This is one of the great mysteries of history. Many people know the story, even those who may not follow royalty or even history in general. It is a classic tale of tragedy. Two young boys, one the age of 12, and a King, the other 10, his brother a royal duke, are sent to the Tower of London by their uncle who usurps the throne. Then the Princes were never heard from again. What happened to them? Were they killed? Did they get taken away to live their lives in obscurity? Nobody knows.
After Richard III took the throne in June of 1483 the two princes were seen less and less within the Tower, and by the end of the summer of they had disappeared from public view altogether. The consensus among historians is that the princes were murdered.
Here are the five major suspects:
1. King Richard III
2. Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham; friend and Ally of Richard III
3. James Tyrrell, servant of King Richard III
5. Henry Tudor,son of Lady Margaret and later King Henry VII.
When I look at the list I question some of them. Let’s take Richard III himself. Legend has it that the two princes were smothered to death with their pillows. This was first mentioned in the writings by Sir Thomas Moore. Moore has Tyrell doing the killings. I have a hard time thinking that Richard III did the dirty deed himself and it seems that other historians who are evaluating him agree on that point.
I often thought that Henry Tudor would also be a logical choice. After taking the throne from Richard III he did do away with some of the Plantagenet heirs that had a better claim to the throne than he. Most notable was Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick who was the a potential claimant to the English throne during the reigns of both Richard III and Henry VII.* From the time Henry VII took the throne the Earl of Warwick was also imprisoned within the Tower of London where he remained a constant threat to Henry’s claim on the throne.
In 1499 a man named Perkin Warbeck pretended to be Prince Richard, Duke of York one of the young Princes in the Tower. He conspired with the Earl of Warwick to escape from the Tower. Many historians claim that the real motive for the execution was the upcoming marriage of Henry VII’s eldest son, Arthur, Prince of Wales, who was about to marry Infanta Catherine of Aragon. It seems that her parents, King Fernando II-V and Isabel I of Spain did not want the marriage to go through while there remained a threat to Henry’s throne.
I write of this to show that there is historical precedence of Henry VII killing those who had a better blood claim to the throne that he. The problem with this theory is that it is well-known that the two princes disappeared by the end of the summer and this was a couple of years prior to Henry Tudor becoming King of England. So unless they princes were housed someplace else after being held in the Tower I do not see how Henry Tudor can be guilty of their death.
In 1674 during the reign of King Charles II of England and Scotland bones were discovered in by workmen rebuilding a stairway in the Tower. They were presumed to the the bones of the young princes and they were ceremoniously interred in Westminster Abbey, in an urn bearing the names of Edward and Richard. It has never been proven that those bones belonged to the young princes. Since DNA testing has been done to the bones of Richard III, I think now is the right time to perform DNA testing on the bones discovered in 1674.
If the bone are that of the two young princes, then the mystery of their whereabouts will be answered. If, however, they prove to not be the bones of the young princes the mystery will remain. How they were killed and who killed them will always be a mystery.