Well, we all know the story (and that’s just what it was, a story) about the demise of the boys’ uncle, George, Duke of Clarence, in a butt of Malmsey, but this is the first I’ve heard of the boys themselves suffering a similar fate.
“The manner of their death triggered debate among contemporaries, many of whom believed they were strangled in bed, drowned in Malmsey wine, or poisoned.”
This is taken from Martyrs in the Making: Political Martyrdom in Late Medieval England, by Danna Piroyansky, and she gives many sources:-
The Great Chronicle of London, A.H. Thomas and I.D. Thornley (eds) (London, 1938), pp 236-7. For an overview of the various speculations see, for example, P.W. Hammond and W.J. White, ‘The Sons of Edward IV: A Re-examination of the Evidence on Their Deaths and on the Bones in Westminster Abbey’, in Loyalty, Lordship and Law, P.W. Hammond (ed) (London, 1986), pp. 104-47; A. Weir, The Princes in the Tower (NY, 1992), chapter 13; A.J. Pollard, Richard III and the Princes in the Tower (NY, 1991), chapter 5. Many articles on the subject of the princes’ fate have been published in The Ricardian (the publication of the Richard III Society) along the years.
Whether any of these actually say the boys perished in Malmsey I don’t know, I only know I hadn’t heard the theory before. However, I do know that the book from which I have taken this information adopts an unashamedly Lancastrian viewpoint, and Richard is damned outright. For example:-
“Many suspected the usurper Richard III of instigating the princes’ murder. True or false, Richard III had no interest in promoting a cult around them, one which could only have drawn attention to their rightful claims to the throne. Henry VII may have been interested in them, but was too preoccupied with other challenges to his reign to rake over past events.”
Um. . . Where shall I start? The usurper Richard III? No, he was the true king. The boys’ rightful claims to the throne? Rubbish. Henry VII too preoccupied to rake over past events? Good grief. No mention of Edward IV’s bigamy. And of course Henry kept quiet – the last thing he wanted was for the boys to still be alive! He’d reversed Titulus Regius in order to marry the boys’ big sister! If they’d turned up alive, they’d have a much, much better claim to the throne than he did.
If anyone murdered the boys (and we don’t know what happened to them, let alone whether they died naturally, were murdered or even lived into old age), it was Henry Tudor and his Beaufort mother. Or the Duke of Buckingham. As for Henry not having time to rake over the past, for Pete’s sake, he did it all the time! He was both hounded and haunted by it. As well he might have been, given his usurpation and guilty conscience. Oh, yes, there was a usurper at Bosworth, and it wasn’t Richard!
I will not go on. The book has nothing good to say about the House of York, and I wish I’d never bought it. My reason wasn’t even anything to do with York, but because there is a section that deals with the 1397 trial and execution of Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, in whom I am very interested. Another man who generally gets a bad press, of course. Trust me to find a great deal to like and admire about him! (For more information about Arundel’s death and the “miracles” that gave rise to a cult, try here)