Richard Shrewsbury Duke of York was the second son of King Edward IV. We don’t know a lot about him because he was not the heir to the throne but notwithstanding this, he is one of the most investigated historical characters being him one of the well known “Princes” in the Tower.
We have not a certain date of birth for him but his mother Elizabeth Woodville was heavily pregnant when she visited Shrewsbury in August 1473 and apparently she gave birth to her second son in the Dominican Friars of Shrewsbury on 17th August.
As soon as he could barely crawl, six months after his birth, his father King Edward, created Richard Duke of York, a Knight of the Bath in 1474 and Knight of the Garter in 1475. When he was just two years old, Richard was already very rich having in his hands the lands once belonged to the Willoughbys, the lordships of Grantham, Stamford and Fotheringhay plus other lands from the duchy of Lancaster.
However, the best opportunity was still to come for him when John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk unexpectedly died aged 32 leaving behind him a 5 year-old girl, Anne his only heiress. It was the great occasion for Edward. The king saw the opportunity and asked Anne as a bride for Richard who was only 4 years old. The Dowager Duchess was very demanding. Apart a massive dowry for her daughter, she also asked Edward to disinherit William Lord Berkeley and John Howard so that she could have her personal revenge on them. Edward didn’t hesitate to accomplish the Duchess’ desire and accepted the conditions. John Howard had been a loyal Yorkist all his life but this didn’t stop Edward from disinheriting him. John Howard never rebelled against Edward but remains a Yorkist and died in the Battle of Bosworth fighting for Richard III. Thank to this, Richard of York was incredibly wealthy as he received the Dukedom of Norfolk and the Earldoms of Varenne and Nottingham.
The marriage between Richard Shrewsbury and Lady Anne Mowbray took place at Westminster on 15th January 1478. During the wedding procession, she was accompanied by many eminent noble men including Richard Duke of Gloucester. The ceremony was followed by a rich feasting with countless noble guests. The new couple was of course not allowed to live together with regards to their age but Richard started to patronise some priories also on his wife’s behalf.
But the two children were not meant to be a couple for long. The child bride died at 8 on November 1481. Having King Edward established that his son would have life interests in the Mowbray properties, Richard inherited a great portion of Anne’s fortune.
As regards his physical aspect, witnesses said he was a good-looking boy, a real talent in music, he could sing very well, he enjoyed good health and he could manage sticks and swords.
The life of Richard was a happy one and he lived with his family while his brother Edward, who had to be the successor of his father’s throne, lived almost in Ludlow with his own household.
Everything changed for him and his brother on 9th April 1483 when Edward IV unexpectedly died. Richard was only 9 years old. His brother became king under the Protectorate of his paternal uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester. His mother, the dowager queen, took sanctuary with her children including little Richard. His uncle Gloucester found not suitable for them to stay in the sanctuary and offered the queen and her family an alternative declaring the sanctuary was not a good solution. In Polydore Vergil’s account, Richard Gloucester pointed out that the Duke of York was not happy to live like a refugee and that he had asked to join his brother Edward at the Tower of London to play a part in his coronation.
On 8th June 1483, Bishop Robert Stillington declared that Richard of York and his brother were illegitimate as their father was already married when he tied the knot with Elizabeth Woodville. The woman was Lady Eleanor Talbot sister of Elizabeth, the mother of Anne Mowbray the deceased child bride of Richard Shrewsbury. Now Richard was the bastard son of the former king. On 16th June, he was taken out of the sanctuary and accompanied to the Tower by Cardinal Bourchier and other noble men under Gloucester’s command. From this account, it appeared that Richard was happy to go. The story of the Duke of York being sick and reluctant to leave his family is stated only in Thomas More to make Richard of Gloucester appear an insensitive tyrant with no consideration towards his young nephews.
Notwithstanding the precontract issue, it was not still official that Edward V could lose his throne but nobody wanted a minority or a Woodville king. On 25th of the same month Richard Duke of Gloucester was offered the crown that he accepted on 26th June.
The boys were seen playing and going around in the Tower. They were at some point moved to an inner place. This does not mean that their uncle imprisoned them but simply they had to leave the royal apartments once Gloucester had to occupy them to prepare for his coronation. Apparently and according to some accounts, they were less seen until they disappeared from view.
As we very well know, lots of theories arouse around their disappearance and also around the appearance of a certain “Perkin Warbeck” who entered the scene as the grown up Richard Duke of York. For centuries, historians have debated about the identity of “Perkin” and the majority of them have believed he was an imposter but which mystery is behind enigmatic character? New evidence reopened the debate: what if “Perkin” was actually who he said he was?
The image was copied from here