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View Diary: Richard III and the Princes in the Tower (w/poll) (118 comments)

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  •  Some think there was (4+ / 0-)

    From Isolde Wigram of the Richard III society

    http://www.r3.org/...

    ..at this point it would perhaps be relevant to consider the supposed bones of the princes in Westminster Abbey. The findings from the examination in 1933 of the surviving bones by Professor William Wright, the foremost anatomist of his day, and Dr George Northcroft, President of the Dental Association, were reported by Mr. Lawrence Tanner, Keeper of the Muniments at Westminster Abbey in Archaeologia vol. 34 (1934), pp.8-26 and were exhaustively analysed, with reference to many of the existing authorities with published works on the subject, by W.J. White and P.W. Hammond in 'The Sons of Edward IV, A re-examination of the evidence on their deaths and on the Bones in Westminster Abbey', Richard III, Loyalty Lordship and Law (Yorkist History Trust 1986).

    Some salient points which emerged were that there were indications in existing and unerupted teeth of a greater likelihood of the origin being a female skeleton, and that the age gap between the two sets of bones seemed to be less than the nearly three years between the princes. Although the possibility of sexing pre-pubertal skeletons existed in 1933, Professor Wright assumed throughout that they were those of boys, and of course there was no indication whatever of the period when they had been buried.

    This last point, in relation to the place where the bones were found, is crucial. The two sets of bones were discovered in 1674 by workmen demolishing a stone staircase connecting the royal apartments with the White Tower. John Knight, Principal Surgeon to Charles II, an eye-witness, reported 'about Ten Feet in the ground were found the Bones of Two Striplings in (as it seem'd) a Wooden Chest, which upon the survey were found proportionable to the Ages of those Two Brothers, viz. about Thirteen and Eleven Years. The Scull of one being entire, the other broken ...' [8] Sir Christopher Wren, commissioned by the King as 'Surveyor General of His Majesties Workes' to provide a marble urn for the remains, added 'about ten feet deep in the ground... as the workmen were taking away the stairs which led from the royal lodgings into the Chapel of the White tower' [9] .

    Sir Thomas More, who gives the most detailed account of the supposed murder, clearly stated that the bodies were removed from the place where they were first buried 'at the stayre foot, metely depe in the ground under a great heape of stones' to a 'better' site 'because thei were a kinges sonnes' [10] by a priest of Sir Robert Brakenbury who then died, so that no one knew where they were buried - this presumably to explain why Henry VII was unable to find and produce the bodies. In spite of this statement, the discovery of the skeletons of children 'at the stair foot' was eagerly seized on both in 1674 and in 1933. The Herculean task of an excavation ten feet deep in the ground would clearly have been totally unnecessary for the supposed murderers of 1483 or the workmen of 1674, and it seems more likely that the bodies - whosever they were - were inserted within the stairs from the bottom or side, perhaps ten feet down from the stair landing, or even that they had been in position before or at the time the staircase was built. In any case the 1933 findings have been much questioned by experts.

    Moreover this was not the first pair of children's skeletons found in the Tower to be identified with the princes. Two accounts, probably referring to the same discovery, report the finding of children's skeletons in a sealed up room in the Tower in 1603, which were promptly assumed to be those of the princes although the ages are too young. The Australian scholar John Morgan's paper on this, 'Have the Princes' Bones been found in the Tower ?' is in the Barton Library of the Richard III Society, and I reproduce here his diagram of the relevant sections of the Tower showing the sites of both discoveries: (Figures 1 and 2).

    plan of Cole Harbour Tower

    Figure 1: Cole Harbour Tower

    Diagram of the White Tower

    Figure 2: Buildings near the White Tower

    If therefore the supposed bones of the princes in their urn in Westminster Abbey are a red herring, we can now turn to other possibilities. Even if Richard III were devoid of feeling for the young sons of a much-loved brother who had entrusted them to his care, it could be argued 'Why should he, an intelligent man, not have seen the fatal damage to his reputation by their murder, beyond all possible gain ? Such a scandal at the very outset of his reign, when he was on a triumphal progress, would have been the action of a lunatic, besides clearing the way for Henry, as he was probably aware of the latter's hopes. In order to take every precaution therefore it is possible that he sent the boys abroad, which is why they disappeared from the Tower and Richard was silent in face of the rumours'. [11] .

    I would give Richard III a verdict of Not Proven in charges of his murdering the Princes.  In Tudor's defense he genuinely seems not to have known what became of the princes.  He certainly could not produce their bodies.  Maybe it was Buckingham after all..

    Its better to be over the hill than under it

    by Tonga 23 on Sat Jan 29, 2011 at 08:57:23 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  The report of the 1603 skeletons is not (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tonga 23

      based on a contemporary report but rather on a claim made in 1647 by somebody who said that somebody else said that Sir Walter Raleigh had found skeletons sometime between 1603-1614.  Professor Ross does not find this to be supported by any real evidence.  (See Ross, Richard III, page 97).

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Sat Jan 29, 2011 at 09:02:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Has any evidence been uncovered (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Black Knight, Cartoon Peril

        AFTER 1951 when Tey wrote Daughter of Time?  Genuinely curious -when staying in London in 1976 my housemate was a history major doing his senior project on a defense of Richard III which is how I became interested in it and read Daughter of Time.

        The possibility that intrigues me is that neither Richard nor Tudor did it-and that neither knew who did it.  That tends to explain to me why Richard made no attempt to publicly display the bodies of the princes and pin the blame on someone else.  

        Its better to be over the hill than under it

        by Tonga 23 on Sat Jan 29, 2011 at 09:18:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I am not that conversant in the scholarship (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Tonga 23, tardis10

          I know that Ross (1981) wrote a very thorough history.  

          When I set out to write this diary, I was convinced that R3 was guilty, guilty, guilty.  

          But after studying the various points of view,  I"m really only certain that the Princes were dead by fall of 1483, and that Richard was probably, but not certainly the perpetrator.

          You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

          by Cartoon Peril on Sat Jan 29, 2011 at 09:23:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, Richard needed to be careful (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cartoon Peril, Tonga 23

          even if he wasn't the murderer himself.  The boys were being held in the Tower, and the Tower was under Richard's control.  The thing about that is that it means that somebody in Richard's employ had to be involved - for example, a guard bribed to do the murders or to allow the murderers in.  And that means few would have believed that Richard didn't know and wasn't involved, had he publicly displayed the princes' bodies.

          And if Richard genuinely had no idea who killed the princes, he would have had to consider the possibility that it was one of his own supporters.  If he displayed the bodies and the identity of the murderer(s) came to light and they were of his faction, well, forget it.  Even fewer people would have believed Richard himself wasn't involved.

          Much safer to simply hush it all up.

    •  I agree with your verdict (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, Cartoon Peril, Tonga 23

      I believe the boys were dead by 1485 and that Tudor didn't kill them - not because he wasn't capable of it, but because somebody beat him to it - but I really don't know who actually did.  Could have been Richard, one of Richard's circle acting on his own, or Buckingham.  Short of finding a genuine signed confession by someone, I don't think the identity of the murderer can ever be proven.

      •  Professor Ross supports you on Buckingham (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tonga 23

        Writing in 1981, Ross states a recent study suggested that Buckingham may have instigated or carried out the murders.  If true, would require reexamination of his role in the rebellion of 1483

        You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

        by Cartoon Peril on Sat Jan 29, 2011 at 09:19:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  If, and this is a long shot, Richard did send (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Floja Roja, Cartoon Peril

      the boys away, there is really only one place he could have sent them where he could be reasonably sure of their safety - and it wasn't anywhere in England. It was in Burgundy under the protective wing of his sister Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Burgundy and former stepmother-in-law to Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor (Burgundy was at this point nominally one of his possessions).

      Margaret supported both Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck - she would have supported anyone who would make trouble for Henry Tudor,  and Henry might fuss and fume but he couldn't do anything about her.

      If it's
      Not your body
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      AND it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:53:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree, and I believe Richard's mother had sent (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Floja Roja

        him there with his brother Clarence when things were looking bad for the Yorkists, I think this was in 1460 or so.  So Flanders would have been the place for them to be if Richard thought they needed to be made safe.

        But then why wouldn't Margaret have greeted them openly?  Of course, some people say she did, only it was just the younger one, whom we know know as Perkin Warbeck.

        And then again comes along the 1674 skeletons -- if the princes were in Flanders, then whose skeletons were in the box?

        You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

        by Cartoon Peril on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:59:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The years in Flanders may have been what forged (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Floja Roja, Cartoon Peril

          that unbreakable bond (on Richard's side) between Richard and the feckless George. Edward saw the necessity of eliminating George when he became too great a liability, but Richard argued against it until he realized that there was no changing Edward's mind.

          If it's
          Not your body
          Then it's
          Not your choice
          AND it's
          None of your damn business!

          by TheOtherMaven on Mon Jan 31, 2011 at 07:14:24 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

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