Monday, 17 February 2014

And What of the Princes?

It’s a question that has eluded historians from day one. Did Richard III kill his nephews or was it something bigger or a carefully planned plot to continue to tarnish the young king’s reign and reputation?
There are as I discovered, many theories old and new, credited, and not credited, by scholars that surround this mystery. Yet 500 years later, we are nowhere near closer to solving this mystery than they were in 1485.  When rumor broke out the first words about it spread across England, and even to the continent quickly; but this could have been a result of many things. Including Mancini’s visit to court and what he thought he discovered, and took back home.  Croyland Chronicle, to some the gossip paper, definitely spread the information that the princes were not where they should have been.  Was their fate by the hand of Richard, propaganda or a carefully planned plot by his rivals?

We do not have many good accurate contemporary sources for what happened to the princes. Dates are not consistent, and I wonder about the records of the guards in the tower as well? Were they educated? There is no recorded death of the boys by either the people whom they were in the custody of, church or a doctor.  Knowing this, here is a list of what we have:

Dominic Mancini, who left England in July, 1483, his statement:

'He and his brother were withdrawn into the inner apartments of the Tower proper, and day by day began to be seen more rarely behind the bars and windows, till at length they ceased to appear altogether. A Strasbourg doctor, the last of his attendants, whose services the King enjoyed, reported that the young King, like a victim prepared for sacrifice, sought remission of his sins by daily confession and penance, because he believed that death was facing him. Already there was a suspicion that he had been done away with. Whether however, he has been done away with, and by what manner of death, so far I have not at all discovered.'

The Croyland Chronicle, Spring of 1486, confirms these rumours:

'A rumour,' it states 'was spread that the sons of King Edward had died a violent death, but it was uncertain how'.

Robert Ricart, Recorder of Bristol made an entry in his 'Kalendar' for the year ending September, 1483:

'In this year the two sons of King Edward were put to silence in the Tower of London.'

Historical notes compiled by a citizen of London before the end of 1488 for the year ending November, 1483, record that:

'they were put to death in the Tower of London.'

(source: 2/16/14)

Looking at these contemporary sources, almost all the notes with the exception of Ricart and Mancini are well after the time Richard died. But in who’s favor was Mancini and Ricart. Mancini was asked to go home, meaning he might have fallen out of favor with Richard and his court, an negative account of this would be justified as means to dirty his reputation.  Ricart, I am unsure of. Bristol is in the South-West of England, was this area where he was having political upheavals? Also noted this statement, it is made right before Buckingham’s rebellion. It is also mentioned that Buckingham had motivation to find an end to the princes as well. He had a son/heir and thought himself too, to be inline for the throne.  His biggest roadblock was Richard, which he tried to get ride of in October and hoping he had support from Henry Tudor to overthrow. His cause wasn’t very successful, as he lost his head.
Henry Tudor (Henry VII)

What about that guy from across the sea, Henry Tudor?  There are many interesting facts that you could possibly point the finger at him.  First, Henry did not announce that the boys had been “murdered” until July of 1486, nearly a year after Richard’s death. (source:  2/15/14). Henry also appealed quite quickly Titulus Regius, faster than paint could dry, and had all documents regarding this destroyed.  What if he had documents of what really happened to the princes, also, personal documents of Richards? Destroyed them, pointed the finger at Richard? Or even better yet; if he didn’t know what happened to them, or had no involvement; what was the point behind getting Titulus Regius appealed by Parliament, if the princes were still alive? If the princes were alive, and not illegitimate they would be a threat to the crown. He got Titulus Regius appealed so he could marry Elizabeth of York, but in order for him to think his crown was surely his he had to have known the princes were out of the picture.  So therefore, he had to have known something.  He also had Elizabeth Woodville put in a monastery later in life. Hypnotizing, she probably knew too much and was becoming a risk to his throne and reputation. It’s all very circumstantial, but it also shows the twists and the pull that a new king and those who are under him, can manipulate a situation to his favor. Perhaps he was doing just this.

Now another interesting twist, in 1502, Sir James Tyrrell, confessed to the boys murders, with the aid of two other accomplices.  Sir James Tyrrell was one of Richards’s men, with Brackenbury.   In Starz “The White Queen” Richard is seen as still in town when the boys disappeared. This is not historically accurate but to the viewer it adds guilt to Richard’s character.  But it is not what happened.  Richard was not in town at all, he was touring the country and gaining support for the problem of Henry Tudor, and trying to get funds for a campaign against him.   It is suggested that he gave orders and those orders were sent to London. This is one theory, if he was the one responsible.  This is what Tyrrell confessed to.  But his confession was drawn out by torture, meaning that the statements made about his involvement and who ordered the murders; Richard III, might not be entirely true. They were thwarted out of him by means of torture, questioning their validity.  He made the statements under duress, meaning force or threats were meant to make him do something. In a court of law this confession would have been thrown out, as it was made under these circumstances, and questioning again its validity. (source: 2/15/14).  Even, despite further questioning, it was noted that he was unable to say where the bodies were, claiming that they had been moved, but by whom? ( 2/15/14) Looking at the context of when and how the confessions where made, under torture/duress, and Tyrrell knew he was going to die, said what they wanted to hear suggesting it was not a genuine confession. The last thing Henry VII wanted to hear was that someone knew about his involvement in the princes’ unfortunate end. More questions can be raised by the means of how the message/orders were sent to Tyrrell, also raise an interesting question. It’s the Middle Ages; they did not have email or telephone. They relayed on foot solders or horseback, word of mouth, and paper to deliver a message. What if that message was intercepted? What if that message was changed, what if the message was totally illegible by the time it got to the tower? Did the receiver even know how to read?

What if Margaret Beaufort had one of her “visions” and through lord Stanley who was more than likely in London at the time, paid the guards, or even tried to orchestrate the whole thing to look like Richard was responsible? Margaret had very strong motivations, as she wanted her son on the throne from day one.
As time went by, many have written accounts of Richard’s short reign and involvement with the princes, started with him being accused of the wrong doing, from accounts by Shakespeare and Sir Thomas More, whom both were employed by the Tudors. It is now perceived that these accounts were Tudor propaganda, to glorify the reign of the Tudors and discredit the young king, and justify Henry VII success at Bosworth. Later accounts shifted to either defending Richard, or putting him out to dry.  One of the first to try to redeem him was Horace Walpole. He looked at the evidence that was available and carefully analyzed what or how it could be used in context to the disappearance of the princes and Richards involvement.  In his book, Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard the Third, he writes:

With regard to the elder, his disappearance is no kind of proof that he was murdered: he might die in the Tower. The queen pleaded to the archbishop of York that both princes were weak and unhealthy. I have insinuated that it is not impossible but Henry the Seventh might find him alive in the Tower. I mention that as a bare possibility - but we may be very sure that if he did find Edward alive there, he would not have notified his existence, to acquit Richard and hazard his own crown. The circumstances of the murder were evidently false, and invented by Henry to discredit Perkin ; and the time of the murder is absolutely a fiction, for it appears by the roll of parliament, which bastardized Edward the Fifth, that he was then -j- alive, which was seven months... (Walpole pg. 70)

Walpole looked at the evidence presented and basically exonerates Richard’s innocent to the murders.  There simply was no proof.  But he also points out the murders might have even been invented to discredit Perkin who was one of the famous impostors who threatened Henry VII’s reign and started a revolt.  This trend seemed to follow to present day and most historians either defend Richard, or flat out place the blame on him in regards to the princes’ outcome. If Richard had won that day at Bosworth it is hypothesized that we might have answered to what happened, but his time was cut short. Richard ruled too short of a period to fix problems that arose during his reign in a timely manner.  He suffered tragedies of his wife and son’s death, rebellions, and Henry Tudor attempting to invade multiple times.  Time was and has been his biggest enemy. 

Yes, he was stressed, Richard III (portrayed by Aneurin Barnard)

There are some who believe the princes may have survived. We have all heard of the impostors, Perkin Warbeck, Richard Plantagenet the mysterious bricklayer, and Lambert Simnel.  David Baldwin’s book The Lost Prince, the Survival of Richard of York, discusses these cases in depth.  It adds a very interesting twist to the mystery and provides a lot of information.  It also helps paint an interesting picture of Henry VII.  Its on my must read NOW! List.  An article published by “The Times” by Geraldine Norman in March 1983, raised a suggestion that according to art historian, Jack Leslau, the two sons of Edward IV were still alive throughout the reign of Richard III, and continued to live, under new assumed identities.  He does not mention the famous impostors.  Leslau’s claim is based off a painting by Hans Holbein, the Younger that depicts a portrait of Sir Thomas More and his family.  His analysis of all of the depictions in the painting is lengthy and complex. Through careful examination, and art theory, he concludes that Edward was said to become Sir Edward Guildford and Richard became Dr. John Clement. Clement it is also noted had gentile or noble birth and he came out of nowhere. He was married to More’s adopted daughter, Margaret. The analysis of the painting is over 100 pages long and goes into theory, clues, arrangement of symbols use of certain flowers, inscriptions, colors, use of gloves and other symbolism's in the painting that led to his conclusion. Some historians question the validity of his claim.

Do bones hold a story or an answer? Today, questions have been raised involving the bones that are in the urn in Westminster that were found during renovations in the Tower underneath a staircase in the 1600’s. This is the only physical evidence we have that could lead to clues, as to what happen, or not to the princes. But apparently, the ministry and the Queen have ruled they will not be DNA tested or examined as noted in an article from an article in The Guardian ( Who the bones belong to, may never be known or what fate befell them.

In conclusion, but moving forward with all the data we have: accounts, literature, the pile of hearsay, and what we know of medieval society; as one who studies the period, it is difficult for me to place blame pretty much on anyone, specifically Richard.  But I really want to blame Henry Tudor out of revenge.  To me, even with a law background, and history background, there just is not enough evidence to sway someone, this way or another. Too much circumstantial and defiantly way to much libel and slander to go around. But, looking at his rivals, they could have been culprits as well and for good reason.  We now know what the Tudors were capable of.  The common medieval man, probably just as much if not worse. For it was the people who placed the blame on Henry VII for the sweating sickness in 1485, and said it was a “sign” that he was not the true king, haha! That simple statement alone demonstrates how misleading, and in what context information can be to the general populous of medieval society. It’s another reason why Shakespeare’s account of Richard III gets tossed out the window at my house. He was hired by the Tudors, and wanted to stay in favor, so he defamed Richard III the best he could with a pen, and wrote him into history as a complete monster. A monster, he was not.  Anxious maybe, nervous at times, stressed oh he more than likely was.  A murderer of little boys? That still remains in question.  After all, it was the Middle Ages.

Myers, A.R. “The Character of Richard III” published in vol. 4, issue 8, 1954 accessed: 2/15/14

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