: what if the rescue attempt in July “went wrong” in that it resulted in their deaths, possibly by accident? No chronicle conclusively cites the last known exact date they were spotted alive and July is actually early summer in the UK.It might be that the rescuers buried the bodies as they escaped and Richard discovered what had happened and had them buried again under the stairs. That would also explain his request for the girls to come to court. He needed to ensure no alternate alliances were fixed with the remaining Woodville girls that prove detrimental to him. I don’t doubt Elizabeth Woodville herself knew about the actual events leading to her boys’ death but it’s more than convenient to put the blame on Richard and even if Richard was innocent of this crime, he’s no saint. He is, in fact, still a usurper.

  6. Hi,

    I have read that Stanley had direct access to the Tower but perhaps not.

    Well EIV marriage to Elizabeth and his (alleged) precontract with Lady Eleanor were both secret. There’s no suggestion the Stillington was present at either ceremony and could have learnt the information at a later date. There is a theory that he did pass the information onto George Duke of Clarence as Stillington was arrested around the time of George’s execution. Perhaps Stillington decided it wasn’t worth risking his life by making the claim publically after his release from prison. After all the information wasn’t really relevant until EIV’s death as the claim wasn’t questioning EIV claim to the throne.

    There is a theory that the boys survived (I’ve not read about this in any great detail but have Matthew Lewis’s book on my reading list as a starter) as there’s no evidence that they were murdered.

    Yes someone could have killed them on RIII’s behalf but I’m not entirely convinced of the motives. As mentioned, RIII already had the crown as the Princes were declared illegitimate – why kill them? If he was frightened that they would regain the crown at a later date then why did he keep George Duke of Clarence’s son alive and well under his protection in the north of the country? Edward Plantagenet was exempt from the throne due to his father’s attainder but if the Princes could repeal Titus Regulus then surely so could Edward Plantagenet?

  7. Constable of England is a purely ceremonial role with no responsibility for who entered or left anywhere, let along the Tower; you seem to be thinking of Constable of The Tower – and Stanley was most certainly not that.

    Stillington’s allegations were never examined by a church court, which they should have been, but very hurriedly accepted by the secular authorities on Richard’s say so. How very strange that neither Stilington nor anyone else said anything at the time of EIV’s marriage.

    You say that the boys were seen up to mid July – do you have any theory about where they were for the 25 months between then and August 1485, or why RIII seemed not to have noticed that they’d disappeared? Is it possible that someone else did away with them on the supposition that he’d be glad of it and, rather then meeting his obligation to keep them safe ( which he’d already failed in) he was indeed glad of it and did absolutely nothing about it?

  8. “Further to that, Richard official allegation was that his brother Edward IV had been previously betrothed before his marriage to the Princes’ mother Elizabeth Woodville, thus ensuing any offspring betwixt the two were bastards by the law of the church.”
    – The secretive nature of Edward iv marriage to Elizabeth also made it invalid in canon law. The claim was made by Bishop Robert Stillington

    “Richard however had a great deal to gain in the short term from their deaths and in order for him to secure his crown he had to ensure the Princes could not be used against him. It follows that he was responsible, or at least knowledgeable, of their disappearance after 1483.”
    – Richard iii was crowned on 6 July 1483. There were sightings of the princes up until mid July, Richard wouldn’t need to kill the princes to secure the crown as he had already secured it.

    Interestingly, Henry vii step father, Lord Stanley was made Constable of England by Richard III towards the end of 1483, the year in which Edward V and Richard, Duke of York (the Princes in the Tower) disappeared from their confinement in the Tower of London. As Constable, Stanley was formally responsible for anyone who entered or left the Tower. Also, just as interesting, Lord Stanley ‘switched sides’ (if he ever truly did support Richard) to support Henry vii during the Battle of Bosworth Field

  9. But why did Richard say nothing at all about this, especially when Buckingham was dead by the autumn of 1483? (and the “something bad” he’d done was support an armed uprising against the king; no mystery about why he was killed at all). If one doesn’t want Richard to have been , at the very least, derelict in his duty toward the boys, it’s comforting to think that the boys were “spirited away”, but why and to where? Simnel was very obviously not Warwick as the real article was still in the Tower, and Warbeck had been known as the son of a well to do citizen of Tournai since his birth. The letters Warbeck sent to the monarchs of Europe made no mention of having been smuggled out of the Tower by Richard or anyone else. And why would he do this? If he didn’t, who was it that clearly had no faith at all in him and felt it necessary to get the princes away? Why send RIchard to a nobody on Tournai and not to his Margaret in Burgundy? What happened to Edward?

    No, I’m sorry, if you listen for horses instead of zebras (or unicorns), Richard emerges with means, motive and opportunity far more strongly than anyone else.

  10. Mr Breverton. Its interesting that you call those who gave your book one star ‘Flat Earthers’. One particularly militant Ricardian on Amazon once tried to compare a certain eminent Late Medieval Historian who believes in Richard’s guilt to the clerics who persecuted Galileo for saying the earth was round. Of course, the small fact that Galileo said the earth revolved around the sun, not that it was round, because everyone knew that anyway did not occur to her.

    Clearly, she was nearly as knowledgable as she made out.

  11. Good post Nathen. You know, there is one twist to this story. If the rumours about the paternity of Richard of Conisburh, Earl of Cambridge the paternal grandfather of the Yorkist Kings are true (and they are now being given more serious consideration in light of the DNA evidence) it would mean that the last King to be descended in the direct male line of Edward III was in fact, Henry VI, not Richard III.
    It would also mean the the Yorkists, not the Tudors were the ones who wiped out the true Plantagenets (in the male line), when they killed Henry, his son, and the male Beauforts.

    Lets also not forget the Tudors themselves had more Plantagenet blood then is generally known. Henry was a descendant of Edward I and Henry III as well as Edward III.

  12. I think it is possible that the Duke of Buckingham was told to move them somewhere safe took them and did them in and Buckingham did have a strong connection to the throne himself why would Richard have him hanged he must have done something bad

  13. Hi
    I think either Margaret Beaufort or the Duke of Buckingham or someone unknown spririted them away im not sure if they were murdered or not but maybe one of the leaders of the rebellions night have been one of the princes

  14. Thank you for this wonderful defense of Henry VII! I truly enjoyed it ! I am equally heartened by the posts here that support him and the likelihood of his innocence of that crime. I also very much enjoyed the responses to those that would espouse any and every flaky conspiracy theory to fog and confuse the true issue : which is that Richard was responsible for their disappearance and more than likely their murder.

  15. You don’t know that he didn’t order their deaths. All the evidence points at him. Are you going to tell me that 9/11 was perpetrated by the US government next? And then tell me about the conspiracy to kill Kennedy?
    Conspiracy theories are all very fun and interesting until you see the facts. Any sane person that doesn’t see the evidence and conclude that Richard was guilty is just plain closing his eyes to the truth.

  16. He was responsible for their safety. He was their guardian. He promised their father that he would take care of them. He broke that vow by at very least allowing them to be murdered while in his care. And he betrayed them by taking the throne himself when it was to be Edward’s, the older of the princes.
    If you truly don’t see how Richard was responsible I don’t know what to say to you. You Ricardians seem to always have your head in the sand.

  17. I think Elizabeth Woodville was put in a nunnery first off because she favored a more monastic lifestyle by that time in her life, and also Margaret Beaufort wanted to be the queen bee, so to speak, she wanted to be in charge and since Elizabeth Woodville was the former Queen she outranked her, and that rankled Margaret Beaufort.

  18. Examination of the supposed remains of the Little Princes has been suggested. But nothing has ever been done. I agree that perhaps it should be, especially now that Richard III’s remains have been exhumed and reburied. DNA and other tests could confirm the identity of the supposed remains.

  19. As a descendent, by marriage, of James Tyrrell, I find these observations most interesting. another Tyrrell, Sir Walter Tyrrell, too was ‘responsible’ for the death of a King in the New Forest…William II (Red Rufus) Tyrrell’s. it seems were assassin’s to the highest bidder….and changed the course of much of England’s History…..

  20. I like your idea Maria Elena Torres. I think the boys disappeared because they were shipped away.

  21. It’s possible of course, but one is left wondering why the king was absolutely silent about their fates, even when rumours of his having done away with them started to circulate. No announcement, no funeral rites, no nothing.

  22. It is possible the Princes died of natural causes. The Tower of London was not a healthy environment. Infectious diseases, including Smallpox, were rampant in London at that time. The bones discovered in Victorian times and assumed to be those of the princes were buried in Westminster Abbey and have never been forensically examined. Perhaps they should be. Such an examination could provide DNA to prove who they actually were, as well as any evidence of death by violence, poison or disease.

  23. Comments from the RIII fan club always make me hot with embarrassment. Seriously, these star struck fangirls make me cringe. Looking forward to reading your work.

  24. Kathleen: (I’ve heard some people say VERY RECENTLY that his spine wasn’t curved!) The biggest arrow pointing at him is that if they were still alive, why didn’t he show them to the public, a la Henry VII and the Earl of Warwick? All the people who claim they were still alive in The Tower when he got to London and therefore it was he who killed them are ignoring this. The public and some of the nobles had begun to question what happened to them. Why not silence them all by showing that the boys were both alive and well? The only reason he wouldn’t is because they weren’t!

  25. It seems to me inescapable to conclude that Richard III, the usurper, bears the ultimate responsibility for the princes’ murder, whether he did the deed himself (including if he ordered someone else to do it on his behalf), or whether he simply failed to protect them. When it comes to the basic tests of “means, motive and opportunity,” no one fits better than Richard III. He must be the primary suspect. The revisisionist argument is fanciful and wishful thinking and requires that one perform silly intellectual gymnastics in order to contort the evidence to fit their theory. The fact that the children were never seen alive again shortly after the Duke of Gloucester usurped the crown is so persuasive of the fact that they must have been dead by the time Henry Tudor took the throne as to be almost determinative of the issue. In any case, my one quibble is that this writer’s arguments would have been much more persuasive and intelligently presented if he or she didn’t consistently and incorrectly use the objective pronoun “whom” in the nomnitive sense. Replace every incorrect “whom” with the proper “who,” and this is nicely presented. The recent confirmation that Richard suffered a severe curvature of the spine and was in fact physically deformed, after many years of the Richard III Society declaring it a bit of Tudor propaganda, suddenly makes that organization look less credible than ever. As with Richard’s deformity, trying to wish away the more unsavory elements of your pet monarch’s appearance and personality does not make it so.

  26. I have no idea why people look for anyone but Richard III as the killer of Edward V and Prince Richard. In my research for books on Richard and Jasper Tudor, there is no evidence of anyone else being involved. Why rewrite history?

  27. My book ‘Richard III – The King in the Car Park’ compares Henry Tudor to Richard III, and to the disgust of the Richard III Society, makes a conclusive case for Richard’s guilt – check out the reviews on Amazon of historians (5 stars) against flat earthers (1 star). Also my brand new book ‘Jasper Tudor – Dynasty Maker’ tells of the man who fought in the first and last battles of the Wars of the Roses (32 years) and ensured that Henry survived and gained the throne. Great blog, by the way!

  28. You have a point. To that I would say is that Richard felt somewhat responsible for allowing their deaths. Edward IV had trusted him and he felt guilty by letting him down, and he wasn’t going to point fingers.
    That’s actually consistent with him going to Canterbury for penance and commissioning 100 priests to pray for his soul.
    Of course, for a medieval King, it wouldn’t breaking down and confessing all wouldn’t have been appropriate.
    Richard failed to protect them, but he didn’t order their deaths.

  29. Richard is responsible because he had the care of them. What I really don’t understand in the “Buckingham did it” scenario is why Richard didn’t expose him for the crime. B’ham was dead at Richard’s hand by the winter of 1483, killed as a traitor. If he’d offed the two boys why wasn’t the crime laid at his door? Or did the king not notice that they were missing? Either he knew they were dead and did nothing about or he somehow failed to notice their disappearance. You’d have to conclude that, if he didn’t kill them, he was at the very least negligent and/or strangely blase about their disappearance.

  30. If Richard III didn’t do it, but somebody else did (in my opinion Buckingham), how is he “ultimately responsible”? He thought he had the princes in safe keeping in the tower. If somebody he trusted then went in and killed the princes while he was away, it’s not his responsibility/fault. Either way, Henry VII was pleased the princes were dead, that’s why he made no fuss about it, because he would have had zilch claim to the throne if they were alive. The princes deaths served him far better than they did Richard.

  31. Before the Princes went missing, all Margaret was trying to accomplish was the return of Henry’s titles and property, and for him to be allowed safe passage back to Wales from Edward IV. He was not “3rd in line” from the throne in 1483, as Richard III’s son was still alive, the Earl of Warwick was still alive (and if Richard had now proven the “truth” to the arguments that his father had been executed by, he would have been next in line after Richard’s son Edward), Buckingham himself had a good claim, the remaining male Neville’s had a claim as well…
    How do we know that Margaret was only working for his restitution? Because there are documents from her and from Edward IV to that end. Several times from 1471 to 1483, Edward extended an invitation for Henry to return, and letters from him to Duke Francis of Brittany state it. He was also offered one of Edward’s daughters in marriage as something to sweeten the deal. Henry never accepted this offer, but had Edward lived, eventually he may have given in or remained in obscurity.
    In my opinion, Henry refused because of Jasper’s influence on him. Jasper and Edward hated each other, and it has been suggested that Edward’s execution of Jasper’s father, Owen, was retaliation for Edward’s father, Richard, Duke of York, dying on the battlefield (something along the lines of “Hey Henry VI- my father and brother died trying to fight you, so now I’m going to off your step-father so we’ll be even!”), and his parliament had already named Jasper as a traitor in 1461. If Jasper had set foot on the British Isle, he would have been executed. Okay, maybe he could have gone to Scotland. But Wales and England were off-limits from 1461 until the invasion of 1485.
    Margaret was not even a suspect until James I was on the throne, mostly because she was a Catholic and a strong woman, both of which he hated. There is no evidence of any kind, nor any actual motive that suggests that she was involved, other than in the imagination of a certain writer of historical fiction.

  32. I especially appreciate #9 as evidence, but the strongest in my opinion is that Elizabeth Woodville supported him. She had an honest belief that her sons were already dead. One person has pointed out that they both may have been shipped out of the country and that Perkin Warbeck was actually Richard, but to that I would ask first, what happened to Edward? And second, if they were shipped away, at a minimum there would be a log of a ship going to the right place at the right time, even if the ships contents log or passenger list did not survive. If Richard had been the one shipping them away, there would also be an entry into the royal account ledgers of payments relating to it.
    As for everyone who thinks that Margaret Beaufort is a serious contender for the title of “murderess,” please turn off “White Queen” and pick up an actual text (and I don’t mean the novel). Anyone who thinks that she schemed and plotted to get Henry on the throne since his birth believes in a woman who was created completely in Philippa Gregory’s imagination, like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. I have gone into this, at length, in my comparisons of the show to the actual history, and it continues to be one of the hardest things to strip away that the show altered or made up.

  33. Reblogged this on AntiWhiteQueen and commented:
    An excellent piece which shows how improbable it is that Henry VII could have been the one who killed the Princes in the Tower.
    I once watched a TV show that said that he was the guilty one, and that he had killed them in the Rebellion of 1483. Here’s how they explained it: Henry sailed into London right to the Tower, went in, murdered them, came back out, got back on his ship and sailed away. I wrote an angry letter to the production company, saying that they needed better fact checkers and consulting historians.

  34. What a great article. Were I on a jury, I could safely say you’ve convinced me! The facts are irrefutable and I’ve never considered Henry as the culprit anyway but I enjoyed reading it (although your use of ‘whom’ when you mean ‘who’ was somewhat disconcerting).

  35. After reading several books and watching ‘the ”princes in the Tower’, it has become clear that , rather than my previous favorite suspect, Buckingham, it is clear that Margaret Beaufort was the perpetrator of the dastardly deed. I am researching and have begun to write a book, which has a different conclusion!’

  36. Very interesting to see a defence of Henry VII. I am doing an article for BBC history magazine’s October edition (comes out mid September) which unravels the mystery of why they disappeared under Richard III (rather than him displaying the bodies and saying they died of natural causes) and why Henry VII did so little on his accession publicly to investigate what had happened. Suffice to to say neither king emerges well …

  37. It is totally plausible that the mother of Henry Tudor, Margaret Beaufort, killed the two Princes – or at least asked someone she trusted to do it for her. She was constantly coming up with ways to put her beloved son on the throne and even with her plotting with Elizabeth Woodville, Henry still wouldn’t become the immediate heir. For this to happen the two princes must die as otherwise Henry would only be 3rd in line to the throne. Margaret because of her husband’s “loyalty” to the king and for a short time she was land in waiting to the Queen, Anne Neville, Margaret would have access to the tower. With this and a clear motive, Margaret Beaufort becomes one of the prime suspects.

  38. *If* they were even killed. Here’s something to consider: when Perkin Warbeck appeared, William Stanley made a comment unusually indiscreet for a member of his family: he said that if Warbeck turned out to be young Richard, younger son of Edward IV, he wouldn’t stand in the man’s way. William Stanley was beheaded.

    The thing is that the Stanleys were extremely sensitive to events and repercussions. I say that, if William Stanley was unsure of whether or not the prince(s) had been killed, then we can’t be sure either. I stand by the theory that they were shipped out of the country, probably extremely shortly after “the Buckingham Rebellion”.

  39. Very good point. I believe that Richard III was at least morally guilty of the Princes’ deaths. He must have known that the monarchs who lost their thrones were never safe: first Richard II, then Edward II and finally Henry VI (he certainly knew what happened to the latter because it happened during his lifetime). He was to guide and protect them, not to deprive them of titles and life. This should be clear and obvious even for the members of Richard III Society.

  40. Personally i think neither Richard or Henry killed them it was probably Buckingham ,he was angry at Richard for not getting some lands he wanted ,he was also constable of the tower around the time they vanished ,Richard was politically astute and already unpopular in London he would never have killed the Princes ,Of the three candidates Buckingham had the most to gain and rose in rebellion shortly after they vanished ,although he promised to support Henry he would probably have turned on him had the revolt gone as planned ,Bishop Morton would have had few scruples about killing the princes and may have put the idea in Buckingham’s head .
    We will never know who killed them Henry and Richard had the least to gain .One point Elizabeth Woodville did meet Richard after the Princes vanished came out of sanctuary and put her daughter in his care ,even while plotting against Richard she never would have put her daughter in the hands of the man who killed her sons .While for some reason we will never know Henry shut her away in a nunnery

  41. Thanks for putting into words what I have always believed. Richard III gained far more benefit from killing the princes than Henry. Great blog.

  42. Great article
    Am a Richard lover and up till recently have always thought Henry could possibly have killed the Princes. Since reading The Winter King by Tomas Penn and reading other articles about Henry and by reading this I have changed my mind. He is innocent of that crime.
    As a W elsh person it is good that we had a Welshman on the English throne and i am now beginning to recognise Henry in a different light, without destroying my liking for Richard.
    Thank You Nathen.

  43. Great article!
    .Am now learning more about Henry and finding that as i once blamed him for the Princes Murder , i am now changing my mind. This article and The Winter King by Thomas Penn have contributed to me thinkiing Henry is innocent of that crime. Am not blaming Richard though !!. Henry was intellegent and Im my opinion loved his wife and I think as you stated that they were all ready dead. I am Welsh and as much as I am a Richard lover, I do not now want Henry to be blamed .

  44. As Henry is particuarly my main interest, thats a very nice message and means a lot. Thank you very much. Let the Ricardians have their moment, god knows they have moaned enough over recent decades!

  45. So nice to find people defending Henry VII. I have long found it frustrating to see Ricardians dominate this history to the point where their version is becoming the accepted version in the popular mind. Henry killed the princes, Henry smeared Richard’s reputation (which of course was spotless before Henry showed up), Henry was mean and miserly, and hated his wife and now apparently has even poisoned his own son. Oh, I forgot, he is cowardly and sickly too. The real Henry is far more interesting and appealing, as your wonderful Brittany blog shows. It’s especially nice to see a Welshman take an interest in his fellow Welshman! Thanks for your blog!

  46. you’re right. it now seems “cool” to blame Henry Tudor for all the ills that befell Richard III’s reputation, i’m happy with the assertion there is no smoke without fire. You can besmirch a chararcter all you wish, but without there being a hint of truth, it won’t stick. Ricardians are a sizeable community, we need a Henrican community to riposte

  47. This is a brilliant post! It’s worth remembering that, actually, Henry VII and Henry VIII didn’t wipe out the Plantagenets. People are very fond of saying that they did, however, there were Plantagenets running about the Court of Elizabeth I. The descendents of the Courtenays, Poles and Staffords were all there and all had Plantagenet blood. So they were far from wiped out.

    Ricardians try, desperately, to blame Margaret Beaufort. It is beyond desperate. These theories are now so fashionable that this blog post has been a huge relief to read!

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