Updated version of this post at https://sparkypus.com/2020/08/03/those-mysterious-childrens-coffins-in-edward-ivs-vault/
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?
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.
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