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Did the boys from the Tower escape from one of Yorkshire’s lost coastal towns or villages…?

Yorkshire's lost coast

I have often wondered about Richard’s plans for the Yorkist “heirs” he sent for safety to Sheriff Hutton. We know Elizabeth of York was there, because Henry Tudor sent a very swift party to secure her person. She was then escorted regally to London, to be greeted at Lambeth by her husband-to-be. After he’d established himself as a conquering hero, of course, and dated his reign from the day before Bosworth. But that is not the point now. Warwick was also at Sheriff Hutton, and everyone there was under the protection of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. Were the boys from the Tower there too?

If things went against Richard, had he instructed Lincoln to take everyone out of England and across to Margaret of York in Burgundy? Let us imagine he did issue such an order. Where on the coast would Lincoln likely take them? Surely not somewhere to the south, like Harwich or Lowestoft, or too far to the north. Time would be of the essence if they were to be whisked away before Tudor got his claws into them.

Something went wrong, of course. Elizabeth of York did not leave, and was captured….er, rescued by her new swain. Or perhaps that was what she had wanted all along? Warwick became another prisoner, as did Lincoln himself. (Do we know how/when John de la Pole was apprehended?) And then there is the biggest mystery of all: if the boys from the Tower were there, what happened to them?

Let us go back to Sheriff Hutton. When the terrible news arrived from Bosworth, there would be panic as those who intended to escape made ready for flight—we’ll say that they would head for the nearest access to the sea. It seems logical. One thing about the Yorkshire coast applied then as it does now. Erosion. There were already a number of lost towns and villages down the stretch from Ravenspur in the north to Spurn Head in the south. But some that are lost now, were still there in 1485. Was one of them the intended destination? There was no need for a large port, or a harbour with quays, just somewhere from which a small boat could put out to a waiting vessel.

cog and boat of fugitives

We will never know what happened, of course, but I for one can imagine the scene on that shore. Perhaps after dark, the sweating horses and fleeing Yorkists, the shouts from men waiting to push a large boat out into the waves. And off shore, the lights of a cog at anchor.

Maybe such a scene never happened, but if it did, maybe only the boys from the Tower were safely on board that cog. Safely? Well, maybe fate decreed they never reached Burgundy. Maybe a sudden storm sent the cog to the depths. Maybe that’s why no one knows what happened to the sons of Edward IV? Or, of course, they did reach their aunt’s protection, and one of them survived to grow up to challenge Henry Tudor as Perkin Warbeck. I hope so.


For information on the lost villages and towns of the Yorkshire coast, here are two links to tell you more and this connected post.


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10 thoughts on “Did the boys from the Tower escape from one of Yorkshire’s lost coastal towns or villages…?

  1. halfwit36 on said:

    The problem with this scenario is that everyone at Sheriff Hutton would have known about it. It would be all too likely that someone – Elizabeth, her sisters, Warwick, John de la Pole, one of the servants, would have accidentally said something to indicate that there were two other boys there. Henry and/or his spies would have been on that like a duck on a junebug, and ‘Perkin Warbeck’ would never have been heard from.
    The simplest explanation (cf ‘Occam’s Razor’) is that the boys simply disappeared. Richard didn’t know where they were, though he might have had suspicions. Same for Henry. Elizabeth Woodville possibly knew, Buckingham likely did, but Buckingham took the secret to the block.
    Alternatively, Richard knew what had happened to them, but could not or would not say, perhaps because of disgrace to the family. Maybe there was a suicide pact: Maybe one that was only partially successful. If Henry found out later, he would have the same reason to keep quiet – and there was an additional reason he might be sensitive about the subject of suicide. (This is a combination of the Murphy/ Baldwin theories.)
    None of this can be proven, of course. It could be disproved, if the bones in the urn could only be examined. At least, let them be carbon-dated!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. viscountessw on said:

    Everyone seems to have had a reason for shutting up about the boys’ fate. And so it’s become one of those all-time greats of mysteries.

    PS: And they wouldn’t all have to know at Sheriff Hutton. If the whole supposition is fact, then John de la Pole was the only one who needed to know, and the boys themselves. They could have been held in a different part of the castle. Oh, I don’t know anything really, just that anything’s possible. Until actual proof of the boys’ fate turns up, we’ll keep guessing.


  3. David on said:

    Also if that was what happened, why did Perkin not say that when he first emerged. According to Vergil, he told the Scots that he had a miraculous escape from Richard’s assassin. His letter to Isabella of Spain still exists and was written before his capture by Henry VII. That confirms the same story of escape from the Tower after his brother had been killed. I can see no reason for him to lie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Except Richard’s name was never mentioned by Warbeck.

      Liked by 1 person

      • hoodedman1 on said:

        He said ‘a great lord’ I believe. Which is interesting. Not ‘Richard’, not’ the King’.


    • viscountessw on said:

      David, your comment rests on the assumption that Perkin was who he said he was. We don’t know if he was anyone but Perkin. Just as we don’t know what, if anything, went on at Sheriff Hutton before and around the time of Bosworth. Everything has to be guesswork to some extent.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. McArthur, Richard P. on said:

    Wuld a ship have been waiting as a precaution?


    • viscountessw on said:

      Well, I feel that there would have been a waiting “getaway vehicle”, Richard. It would be daft for the fugitive party to arrive and find no suitable vessel. So, if the story is anything more than a story, then that simple precaution would be necessary. Methinks, anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. McArthur, Richard P. on said:

    “Would” was intended.


  6. Lauren MacNeil on said:

    An excellent theory, love it! Elizabeth Woodville never seemed overly concerned with mourning the boys and certainly Richard’s sister Margaret in Flanders seemed to be aware of secrets. Richard was so thorough in his management that I can readily see him having this plan ready to go in the event of disaster. Many suggest that the eldest might have been lost on the voyage and the younger survived. I suspect that if an answer is found it will be in archives across the Channel. I don’t really feel that they have been completely plumbed…and I think more researchers should be looking for the needle in the haystack over there.


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