Did ANYONE do the dirty deed in the Tower….?

If you go to this link this article you’ll find an interesting if challengeable article about “Perkin Warbeck” and whether he could or could not have been Richard of Shrewsbury. Well, there were enough people who thought he was, and to make Henry Tudor’s existence thoroughly miserable. Pleasant thought. The article also discussed who might really have disposed of the boys in the Tower, if indeed they were disposed of.

At the beginning, as an example of how important naming names can be to a lot of people, there is a comment about the novelist Patricia Cornwell paying a lot to try to prove the identity of Jack the Ripper, inspired by a now (apparently) debunked theory. Well, I’m as interested in Jack the Ripper as the next person, but to be honest, in his case I don’t know that I want to know who he actually was. The mystery is the thing, especially as the royal family itself is implicated in one of the other theories.

The Princes in the Tower
Arthur C Michael, English (1881-1965)

But when it comes to the boys in the Tower, I’m definitely interested in knowing who did what, simply because it matters when Richard III’s name is hauled around in the mire. I’m convinced he didn’t do anything to his nephews, but either got them away somewhere safe, or was caught up in the consequences of someone else’s conspiracy, during which they died.

So it’s always intriguing to read someone else’s thoughts on these thorny matters, and some hoary old myths always make an appearance of course. Including in the above link. The first is that Hastings was bundled straight from the privy council meeting to a convenient log and had his head lopped. No trial, no nothing, just instant retribution. Well, that’s silly. Of course Hastings had a trial. It’s Tudor propaganda that he didn’t. Anything to blacken Richard’s character. One thing’s certain, if Hastings hadn’t been plotting against Richard, he’d have survived. But he was, so he didn’t.

And if Richard were really evil, would he really have just sentenced Jane Shore, or whatever her name really was, to walk barefoot through the streets? I think not. She’d been up to her pretty neck in scheming against Richard…if he’d been a Tudor, she too would have been hauled off to that bloody log! So don’t blame Richard, look to the Tudors as the instigators of nasty things happening to women. They made a speciality of the art.

The Penitance of Jane Shore, 1824, by Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863)

Mancini is believable because he “had no axe to grind”. Well, not that we know of, anyway. But does he tell the truth? And he was an Italian without great command of English, so how much did he mishear/misinterpret? If there’d been a plot involving Hastings, to do away with Richard and put Edward V on the throne, Richard would have been pretty stupid not to secure Edward somewhere solid and safe. The Tower — in the royal apartments, not the deepest, darkest, dampest, direst old dungeon below the low water level of the Thames! And whatever else Mancini may say, he doesn’t actually accuse Richard of murdering the boys. How could he? No one knows even now what happened to them, if anything. They might well have been taken abroad…or they may have died of natural causes. There was always some disease or other circulating in medieval times.

Mancini’s thoughts on Richard III

Then we come to the “it’s Buckingham wot done it” bit. Well, I’m prepared he believe he did. He wanted to be rewarded more by Richard than he already had been, and when the riches weren’t forthcoming quickly enough, he raised a rebellion. Which was tied up with Henry Tudor, courtesy of John Morton, Margaret Beaufort, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all…. The usual traitors in fact. Well, what I don’t think is that Buckingham rebelled in order to put Tudor on the throne. What? Why the heck would he? He was genuine through and through blue-blooded royal, Richard’s first cousin, why on God’s own earth would be conspire to put a Beaufort nonentity like Henry Tudor on the throne. I think it more likely that Buckingham found out the hard way that they weren’t supporting him, but he was supporting them. Not flaming likely, thought he, but then the British weather put paid to the entire enterprise, and he was captured, tried and beheaded. And good riddance to the ingrate! He was no loss to Richard, or to England.

18th-century portrait of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, from Wikipedia

Sir James Tyrell is considered next, because he apparently confessed to the boys’ murder later on in Henry VII’s ill-gotten reign. If Tyrell did confess, it was wrung out of him by means of the vast and novel array of implements in the Tudors’ extensive torture repertoire. Besides, there is a Tyrell family story, firmly believed, that the boys stayed briefly on their East Anglian estates and were then helped to escape to safety at Richard’s behest. If Sir James had murdered them, I think the Tyrells would have kept their heads down, not preserved a heroic story of their involvement in the boys’ escape.

Sir James Tyrell views the dead princes, from John Cassell’s Ilustrated History of England, Vol. II
London: W. Kent & Co, 1858.30.

To move on, did a Lancastrian faction try to rescue the boys in a botched attempt that ended with the boys’ death? Hmm, I’m afraid I have a problem with the thought of Lancastrians “rescuing” the sons of a Yorkist king. The Woodvilles would want to put Edward V on the throne, and possibly some disgruntled Yorkists, but not any Lancastrians, surely? Anything the latter did would be a cover for extinguishing the boys, not saving them. My opinion only, of course.

Next, if the boys died of natural causes, why didn’t Richard put their bodies on display? Well, perhaps he would if he could, but he didn’t have them. I think he spirited them away to safety, maybe through the Tyrells, but then something befell them. Maybe even a shipwreck on their way to Richard’s sister, their aunt Margaret in Burgundy. You can’t produce what’s lying at the bottom of the North Sea. And who would believe their uncle had acted for their safety anyway? Don’t forget we were soon to have the Tudor Propaganda Machine chugging along with supreme success. I’m sure it could have taught Saatchi & Saatchi a lesson or three in advertising!

Elizabeth Woodville, portrait in public domain, artists unkown

Did Elizabeth Woodville ever actually claim her children were legitimate? Not as far as I’m aware, and I’m sure that if she did, then her dear son-in-law, Henry VII, would have spread it with a thousand fanfares. He needed those children to be legitimate (and the boys dead!) because he was marrying the eldest daughter. Perhaps their mother’s silence was enough? Somehow I don’t think so. Henry would have wanted her to stand up on her hind legs and bray that she and Edward IV were legally married. She didn’t. Nor did Henry’s queen, Elizabeth of York, ever condemn her wicked Uncle Richard. Nor did the next sister, Cicely, who was married off p.d.q. to Henry’s half-uncle, John Welles, Viscount Welles. (Yes, she was this viscountessw’s inspiration.) For an interesting speculation tha Elizabeth Woodville eventually died of the plague, look here 

Bishop Stillington supposedly witnessed, or at the very least knew about, what passed for a clandestine marriage ceremony between Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV. I don’t recall hearing of him repeating the precious lines Henry endeavoured to drum into him, no doubt aided by a ruler over the devout knuckles. Nor did the family of Lady Eleanor Talbot, who seems to have been Edward’s first and very legal wife. How selfish of her not to have turned up her toes before her spouse moved on to Elizabeth. Thus Eleanor’s survivl for four years after the Woodville match, made the second ceremony bigamous. I don’t recall hearing the Talbots utter a single word, either to deny or confirm the first marriage. Like everyone else, they stayed silent as mice.

Lady Eleanor Talbot as she’s believed to have looked.

I can’t imagine that John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, set about murdering the boys so he could claw back the Norfolk inheritance (of the Mowbray dukes) from the younger one. Why would he when Richard had already returned the Mowbray inheritance to him two days after acceding to the throne?

John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk

As for John de la Pole murdering them, well, he’d have to murder Richard’s son, Edward of Middleham, as well. It begins to look like mass murder. And if Edward of Middleham was eventually murdered, as many think he was, I don’t believe it was John de la Pole’s doing. But yes—oh yes!—I believe it of Tudor, Margaret Beaufort, John Morton et al. It suited them very nicely indeed to rob Richard of his only legitimate child. I’ll bet they toasted themselves with the very best plonk for a job well done.

John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln – portrait tweaked by me from Man with a Red Cap by Titian. There do not appear to be any actual portraits of the earl

And when it came to Bosworth, another of their slimy creatures, Sir William Stanley (and sort-of/maybe/perhaps aided by his crafty fence-sitting brother, who incidentally, was also Henry’s stepfather) all but stabbed Richard in the back by turning on him at the vital moment. The Stanleys had pledged themselves to be Richard’s men, for Pete’s sake. With such friends, who needs enemies? I think it was a salutary lesson to Henry Tudor…who never trusted anyone, except his Mum. One of the best things he ever did was later in his reign to chop off Sir William’s Janus head! Pity he didn’t do the same to both Stanleys.

I couldn’t find a suitable likeness of Sir William, but here’s his brother, Thomas Stanley, Baron Shifty…er, sorry, Stanley.

Right, I’m well aware of how biased I am in favour of Richard III, but then this blog bears the name of the Yorkist colours and his portrait, both of which are a bit of a clue. The blog is quite clearly aimed at people like me, so posting something anti-Richard is unthinkable.

So, Lancastrians should tread with care! 🙄

12 comments

  1. You mentioned that “Cicely, (who) was married off p.d.q. to Henry’s half-uncle, John Welles, Viscount Welles” without mentioning that first Tyddr had Cicely’s EXISTING marriage to Ralph Scrope annulled. With or without the couple’s consent. Henry had to make sure that all of his Queen’s sisters were married to reliably loyal men.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For a long time Ive thought Margaret Beaufort was a pretty fanatical, very obsessive & somewhat peculiar lady. Certainly she was the schemer behind Henry Tudor and I firmly believe if anyone did dispatch the two Princes it was My Lady the King’s Mother.
    Someone wrote of her ‘Fanatical devotion to both God and her obsession with Tudor supremacy…. & both a victim of abuse and an abuser of power.’
    She would have regarded their ‘disappearance ‘ as a necessity. They had to be legitimate for her son to marry their sister & legitimise his illegitimate claim to the throne. If Princess Elizabeth was legitimate then her brothers were very much in Tudors way.
    On the other hand I do wonder if Richard III managed to smuggle the princes to safety and Perkin Warbeck was indeed the brother of Henry Tudors wife…
    Oddly I have never seen any mention of the fact that prior to 1499, when Henry dispatched Perkin Warbeck , the sisters of Edward V could have identified him – Elizabeth the Queen who died 1503 , Cecily, Viscountess Welles who died 1507; Anne, Lady Howard died 1511; Catherine, Countess of Devon died 1527 & Bridget the nun Died 1507 – ?

    Love the blog!

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  3. If by ‘dirty deed’ is meant the murder of the princes, I would agree – it is not proven that they were murdered at all. But if it has anything to do with Hastings’ execution, there is room for debate. As Constable, Richard had the legal right to be his judge and executioner, but it’s hard to argue that Hastings had a fair trial if the entire process took place in a few hours. That’s what we now call a kangaroo court. If it was actually a week later, as some claim, that would be different. Or if Hastings ‘drew steel’ and Richard killed him in self-defense, without a trial,

    “Jane Shore or whatever her name really was” – Elizabeth Shore, nee Lambert

    ‘Tudors were the instigators of nasty things happening to women.’ Not Tudors generally but Henry VIII in particular. He simply allowed noblewomen the same ‘privilege of being executed by the sword, instead of burning at the stake, – which was not ‘nasty’ at all Was H8 the first women[s rights advocate?

    ‘….the vast and novel array of f implements (of torture) in the Tudor’s extensive repetoire’ Vast, perhaps, but hardly novel Torture has been S.O.P. for centuries.

    I could believe Buckingham did it, but maybe not because he aimed at the throne for himself. Perhaps he saw himself as a Kingmaker, like the late Earl of Warwick. Could be that he kidnapped the boys to hold as a bargaining counter,then abandoned them when his rebellion fell apart, and they simply disappeared.

    ‘If the boys died a natural (or accidental) death, why did Richard not display their bodies?….he didn’t have them to display.’ If he had sent them abroad, and they drowned or somehow met with mischance, why not say this? Why not say it even if he had murdered them. He didn’t have to come up with a story that everyone would believe, just one that could be accepted.

    ‘Did Elizabeth Woodville ever actually claim her children were illegitimate?” She didn’t have to. The repeal of Titulas Regis did that. It was not considered proper in the 15th century for a woman to ‘get up on her hind legs’ and make any such public announcement, and it would have been considered equally improper for a man to force her to do so.

    I don’t recall hearing the Talbots utter a single word to confirm or deny the first marriage.’ Again, why should they? It would be a ‘When did you stop beating your wife’ type of situation

    I favor the ‘simply disappeared’ school, bolstered by the fact that Richard never ordered Masses to be said for them – because he did not know if they were alive or dead, and ordering masses for a living person was considered ‘ill-wishing’ if not cursing them Unfortunately, that also clears Henry Tudor. Alternatively, one or both knew the boys – or one of them – was dead but dared not say so. A suicide pact would explain this. Either would have kept silent rather than bring disgrace

    Apologies for the typos here. The light is dim in this room, and I need new glasses. And apologies for my long rant. I do not want to be seen as a Tudor apologist. Simply let me point out: The argument that Richard was a pure white soul is a proposition that can be defended or refuted. Same with ‘Henry was a horrible person.’ But saying Richard was a pure white soul because Henry was a horrible person is not a logical argument at all.

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  4. Halfwit, my heading refers to the “deaths” of the princes, not to Hastings. It’s meant to question whether they died at all during Richard’s lifetime. If they did, Richard found out after the event. It was nothing to do with him. But I have never stated that he was a “pure white soul”. I just plain don’t like or trust Henry Tudor, and will wave the murrey and blue colours whenever I get the chance.

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    1. Okay, I get that. I also tend to the opinion that nobody killed them – they simply disappeared. Why, nobody knows. Possibly if not probably) if they managed to survive, they might have decided that it was in their interests to remain anonymous.
      And I know it is a lot of fun to be snarky about Henry VII. I speak fluent snark myself. But it doesn’t prove anything, just as Breverton and Starkry being starkey – I mean, snarky – about Richard proves anything.
      I have doubts about Perkin too, but that is a discussion for another time.

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  5. The point regarding Jane Shore’s sentence is rarely remarked upon and I think it is telling (as is the “house arrest” of Margaret Beaufort).

    On one hand, we’re supposed to believe that Richard III quietly assassinated two little boys because he was ruthless and power hungry and the times that he lived in had bred him to be capable of such a deed; but on the other hand, we’re also supposed to believe that he barely punished two women conspiring against him because it would have offended his sensibilities to do so? That seems rather contradictory, doesn’t it?

    I suppose it is possible for the same man to be unfazed by the murder of children but disgusted by the idea of executing women. There could also be political motivations behind not punishing the women harshly, such as wanting to be viewed as merciful, not wishing to violate established cultural norms, or even just not wishing to alienate a powerful husband (in the case of Margaret).

    I think, however, that even the most rigid Traditionalist would have to admit that Richard’s treatment of Jane and Margaret is rather inconsistent with the portrait that they have painted of this character (as are many of his other actions as well). What we seem to be left with is a tale of two Richards…

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    1. I agree, Elizabeth. Those who criticise Richard are VERY selective with their arguments. As for him suddenly having a head transplant (at the very least) the moment Edward IV died…oh puleeeeze! The Woodvilles put him in a position where he was fighting for his own life, that of his wife and family, AND the good of the kingdom. So he was supposed to sit back and let it all go completely pear-shaped, was he? He was right in everything he did, and those actions did NOT include murdering his own nephews! He tried hard to rule wisely, and succeeded to a huge extent…but he couldn’t prevent treachery by enemies who pretended to be friends. Left alone to reign as he wished, he would have become a great king. If that makes me a loony, well so be it. But those who were traitors to him inflicted the Tudors on us, and they WERE ruthless, bloodthirsty, cruel and heartless. Those were not words that could be applied to Richard. Except by those with the selective arguments I mentioned earlier!

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  6. Because Richard did not murder his nephews nor mistreat JS and MB does not mean that he was right in everything he did. To claim so would put us in danger of being cultists..
    Richard reigned a little over 2 years. Had he reigned for nearly a quarter-century, the experience of multiple rebellions, wars, and other troubles, might have made him ruthless and cruel. Since ‘alternate history’ is enjoyable to read, but did not really happen, we can’t know. Even just becoming a crochety old man might have changed him.

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