A royal doctor colludes at murder….

Yes, it’s those poor lost boys again, and maybe someone did do away with them as they slept. But who?

According to Merriam-Webster, the verb Collude means “to connive with another :  conspire, plot”. Right, that’s clear enough, so what is one to make of the following heading? A ROYAL DOCTOR COLLUDES AT MURDER – like this case?

There’s only one conclusion for me, that the doctor was involved in a murder that was covered up. Yes? Well, if there’s another interpretation, I’d like to hear it. Especially as the doctor in question is none other John Argentine, who attended the sons of the demised Edward IV in the Tower, and who, under Henry VII made all sorts of claims about young Edward V fearing for his life every morning “like a victim prepared for sacrifice, seeking remission for his sins by daily confession and penance, because he believed that death was facing him….”

Maybe it was true, the boy did so fear, and it has always been taken to imply that he feared nasty Uncle Richard’s murderous  intentions. But here’s a thought. What if Argentine himself was the one the boy feared? What if Argentine did indeed do away with him somehow? And his little brother. How very easy then for the good doctor to wring his hands and weep copious crocodile tears while laying the blame squarely at Richard III’s feet. The blame for what? Why blue bloody murder, of course. Awkward though, when he’d disposed of the bodies so well they couldn’t be produced as proof. Oh, but if enough noise was made, the story would be believed anyway, right?

As for Argentine’s motive…maybe it was pure ambition. He decided Richard wanted the inconvenient boys eliminated, and despatched them, as had the slayers of Becket at Canterbury. Despatched them in the expectation of being rewarded. Where? In the Thames? In a big pit? Who cared, all he wanted was for them to have disappeared completely. And so they did.

Then he had a shock when Richard was appalled by their disappearance (because I don’t think Richard ever had any intention of disposing of his nephews). Realising his own neck was on the block if he was found out, Argentine said nothing, but just went with the flow.

Ah, then came salvation. Richard lost at Bosworth. Maybe the Argentine career was up and running again! So he scuttled to Henry Tudor to  point a bloody finger back at Richard’s memory. “Edward V dreaded Richard, and feared for his life every single hour of every single day. As did his little brother. Poor fatherless boys…” Henry was pleased, and Argentine prospered.

Well, it’s a thought. The quoted headline above is taken from a book called Royal Poxes and Potions, the Lives of Court Physicians, Surgeons and Apothecaries by Raymond Lamont-Brown. The headline covers a small article based around Domenico Mancini’s account of his stay in England under Richard III. It clearly cites the royal doctor John Argentine as a colluder in the murders of the princes.

Well, he may have been more than a colluder, he may have been the murderer!

Or, of course, none of this happened, and the boys disappeared because Richard himself saw them to a safe place. Maybe something happened then—illness, a terrible accident, a shipwreck, whatever—and the boys did indeed disappear forever. Or maybe they were so terrified when Richard was killed, that they didn’t dare to make themselves known. They’d really have dreaded every day that their nasty brother-in-law, Henry VII, whose claim to the throne wasn’t as good as their own, would soon see they disappeared again, and this time it would be permanent.

Either way, a horrible royal murder mystery was spawned.


    1. I think we can probably rule out Margaret Beaufort because I’m pretty sure that Argentine went on to become the physician to little Arthur Tudor. I can’t imagine MB allowing Argentine to have access to baby Arthur if she knew that he had murdered the boys.

      Of course, if you look at it from another point-of-view, maybe being appointed as Arthur’s physician Argentine’s reward for nefarious services rendered.

      Or perhaps Elizabeth of York remembered Argentine fondly and requested him herself. That would probably be the simplest explanation.

      Either way, it wouldn’t be the smartest move to hire a man who you conspired with to kill two children as your grandson’s doctor; and MB definitely wasn’t stupid.

      Now Buckingham on the other hand………….that’s an intriguing thought.


      1. Here’s a question: did Edward V actually have a toothache that Argentine was attending to or is this a myth that sprung from the 1930 (?) examination of the bones that were found in the Tower in 1674? The skull that was supposed to have been Edward’s had some type of jaw disease and I’ve never been clear over whether the idea that Argentine was attending to him because he had a toothache originated from this or if there was a contemporary source that actually stated that this was the reason. I seem to recall someone mentioning elsewhere that Mancini included the toothache in his account, but I don’t remember this from when I read Mancini (many years ago). Does anyone know?

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Elizabeth. As far as I know there was no suggestion of Edward V being frail/having toothache or jaw disease until 1483. Or indeed after then. I may be wrong, but I think his “fragile health” was something that materialised when it was convenient to stir up anti-Richard feeling. Argentine’s statements can be taken in more than one way – the medieval mind was always fearful of death, and I can’t see that if Edward did indeed state such things it would be anything untoward. After all, it was all happening around him, his world had turned upside down and he was only a boy. I believe the “jaw disease” stuff arose because the bones in that darned urn showed children of the right age (might even be girls) one of whom had suffered from this ailment. As the bones could be as old as Roman, and cannot be investigated, there the matter has to rest. Oh, and there are animal bones in the urn as well, so heaven knows the truth of it all.


    1. Hi vicountessw, thanks for replying. I guess what I’m trying to figure out is whether or not the toothache was ever mentioned before it was determined that the skull from the Tower had jaw disease.

      We know that Argentine was attending Edward, but from what I’ve read, that didn’t necessarily mean that Edward was ill (since physicians attended to the well being of royals even when they weren’t sick). If none of the contemporary sources mention that Edward had a toothache, then is the toothache story a case of confirmation bias (i.e. was it just assumed that because the skull had a diseased jaw then Argentine must have been around because he was treating Edward for a toothache?)

      Or was it just bad luck that the skull happened to show evidence of jaw disease when Edward was known to have had a toothache at the time?

      Personally, I think the odds of that skull actually belonging to Edward are slim to none…..but if it was mentioned in one of the contemporary sources that Edward did in fact have a toothache, then I can see how some might conclude this is proof that the skull is his (even though the type of jaw disease that the skull appeared to have was very serious and often caused disfigurement…and no one seems to have mentioned that Edward was in pain or had any type of disfigurement).

      Sooo, after two very long, meandering posts (sorry), I guess my ultimate question is: Did any of the contemporary sources mention a toothache?


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