What Happened to the Princes in the Tower? A Tudor Mystery We Still Can’t Solve

By Kimberly Ison

Ok so, first things first, who are these princes and why were they in a tower?

The two young Princes we are talking about are the sons of King Edward IV of England, a Yorkist King; they were Edward V (yet to be crowned, but heir to the throne through his father), and his younger brother Richard Duke of York. The mother of the two Princes was Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner who married Edward IV in secret.

Richard was crowned Richard III and the two young boys were never seen again.

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Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Edward came to the throne through the Wars of the Roses (see Game of Thrones), and managed to restore stability to a warring country. When Edward died suddenly in 1483, a question of the legitimacy of Edward’s children came in to play.

It seems that Edward IV, being quite the ladies’ man, had entered into a secret marriage contract with Lady Eleanor Talbot prior to his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. (I know what you’re thinking, ‘wtf does this have to do with anything’, and I’m getting there). After Edward’s death, it was claimed by his brother Richard, that Eleanor and Edward had a legal pre-contract of marriage.

If this were true, Edward and Elizabeth’s marriage would be invalidated and all children had between the two would be illegitimate.

The Princes disappear

Richard claimed himself as the rightful heir to the throne and had his nephews, now bastards according to a law passed by Parliament, taken to the Tower of London for “safe keeping” as he was named their protector. In July 1483, Richard was crowned Richard III (see Shakespeare), and the two young boys were never seen again. It is presumed that they were murdered as not to challenge Richard for the throne, but this makes no sense as they were already stripped of their titles. So then, who did it?

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Credit: Wikipedia Commons

The boys were not re-legitimized until Richard III was defeated by Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth. Many argue that Henry Tudor or one of his accomplices is the more likely killer of the Princes.

Henry needed the boys’ sister Elizabeth to be legitimized so he could marry her and unite the Houses of York and Lancaster. One incriminating piece of evidence against Henry, is that ALL the documents of the act of Parliament stating that Edward IV and Elizabeth’s marriage was invalid were destroyed, also all documents claiming the illegitimacy of Edward IV’s children, — including the ones explaining Richard III’s rightful claim to the throne were destroyed.

Only ONE copy of the document was ever found. This means that Henry was painting Richard III as a tyrant and King killer, which was epitomized by William Shakespeare’s play. But if we think about this logically, the boys were more of a threat to Henry than Richard. To Richard they were illegitimate bastards; to Henry they were a deposed King and Prince—with claims to the throne.

So did Richard have them killed or was he a victim of Tudor propaganda?

About the Author

Kimberly Ison
My name is Kimberly Ison and I am an aspiring History professor with a great passion and love for all things History! Besides writing for the amazing History Hustle I also run my own blog dedicated to History called KimsKonnections. I enjoy reading, spending time with my pitbull Ruby, and a great cup of coffee!!

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