Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Who Really Killed the Princes in the Tower?

The famous Princes in the Tower painting
The alternate title for this post was going to be "Margaret Beaufort didn't kill the Princes you ninnys!" but that sounded kinda harsh... so I changed it :) Now, on to the topic...

Ah yes, the Princes in the Tower mystery. Everyone's got their own theory and everyone's claiming their theory is right. Then of course, you also got your people who have heard a little bit about it and don't really care much for the history at all. And combine that together and you'd end up hearing things like "Oh, it's Richard III, Shakespeare said so!" "Margaret Beaufort did it. I heard so from Philippa Gregory" "Henry VII because I'm a Ricardian and Richard III can do no wrong" "It was all Buckingham! Cuz it wasn't Richard III, some Ricardian told me so" and even stuff like "Anne Neville, cuz...uh... I don't like her I guess..."

Clearly they can't all be right, since Richard III, Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII, Buckingham and Anne Neville couldn't have all ganged up and said "I know! let's kill the Princes!". So who did it? Well, recently I've been studying the Wars of the Roses madly trying to figure this all out. And what did I find? Well, it may surprise you...

First, let's discuss who it wasn't
  • It wasn't Anne Neville This is I can assume for many, many reasons. One, what motive would she have had? I can think of none. And if you say it was to ensure the rule of her husband? It's already been established that Richard and Anne were not a love match and Anne had no great want to be queen. Also, Anne is very much a passive character. She never much protested against things she didn't like. So Anne doesn't much have the makings of a murderer.
  • It wasn't Henry VII. Henry VII is one of my favourite characters to study, and in all my years of research I've never come across one hint in Henry's character that would suggest him being the killer of the Princes. I suppose he stood to gain a little from their deaths, but not enough. It didn't help establish his claim at all, since Richard III was king and had a son of his own (not to mention his quite health young adult nephew John de la Pole) Also, as we see in the case with Lambert Simnel, Henry was actually quite merciful. And since he was in Brittany at the time and also planned on marrying their sister, we can count him out too.
  • It wasn't Margaret Beaufort. *ugh* isn't that the thing nowadays? To blame Margaret for the Princes murder. I put a poll recently to see who readers though murdered the princes (in the results were just right I would have used in an upcoming paper I have to write) and way to many people answered with Margaret Beaufort. Let me ask you one question. Would someone as pious and kindly as Margaret Beaufort murder two innocent children? SHE'S NOT GUILTY!!!! I've come across absolutly no historical evidence to support that theory, so throw it in the trash where it belongs, okay?
  • It wasn't The Duke of Buckingham. Yeah, I can see why some people think it's Buckingham. He was pretty ambitious and hasty but in all actuality, there's not a lot of evidence around to support it. Buckingham's just not that kind of guy from what I've gathered. Also, the reason he rebelled against Richard III was mainly because he had wanted to be king himself (kinda) and (mostly because) he hadn't given him all he had promised.
So then... who was it? It turns out Historians over the years had been right, it was Richard III all along. But why? Oh, goodness! There are so many reasons! But here's some of the major ones that point the finger of guilt at him.

  • Richard III knew the people wouldn't believe the Eleanor Butler story and attempt the put the Princes on the throne instead
  • Many attempts had already been made to rescue them
  • After the supposed murder happened, Richard was recorded to have gone on all sort of pilgrimages and things of the like which someone with a guilty conscience would do
  • The Princes were dominated by the Wydevilles their entire life and Richard, as we know, hated the Wydevilles
  • Once old enough, the Princes might try to escape themselves and thus, put Richard's position in peril
  • Once old enough, the Princes could escape on their own and perhaps, join forces with Henry Tudor against him
  • Even though he had them declared illegitimate, the Princes were still a threat since his case was flimsy at best
  • Richard III was no stranger to murder, he helped or approved of and definitely knew about the murders of Edward of Lancaster, Henry VI, and Clarence.
  • The Wydevilles, who Richard hated, were planning on ruling the country through the Princes and Richard could not let that happen, no matter what.
  • Richard III treated all his other nephews well, showing that he thought something different about the Princes.
  • Richard hardly spent any time with the Princes and wouldn't have had a very personal connection with them
  • Henry may return to England with support and the intention of restoring them, or Buckingham would try to restore them
  • When asked about what happened to the Princes, Richard was oddly silence. He didn't even produce the bodies and blame Buckingham or someone. If Buckingham had really done it, why not produce the bodies or some other evidence and arrest Buckingham? The English people would liked him better then.
  • Getting rid of the Princes would stop Richard III's worries about possible rescue attempts.
  • Richard III had always considered himself the true son of the Duke of York (and the most like York) rather than Edward IV's line.
  • Kids grew up fast in those days, so Edward V at age 13 would've have been thought of so mucch as an "innocent child" thus, making murder all the more possible. Thus, Richard wouldn't thought of him as so much of a kid either.
And many other reason too! So yes, based on the evidence at hand, Richard III was responsible for the death of the Princes in the Tower.

(Oh and by the way, the results from the poll were thus Richard III - 32% Henry VII - 6% Buckingham - 25% Margaret Beaufort - 37%)


  1. A fictional set of books and miniseries will lead folks to believe what's ever on the t.v. I lover reading Gregory's novels because they are in first person and give you a sense of the "possibility" but I also know they are written, and she admits, for entertainment with some common historical fact.

    1. Yes, yes I know... I enjoyed her books when I read them but only because I forced myself to look past the mistakes. It's not really her fault, she found a way to make money why stop? But the problem arises when people mistakenly believe her fiction as fact: that's what I hate and am trying to prevent. I personally prefer the works of Jean Plaidy. With her you get 95% facts, 5% fiction as well as a full list of sources! :)

  2. I just wrote a very long message that got erased, so just let me say that I applaud this post as the most intelligent I have read on the subject in a long time (maybe ever) and I hope that someday Margaret Beaufort will be exonerated of a crime she was innocent of.
    (The idea that Henry VII murdered the princes has always been preposterous; if the princes were alive during Richard's reign, why on EARTH did he not show them to the public to prove the "rumors" about the princes' murders false? Makes zero sense.)

  3. Noooo my poor Richard DX Otherwise I agree that this was a very interesting and intelligent post. :)

  4. I gather you wrote this quite a while ago but it is brilliant. I agree with you. I mean, no one had access to the princes unless Richard allowed it and, as you said, he had plenty of reasons for wanting them gone. It's just so sad. :(