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Those mysterious children’s coffins in Edward IV’s tomb….

edward-iv-tomb-st-georges

The following is courtesy of my good friend Eileen Bates, whose hard work has unveiled the truth about Edward IV’s tomb and those mysterious children’s coffins at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Could they be those of the boys in the Tower?

section-from-the-plan-of-grave-stones-of-st-georges-chapel-1789

The above is a Section from the Plan of Grave Stones of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, 1789. Edward’s tomb and the presumed vault containing his son George can be clearly seen on the right. This is the largest version of this plan that I have been able to find.

There has been a story hanging around for some time now that when Edward’s vault/coffin was discovered in 1790, an adjoining vault was also discovered which contained the coffins of two children, at the time thought to be those of Edward’s children – George who died aged 2, and Mary who died aged 15.  A ledger stone was laid naming George.  A drawing/diagram that was made at that time was on St George’s timeline clearing showing the ledger stone with the inscription.  

vault-of-edward-iv 

Again, I have been unable to find a clearer version of this illustration.

In 1810, during further work being made at St George’s, the actual lead coffins of George and Mary were discovered in another part of the chapel. So, whose little coffins were in the vault beside Edward and Elizabeth?  Thus the legend was born that there were two mysterious coffins in the vault, which might, just might, belong to the missing boys in the Tower. Eileen wondered if, for example, Buckingham might have murdered the boys, and Richard (not guilty of a hand in it!) then had them buried secretly next to their father.   

The puzzle of the coffins appeared on the web page of the chapel and also an article in the Richard III Society Bulletin in September 2001, by someone who worked at the chapel in the capacity of a steward.  In the article it stated that further investigation would be made about the vault and its contents, but unfortunately this was never updated.  

Together with another friend on the RIII Society Forum, Eileen made an on-line search for the report that had been made at the time. It was found but could not be opened. Eileen then asked the St George’s Archivist directly, who kindly responded on 22nd November, 2016, to the effect that the original information on their website was inaccurate. In 1790 the report related that a vault was noticed, but not explored, and it was thought it would contain the coffins of the children, George, Duke of Bedford, and Princess Mary. But then in 1810 their coffins were discovered elsewhere in the chapel, so it was no longer possible that they lay in the vault in the North Quire Aisle, next to their parents. 

The blog posted in 2012 misinterpreted the information, and speculated that the coffins in Edward’s vault belonged to the missing boys from the Tower. This has now been corrected on the website.

So, the whole story is based on an omission.  When the secret vault was discovered it was not explored, but was believed to probably hold the remains of Edward’s children, George and Mary, who were subsequently located elsewhere  No one actually looked. If there are coffins in there next to Edward and Elizabeth, it is not known when they date from or who they are.  St George’s webpage has now been edited to reflect this.   

So, Eileen has finally solved the mystery of the coffins in the St George’s vault, that could have contained the boys in the Tower.  They are not George and Mary. In fact, no one even knows if there are coffins in there at all, because no one has ever looked. It was just taken for granted.

viscountessw: Which, of course, provides another mystery!

At the time of writing this (25th November 2016), the St George’s website appears to be down. http://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/about-st-georges/history/st-georges-timeline.html

 

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17 thoughts on “Those mysterious children’s coffins in Edward IV’s tomb….

  1. Christie on said:

    Everybody loves a good mystery….leave it @ that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eileen Bates on said:

      Re how could the coffin of a nine year old be mistaken for that of a two year old?…there were no coffins..the second vault was spotted when they found Edward’s and Elizabeth’s vault. It was ‘presumed’ at that time that the vault probably contained the coffins of George and Mary..that is all. From that has grown the speculation that there were two more children of Edward buried in that vault and could they be the ‘princes’ in the Tower.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. halfwit36 on said:

    That Richard would have the boys buried secretly doesn’t wash. He had to come up with some explanation for their disappearance and/or presumed death, or he could not benefit from it. In fact, it would be a dis-benefit. It need not be a believable explanation, just one that could be accepted. And why not blame Buckingham, whether he was guilty or not?
    Besides, how could the coffin of a 9-year-old be mistaken for that of a 2-year-old? or vice-versa? I don’t say it was impossible, just very unlikely.

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    • viscountessw on said:

      Buckingham wasn’t blamed, he was used as an example of what MAY have happened. As for Richard having the boys buried secretly, isn’t that what his detractors have been saying for centuries? Just substitute St George’s for the Tower. And the whole point is that there do not appear to be any coffins at all , because the vault was never investigated. Unless it is opened up again and examined in detail, we won’t know any more.

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      • halfwit36 on said:

        Viscountess, I’m on your side. Of course, Richard wouldn’t have had them buried secretly. If there were no coffins, I still don’t see how the bones of a 2-year-old could be mistaken for an older child. Maybe this is just another myth. Or they could be genuine, but not closely related to Edward at all. Aren’t some of Queen Anne’s (Stuart) many children buried with Henry VIII?

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      • viscountessw on said:

        Hello halfwit36. Nobody knows if there were any coffins in the vault, i.e. coffins already there when the newly discovered (1813) George and Mary were placed there from elsewhere in the chapel. Nobody looked. So the existence of any original coffins, of whatever size, cannot be confirmed, it was just guesswork. Infuriating, ain’t it?

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  3. Eileen Bates on said:

    From the information supplied to me by the Archivist of St George’s Chapel, the coffins of George and Mary were placed in the vault covered by the ledger stone with George’s name inscribed thereon in 1813. Frustratingly there does not appear to be a report saying what remains if any were found in the vault at that time. Perhaps this would indicate there were not any.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dee on said:

    I would just like to point out that this isn’t the only correspondence with St George’s that has been going on in respect of these coffins. A friend of mine has been researching them and has been involved in much discussion with St George’s for well over 12 months – if not longer – about them. She has done much diligent research and painstaking investigation and has the files to prove it.
    With respect, perhaps St George’s have finally realised that it is best to do something about it finally, being as they are many people all saying the same thing? Straw and camels back perhaps?

    Liked by 1 person

    • viscountessw on said:

      Dee, it would seem there are a number of investigations into the same thing, including one by Philippa Langley. Nothing was known of anyone else when Eileen commenced her research.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Eileen Bates on said:

      Perhaps you could point out’ Dee ‘ for the benefit of everyone here where I said that mine was the’ only correspondence with St George’s on this subject. And with respect, I should not have to point out the blindingly obvious that this matter has been under discussion for a very long time now with correspondences undoubtedly flying thick and fast. I merely shared mine..something for which you seem to be attacking me. You seem more upset than your friend…This is about the third message you have posted regarding this matter all saying the identical thing. We do get it you know that you have a friend who worked a lot harder than me. Kudos to her. You are now coming across as childish, petty and petulant.

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  5. skiinglady on said:

    Philippa Langley referred to these coffins in her most recent talk. She has someone trying to look in the vault with a camera to see what is there and to see if the coffins are c15 or otherwise . It would certainly be frustrating to find nothing there!!!! The main problem is again with the crown. Apparently they are putting up objections . Although it could be argued that remains should not be exhumed in a routine way I certainly cannot see the objection to simply viewing them as she has certainly not asked for them to be exhumed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eileen Bates on said:

      Skiinglady. The coffins that are in the vault now are of George and Mary whose coffins were put in the vault in 1813. What is frustrating is, as far as I can see from the info provided by St George’s, is that no mention/report was made at the time of any other coffins being in there. This rather leads me to conclude that there were no other coffins in there…Eileen

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  6. Eileen Bates on said:

    Hallo halfwit36..yes a still born baby of Queen Anne’s lies in the same vault as Henry Vlll. The vault also contains the coffins of Henry’s favourite wife, Jane Seymour and Charles lst. The rest of Queen Anne’s children lie in Mary Queen of Scots vault in Westminster Abbey.

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  7. halfwit36 on said:

    Even Henry VII had tombmates. This fact inspired me to “poetry,” to wit:
    Back when Victoria was Queen/ Shovels were used, and bones were seen/ Mine, and my wife’s, Elizabeth fair./ Great-grandson Stuart lies over there./ And yonder is a man unknown,/ But thought to be one of Cromwell’s own./ I’m telling you – now mark it well-/ The neighborhood’s all shot to Hell.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: The Private life of Edward IV, by John Ashdown-Hill…. | murreyandblue

  9. viscountessw on said:

    Just imagine, if ghosts do indeed exist, the ‘confrontations’ there might be in all these royal tombs. I don’t think Henry VII would appreciate an interloper squeezing his way between Henry and Elizabeth of York. Or Mary Queen of Scots having to deal with all those babies. As for one of Cromwell’s men sneaking into a royal resting place….! Just what happens in Westminster Abbey when the last visitor has departed and the lights go out?

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