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The Princes in the Tower (1992)/reissued as Richard III and the Princes in the Tower (2014)


 



The story of the deaths, in sinister circumstances, of the boy-King, Edward V, and his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York, is one of the most fascinating murder mysteries in English history. It is a tale with profound moral and social consequences and so rich in drama, intrigues, treason, plots, counter-plots, judicial violence, scandal and infanticide that, for five centuries, it has been retold and reinterpreted by dozens of writers. Even today, the battle still rages between those who believe that the Princes were killed by their uncle, Richard III, and the revisionists, who put forward a number of theories about the disappearance of the Princes.

Having studied the available material in depth, Alison Weir believes that the solution to the mystery can be found in the contemporary sources. In this thoughtful and compulsively readable book, she re-examines all the evidence and presents a convincing argument, demonstrating that - contrary to popular opinion in recent years - it is possible to reconstruct the whole chain of events leading up to the death of the Princes, and to show how, when, why and by whose order their died.  



"Readers of this book will care as much about two small boys foully done to death as the identity of their murderer… Fascinating... A deeply researched reappraisal... Detached as a historian should be, Alison Weir still compels speculation about the feelings of Edward V and his brother." (Ruth Rendell, The Daily Telegraph)

"A surprisingly fresh and tremendously thorough contribution to the debate… Weir constructs a devastating case… [and] brilliantly illuminates the nature of late-mediaeval political power... Weir`s book is, no doubt, not the last on this subject, but it might be the best" (The Boston Globe)

"Alison Weir has examined the chronicles with care. Her book, lucidly written and well researched, makes absorbing reading… There can be no doubt that she has presented a strong case… with great skill and cogency." (Christopher Hibbert, The Sunday Times)

"Violence, scandal, infanticide, drama, plots, counter-plots and treason… You can`t do better than that with this whodunit that`s been with us for five centuries." (The Daily Mail)

"Alison Weir takes on this delicious mystery with a fearsome vengeance... [and] comes up with the most plausible conclusions. The result is a fascinating and completely credible account… Readers come away with the impression that they`ve heard the whole story at last and can finally put the little Princes to rest." (The Milwaukee Journal)

"An exciting read." (The Denver Post)

"Weir's research is exhaustive. She has assimilated all credible information... Weir writes convincingly. A meticulous account of the troubled reign of Richard III." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Alison Weir has come up with an absorbing tale and some highly plausible conclusions." (Birmingham Post)

"Weir relates these many intrigues and political executions in a highly readable manner that's at once vivid and scholarly… [She] argues her way convincingly through recent scholarship and the ongoing debate… A fascinating whodunit in which truth is more sordid than fiction." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Richard III fans may weep and rage at Weir`s conclusions, but her arguments are compelling." (Mystery Scene)

"Good mysteries never die, they just improve with age…Alison Weir has assembled an impressive case for the prosecution." (The Orlando Sentinel)

"Ms Weir`s impressive researches should settle the matter." (The Atlantic Monthly)

"This new study offers a convincing answer... A substantial historical study that is also an arresting piece of literature." (Rapport - The West Coast Review of Books, Art and Entertainment, four-starred review)

"Absorbing, educational and a great read." (Surrey County Magazine)

"A thrilling book, a story as suspenseful as any present-day constitutional crisis in its unfolding… A splendid mystery tale." (The Washington Times)

"Weir`s intellect is clear, her grasp of the material impressive, and her writing ability profound." (L.A. Life)

"Combines classic mystery, royal scandal, political intrigue... Fascinating... Well written and compelling in its credibility." (Sharyn McCrumb)

"Alison Weir is a powerful advocate and she marshals her case with skill. The book blends the narrative drive of a novel with the texture of true scholarship... Confident, lively and thought-provoking... It has all the elements of a good mystery - with the added bonus of historical fact." (Edward Marston)

"Miss Weir has conducted a most thorough investigation. It would not surprise me if [her] work becomes the last word on the matter... Her deductions are both logical and well presented... A rattling good read." (Basildon Evening Echo)

"One of history's most enduring mysteries is examined here in a style as enthralling as that of a P.D. James of Ruth Rendell whodunnit... Ms Weir triumphs in page-turning readability." (Eastern Evening News)

"She nails down Richard's guilt." (Boston Globe Online)  

"Alison Weir thoughtfully and clearly takes the reader step-by-step through the arguments and issues. She is no Richard-basher, but neither does she canonise him. But, as with the slaying of John F. Kennedy, the most apparent explanation in this case appears to be the correct one." (Chicago Tribune)

"A cogent, lucid argument... This is one of the more fascinating stories in English history, and Weir tells it well... She lawyers her way through... [and] proves that, as with so much else, Shakespeare got it right after all." (Palm Beach Post)

"Alison Weir... creates a plausible explanation of the murder." (Sussex Life)

"It's a true 'gothic' horror, endlessly fascinating, elusive, tempting each reader to follow a deductive path that may have new turns." (The Napa Valley Register)

"In this carefully researched and absorbing work of scholarship... Weir argues convincingly." (Publishers Weekly)


    

Above: Rejected U.K. and U.S. (right) jackets.



THE PRINCES IN THE TOWER: Some reflections twenty years on...



It is nearly twenty-one years since I published The Princes in the Tower, and recently I have revisited and re-researched the subject for two books, A Dangerous Inheritance and Elizabeth of York. In the light of the announcement that the bones found in Leicester are Richard III's, the media hype, and the platform given to revisionist views, I feel moved to write some reflections on the subject. Have I changed my views? No, although there was a moment when I thought I might. In fact, I feel that there is an even stronger case to be made against Richard III - and this from someone who, for a quarter of a century, thought he was much maligned! It was only when I came to study the sources objectively and in depth that I came around to the opposite viewpoint.
   We now know that the Crouchback epithet was not undeserved, even if it was malicious and perhaps exaggerated. But if the myths about there being no deformity have been exploded, what does that say about other sources hostile to Richard and the other myth about Tudor propadanda? Maybe, once the tyrant was dead - and make no mistake, Richard had committed acts of tyranny - people felt free to write the truth.  
   The facts remain: the Princes disappeared from view shortly after Richard III’s usurpation; he had a compelling motive for doing away with them, and the means; they were never seen again; public opinion at the time was that he had murdered them; there is no credible evidence for their survival, nor did Richard ever produce them alive to counteract the rumours of their murder that were eroding his support. Richard was the man with the strongest motive and the best opportunity
  The sources make it clear that rumours of the murders lost Richard crucial support. The Great Chronicle of London attributes Buckingham’s disaffection to what he knew of the deed.
  Sir James Tyrell, the man named by Sir Thomas More as the man whom Richard delegated to arrange the murders, was delegated to ride to the royal wardrobe at the Tower of London to fetch necessities for the investiture of Edward of Middleham, the new Prince of Wales, which was to take place on 8 September in York Minster, and it was probably during that trip that the deed was carried out. Other evidence, especially that of the Croyland Chronicler, fits with this account, and certainly the Princes were never seen alive again. In England, public opinion was that Richard had had them killed, possibly by the advice of Buckingham, and speculation focused mainly on how the deed had been done. 
  Rumours of the murders irrevocably damaged the King’s reputation. It was said in London that he had ‘put to death the children of King Edward, for which cause he lost the hearts of the people. And thereupon many gentlemen intended his destruction.’ Ruthlessness in war and politics was tolerated: child murder was a step too far. The Tudor royal historian, Bernard Andre, wrote that, in the wake of the rumours, ‘the entire land was convulsed with sobbing and anguish. The nobles of the kingdom, fearful of their lives, wondered what might be done against the danger. Faithful to the tyrant in word, they remained distant in heart.’ We must allow for a degree of exaggeration from a partisan observer, but this was written less than twenty years later, when many people would have remembered the events of 1483. The rumours were believed as far away as Danzig, as Caspar Weinreich’s contemporary chronicle recorded that year: ‘Later this summer, Richard, the King’s brother, had himself put in power and crowned King of England; and he had his brother’s children killed.’ Certainly Buckingham – who may have had good cause - and Morton took the rumours seriously.
  The evidence strongly suggests that the Lancastrian pretender Henry Tudor did not know for certain that the Princes had been murdered – at least, probably, until 1502. The likelihood is that Buckingham and his associates, who plotted to put Henry on the throne in 1483, only assumed that they were dead, which was a reasonable conclusion, given the rumours and how ruthlessly Richard had eliminated everyone else who had stood in the way of his ambitions.  
  The success of Buckingham’s rebellion depended on the Princes being dead. There was no point in Henry Tudor marrying Elizabeth of York and claiming the crown through her if her brothers remained alive to challenge that claim. Clearly, Buckingham, Margaret Beaufort (Henry's mother) and Henry Tudor all believed that the Princes were no longer alive. There have been theories that any one of them might have arranged the murder of the boys, which would have been as advantageous to them as it would to Richard III. But while a handful of contemporaries suggested that Buckingham was involved, none of them – even Margaret of Burgundy, his mortal enemy - ever accused Henry Tudor of the deed, still less Margaret Beaufort. 
  Apart from the lack of evidence, there are insurmountable obstacles to the theory that Buckingham murdered the Princes. They disappeared while they were being securely held in the Tower as the King’s chief prisoners of state. If someone – Buckingham, for example - who, even as Constable of England, would have needed the King’s permission to breach security at the Tower - had murdered them, Richard would quickly have got to hear about it, and it would have been in his interests to make political capital against his enemies to his own advantage, thus giving the lie to the rumours about his own involvement; he was adept at using the tool of character assassination most effectively.
  If Buckingham had murdered the Princes with Richard’s approval and therefore on his behalf, when Buckingham was executed for treason Richard had the perfect opportunity to lay the blame at his door and so give the lie to rumour. He did not seize it. 
  Even though the rumours about his having murdered the Princes went on damning Richard’s reputation and undermining his security as king, he took no measures at all to counteract them, when it was crucially in his interests to do so. Had someone else murdered his nephews, especially one of his enemies, it would have served him well, and retrieved his reputation, to be able to accuse them. It would also have been in his interests to make it known if they had died natural deaths. Claims that one or both the Princes survived are fascinating but unconvincing, and cannot be substantiated by good evidence.
  Elizabeth Wydeville's emergence with her daughters from sanctuary in 1484 does not necessarily mean that she did not believe the King had murdered the Princes. He had already judicially murdered another of her sons, on the flimsiest of pretexts, yet still she came to terms with him, doubtless hoping she had done the best she could for her remaining children.    
  There are obvious problems with the theory that the Princes were sent secretly to Gipping, not least of them the discovery in 1674 in the Tower of London of the bones of two children of approximately the age of the Princes at the time of their disappearance in 1483. But if the Princes had survived, and were taken to Gipping Hall, someone would surely have got to know about it. Late medieval royal and noble households were teeming places peopled with servants and officials, and privacy would not become a priority until the reign of Henry VIII. It is likely that several of those who served the Queen could have recognised her sons. Thus it would have been virtually impossible to keep the existence of the Princes a secret, especially in the face of rumours of their deaths.
  Richard very publicly guaranteed the future safety and welfare of Edward IV’s daughters. His promises – and his oath made on the Gospels - reflect widespread concerns that he had done away with their brothers, for whose safety, as opposed to that of the girls, he gave no reassurances. This strongly suggests that they were dead, while the specific mention in the guarantee of the Tower, and Richard’s willingness to give such a public guarantee, amounts to a tacit admittance that their mother had good cause for concern. 
  Richard’s proposed marriage to Elizabeth amounted effectively to a tacit admission that the Princes were not only legitimate but also dead. But declaring her and her sisters legitimate would have been tantamount to proclaiming that her brothers were no more, and that would have raised yet more contentious questions
  It has been asserted by Richard's apologists that Elizabeth Wydeville would never have consented to her daughter marrying the man she believed had killed her sons, although, again, whether he had murdered the Princes or not, he had executed without trial Sir Richard Grey. Those who believe Richard innocent of the Princes' deaths often overlook the fact that Elizabeth Wydeville schemed to marry Elizabeth to Henry Tudor, the man whom many revisionists believe was the real murderer. 
  ‘The children of King Edward,’ commented the Croyland chronicler, a royal councillor, had been ‘avenged’ at last at Bosworth. He was in a position to know.
  If the Princes' bodies had been found by Henry VII, he would surely have made political capital out of it. Proof that they were not may lie in a clause inserted when Titulus Regius (the Act confirming Richard III's title and bastardising the Princes and their sisters) was repealed, providing that nothing in the reversal should prejudice the Act ‘establishing the crown to the King and the heirs of his body’. Even if Henry had got to London and found the Princes alive, then had them murdered – an unlikely theory advanced by some revisionists – it would have been of no benefit to him because their removal was not sufficient in itself to guarantee his security: people had to know they were dead. But Henry never uttered a word on the matter, or accused Richard III of their murder. He could not, because, not having found any bodies, he had no means of knowing for certain what had happened to the Princes. That must have concerned him greatly, as uncertainty about their fate undermined the title of the woman he intended to make his wife, and it was to underscore many of the problems facing him in the years to come.
  In an Act attainting Richard III as a traitor, Parliament made no direct mention of Elizabeth’s brothers, the Princes in the Tower, but referred to ‘homicides and murders, in shedding of infants’ blood’ among the many crimes attributed to him30 - the kind of crimes of which traitors were often accused. Some modern historians have commented on the fact that the Princes in the Tower are not specifically named in the Act. The omission of their names has therefore been seen as proof that the Princes still lived.
   There is little evidence that the early Tudor monarchs actively pursued a policy of character assassination against Richard III. Henry VII had good reasons for wanting to avoid any mention of the heirs of Edward IV. One was that it was not in his interests to raise the spectre of his future queen’s bastardy. The other was that, almost certainly, he had no hard evidence of the Princes’ murder, and was relying on the assumption made in 1483 that Richard had gone ahead with his plan to destroy them. Had their bodies been found, Henry would surely have publicised the fact; it would have saved him a lot of trouble in the long run, because from the commencement of his reign there were ‘secret rumours and whisperings (which afterwards gained strength and turned to great troubles) that the two young sons of King Edward the Fourth, or one of them (which were said to be destroyed in the Tower) were not indeed murdered, but conveyed secretly away, and were yet living; which, if it had been true, had prevented the title of the Lady Elizabeth’. Henry’s failure to establish beyond doubt that the Princes were dead probably accounts for his unwillingness to accuse Richard III openly of having them killed; there was then a legal presumption that, without a body, there could be no charge of murder. 
  The pretender Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be the younger of the Princes, could not have plagued Henry if the King had discovered what had become of the Princes in the Tower. Had he been in possession of that information, he would surely have used it to counter the pretender’s claims, as he had paraded Warwick in London to counteract the claim on an earlier pretender, Lambert Simnel.  Warwick had never actually done nothing to justify any legal process against him. Having him secretly murdered in the Tower, like the Princes, was clearly not Henry’s way of doing things. The King had experienced, none better, what could ensue when an heir to the throne simply disappeared. Moral issues aside, Warwick had to be seen to be dead. The only sure way to remove him and eliminate any future claims of his survival was by the process of law. 
  In 1502 Henry VII ‘gave out’ that, while in the Tower, Tyrell was ‘examined, and confessed’ to murdering the Princes nineteen years earlier. If the King gave out such information, it was probably by a proclamation that does not survive. Of the sixty-two extant proclamations of Henry VII, some are lost, notably the one proclaiming his accession. Others that are missing are referred to in contemporary documents, such as one issued in 1496 for expanding legislation on conditions of work for labourers; no one has ever disputed its existence, although rivers of ink have been spilt in denying that Tyrell’s confession was ever the subject of a proclamation. It is true that no written confession or deposition by Tyrell survives, but that is not unusual or necessarily significant in Tudor treason cases.
  If the confession was an invention, why had Henry waited seventeen years to fabricate it, and not come up with something of the kind much earlier, when he was under threat from first Simnel, and then Warbeck, or even in 1499, after the execution of Warwick? It is not beyond the bounds of probability that Tyrell, a man facing execution, would want to lay bare his guilt in regard to such a crime. 
   Then there is the evidence of More, who stated he had learned about the murders from ‘them that much knew and had little cause to lie’ – a description that fits Tyrell and John Dighton. More’s account was based in part on Tyrell’s later confession and the probably first-hand testimony of John Dighton, his horse keeper, one of the murderers. More wrote that Dighton had also been examined and confessed to the murder, and Francis Bacon states that Dighton corroborated Tyrell’s confession. More, whose account was partly based on Tyrell’s confession, probably tracked down and spoke with Dighton later on, for around 1513 he was able to state that ‘Dighton yet walks on alive, in good possibility to be hanged’ – an incorrigible criminal.  If the story had not been true, what cause had Dighton to incriminate himself? And what cause had More – no yes-man of the Tudors - to make any of this up?
  More could also have obtained evidence from the Minoresses' convent near the Tower. Residing in a house within its precincts at that time were several ladies who were well placed to know the truth about the fate of Elizabeth’s brothers. Elizabeth Talbot, Duchess of Norfolk and mother-in-law of Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower, lived there until her death in 1506. With her was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Robert Brackenbury, Constable of the Tower at the time of the Princes’ disappearance, whose will of 1514 provides for her burial there; Mary, sister of Sir James Tyrell; and one of Tyrell’s cousins. Also living in the house was Joyce Lee, a widow who took the veil and was interred in the church of the Minories in 1507. Her brother Edward later became archbishop of York, and he was friends with Thomas More; their families lived in the same London parish, and More was to dedicate a book to Joyce Lee in 1505. It is conceivable that More visited her at the Minories when he was a young lawyer living at Bucklersbury in London, and that it was there that he first heard the truth about the fate of the Princes from people who had the means of knowing what had happened to them.
  It is clear that the bodies of the Princes were not found in the wake of Tyrell’s confession, and that may have been the consequence of a deception. More, probably basing his tale on what Tyrell and Dighton had confessed, wrote that the murderers had buried the corpses ‘at the stair foot, meetly deep in the ground, under a heap of stones’ – which is precisely where a chest containing the skeletons of two children who were almost certainly the Princes was found in 1674 during demolition of a staircase in the entrance forebuilding to the White Tower. But More then says that Richard III had had the bodies dug up and ‘secretly interred’ elsewhere, and that he had taken the knowledge of the location to the grave with him. Tyrell, being close to Richard, might well have heard that, and disclosed it in 1502. But the story was a fabrication, possibly by Dighton: if they were those of the Princes, the bodies had not been moved at all. Without them Henry could not have proceeded against Dighton, because of the legal presumption of ‘no body, no murder’, which maintained until the twentieth century. Bacon says that Dighton, ‘who it seemeth spake best for the King, was forthwith set at liberty, and was the principal means of divulging this tradition’ – which, again, explains how More got much of his information.  
 Thus it is misleading to claim that there is no evidence one way or the other, as was stated on the University of Leicester's website on the day of the announcement. Historians should step back from their subject and be objective; they should infer what they can from the sources. They often disagree, but the important thing is that they remain objective and willing to listen to arguments. What concerns me is the sentimental and subjective tone of much that is being written of Richard III. As a fellow historian said to me, if people must approach this subject emotionally, shouldn't they be focusing on the strong possibility that two children were murdered in terrifying circumstances in the Tower of London? And would it not now be a good idea to re-examine the bones said to be theirs, that lie in an urn in Westminster Abbey? That would surely give us far more insights into what really happened in 1483.



HISTORY OF ROYALS MAGAZINE




You can read my contribution to the cover feature, The Mystery of the Princes, in issue 18, August 2017.


FINDING THE KING DOESN'T MAKE HIM A GOOD MAN



Read my interview here:
http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Respected-history-author-host-talk-Richard-III/story-26120616-detail/story.html, 4th March 2015

FINDING RICHARD DOESN’T MAKE HIM A GOOD MAN
An internationally renowned history writer will discuss why she thinks people were too quick to vindicate Richard III following the discovery of his remains. Author Alison Weir, who has had more than 20 books published - selling almost three million copies - will challenge people's views of Richard III when she gives a talk at Leicester Central Library, the day before the reinterment. She said there has been a change in the way the Plantagenet monarch is portrayed since University of Leicester archaeologists excavated his bones in August 2012.
   But Alison, who has previously written about the Wars of the Roses and the Princes in the Tower (who Richard is alleged to have murdered) said her views were impartial and she was not out to depict the former king as a monster.
   She said: "Although a lot of people say my views about Richard are negative, they're not. They're objective. I don't understand how people can claim to know he was a good man. They don't know him. He lived over 500 years ago and spent two years as king – during which time he did what he could to keep the throne. What worries me is this idea that Richard discovered equals Richard innocent."
   She said that she had followed the story of the discovery and admitted she was surprised when the bones showed signs of a curved spine.
"It was quite a surprise to hear that they found severe scoliosis. His deformity was something which people had assumed was a result of character assassination. But the finding of the bones shows how it could have affected him in his everyday life."
   Alison will be giving her talk, The Man and the Myth, at 8pm, at the Leicester Central Library, in Bishop Street, on Wednesday, March 25.
It will follow on directly from a discussion led by Dr Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society (whose mission is to restore the reputation of the medieval monarch).
   Dr Stone said: "Alison is a prolific author who has generated a great deal of interest in the period and in Richard III. Like anyone, I'd say she is more than entitled to her opinion."



From B.B.C. History Magazine's article on the discovery of Richard III's remains at Leicester in 2012: What does this find mean for History? (March, 2013):



The discovery of Richard III’s remains changes our perception of so-called propaganda against him. Confirmation that he was indeed the ‘Crouchback’ of legend suggests we should re-evaluate other hostile sources. Might they reflect the truth? Maybe, once Richard was dead, people felt free to speak out against him. His bad press was probably well-deserved, but he died in the Christian faith and should be buried where he wished, in York Minster, without fanfare. What might settle the debate about him is a new examination of the bones, thought to be those of the Princes in the Tower, in Westminster Abbey.

The following text was edited out of the published article, for lack of space:
 
It's time to distance ourselves from the outpouring of sentiment over Richard III, and look objectively at what the historical sources tell us. There is compelling circumstantial and written evidence that he ordered the murder of the Princes in the Tower, and incontrovertible hard evidence that he committed acts of tyranny. He was not popular. Any support he had was eroded by rumours that he had done away with the Princes, for which cause he lost the hearts of his subjects. He should be buried at York, where he probably wished to be buried, with dignity, and without fanfare. He intended to remarry, so it is doubtful that he would have been laid to rest beside his wife, Anne Neville, in Westminster Abbey. According him the honour of a state funeral would amount to official endorsement of the revisionist view of him, and that would deeply concern many serious historians. Let us press instead for a new examination of the bones thought to be those of the Princes in Westminster Abbey. 





Read Alex David's account of my presentation on Richard III at http://happyandgloriousblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/alison-weir-on-real-richard-iii.html


Article in Cuesheet, the magazine for the friends and patrons of Shakespeare's Globe, Autumn 2013



RICHARD III: ‘DIVINING UPON CONJECTURES’ by Alison Weir
 
As a historian, I must take issue with Annette Carson's view of Richard III presented in Cuesheet. The confirmation – when his remains were discovered - that he was indeed the ‘Crouchback’ of legend suggests we should re-evaluate other hostile sources, and ask why Tudor chroniclers rarely have a good word to say about him. It is often said that they are responsible for his poor reputation, and that they were following official policy.
   Yet there is little evidence that the early Tudor monarchs actively pursued a policy of character assassination against Richard III; indeed the so-called ‘Black Legend’ originated in Richard’s own lifetime. Maybe, once he was dead, people felt free to speak out against him. Tudor writers like Polydore Vergil and Sir Thomas More were not men to compromise their integrity. Vergil mightily offended Henry VII with his debunking of the Arthurian legends that were so essential to the mythology of the Tudor descent. And we all know what happened to More for defying Henry VII.  
  Richard was a typical medieval magnate: acquisitive, brave and ruthless. He was loyal to his brother, Edward IV, but sometimes did not scruple to ride rough-shod over the rights of others. Ambition drove him – as would later become clear.
   In 1483 Edward IV died unexpectedly, having nominated Richard Protector for his heir, twelve-year-old Edward V. But Richard was hated and feared by Queen Elizabeth Wydeville and her faction. Edward’s secret marriage to her in 1464 had caused scandal because of her lowly birth, yet he had built up the power of her family, even ‘to the displeasure of the whole realm’ – and of great lords like Richard. Fatally Edward failed to reconcile and unite the two power centres he had created: Richard and the Wydevilles.
   At his death, the Wydevilles were in control of the young King and clearly meant to rule during his minority. Richard immediately formed a coalition with Lord Hastings and the Duke of Buckingham against the Wydevilles. Riding south from Yorkshire at the head of a strong force, he seized Edward V as he was travelling from Ludlow to London for his coronation, escorted by his Wydeville relatives. Richard arrested them; later he had them executed without trial – an act of tyranny by any standards. He now entered London in triumph with Edward V, and established himself as Protector of the realm. Edward was lodged in the Tower, where it was customary for kings to stay in the Tower before being crowned.
   The Queen, in evident fear of Richard, had fled into sanctuary in Westminster Abbey with her younger boy, the Duke of York, and her daughters. Some weeks later Richard, bent on having both his brother’s sons in his custody, surrounded the Abbey with a ring of steel and demanded the surrender of York, who was sent to join his brother in the Tower.
   Several people suspected that Richard’s ambition was focused on gaining the crown. Hastings now began plotting against him, but Richard found out, and famously had Hastings summarily arrested and beheaded – another act of tyranny.
   Then - sensationally - it was asserted that Edward IV's children were illegitimate and had no claim to the throne, as he was already married when he wed Elizabeth Wydeville. Certainly the revelation came at an opportune moment for Richard, and no evidence was ever produced. Accusations of bastardy were matters for the ecclesiastical courts, but Richard was to have Edward IV's children declared bastards by Parliament, which had no authority to pronounce in such cases.  Buckingham urged the people to accept Richard as king, and he accepted the crown with a show of reluctance, and thus usurped the throne.
   At this time the two Princes were confined in the inner apartments of the Tower, and began to be seen more rarely behind the bars and windows. Soon they ceased to appear altogether, and already there was a suspicion they ‘had been done away with’. The Croyland Chronicler, a royal councillor, testifies to them still being in the Tower on 8th September 1483. After that, he mentions them no more until he reports Richard’s death at the Battle of Bosworth, when he observes that the sons of King Edward have been avenged at last.
The facts remain: the Princes disappeared shortly after Richard III’s usurpation; they were held in the King’s custody as high-security prisoners of state in the Tower; he had the motive, the means and the best opportunity for doing away with them; and they were never seen again.   
   Circumstantial and other evidence against Richard is strong. After his coronation there were conspiracies to free the Princes, which were quickly suppressed. Even so, they must have shown him that his nephews, although declared bastards, remained a threat to his security. More describes him recruiting the ambitious Sir James Tyrrell, who agrees to murder the Princes and has them suffocated as they sleep. More went to great trouble to research his history, seeking out first-hand evidence; it is rich in authentic detail, although in parts he had to ‘divine upon conjectures’ – and he had no motive for making anything up. We know that Tyrell was at the Tower at the optimum time. In 1674 a chest containing the skeletons of two children was found in the Tower, exactly where More had described. An examination of the remains in 1933 showed that they were those of two children of about the right age.
   Soon rumours accusing Richard of the murder began to surface in England and abroad. Speculation focused not on who had done the deed, but how it had been done. The rumours irrevocably damaged Richard’s reputation and undermined his support - but he never denied them, or gave the lie to them by producing the Princes alive, even when it was strongly in his interests to do so. It would also have been in his interests to make it known if they had died natural deaths – for which there is no evidence. To me, his silence speaks volumes. 





Readers who enjoyed The Princes in the Tower will love Marilyn Roberts's new biography of Anne Mowbray, the child bride of Richard, Duke of York.  In December 2014 it will be half a century since the lead-encased body of Anne Mowbray, Duchess of York and Norfolk, was discovered on a building site north of the Tower of London, two miles from her supposed resting place. The catalogue of unfortunate errors associated with the removal of her remains from the site and their subsequent scientific examinations caused an outcry among some leading establishment figures of the day, and the child's bones had to be reburied before the examinations were completed. The discovery of them in 1964 caused worldwide interest, but within a few weeks Anne Mowbray was once more consigned to the mists of oblivion.

Lady Anne Mowbray – the High and Excellent Princess is a short book concentrating solely on Anne, and tracing the little girl’s story from her eagerly anticipated birth in December 1472 to the present day. It includes the demise of the Mowbray dukedom of Norfolk when her father, whose only child she was, died young without a male heir; her marriage as a five-year-old to the four-year-old boy known to history as the younger of the Princes in the Tower; her own death at the age of eight and the eventual settlement of the Mowbray inheritance on her heirs, the Howard family of Suffolk, by Richard III, her uncle-by-marriage, who had escorted her at her wedding.  Also examined are the reasons for her having been interred three times, including twice in Westminster Abbey, and the twentieth-century experts’ struggle to prepare her bones for decent reburial within the almost impossible time limit set down, somewhat reluctantly, by the then Home Secretary.

Marilyn Roberts is a dedicated historian and a leading expert on the Mowbray family. She has been a very welcome guest historian on my tourrs on several occasions.

 
 
 

"HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO, TWO YOUNG PRINCES were held captive in a tower by their evil uncle, King Richard III, who sought to make sure they did not inherit their rightful throne. Plots to rescue them were hatched, but failed, until, one day, the princes disappeared....
   Sounds like a fairy tale? Instead, it's the longest-standing unsolved murder mystery in English history - the deaths, in sinister circumstances, of the boy-king Edward V and his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York, in 1483. Contemporary suspicions placed the blame on the evil shoulders of King Richard III, who had usurped young Edward's rightful place on the throne just months earlier. But recently, Richard's reputation has been rehabilitated (there is even a Richard III Society devoted to exonerating him).
   In The Princes in the Tower Alison Weir, author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII, has written a story so rich in "drama, intrigue, treason, plots, counterplots, judicial violence, scandal and infanticide" that it reads like a detective nov¬el—but is in fact a riveting and compelling work of    
history.
   Weir brilliantly describes the atmosphere of 15th-century England, including the unstable succession that led to the Princes' murder, and life at the royal court ("an atmosphere charged with vicious competitiveness and ruthless ambition"). She colorfully describes the "circle of patronage" around the King: "There were in attendance the royal councillors, the civil servants, the domestic servants, visiting nobles, foreign ambassadors and visitors, the ladies and officers of the Queen's household, and a whole army of petitioners seek¬ing favours from the King. The purchasing and purveying of influence, grace, and favour were the main business of the court."
   She goes on to depict Richard as a man who could be courageous, hard-working and conscientious—but who, having seen his father and brother killed by the time he was eight, had learned early the "advantages of political murder." (Weir even addresses the controversy of whether or not Richard III was a "villainous hunchback, with a withered arm," as he is often portrayed; he wasn't, although he may have had some slight deformity that was exaggerated by his enemies as the years passed after his death.)
   As it draws near to its climax, The Princes in the Tower becomes utterly mesmerizing. Weir provides telling pictures of Richard's sister-in-law, Elizabeth Wydeville, the mother of the two Princes; his niece, Elizabeth of York, with whom he may have had an incestuous affair; of Henry Tudor, the pretender to the throne; and of the Princes themselves, 10 and 12 years old, waiting fearfully in the Tower of London as plot and counterplot swirled around them. The bones of two small boys were found in 1674, buried beneath a staircase in the Tower. They were examined then, and again in 1933. With the aid of both past chronicles and modern forensic science, Alison Weir comes to a convincing solution to the mystery of "two small boys foully done to death" (as Ruth Rendell has written). For anyone who loves mysteries, the Middle Ages, historical scandals—and knowing the truth—The Princes in the Tower will make absolutely gripping reading."





THE PRINCES IN THE TOWER: NEW DEVELOPMENTS
From the ALISON WEIR NEWSLETTER, 2000



The fate of the Princes in the Tower remains one of history's greatest controversies. Since I wrote my book, The Princes in the Tower, an American lawyer has published another study that reached an entirely different conclusion. Since no new material has come to light since 1992, his book is merely his interpretation of the facts, as indeed was mine. Having studied the original source material in detail, I stand by what I have written.
   However, I am often astonished at the lengths to which revisionist historians in general will go to make the facts fit their pet theory: the subject of the Princes in the Tower has in particular attracted this kind of approach.
   In my opinion, a serious historian must remain as objective as possible, not get too emotionally involved with the subject, and draw conclusions from the known facts, not preconceived opinions. I should add that almost every reviewer of my book - and there were many, including some members of the Richard III Society - agreed with my conclusion that the murderer of the princes was probably Richard. However, books are not written in stone, and if any new evidence comes to light - which is not inconceivable, since a manuscript fragment was discovered as recently as 1980 - I will be happy to revise my conclusiona.
    Recently, genetic testing has confirmed that the ill-fated Louis XVII did indeed die in the Temple prison during the French Revolution, so one of France's great historical mysteries has been conclusively solved. Perhaps the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower will one day be solved too. I understand that the Prince of Wales is interested in having the bones in the urn in Westminster Abbey subjected to new analysis. Since the Abbey is a royal peculiar and the Queen's permission for an exhumation has not been forthcoming, historians will probably have to wait for some time yet for answers to the questions that have been puzzling them for centuries. Experts may be able to establish the sex of the owners of the bones, the age at which they died, and any familial link with the House of York. It might then be possible to identify the remains with certainty as those of the Princes and establish a probable date of death. This date is crucial, because if it can be proved that the Princes died before August 1485, then Richard III was probably responsible for their deaths. If later, the whole question of Henry VII's guilt would have to be re-examined. I have to say that, on the present facts, the theory that the Duke of Buckingham murdered the Princes in 1483 is not workable.
   I will be avidly awaiting any developments.



MY WRITING DAY by ALISON WEIR
Writing Magazine, Spring 1992




EXTRACT FROM A TALK GIVEN BY ALISON WEIR AT THE TOWER OF LONDON IN FEBRUARY 2011.

The Tower of London is believed by many to have been the setting for one of the most infamous and controversial crimes in history – the ‘shedding of infants’ blood’. William Shakespeare movingly summed up the horror that people felt at this dark deed in his play, Richard III:

‘Look back with me unto the Tower –
Pity, you ancient stones, those tender babes,
Whom envy hath immured within your walls!
Rough cradle for such little, pretty ones!
Rude, ragged nurse, old, sullen playfellow
For tender princes…’

The tender babes were, of course, the famous Princes in the Tower, the deposed young King Edward V and his brother, Richard, Duke of York. Their uncle, Richard III, who usurped Edward’s throne in the summer of 1483, is believed by many to have ordered their murder shortly afterwards.

Whatever alternative theories have been expounded to explain their fate, the fact remains that the Princes disappeared that summer when they were held here in the Tower securely in Richard’s custody; and even when it would have been crucially in his interests to produce them alive or explain their disappearance, Richard did nothing to counteract rumours that he had had them murdered – rumours that were fatally undermining his security as king. Since then, controversy has raged over what became of the Princes.

Sir Thomas More, that ‘man for all seasons’ who was himself once a prisoner in the Tower, knew several people who might have known something of the truth of what had happened to the Princes, and he believed that the boys had been smothered on Richard’s orders, by assassins employed by Sir James Tyrell.

More’s is just one of several accounts of the fate of the Princes, but clearly the truth of the matter was known only to a very few people.

In 1674, when the forebuilding housing the entrance to the White Tower was demolished, workmen uncovered, exactly where More had said, a wooden chest containing the skeletons of two children. Pieces of velvet were found with the bones, indicating that these were two noble or royal children. They were assumed to be the remains of the Princes and buried as such in an urn in Westminster Abbey on the orders of Charles II. In 1933, an examination of the bones proved inconclusive, in that it could not identify the cause of death or the sex of the children; but it did not exclude the likelihood that these skeletons are indeed those of the Princes, for no other two children of rank are known to have disappeared in the Tower. That being the case, then they were dead by the end of 1483. In the opinion of most serious historians, the evidence strongly suggests that Richard III gave the order for their deaths; this is what his contemporaries and later generations believed. There have, of course, been several other theories as to who murdered the boys, but there is insufficient evidence to support any of them. Nevertheless, the controversy continues to rage, as it has for hundreds of years, and it is likely that it will continue to do so for centuries to come.


DID RICHARD III KILL HIS NEPHEWS?
By Glenn Giffin, Denver Post Book Editor
(The Denver Post, 23rd January 1994)



True-crime writing is a growing market. But what if the crime under discus¬sion was committed in 1483? That far back? Not for author Alison Weir, who addresses a spectacular murder, made famous by Shakespeare, in her new book, The Princes in the Tower.
  Did Richard III do in his nephews or didn't he? How much of the evil-uncle leg-end was later Tudor propaganda and how much was true? There was a 1984 televi-sion special in England, The Trial of Richard III, that resulted in a "not guilty" verdict. Plus, revisionists have been at work trying to rehabilitate the sullied reputation of Richard III, suggesting that he was innocent of the murder and, incidentally, that he wasn't a hunchback and in fact, had no physical de-formities.
   Weir decided to set the record straight, so far as one could at this historical distance from the crime. She forthrightly admits in her book, "It has been stated many times, in many books, that there is no proof that Richard III murdered the Princes in the Tower, and very little likelihood that the full facts about their disappearance from the pages of history will ever be known. That it is impossible, 500 years after the event, to prove beyond resonable doubt who murdered them or, indeed, that they were murdered at all."
   But like a lawyer building a case, she examines the evidence, the written accounts from the time, those who knew, those who probably knew and those who were merely guessing. She states right out that the Princes were murdered. Beyond that, it wouldn't be fair to give it all away. This is exciting reading in its careful marshalling of the facts.
   Reaching her at her home in Surrey, she systematically went through the evidence. "I had seen the televised trial and that had influenced me."
   This was not the book she set out to write. "Oh, no. It started out as The Last Plantagenets. Then I realized I had a lot on the Princes (the sons of Edward IV — the uncrowned Edward V and his younger brother, Richard) and it started getting to me. If I lifted it out, I had a book."
   And so she does. In fact. Weir names names and assigns motives to the principal players in the murder.
   All of which ties in with her lifelong love affair with history. "I'm very keen on this late medieval period and Tudor period. This is a natural subject for me to be interested in. Richard III is a very charismatic figure. I tried to get rid of all my preconceptions and look at the material objectively."
   She notes that, having researched theTudors thoroughly, she began moving backward with an eye to doing a book on the Wars of the Roses.
Even though gallons of ink have been devoted to this niche of history, Weir finds the research almost restfuL "Most of the sources are in print, so you don't always have to go back to material in the raw. Libraries are very helpful (in suggesting resources). You have to go through everything, getting rid of trivia.  What I do is transcribe it all, then break the evidence down chronologically."
   A previous book on the wives of Henry VIII, Weir said, had to be pared down by a third. Nonetheless, "I love doing this. It was a hobby for 20 years. I was always doing research. History is a compulsion. It's great to look at a subject and ask, 'Can I bring the people to life?' and 'Can I make people think of history as being about people?'"
   Weir's historical expertise isn't limited to the medieval and Tudor periods, either. "I've researched the whole of British royal history, and much European history too. I'm interested in history full go. But the period I know the best is the one I've written about most."
   To relax, Weir settles down with, would you believe, historical novels. "But I'm afraid that if I start one and it doesn't ring true, I can't continue. You can't skim the surface. You must know how the society worked. And some of the facts are available in some of the most accessible sources. You've got to do your homework."
   Weir will be visiting the United States as part of a promotional tour for The Princes in the Tower. "I've been reading," she said, "and I find that Denver is the gateway to five national parks! I can't wait!"


RICHARD III: THE CASE FOR THE DEFENCE by Martin Lacy
(Yorkshire Evening Press, 25th April 1996)

The Betrayal Of Richard III by V.B.Lamb (Alan Sutton Publishing, £7.99)

From 1485 to 1959, the last Yorkist King of England was almost universally defiled. Tudor propagandists, William Shakespeare and most historians painted a picture of an evil monster, who seized the throne from the rightful claimant (his nephew), put the said nephew and his brother to death and met a just end at the Battle of Bosworth at the hands of England's saviour. Then along came V.B.Lamb and everything changed. Miss Lamb, archivist at the College of Arms, presented no new evidence, but her forceful and well written defence of Richard III based on evidence available to her in 1959 can be seen as the start of the modern pro-Richard movement. This faction paints the King as a just and well-loved ruler, innocent of his nephews' murder and cruelly betrayed at Bosworth by his friends into the hands of a Welsh usurper with no real claim to the throne. The answer lies somewhere between the two. I'm not too sure why this book has been reissued unless it is to counter Alison Weir's excellent study, The Princes In The Tower, published last year.
   Miss Weir's book swung the pendulum back towards the 'Richard was guilty' school and unearthed new evidence that cast doubt on the apologists' claims.
   There are no doubts in Miss Lamb's book. History has condemned Richard unfairly and the evidence against him, she claims, would not stand up in a court of law. She paints a picture of a man more sinned against than sinning, brushes aside his murder of former supporter Hastings, and argues that Henry VII had far more reason to kill the Princes in the Tower than Richard (their claim to the throne being far stronger than his).
   Miss Lamb puts forward a powerful and persuasive argument but it is not without holes. She perpetrates the myth that Richard was well-loved in the North - in fact he was the representative of a conquering power sent to subdue the King's enemies and there was plenty of evidence available in 1959 to prove the point.
   Miss Lamb is guilty of putting her interpretation of events and ignoring other (equally valid) arguments based on the meagre facts available - a charge which she lays against the Tudor propagandists. This seriously weakens her credentials. They are further weakened by the excellent notes and new introduction provided by notable author on things medieval, P.W.Hammond, who, while on the whole sympathetic, is able to provide information Miss Lamb hadn't access to in 1959 - and this information often counters Miss Lamb's case. Nevertheless, this is an excellent read. With hindsight we can pick holes in Miss Lamb's argument, but she deserves to be heard, if only to put the case for the defence.


'THE DAUGHTER OF TIME' by JOSEPHINE TEY: HISTORY OR FICTION?
By Alison Weir

As you can read below, I was criticised for not mentioning this classic novel in The Princes in the Tower, but even as recently as 1992, historians did not cite novels in history books. This piece should, however, make up for the omission. It was commissioned in 2006 as the foreward to a new Folio Society edition of The Daughter of Time.

The celebrated novel, The Daughter of Time has been described by The New York Times as 'one of the best mysteries of all time'. Published in 1951, it recounts how a detective applies his reasoning and professional skills to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower. Inspector Grant's imagination is stirred by the contrast he perceives between the reputation of Richard III as their murderer - and the face in the King's portrait. Could a man who looks so sad and conscientious be guilty of infanticide? As he researches the subject, he finds that nothing is as it seems, and that historians cannot be relied upon, for the evidence has been distorted as a matter of political expediency. It is the classic revisionist argument - and the book is unashamedly revisionist in its findings.

The Daughter of Time has been hugely successful in influencing popular opinion on Richard III, even though it is only a novel and the evidence it presents is selective. The persecution of the innocent and the fallibility of evidence were recurring themes in Josephine Tey's books. She had already written sympathetically of Richard III in her play Dickon and in an earlier novel, Miss Pym Disposes, in which the heroine refuses to see Shakespeare's Richard III because it was 'a criminal libel on a fine man, a blatant piece of propaganda and an extremely silly play!' She was to return to the same theme with a vengeance two years later in The Daughter of Time, even though she herself dismissed it as an 'awful little detective story'. She died a year after it was published, and could never have foreseen that it would become a classic of its genre, alongside her other detective novels.

The Daughter of Time has nevertheless had its critics. Winston Churchill, for example, opined, 'It will take many ingenuous books to raise the issue to the dignity of an historical controversy.' He has since been proved spectacularly wrong.

In many ways, the novel has dated, and it is perhaps as entertaining to learn about the lost world of the 1950s as it is to go back to the much more distant past of the fifteenth century. And, with the teaching of history having since declined in British schools, we may well marvel that in Grant's world, everyone he encounters - the doctor, the matron, the police sergeant and even the hospital porter - is knowledgeable about Richard III and the fate of the Princes.

Since the novel was written, much historical research has been done and new sources have come to light. For example, the contemporary account of Dominic Mancini, one of the most important sources for the critical summer months of 1483, which contains evidence as to the whereabouts of the Princes, was not published until 1969; and some very pertinent research by Brian Spencer on Sir Thomas More's likely sources did not appear in print until 1973. Tey goes along with the now discredited theory that More got his information from Cardinal Morton. She obtained much of her information from a long-outdated work, Sir Clements Markham's biography of Richard III, written in 1906, which concluded that the Princes had been murdered by Henry VII. There are, too, significant flaws and omissions in the evidence that is laid out in the novel, and what is claimed as fact may well be suspect. Readily, go warily.

There is insufficient space here to refute every dubious assertion in the book, but a few points are of interest. For example, Grant claims that Lord Hastings was not summarily executed without trial by Richard of Gloucester, but was executed a week later, and that there is a letter that proves this. But all the contemporary sources agree that Hastings was beheaded within minutes of being sentenced to death, 'suddenly, without judgement'.

Grant also asserts that, since the Princes had been declared illegitimate, Richard III did not stand to benefit from their deaths and had no motive to do away with them. In fact, he had a most compelling one, for after his coronation there were conspiracies in the Princes' favour and plots to rescue them. Clearly Richard's subjects did not universally accept his claim that they were not the true-born heirs of his brother, Edward IV, and it was becoming increasingly obvious that, while the Princes lived, they posed a mortal threat to Richard's security and his throne.

Grant states that there is no contemporary accusation against Richard in regard to the killing of his nephews; but rumours about it were rife in the autumn of 1483, and in 1484 the Chancellor of France openly spoke of Richard as the murderer of the Princes. The fact remains that the boys conveniently disappeared in the summer of 1483 while they were held in secure custody by Richard; and when it would have been very much in his interests to refute the rumours that were undermining his reputation and throne, Richard failed to do so. He remained silent on the matter. No work that has been published since my book first appeared in print in 1992 can refute that, and I still stand objectively by my conclusions in The Princes in the Tower, despite attempts - such as that by Bertram Fields in Royal Blood (1998) - to refute them.

For Inspector Grant, the true villains of The Daughter of Time are the historians. Of course, if one accepts his well argued premise that the evidence for the Princes' disappearance was doctored by the likes of Henry VII and More, then historians have indeed been at fault for taking it at face value. But in reality, historians have been questioning the traditional version of these events for nearly four hundred years, so one can hardly accuse them all of being too partial. Nowadays, despite the best efforts of Richard III's apologists, most serious historians tend to the view that he did murder the Princes, and this conclusion has only been arrived at through objective and judicial examination of the historical sources. Grant's approach is basically emotive, and regrettably it has informed the thinking of many revisionists since.

The Daughter of Time has inspired nearly fifty novels about Richard III, all of them sympathetic, and it has influenced writers as diverse as Paul Murray Kendall and Colin Dexter. It is important to remember, though, that it is a work of fiction, indeed a masterpiece of its kind and a rattling good read, but not to be relied upon as a historical source book. Even so, for all its flaws, it reopened the debate about the Princes in the Tower to a wider audience than any history book could ever have reached, and - for good or bad - it has been influential in shaping public opinion: no mean achievement for a novel.

I recall one reader telling me off for not mentioning The Daughter of Time in my book; to her, it was as important as any historical source, but for me, as a historian, a work of fiction can have no bearing on a history book (as I again pointed out more recently when I was criticised by The New York Times for not referring to Hilary Mantel's marvellous novel Wolf Hall in The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn). I hope that lady now feels I have redressed the balance - although I fear that she might not enjoy my critique.

One reviewer recently wrote that he first read The Daughter of Time at an impressionable age, and that, for many years thereafter, that was the only view he had of the matter. That mirrors my own experience: I first read the book when I was fifteen, and was so convinced by its arguments that I believed it was the last word on the subject. It was only when I came to study the original sources in depth that I understood the pitfalls of accepting fiction as fact. For it is as fiction that we must now regard The Daughter of Time. It is the most entertaining of books, ingeniously plotted and full of suspense, and even if it is dated and does not now wholly convince, it certainly leads one to question the evidence and wonder what the truth really was.

I would therefore urge you, reader, if you have not already done so, to heed the recent recommendation of a wise Washington Post reviewer, who said that we must relegate the historical controversy to the background and instead concentrate on The Daughter of Time's very substantial virtues as one of the twentieth century's great works of fiction.



RICHARD III – ENGLAND`S GREATEST MONARCH?

Having spoken for Henry VIII at several monarchy debates, and lost every time (once, shamefully, to King John), I came up with this very tongue-in-cheek pitch for Richard III. Unfortunately, one lady took it rather badly and accused me of making cheap jokes at his expense. But the piece was meant to be light-hearted and humorous, as I knew I had no hope of winning, and every single speaker in these debates takes a biased viewpoint. It's here purely for entertainment, and not meant to be taken so seriously.  

Let me begin with an apology. Some of you will know that, many years ago, I wrote a book about the Princes in the Tower in which I was pretty hard on Richard III. But I`ve since had time to reflect on those conclusions and to realise that perhaps historical research doesn`t tell us everything we want to hear. Because – let`s face it – everybody knows that Richard III was England`s greatest monarch. Or he would have been if he`d reigned longer than two years. The poor man really never had a chance, and he certainly doesn`t nowadays with historians like me having a go at him. But there are many people – among them the Richard III Society – who know the truth and who are so assiduous in sticking up for Richard – and indeed, in convincing us all that he is a prime candidate not just for greatest monarch but indeed for canonisation – that there`s really no need for me to stand up here for the next ten minutes (or eight, now), arguing the case for his greatness. But it`s not very entertaining for you to watch a historian standing here twiddling her thumbs and saying nothing, so I`m going to make it up to Richard III by saying why I think he should get your vote today.

Before I get down to the nitty gritty, let`s just dispose of what should be the trifling matter of the Princes in the Tower, because that`s really been the issue that`s done it over the centuries for King Richard. How could a man who loved his brother so much, and served him so faithfully, have murdered that brother`s children? Richard loved children. He was grief-stricken when his own son died. He loved his family. He even wanted to marry his niece, the Princes` sister – the fact that he had a wife already didn`t count very much because she was ill and not expected to live. And a man who was so devout and owned books of the most moving prayers could surely never have contemplated so vile an act as the shedding of infants` blood? Of course, the Princes were in his custody at the time they disappeared, and were never seen again, nor did Richard ever say that they were alive and well when people were suggesting otherwise, but that`s not evidence that he had them killed. In fact, there is no actual evidence that he ordered their murder. There was no note with the bodies saying, `It wasn`t me, signed Richard`. Besides, everyone knows that it was either that horrible Henry Tudor or the devious Duke of Buckingham who really murdered them, and look how Richard dealt with them!

Richard was a brave soldier and acquitted himself well in battle. He fought in the Wars of the Roses, and at eighteen, when his brother, the victorious Edward IV, gave orders that his rival Henry VI be secretly done away with, Richard was there at the Tower of London that very night, almost certainly to see that the deed was done humanely. Later, he fought in the north, where his crowning achievement was to win back for good the town of Berwick, which had changed hands twelve times, from the Scots.

Richard, a true knight errant, rescued his future wife, Anne Neville, from the clutches of his greedy brother, the Duke of Clarence, who had married her sister Isabel and kept Anne shut up as a kitchen maid in order to get his hands on both heiresses` lands and riches. Richard must have loved Anne deeply; the fact that she was a great heiress probably had far less to do with it. And the fact that he married her without a proper papal dispensation, with what appeared to be an eye to the future, was probably just the oversight of an eager lover.

Loyal to his brother Edward IV, Richard was deeply dismayed when the King married Elizabeth Wydeville, a commoner, for love, which was unheard of for a monarch in those days, and Richard was even more perturbed by the fact that her undeserving, grasping, ambitious family all grew rich, well-married and powerful as a result. He knew they were a bad influence on the King, and they, in turn, hated and feared Richard. But Richard was not often at court. He lived in the north, chiefly in Yorkshire, where Edward IV, as a mark of great trust, allowed Richard almost sovereign power north of the Trent. Richard built up good working relationships with the local gentry and the citizens of York – and he probably fretted a lot about the fact that the King`s heir, Edward, Prince of Wales, was being brought up by the evil Wydevilles. And that was why, when Edward IV died prematurely, at 42, in 1483, Richard staged a brilliant coup, seized the boy from the clutches of his pernicious relatives, and clapped those relatives into prison, where he later had them executed. He knew it was either them or him, and also that his brother had desired that he rule the kingdom as Lord Protector while the young Edward V was still a child.

The young King was sent to lodge in the Tower palace rior to his coronation, and Richard arranged for the boy`s younger brother to be sent to join him for company. True, he had to have Westminster Abbey, where Elizabeth Wydeville had taken sanctuary, surrounded by a ring of steel in order to force her to give up the child, but he dared not trust the Wydevilles. Far better that the Princes were both under their uncle`s loving protection.

Soon afterwards, Richard learned – no doubt to his dismay – that his brother Edward was not his father`s son, but the son of his mother, the reverend Cecily, Duchess of York - `proud Cis` as she was known – by an archer. That meant that Edward V was not the rightful king. But when this news was announced in London, the people weren`t too impressed. They`d heard it all before, years ago, and had discounted it then. Then almost at once Richard got further devastating news, that his brother Edward IV had not been lawfully married to Elizabeth Wydeville, and so their children were bastards. Reluctantly, as the next heir, Richard had to accept the crown that was pressed on him by his friends.

Richard III proved to be a good king. He preserved the peace of the realm by efficiently putting down rebellions. He displayed great moderation and clemency to those who would later betray him. He showed himself to be a sovereign worthy of respect, a man of high morals and political integrity, keen to uphold the liberties of church and state. And in that respect, he was a very modern monarch – the Peter Mandelson of his day, in fact – because he was the first king to pioneer the art of spin and, indeed, useful character assassination.

The legislation passed in Richard`s only parliament was wise, beneficial and ahead of its time. The King was a good lawmaker who legislated for the ease and solace of the common people. That parliament provided for the first legal aid system in England, bail for offenders, the reform of oppressive land tenure laws, the regulation of jury service, and the abolition of the hated benevolences system, whereby rich men were forced to make financial gifts to the Crown. Today, we are still benefitting from Richard III`s laws. Of course, we have no idea how far he personally was responsible for them, but as he was such a great man in other respects that one suspects that it was a great deal.

Richard was an energetic and efficient ruler. He announced that he was utterly determined that all his subjects should live in rest and quiet and peaceably enjoy their lands. It was said of him, `He ruled this realm full commendably.` He was hard-working and generally merciful. `He had a great heart,` another said, and `so much spirit and great virtue`. `For justice, who can we reckon above him throughout the world? Both in peace and in waging war, who can we judge his equal? If we look for truth of soul, for wisdom, for loftiness of mind united with modesty, who stands before our King Richard? What emperor or prince can be compared with him in good works or munificence?` `Old Dick`, as his servants affectionately called him, was also assiduous in attending to state business – and seeing that they did.

This paragon of a King embarked on a crusade `to see virtue and cleanness of living to be advanced, and vices repressed`. This innate morality was evident even in political life, when Richard offered a reward for the capture of certain traitors under the banner, `Proclamation for the reform of morals.` He made Edward IV`s mistress, Elizabeth Shore, perform public penance for her promiscuity. And he himself had `blameless morals`, according to an Italian observer. `Which of our princes shows more genuine piety?` it was asked. Richard was a great benefactor of the Church, a patron of the arts and learning who kept a magnificent court.

In short, he was everything a great ruler should be, but his downfall came about through the machinations of clever and ambitious enemies, who would keep resurrecting that irritating question of the Princes` disappearance. In the end, the forces of opposition united under Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and in August 1485, Richard fell, `fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies` at the Battle of Bosworth.

Although there had been riots in York against his rule, and it was a citizen of York who first nicknamed Richard `Crouchback`, prompting Tudor painters to add humps to his portraits - the City Council recorded mournfully that `King Richard, late reigning mercifully over us, was, through the great treason of many that turned against him, piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city.` Since then, bitter controversy has surrounded Richard`s reputation. I think it's time to set the record straight!


RICHARD PLANTAGENET OF EASTWELL - RICHARD III'S BASTARD SON?



In the ruined church of St Mary’s at Eastwell, Kent there stands a stone tomb bearing a plaque inscribed with the following words: 'Reputed to be the tomb of Richard Plantagenet, 22. December 1550.'
   In Francis Peck's Desiderata Curiosa, published in 1735, there is a curious tale that had been passed down in a local family, and corroborated in 1720 by the discovery of the record of Richard Plantagenet's burial in the parish registers.
   Around 1546 a Kentish knight, Sir Thomas Moyle, had in his employ a bricklayer, an old man who was working on Eastwell Place, Moyle’s house. One day Moyle had occasion to call upon him, and discovered him reading, which was unusual, because most labouring men were illiterate.
   The old man then told him his story. He had been born 77 years before. He did not know who his real parents were, but grew up in the house of a Latin schoolmaster, with whom he boarded until he was 16. Four times a year a mysterious gentleman visited the house and paid for his upkeep. On one occasion this gentleman took him to a great house with fine furnishings, where the boy met a man wearing a star and garter, who welcomed him kindly. When Richard was 16, the gentleman came again, unexpectedly, and took him to see the same man, who was waiting for them in a in a silken tent in the midst of a military camp near Bosworth, Leicestershire. The man revealed that he was Richard III, King of England, and that the boy was his son, born out of wedlock. The King told him that he was about to go into battle against his enemy, Henry Tudor, and arranged for his son to watch the battle from a safe vantage point. He promised that, if he proved victorious, he would acknowledge young Richard. If he lost, he warned the lad to conceal his identity forever.
   King Richard was killed in the battle, whereupon the boy fled to London. Here he was apprenticed to a bricklayer, but managed to keep up the Latin he had learned by reading during his leisure hours.
   Sir Thomas Moyle, upon hearing his story, offered him the stewardship of Eastwell’s kitchens. But the old man was used to seclusion and declined the offer. Instead, he asked permission to build a one-room house on Moyle's estate and live there until he died. Moyle readily granted his request. A building called Plantagenet Cottage still stands on the site of his house.
   The tomb in the church (which was damaged by a bomb in the Second World War) is more likely to be that of Sir Walter Moyle, although Richard Plantagenet's burial was recorded in the parish register.



CROSBY HALL - ONCE RICHARD III'S LONDON RESIDENCE



Crosby Hall is a historic building in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London, England. It is a Grade II* listed building. Its story is extraordinary. Sir John Crosby was the son of a wealthy fishmonger who became a freeman of the Grocer’s Company in 1452-54. He traded in luxury textiles, especially silk, from his warehouse just off Poultry. But Crosby was not merely a rich merchant; he was a diplomat, politician, soldier and a fervent Yorkist who was knighted by Edward IV in 1471.
   In 1466 John Crosby built a mansion, Crosby Hall, in Bishopsgate. In 1483 he briefly rented it to Richard Duke of Gloucester who used it as his London home. It was used as the setting for a scene in William Shakespeare's 'Richard III'. The only surviving part of Sir John Crosby’s house is the great hall, the most important surviving secular domestic medieval building in London. On several occasions it has been snatched from the brink of demolition.
   In the reign of Henry VIII it belonged to a merchant, Antonio Bonvisi. Following a fire in 1672 only the Great Hall and Parlour wing of the mansion survived, it then became a Presbyterian Meeting House, and then a warehouse with an inserted floor. In 1910 it was threatened with demolition and then moved brick by brick to its present site and the rest of the building designed by Walter Godfrey constructed around it. The move was paid for by the Bank of India who had purchased the Bishopsgate site to build offices. Godfrey also added the north wing in 1925-6 as a women's university hall of residence. Crosby Hall was bought in 1989 by Christopher Moran, a businessman who is the Chairman of Co-operation Ireland. After a 400-year gap, it is being incorporated back into a private house.



MISCELLANY

As a teenager, I was heavily influenced by Josephine Tey's novel, The Daughter of Time, and Paul Murray Kendall's biography of Richard III. For 25 years I believed that Richard III had been much maligned. It wasn`t until I researched the subject fully that I came round to the opposite viewpoint. 

Despite overwhelmingly positive reviews, I did get a few negative responses to this book; one correspondent wrote that the best place for it was the waste paper basket (she later apologised). Many serious historians do take the view that Richard III had the Princes in the Tower killed, but anyone approaching this or any other historical subject must rely on the information in contemporary sources, and what can credibly be inferred from that. There shouldn`t be any question of a fashionable or unfashionable viewpoint - one must be objective, and not get too emotionally involved. I changed my views when I researched this book, and I am still - I hope - objective enough to be persuaded to change them again should convincing evidence be put before me!

There have been ongoing discussions about having the bones (thought to be of the Princes) in Westminster Abbey DNA-tested, but the Abbey is a `royal peculiar`, and therefore the final decision rests with the Queen, who, I have learned, is against any of the royal tombs being disturbed. However, the Prince of Wales is keen to have the bones tested, so that may indeed happen in time. 

From Dr Tudor Craig, F.S.A. (Pamela, Lady Wedgwood) to Alison Weir: "I'm so glad you are finding my Richard III a mine of information for your book The Princes in the Tower. I entirely agree with you that the interlocking of the inmates of the Minories are an essential feature in the study of the fate of the little Princes. I'm glad you are going to take my work further.'


Please note that there is an error in the family tree drawn up by me, working under pressure - I omitted Richard, Duke of York and Cecily Neville, the parents of Edward IV and Richard III.

Reader Jean Smith has emailed me with an intriguing theory about the Princes (June, 2013): "I read The Princes in the Tower about a year ago.  I've read some other information on them since then and wonder if it's possible they committed suicide?  If the older son, Edward, was really depressed and certain he was going to die, is it possible he convinced his younger brother that they should die together?  Suicide was considered a horrible sin in those times (the boys weren't old enough to maybe understand this the same way an adult might) and may account for the reasons why no-one would talk about what happened to the princes?"
   My reply: "It's an interesting theory, one I had not considered before. Suicide was not only considered a damnable sin, it was an act that cut the sinner off from God and any hope of eternal life. Elizabethan audiences would have understood the greater tragedy that lay behind Romeo and Juliet far more than we do. It was for this reason that suicides were relatively rare in the medieval period, and there is evidence that suggests mental illness in some whose suicides were recorded. That all said - we just can't say for certain. Given the evidence of Edward V's pain and distress while in the Tower, it's a possibility we can't rule out. But he had also prepared himself for death, so presumably he hoped for eternal life afterwards. He would have known that suicide would prevent that. But what if the balance of his mind became unhinged as a result of stress? There's no real evidence, and the weight of circumstantial and other evidence against Richard III is far more compelling. But it's worth bearing your theory in mind."


In response to a discussion on Richard III's remains at the Hexham Book Festival (April 2014), Dr John Charles Jackson and his wife, Patricia Jackson, a consultant radiographer, have kindly sent me the following information: "Age determination at death by examining the developing ends of long bones (the so-called epiphyses) is a well-developed forensic technique, explained very clearly on http://www.jenjdanna.com/blog/2011/12/13/forensics-101-epiphyseal-fusion.html; I understand that recent refinements give estimates which are even more accurate than the ones mentioned therein.  All would depend of course upon the completeness of the skeletons in question and their state of preservation, but having read an account of the 1933 examination, I suspect that the material available is adequate. There is a good chance that a modern forensic team could determine the respective ages to within plus or minus 6 months, and would do so in non-destructive fashion.  So if DNA tests were to show that they are indeed the princes and we have accurate ages at death, then the mystery would probably be solved."