The Princes in the Tower.

By Alison Weir

Printed: 1992

Publisher: Ballantine Books. New York

Dimensions 17 × 24 × 3 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 17 x 24 x 3

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In the original dustsheet. Black cloth spine with gilt title. Green boards.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

A reconstruction of the events leading to the murder of the boy-King Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York. The author studied the contemporary sources to make a convincing case of how, when, where and by whose order they died. By the author of “Six Wives of Henry VIII”.

Review: Not a bad narrative of Richard III’s short reign, with a reasonable analysis of why he might have behaved as he did. But… The impression I get reading this is that the aim was to confirm his guilt over the disappearance of the Princes. Motive is well considered as to why he might have done them harm, as part of the feud with the Wydville family and his own survival. But the evidence is too reliant on second hand sources, chiefly Sir Thomas More, who had evidence of a confession from a Knight who was allegedly involved on the night of the murders. The problem with this is that evidence extracted under torture or threat invariably ends up being whatever the imprisoner wants it to be. Further, Richard III was not popular – he behaved as a despot and had a large number of nobles executed without trial within a very short timeframe. Once he was dead, anyone wanting to censure him could do so with impunity, and any looking to provide a counterpoint would either already be dead or unwilling to speak up. To make things even more complex, Henry VII, who eventually turned out to be no less despotic and paranoid, had a great many of the surviving gentry killed, imprisoned or effectively blackmailed during his own reign meaning that many of those who were present during the last days of the House of York never gave any testimony or account of what they saw. Effectively, the civil war and strife caused by rebellions and scheming continued well into Henry VIII’s reign. It did not all end at Bosworth in 1485.

In the final reckoning, Richard probably did cause the Princes’ death. In this, he was a man of his time, ruthless and brutal. His successor was equally unpleasant, but had a dynasty following him and his own crimes were carried out over many years. Richard III’s deeds were all over a very short period and he died in battle, so history has been less forgiving. So, overall not a bad narrative – but as with any consideration of history, please bear its context in mind and treat it carefully. Well worth a read.


 The Two Princes Edward and Richard in the Tower, 1483 by Sir John Everett Millais, 1878, part of the Royal Holloway picture collection. Edward V at right wears the garter of the Order of the Garter beneath his left knee.

The Princes in the Tower refers to the mystery of the fate of the deposed King Edward V of England and his younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, heirs to the throne of King Edward IV of England. The brothers were the only sons of the king by his queen, Elizabeth Woodville, living at the time of their father’s death in 1483. Aged 12 and 9 years old, respectively, they were lodged in the Tower of London by their paternal uncle and England’s regent, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, supposedly in preparation for Edward V’s forthcoming coronation. Before the young king could be crowned, he and his brother were declared illegitimate. Gloucester ascended the throne as Richard III.


Battle of Bosworth, as depicted by Philip James de Loutherbourg (1740–1812); the painting dates to 1804 and the engraving dates to c. 1857

It is unclear what happened to the boys after the last recorded sighting of them in the tower. It is generally assumed that they were murdered; a common hypothesis is that the murder was commissioned by Richard III in an attempt to secure his hold on the throne. Their deaths may have occurred sometime in 1483, but apart from their disappearance, the only evidence is circumstantial. As a result, several other hypotheses about their fates have been proposed, including the suggestion that they were murdered by their maternal uncle the Duke of Buckingham, their future brother-in-law King Henry VII, or his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort, among others. It has also been suggested that one or both princes may have escaped assassination. In 1487, Lambert Simnel initially claimed to be the Duke of York, but later claimed to be York’s cousin the Earl of Warwick. From 1491 until his capture in 1497, Perkin Warbeck claimed to be the Duke of York, having supposedly escaped to Flanders. Warbeck’s claim was supported by some contemporaries, including York’s aunt the Duchess of Burgundy.

In 1674, workmen at the Tower of London excavated, from under a staircase, a wooden box containing two small human skeletons. The bones were widely accepted at the time as those of the princes, but this has not been proven and is far from certain. King Charles II had the bones buried in Westminster Abbey, where they remain.

The author, Alison Weir lives and works in Surrey. Her books include Britain’s Royal Families, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Children of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry VIII: King and Court, Mary, Queen of Scots and Isabella: She-Wolf of France.

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