Who Murdered the Princes in the Tower?

Princes in the Tower is used to describe the two young prices Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury or the first Duke of York. They were the sons of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Edward IV died in 1483 after settling the War of Roses. He left the throne vacant upon his death. His younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester took over the royal duties as a regent after the princes were termed as illegitimate by an Act of Parliament known as Titulus Regius. It did not take much time for Richard III to claim himself as the monarch of England. The young princes were sent to the Tower of London. Their safety was sighted as the reason for such an action. But all the skeptics believed that it was due to the safety of Richard III reign. They were last seen in the summer of 1483 after which they were sent to the Tower.

Portrait of Two Princes

There are no records to tell the exact whereabouts of these young princes. Most feel they were murdered by their uncle in lust for power. But there are no records or their funerals too. According to some sources close to Richard III the boys were moved to the kings holdings in the North for their safety and they remained there till the battle of Bosworth. In 1674 during the renovations done to the White Tower two skeletons were discovered under a staircase leading to the chapel. But the staircase had been built two centuries before princes’ disappearance. So these bodies couldn’t be there’s. But on close examination of the skeletons that they belonged to children one of whom was seven to eleven and the other was around thirteen. So these could be the corpses of the missing Princes in the Tower.

Staircase in the White Tower where two skeletons were found

In the recent past the theory of Princes being murdered has been accepted by all the researchers. But who committed this crime? Let us have a look at some of the suspects:

Richard III prime suspect for the murder

  • Richard III: Though he was made the monarch by the Parliament’s Act but his position was not secured. Though the boys were not a direct threat to Richard III’s throne but they could be used by the enemies to lead a rebellion. Though the rumors of Princes’ death were in circulation since 1483 but Richard III never tried to prove the rumors by exposing them in public. It suggests that the Princes were dead by then. There may be other reasons for Richard’s silence too, he was the savoir of the Princes, even if they had been murdered by someone else he would have been blamed for failing to protect them. Most of the modern historians regard Richard III as the culprit for this foul murder.
  • James Tyrell: He was one of the English knights who fought for the House of York. Some scholars regard him as the culprit. Tyrell was arrested by Henry VII’s forces in 1501 for supporting a rebellion against the throne. He was executed very soon. But under torture he admitted murdering the princes with orders from Richard III. However there are no written records that support this claim.
  • Tower of London where the Young Princes were kept

  • Henry VII: He ascended the throne defeating Richard III. To strengthen his claim on the throne he married princes elder sister Elizabeth of York. But the inheritance claims of the Princess depended upon the death of her brothers. So he may have found out the safe location where the Princes were hidden and murdered them after 1485. But the problem with this theory is why were the princes not seen after the summer of 1483.

Though there were many pretenders who came forward claiming themselves as the Princes but the real Princes were never to be found or heard of again.

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One thought on “Who Murdered the Princes in the Tower?

  1. this is indeed very gripping and sad story. I only learnt about it recently from Philippa Gregory’s novel The White Queen, and the mystery has been bugging me since then. If only Elizabeth had thought less about the throne and more about her childrens’ llife. *sigh* so much for becoming the Queen

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