Review of ‘The “Princes” in the Tower’ (Channel 4)
There were many good things about this programme. Dr. Janina Ramirez joined Dr. John Ashdown-Hill and the lawyer Bertram Fields. All three have studied the late medieval period in detail and in different ways.
Then there was Dr. David Starkey. He is a renowned expert on the 1509-1603 period but tends to derive his views on earlier monarchs such as Richard III from his admiration for the second and the last “Tudor” monarchs. Two years ago, in a BBC2 (“Tudor” Court season) discussion on Anne Boleyn, he totally “owned” Alison Weir, his only adversary. Here, however, he treated More (a joke in historical terms) as a Fifth Gospel although More was only five in 1483.
He described Lord Hastings as not having had a trial, although logic and evidence make this highly unlikely, and freely deduced from this false conclusion. He relied on More’s post hoc ergo propter hoc assumption of Richard’s past conduct being part of some Masterplan, although Ramirez and Ashdown-Hill were of the opposite view. They raised the importance of Edward IV’s bigamy, which he didn’t. He also spoke of Tyrrell’s “confession”, although we now know, thanks to Susan Leas (quoted in https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/perkin-again/) that this post-dates not merely Tyrrell’s life but that of Henry VII because the latter never referred to it in the (nearly) seven years by which he survived Tyrrell. Dr. Ashdown-Hill was able to mention that the illegitimacy of Edward V and his brother gave Richard a much reduced motive for disposing of them.
Many of you will have read Annette Carson’s “Maligned King”, particularly the chapters on Richard’s conduct in April-June 1483 before Stillington’s bombshell interrupts the plans to crown Edward V, removing all sources and then putting them back in chronological order. This was criticised in some denialist quarters, only for Dr. Josephine Wilkinson to carry out the same exercise with identical results.
Dr. Starkey, should limit his appearances a little more to his area of expertise – the “Tudors” – and preserve his reputation from the damage it suffered in the 1984 “Trial”. This era in particular looks to be in good hands among the younger generation, free of preconceptions as they are, however,