Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Princes in the Tower

I am excited to announce the publication of my new book, The Princes in the Tower, in early October 2013.
In the search for who killed the Princes in the Tower, their uncle, King Richard III has always been the clear favourite. It is easy to see why. The Princes disappeared while under his care. They disappeared after his ‘usurpation’. Rumour had it that Richard had murdered them. He made no attempt to produce the boys, even though doing so would have proved the rumours false, cleared his name and gone some way to restoring public support. Richard regarded his nephews as a threat to his safety, giving him a good motive for killing them. That Richard imprisoned them in the Tower is proof of his intentions, not only to take the throne, but to do away with his nephews, one of whom was the rightful king, the other the rightful heir presumptive. But is it really as simple as that? The following extract is taken from the introduction:

In June 1483 the twelve-year-old King Edward V was deposed. His place was taken by his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who acceded as King Richard III. Having been educated to rule, nurtured in the belief that he would one day wear his father’s crown and occupy his throne, the boy, once so independent of mind, so impatient to assert himself and make his mark on the world, was now watched over by those appointed by the new king, an uncle he barely knew.

Twelve days after his coronation, Richard III issued an official warrant authorising the payment of wages to those who had provided services to the late Edward IV and to ‘Edward Bastard late called king Edward the Vth.’ The new king then set out on progress, leaving his unseated predecessor lodged with his younger brother in their sumptuous royal apartments within the Tower. What happened to them next has been a matter of scholarly debate ever since.

The story of the Princes in the Tower is so intricately interwoven with that of Richard III that it is impossible to write about one and not the other. All too easily, however, the mystery of the Princes can ‘hijack’ a biography of Richard III so that, following the coronation and the royal progress to the north, the narrative gives way to a discussion of whether or not he killed his nephews. Bosworth then comes suddenly upon the reader, and is often presented as Richard’s just deserts or a tragedy according to which way the author had settled the ‘did-he-or-did-he-not’ question. There is very good reason for this, of course; the subject is so deeply involved that it is fully deserving of study in its own right.

As I embarked on the second volume of my biography of Richard III, I found things going surprisingly smoothly - until I reached the point where I had to talk about what happened to Edward V and Richard, Duke of York. I knew that everything that came after would be shaped by whatever conclusion I drew regarding their fate. I could not ignore the boys. Omitting any mention of them from an account that would not even have been possible without their removal was unacceptable. On the other hand, I could not allow their story to swamp my biography of Richard.

In my dilemma, I set Richard aside for a while and returned to previous researches I had made into the Princes’ story over a period of several years. Having reinvestigated the original sources, I was able to revise some of what I had written previously. I suddenly found myself with a mass of material that, with a few tweaks and adjustments to eliminate, as far as possible, repetition, could be published as a collection of discrete essays, if not a running narrative of the Princes in the Tower. I also wrote a new essay entitled ‘The Rumour’.

This book, then, is largely the result of that work. It is a text-based study of the Princes applying a ‘source, form and redaction’ approach to the original sources. It does not represent all the research I did during that period, but it does include what are, in my opinion, the most important studies. Nor does it claim to be exhaustive.

Dealing with the Princes acted as a catharsis which, hopefully, should enable me to continue my biography of Richard III, in which he is the leading man and not a supporting actor in the story of his nephews.

Following this introduction, the book presents two essays, or more accurately, short biographies of the Princes themselves: Edward V and Richard, Duke of York. This gives the reader some idea of who the Princes were as people in their own right; it attempts to emphasise their importance and ensures their inclusion in a history that would not have been possible without them.

The next essay is an analysis of Richard’s Act of Settlement: Titulus Regius. It looks at who was behind this important and intriguing document, presenting and explaining its content, and showing how it applied to the state of the realm as it was perceived to stand following Edward IV’s death and, perhaps more importantly, how it applied to Richard.

The approach changes now, with the following four essays dedicated to those who, after Richard III, are most popularly believed to have been responsible for the murder of the Princes. These are John Howard, whose inheritance of the dukedom of Norfolk has been interpreted as his reward for doing away with the Princes, while evidence contained in his Household Books that he carried out mysterious building work at ‘la Tour’ appears to strengthen the case against him. Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham is a favourite with many. His motives for murder vary, but can be condensed into ambition both personal and dynastic, regret for having helped Richard to the throne and greed. Sir James Tyrell, a loyal servant of Edward IV, but more especially associated with Richard III, is considered by some to have murdered the Princes, a belief predicated on his alleged confession to the crime. Finally, Henry VII, a firm favourite among ‘revisionists,’ certainly had a very strong motive for murdering the Princes. Having restored the legitimacy of their sister, Elizabeth of York, he also restored that of her brothers, effectively restoring Edward V as heir to the Yorkist throne.  Perhaps Henry's behaviour towards their mother reveals that she knew something more than he was comfortable with, but what are we to make of how he treated the various pretenders to his throne?

Returning to more specifically to textual evidence, the next essay looks at Sir Thomas More’s History of King Richard III, providing an analysis of the narrative, including its form, context and author intent.

The essay following, entitled ‘The Rumour’, was written especially for this collection. It is still commonly believed by some that the accusation that Richard murdered his nephews originated with Tudor sources. This essay shows beyond doubt that this was not so. In an exercise of what might be called ‘textual archaeology’, this study begins by placing the earliest sources to mention the Princes following the new King Edward V’s entrance to London into the order in which first they appeared. In so doing, it is possible to pinpoint precisely when Richard III’s name became linked with the fate of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ and why. Focusing on the all-important rumour, it shows when it first emerged, the context in which it arose, what purpose it served, who could have devised it and who was responsible for spreading it.

From the foregoing, it becomes clear that whatever happened to the Princes happened during Richard's reign, and it is there that we will find the answers - providing we ask the right questions. The book ends with a short conclusion. It is fully referenced and includes a bibliography.


  1. Hello. I have read four of your books and particularly enjoyed your first book on Richard III. Can you tell me when your 'Richard III - From Lord of the North to King of England' will be published and, if you can say, why it has taken so long?

    Thanks so much. Love, a fan, Kevin

  2. Dear Kevin - Thank you for your kind comments, and I am very happy that you enjoyed the first part of my Richard III biography. I can assure you that I am still working on the second part, although I cannot say when it will be completed, This work is entirely self-funded, so I must give priority to paid projects. I hope you're not too disappointed.

  3. Thank you so much for replying. This is perhaps the book on Richard I am most looking forward to as your first is my favourite book on Richard I have read over the last few years. As I try to read a Yorkist or Tudor history book every two weeks I am not too disappointed as there are plenty of other titles to choose from. I myself am attempting to write a book on Richard for children. I am a primary school teaching assistant who heard with frustration my teacher introduce the Tudors with the usual 'Richard III murdered his nephews' story; the same one I was told when I was a boy. At that time I had not read as much as I have now so I could not argue a different case but it inspired me to write a book for children looking at all the passionate arguments about Richard's life. I also aim to make it a serious, yet of course understandable read for children; less pictoral and jokey as children's history books tend to be these days. I would not have bothered with all these silly 'Horrible Histories' when I was a child, not that I was ever a serious one!

  4. Dear Kevin - I must apologise for my later replay. I have been on an extended research trip and have neglected my correspondence. I'm flattered that you like my book on Richard III, and I hope the second volume lives up to your expectations. I'd estimate that I am about two thirds of the way through now.

    It's wonderful that you are writing your own book about Richard for children. I wish you well with it. I understand what you mean about children's books being jokey and light-hearted, as though that's the only approach children can understand. A good format to follow, in my view, would be similar to 'Sur les traces de Louis XIV' by Thierry Aprile and Antoine Ronzon, link below, which is beautifully written and set out and contains a surprising amount of information for a children's book.

    I must admit, though, that I love 'Horrible Histories', which I suspect have more adult fans. I also love all four series of Blackadder!


  5. Dear Josephine I just read your book the princes in the tower and I found it extremely Interesting. No regrets to buy and have this book in my library. The amount of information And the work you have put into this project is enormous. It's difficult though when we don't have concrete evidence of what exactly happened to them. So many opinions but little evidence. Having said that, it was a bolt move on your behalf to consider likely improbable for Richard to have them murdered. Unfortunately you can't easily ignore the Tyrels confession. It's the only evidence we really have and is against Richard. I was thinking that if this confession wouldn't exist I would strongly doubt that Richard did it. But until new evidence come to light..... I regretably consider the evidence produced history written by the 'victors'. Once again, Congratulations. Kind regards Panos

  6. Hello Panos,
    Thank you for your comment and your kind words about my book. I'm glad you liked it! The mystery of the Princes is certainly absorbing and, sadly, one that cannot easily be solved with the evidence so far available. As you know, I didn't ignore Tyrell's alleged confession, but placed in into its proper context and gave the reasons why I found it suspicious. Having said that, I do think that James Tyrell could well hold the key to the Princes' ultimate fate.

  7. Hello Josephine thank you for replying to me. I could not agree more with you that James indeed could hold the key to the mystery and unfortunately it looks it has been buried with him. I look forward to your reading our next projects/books and I look up for your page on facebook. Best wishes Panos.


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