Margaret Beaufort and the Princes in the Tower

Historical opinion often moves in circles on certain topics. Sometimes it’s a slow process and sometimes it happens quickly. The White Queen series stirred up the latent and under-examined but long-standing theory linking Margaret Beaufort to the disappearance and murder of the Princes in the Tower. In short order, the increased attention drew an onslaught of opinion denouncing the theory as impossible, implausible nonsense. The memes below offer a sample of the abuse drawn by the idea. So is this theory really devoid of merit?

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Criminal investigations will frequently look for three elements when trying to establish if someone is a suspect; motive, means and opportunity. Richard III is quite rightly attributed with all three, though his precise motive is open to debate. There are other suspects, but if we concentrate on Margaret Beaufort, can any component be reasonably established for her, accepting that beyond a reasonable doubt is outside the realms of current knowledge?

Meme 01

Motive is often denied, since removing the Princes left too many other obstacles in her way to be a realistic attempt at getting her son onto the throne. The facts would tend to give the lie to this view though since her son ended up on the throne and as figurehead for a failed invasion in October 1483. At some point between Edward IV’s death in April 1483 and the rebellion of October 1483 the idea of Henry Tudor as a viable alternative to Richard III was birthed and grew. It cannot be considered beyond the bounds of possibility that the thought occurred to his mother early in the tumultuous events of that summer. It is known that Lady Stanley, as she was then, was in the process of negotiating her son’s return to England with Edward IV in talks that included the possibility of marrying him to one of Edward’s daughters (though probably not Elizabeth). A minority government, with all of its inherent insecurity, was unlikely to see those plans followed through for some time and when Richard became king in his nephew’s place there was also no sign of further talks on this matter. Margaret had come so close to securing her son’s return only to have the hope she nurtured snatched away at the last moment. Would she accept that circumstance willingly? It is true that she had endured the separation for years to that point, but having come so close must have made her more desperate for a reunion with Henry.

It might have become clear to Margaret that her son was not going to be allowed to return peacefully at any time soon and that an invasion was the only chance of getting him back. The aftermath of Richard III’s assumption of power presented an opportunity that the last ten years of Yorkist security had not for the pursuit of Margaret’s desire to have her son back by reigniting dormant Lancastrian sympathy and marrying it to the portion of Yorkist supporters unwilling to follow Richard III. It perhaps bears consideration that if Richard killed the princes with the motive of securing his position, he failed. If Margaret had it done to further her son’s prospects of a return, she succeeded. That fact proves nothing, of course, but it is food for thought.

Lady Margaret Beaufort
Lady Margaret Beaufort

As to means, this is every bit as contentious as the motive aspect. I have seen it argued that Margaret was a disgraced and punished nobody, married to an unimportant minor nobleman. This is rubbish. Margaret’s property was seized and given to her husband, but only after the October rebellion that aimed to put her son on the throne. A part of the reason that Margaret had been able to make three (if we ignore the first to John de la Pole as she did) good matches was that she was an immensely wealthy woman who controlled, or offered her husband control of, vast estates and income. The reason that she was deprived of her property after the rebellion was precisely that she had funded much of it, sending cash to her son in Brittany and then France. She had the means to orchestrate an invasion from within England, so why would access to the princes be beyond her? Far from being a woman restrained by sanctions, in the summer of 1483 Margaret could hardly have been closer to the centre of power. Perhaps Richard III felt the need to court or pacify the Stanleys, because at the joint coronation on 6th July, Margaret carried Queen Anne’s train, walking ahead of Richard’s own sister, the Duchess of Suffolk. Her husband, Thomas, Lord Stanley walked only a couple of places behind the king, bearing the mace of the Lord High Constable, a great office of state previously held by Richard himself and placed in the hands of the Duke of Buckingham, but which Thomas Stanley would acquire after the October rebellion.

Thomas, Lord Stanley
Thomas, Lord Stanley

Does all of this power and influence translate into the means to secure access to the princes for someone tasked with killing them? The denial of this relies on two more long-standing fallacies. The first is that the princes were thrown into a deep dark dungeon and treated as prisoners. There is simply no evidence of this. They were moved from the royal apartments where Edward V had been preparing for his coronation, as tradition dictated, because those apartments were in turn required for Richard and Anne to prepare for theirs. There is talk in contemporary accounts of them being withdrawn into the castle and seen less and less, but they were seen, exercising, shooting their bows and playing after Richard’s coronation – not languishing in a dank dungeon somewhere. Their servants were removed and replaced, most likely not because those servants were loyal to Edward V but to the Woodvilles, particularly Anthony, who Richard had arrested for treason and whose sister, the dowager queen, had fled into sanctuary and was refusing to talk to the government, even before Richard was asked to take the throne. None of this would necessarily prevent access to them being secured by a woman so close to the court that she had just carried the queen’s train at the coronation and not associated with the Woodvilles.

The other great misconception is that the Tower of London was a locked and bolted prison, a dark place with a sinister character. That was not true until the Tudor era, when palaces further along the Thames were preferred and the Tower earned its brutal reputation. The Tower was a functioning royal palace, a busy and bustling place where the Royal Treasury was frequently housed, Council meetings held and military provisions stockpiled. There must have been a steady stream of deliveries of food and goods as well as a standing staff to run the Treasury and the other more permanent functions of the Tower so that even when the royal household wasn’t in residence to swell the numbers further, it would hardly have been a deserted place impossible to access, even without the influence then wielded by Lord and Lady Stanley.

Opportunity is closely linked to the conditions above. If we accept that the princes were not closely guarded prisoners hidden deep within the bowels of the Tower, that in the summer of 1483 Lord and Lady Stanley were riding high in royal favour and were yet to attract suspicion and that access to the Tower, whilst perhaps not wide open to every resident of London, was not impossible in a working palace with regular comings and goings for people of such influence as Lady Stanley, then opportunity becomes easy to establish.

The Princes in the Tower
The Princes in the Tower

There is a clear indicator that Margaret Beaufort’s work on her son’s behalf in the late summer of 1483 was advanced, ran deep, was secret and relied on the death of the Princes in the Tower. It was Margaret who opened up a clandestine line of communication to Elizabeth Woodville in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. Margaret used her physician Lewis Caerleon, who posed as Elizabeth’s physician, to pass messages between the two women. That is how Margaret secured Elizabeth’s agreement that their children should marry and together they should promote Henry Tudor’s prospects of taking the throne. For Elizabeth to agree to this, she must have believed her sons were dead and their cause lost, so that marrying her daughter to Henry Tudor represented the only course open to her out of sanctuary and back to power. Given that no one, contemporary or otherwise, knows for certain the fate of the Princes in the Tower, how could Elizabeth, from the isolated seclusion of sanctuary, have got news so definite that she gave up on her sons? The obvious answer is from Margaret Beaufort, via Dr Caerleon. If it was part of her plan to pass this story to Elizabeth to improve her son’s cause, then their murder was part of her thinking and she just might have planned to organise it too.

I don’t know that Margaret Beaufort was involved in the fate of the Princes in the Tower, but it is clear that she exploited the idea of their murder to further her son’s cause. Buckingham is as strong a suspect and Richard III must remain prime suspect (if we believe there was a murder at all, which is another matter). My point here is that all of those who sneer at the notion that Margaret Beaufort could have been involved are, in my opinion, wrong. Margaret had motive, means and opportunity, and that makes her a suspect.

52 thoughts on “Margaret Beaufort and the Princes in the Tower

      1. Your article says the Princes were seen playing outside at the Tower AFTER Richard’s coronation.
        If so why wasn’t Edward crowned King?

    1. I don’t buy the idea that Margaret Beaufort would kill them just to secure her son’s return. Tying yourself to the royal family requires royal ambition. If she wanted nothing more than to see Henry back in England restored of his titles, it makes more sense for her to rescue the princes and have them restored to power. Then, using her favor with the queen regent, she could bring Henry back. If anyone suggested a royal match, it was probably Elizabeth Woodville herself. With the death of her sons, her best chance to regain some of the influence she once had as queen would be through her daughters. If the princes were dead by this time and it was known to her, that would be the only reason she would even consider Henry as a son-in-law.

      1. “Tying yourself to the royal family requires royal ambition.”

        And why would you think that she didn’t have it? Or that her son didn’t have it? He clearly did, since he returned to England to fight a war to win the crown – twice – and became the King through battle, going on to fight various claimants and pretenders and execute a number of people so he could keep his crown. It’s really weird to then pronounce that clearly his mother had no royal ambition and just wanted her son back and some royal titles!

        In 1483, Margaret was a part of a rebellion whose goal was to get her son to the throne. So, yep, she obviously had royal ambition. It’s really strange that this is something that needs to be proven, or is assumed to be untrue.

        ” If anyone suggested a royal match, it was probably Elizabeth Woodville herself. With the death of her sons, her best chance to regain some of the influence she once had as queen would be through her daughters.”

        Why would that have to include Henry Tudor, specifically? It’s her daughters that could have argued a claim to the English throne (if one doesn’t consider Titulus Regius valid), not Tudor.

        In fact, your argument is demonstrably incorrect – since, in fact, Elizabeth Woodville went on to make an agreement with Richard III in 1484, letting her daughters come to his court, and obliging him to find them good marriages to noblemen. So, she clearly saw different avenues rather than a match to Tudor.

      2. NO BEAUFORT needed to crush Richard and all Plantageanet hope. her plan was to set his people against him. Richard was already our King so his motive would not be murder of boys. Not even to stop Woodvil hope as figure heads. No Salic law in england so that meant even Edwards daughters could take the throne. Richard could not think so deviously as Margaret Beaufort mother of the bastard son who desired a throne he had no right to. To say she had so much of Kings blood in her veins cuts no ice as so do I but not king ever. by smothering the boys a womans way as mad would cut throats, she was with archbishop Morton and Earl Stanley. If not , just how did Morton know were the Princes had been buried. according to sainted More when servings at Mortons table asa boy he overheard Morton telling some guest this tale. Morton was proved right some 200 years later when Royal apartment was demolished. He must have been there with the killer to have known. Richard was set up without a single doubt.

  1. Being close to Queen Anne, she also would have known how Richard’s son was. If he was frail, and prone to regular illness, she would have known that too. Prince Edward never did make it to London, returning north after his Investiture in York. But if he was a frail child, who his parents feared for, surely she would have seen this as another positive sign that her chancer son should take a punt on going for the throne.

    1. There is no evidence whatsoever that Edward of Middleham was a frail child. That’s just a myth borne out of backwards logic – since he died, he must have been a frail child. Lots of people, children especially, died of illnesses, but that doesn’t mean they were frail and sickly all their lives. If anything, the fact that his death seems to have been such a surprise to his parents suggests that it wasn’t any long-standing illness and that he was usually as healthy as most children were at the time.

      1. After studying the tomb and marble figure of Richards only child I am of that opinion that he died after short illness. Could have been a simple chill turned into something that now would be cured. Ann Richards wife and Queen was frail so it is without saying her son may well have been so.it hurt Ricard so badly he cried often over it. That white alabasta stone tomb now in the parish church was taken from the castle of Middleham as it fell to bits years later. No body is under it now. So we may never know. it matters little to the facts related. The clue to the crime is motive and a biggest ever clue to all of this has been passed over for centuries. Morton is the key to open that case with. Earl of Oxford wrote the play that was for Elizabeth as Queen on false rights way back to her grandfathers shaky throne. So she asked Oxford and he penned a satisfactory account for kingsMen players to produce. Oxford was patron of arts and shakeshaft his manager . he could hardly write his name he had changed to Shakespeare. Look at two sets of his known signature and see my point.

  2. I personally believe she orchestrated their demise and had Buckingham do the dirty deed-for all the reasons you so thoughtfully outlined.

    1. Margaret may have plotted against Richard, she had an opportunity for the first time in her life to get Henry into a position of power and to attempt an invasion, but she didn’t plot to kill the Princes, there isn’t any evidence to support that nor was she a woman who wanted her son in power above everything else. She was proud that Henry was King, but no she didn’t do just about anything to keep him there. She was his counsel but not his only one and her relationship with Elizabeth of York was a positive one.

  3. Many people like to mock Richard III “fans,” but Tudorphilia leads to thinking that is at least as blinkered and subjective. (And, IMO, much more wrong-headed.) Assuming the Princes were indeed killed, Margaret Beaufort had more of a motive than Richard did, and, as you so ably pointed out, means and opportunity as well. I have my doubts that the boys were murdered, but if they were, automatically eliminating her from suspicion is ridiculous.

    1. In the summer of 1483, when Henry Tudor was a poor, powerless exile, Margaret Beaufort had absolutely no motive to want to get rid of the princes.
      You can only start to believe she did by knowing what the next few years were to hold.
      Anachronism and confirmation bias fuel most Ricardian fantasies.

      1. Margaret had been negotiating for Henry’s return before Edward IV’s death, so her hopes had been built up. In the summer, she and her husband where in high favour (for some reason) and by October, Henry was heading up an invasion. Crowland wrote that the rumour of the Princes’ deaths arose as part of this rebellion. To some extent, that demonstrates that the Princes’ death was considered all that was required for Henry to be able to lead an invasion. The benefit Margaret might have accrued from their deaths (or even just the rumour of it) is clear in the autumn of 1483.

      2. It is funny for us modern people to consider how thoroughly women were discounted as , “the weaker sex.” Since women were considered such, and England feared the ascent of a female Monarch (in fairness, Queen Matilda’s ill fated reign gave shape to this fear, as well as long held prejudice against women in authority), that held primary control, is it any wonder that history would scoff at the notion of a woman being responsible, for such a dastardly deed? Further, it challenges the long held assumptions that women are naturally more protective of children (even those that are not their own) than men. Even now, patriarchy rears its head, in the form of disbelief, that Margaret Stanley, could have orchestrated the deaths of 2 rival claimants, to a throne, she obviously believed belonged to her son.

  4. I’ve never heard an adequate explanation of Buckingham’s turn-about, after being given so much power by Richard. It seems probable that he could have been bought by Margaret Beaufort and someone under his or her authority sent to the Tower to pick up the boys and…then a quick trip to the continent or the ocean depths. I don’t think she lasted very long after her Henry’s demise, she might have had many things on her conscience at the end, I wonder!

    1. Margaret Beaufort lived to 66 or 68 years old (depending on whether she was born in 1441 or 1443). The life expectancy for a member of the peerage in late Medieval England was 30 (with infant mortality factored in). For anyone reaching 21 years old they had an average of reaching 64 years old – which makes Beaufort’s age just about typical (If we use factual history and statistics, rather than long shot scenarios with the sole purpose of distracting attention away from the most likely course of events – that Richard needed to destroy his nephews to save himself from the venality and avarice of the Woodville’s).

  5. Matt, you are right to point out that Margaret was not in the custody of her husband until after the rebellion, which itself occurred after the rumours of the deaths of the Princes. However, looking at Thomas Stanley’s timeline also makes it highly unlikely that he was helping her. He was promoted by Richard after the rebellion and Margaret was entrusted to him because his actions during the rebellion assisted in its failure. Would he really risk everything to kill a king and then sit back and not take advantage of the uprising to promote his step son?

    However, it is in the area of motive that you have it completely wrong. The fate of Henry Tudor was not entirely up to Edward IV. Henry was in the custody of the Duke of Brittany who wanted a good deal in exchange for him. In 1480/1 agreement was made that Anne, the heiress of the Duke and Edward, then Prince of Wales would marry. Their second child would rule Brittany.

    So Edward IV’s agreement to allow Henry home with his title and a good marriage was the last piece of the jigsaw that would enable Henry’s safe return. Having a Queen (Anne of Brittany) whom Henry knew well would also give him confidence after the 1476 attempted abduction.

    So in the summer of 1483, everything was in place for Henry to submit to Edward IV and return home, but that plan depended on the survival of one of the Princes to fulfil the agreement with Brittany.

    So the future wellbeing of Henry and his reunion with his mother depended on the survival of Edward V and his marriage to Anne of Brittany.

    In my opinion, Margaret would probably have ‘stopped a bullet’ for the young king rather than plot his demise.

    1. Since Henry Tudor had emerged as a candidate for the throne of England in the wake of events after Edward IV’s death, and especially in light of the rumors about the deaths of Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, and since that’s clearly what he was fighting for when he started his invasion, I’m extremely dubious about the idea that he just wanted to go back to England. Not a strong argument, I’m afraid.

      1. No the logic is sound and conclusive. You are using an event after the general belief that the Princes were dead to imply a motive prior to that belief. The news of the deaths changed everything. Henry did not emerge ‘in the wake of events after Edward IV’s death’ he only emerged after the deaths were already believed to have occurred.

        So as far as Margaret Beaufort was concerned, while Edward and Richard were alive, Henry’s prospects were always better and safer if Henry returned as part of the Breton alliance. After all he was a prisoner, had no followers and no army.

        Margaret did not plot against Richard until after she heard of the deaths – Polydore Vergil.

      2. You make an awful lot of assumptions in your post, and rely on an odd view of the timeline. First of, there was no “news of their death”. There were RUMOURS about their deaths – true or untrue, we don’t know, but it’s pretty unlikely that anyone spreading them could have produced actualfirm evidence for it. And there’s evidence that these rumours were already circulating at the time when both of the boys were known to be very much alive, since they were regularly seen playing and practicing within the Tower of London (in June 1483).

        Secondly, Buckingham was, at least, at first claiming to be preparing a rebellion in favor of restoring Edward V to the throne. That makes the idea that the rebellion started because of the supposed outrage at the boys’ deaths highly questionable, to say the least.

        You say that “Margaret heard the news of their deaths” as if you were actually there and can confirm that this is what happened and what Margaret thought or felt. How do you know that, say, she hadn’t spread those rumors herself, or outright lied to Elizabeth Woodville to get the desired outcome? Or planned it all in advance? After all, you’ve just confirmed that you agree with Matt that their deaths – real or not – were playing right into her and Henry’s ballpark and were very advantageous to Henry’s cause.

        So, you admit that their deaths or supposed deaths made Henry a viable candidate for the throne, but then you claim that Margaret couldn’t have possibly wished for their deaths or tried to make them happen because… she couldn’t have possibly seen her son as a viable candidate for the throne while Edward V and his brother were alive? That’s some strange and contradictory logical deduction. I’d say you ended up disproving what you’re trying to prove.

      3. How did David ‘make an awful lot of assumptions’?
        He’s totally correct. Your entire scenario is based on knowledge that would not be available until 1484 – a full year after you state that Beaufort could have gone after the Princes to aid her sons plans.
        Margaret would have needed to be psychic to know what the following 1 to 2 years had in store.

        Read ‘1483: The Year of Three Kings’ By Giles StAubyn – IF you genuinely wish to comprehend the day to day situation, and not just to read anything which reaffirms your current beliefs.

      4. @Paul: I’ve already listed all the assumptions he made in the post you replied to, so I don’t see why I have to repeat it. Just read it again.

        No, he’s not correct, and my scenario is based on the knowledge that was available in the summer of 1483. What events from 1484 are you talking about? Please explain. What exactly did Margaret need to be “psychic” to know about?

        That the rumors of the deaths of Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury would benefit her son a great deal in his quest for the throne of England? Already happened in the summer of 1483. That Henry would promise to marry Elizabeth of York (who would be the legitimate heir of Edward IV if one discounted Titulus Regius and if her brothers were dead or believed to be dead) as a way to gain the York support and strengthen his claim to the throne? Happened in the summer of 1483. That Henry would mount an invasion with the goal to gain the throne? Happened in the summer of 1483. That Buckingham would turn on Richard and participate that same rebellion/invasion, for whatever motive? Happened in the summer of 1483… and Margaret Beaufort was one of the organizers of that operation.

        You talk as if Henry was just chilling in Brittany until 1485 and only then decided to mount an invasion, for some reason, or that he never showed any desire for the English throne before 1485, or that Margaret wasn’t heavily involved in trying to get Henry that throne, way before 1484. That was obviously not the case. What events from 1484 and 1485 are you talking about? What is your argument?

  6. I have also believed her to be involved with Edward of Middleham’s sudden and unexpected death, especially as she had links with Ann Idley (through her husband) who was in charge of the Nursery at Middleham. If she did, what is to say she stopped at Edward? Queen Anne wasn’t known to be ill previously and she died just under a year later. All speculation of course but perfectly possible.
    Some say there is no such thing as coincidence, yet there were 5 people in the way of Tudor’s path to the throne – and they all died suddenly. Obviously Richard was killed openly on the battlefield but the eliminations previously?
    The Tudors made no bones about eliminating all Yorkists and Plantagenets post Bosworth so why not before?

    1. If she had this kind of power, don’t you think she would have murdered Richard himself, instead? Anne didn’t present any kind of threat or obstacle to the throne, and if Richard were to be killed, little Edward could be easily dealt with. If he had still been alive when Henry became King, Henry would have probably proclaim Richard as usurper etc. and officially attain his son, and then lock him up like he did with George’s son, Edward of Warwick.

    2. Then spread rumors that Richard killed his wife? Why not poison Richard? Anne would be seen as a traitor to Edward her late husband by marrying the enemy. Revenge? It is said Richard ate little in public. Precautions against poison? Read Denings book Secret history. It has chapters on the poison if Edward IV.

  7. Excellent article. I’m pretty baffled by the vehement insistence of some people that Margaret cannot possibly be considered a suspect, and their anger that people ‘dare’ consider her such. And then they call Ricardians extreme. Most Ricardians don’t believe Richard had the boys murdered, but I’ve never seen any Ricardian deny that Richard makes for a reasonable suspect. Margaret Beaufort does, as well. We don’t know for sure what happened and if they were even murdered, but both of them, alongside Buckingham, are among the people who are considered with good reason as suspects.

  8. At the time Henry’s marriage to Anne of Brittany was in discussion, he was 22 and she was 2. These May – September marriages seldom work out! More likely Francis of Brittany was not sincere about any such marriage, or Henry believed he was not. And he was well-advised not to trust Francis, who sold him down the river to English agents.

  9. Dear ‘timetravellingbunny’,I am the Ricardian who doesn’t think that Richard makes for a reasonable suspect.Simply because of what I claim on my richardiiiandallill-treated.website.
    If the boys were killed during his reign,he was driven into it.My special subject being Shakespeare and grotesque drama,I am trying to see all this differently,as the restored,not misinterpreted Shakespeare suggests.As he was very near in time,he and his generation could still know for sure many things that were lost later.And his oeuvre also teaches us that the deeds of different people have to be judged taking into consideration their personalities.In the case of Tudor,the fact that he was obviously a villain, according to what he did after his victory,has never been taken into consideration by those who defend the establishment that goes back to him.And this environment somehow confused us, Ricardians too.
    Shakespeare is a more important clue than it was previously acknowledged.
    We can discuss many details,but the fact that even Shakespeare was misinterpreted to favour Tudor, casts a different light on everything.

  10. The thing is, real historians don’t take Ricardians seriously, for the same reason they don’t take alien abduction stories seriously, or UFO’s. There is simply no evidence to prove any of your points. In fact, many of them have been disproved once and for all by the discovery of his body.

    I mean, how many articles have I read (prior to the discovery of Richard III’s skeleton) that insisted, INSISTED, that Richard III was not deformed, and that paintings that showed one shoulder higher than the other weren’t accurate (one article I read said that the paint was added much later, and of course was due to Tudor propaganda)? Do you need me to dredge some of them up, remind you all of what you used to insist was the 100% absolute truth? And then we found him……

    ….

    Yep, sorry, folks, The Tudors were right, the paintings were correct, and Richard III did have one shoulder higher than the other. He did have a curved spine. He was deformed. BOOM.

    I’m not going to go into all the details why it’s absolute rubbish to think that Margaret Beaufort had anything to do with the princes’ murders. I’m not even going to point out that even if Richard III didn’t kill the princes, he was ultimately responsible for their safety, and was therefore responsible regardless. So, as far as I’m concerned, he is the guilty party. Period.

    We think back on history as a done deal. That isn’t how it was done back then. I mean, how shocked was the entire media when Donald Trump won the presidency? To us, it was a foregone conclusion. But history unfolds in real time, and back then, you couldn’t have found many people that took Henry Tudor seriously as far as being a possible monarch when the princes disappeared (1483). And for such a long shot, getting rid of the princes may have been a start, but there were SO many men closer to the line of succession than Henry Tudor. I mean, talk about a long shot. He was way, way, way down the list of those in line for the crown. Just getting rid of the two princes in the tower didn’t really didn’t help him all that much, not if Richard III was still in power. And not to mention all the others with better claims than his own.
    So, does it really make sense that Margaret would have the princes killed?
    …And then propose that her son marry her murdered victims’ sister? Propose to their mother? ….Really? In such a religious age, I find that extremely hard to believe, especially of Margaret Beaufort, who was particularly pious.

    And look at the time frame. The boys were “disappeared” two months after Richard had them. TWO MONTHS. And then they were just… Poof. Gone. With no word. With not even an announcement that they had even died. His own nephews. The elder, who was his father’s heir to the throne. Yeah, yeah, I know that Richard spread the propaganda that Edward IV was a bastard, and that his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid. I get that. But they are still princes of England, they are royalty, and they are family. And it is, after all, a matter of great importance that they should just up and die, or be murdered. What possible reason would Richard have not to say anything? I mean, suppose he went to the tower for a visit, and they were in their beds dead. Why not just do an investigation and punish the guilty party? Why not shine a light on it, if you’re on the up and up?
    It was his eery silence on the matter, after all, that convinced the majority of the public that he was responsible for their deaths. After the princes were gone, the public turned against him, big time. He had every reason to reveal the princes were killed by another party, or died on their own. I see no reason for him to remain silent, unless of course he was the murderer.

    And let’s not forget that Richard III was particularly adept at doing murder. He is the one who supposedly killed Henry VI.
    These were brutal, bloody times. He was killing the successors to the crown. He had to get rid of them. Period. If he didn’t get rid of them, there would endlessly be supporters trying to put them back on the throne. They had just gone through the wars of the roses, and everyone was tired of fighting. Richard had to kill the princes to be secure on his throne.

    And after the princes’ “disappearance”, Richard III made several pilgrimages. I believe he did so to try to wash his nephews’ blood off his hands.

    Yes, Richard killed the princes. But he was not a completely evil man. Ricardians seem to think that if you prove that Richard wasn’t always an asshole, then it somehow shows that he wasn’t a child murderer. Humanity doesn’t work that way.
    You can be a decent, even a good, human being and still do something heinous. We are all shades of gray; not black and white. Richard wasn’t a completely evil man; he was an insecure monarch trying to secure his throne. That was simply how the game of thrones was played, and often, won. Just because Richard killed the princes didn’t mean he wasn’t good in other ways. In fact, he could have been 99% good and just 1% evil. But it was that 1% that killed the princes. So seriously, stop telling me how perfect and wonderful Richard III was and how that automatically makes him incapable of killing his nephews.

    Listen, I get it. Everyone likes a good conspiracy theory. That’s why they are so popular. They are clever, and make you think. You look at all this evidence, and skew it this way and that, to make some things appear to be true, or not true. Oswald wasn’t the lone gunman! etc. But when you get down to the cold, hard facts, Oswald was the lone gunman, and Richard III killed the princes in the tower. Period, exclamation point. Go ahead and speculate endlessly on trivial, nonexistent evidence if you like, but it doesn’t change the facts. I’m seriously done arguing with Ricardians. It’s a bit like talking to a religious radical. They see Richard III as some kind of saint, or even some kind of god who was wronged and should be set back up on his altar.
    So worship away. If it makes you happy. You do you. As for me, I’m done arguing with people who already have their mind made up.

    1. Thank you for reading this post and taking the time to comment. I am impressed that you are able to speak for all ‘real’ historians but find it concerning if all ‘real’ historians approach the study with a closed mind and a set of definitive answers that cannot be challenged. I think that would be considered the opposite of history and would worryingly negate the need to study the subject further.

      It is true that Ricardians, and others who would probably not consider themselves Ricardians, did not believe that Richard had kyphosis as Shakespeare portrayed him. He didn’t, of course, as his skeleton revealed. He in fact had scoliosis, a very different condition, but that is perhaps too subtle a distinction. Until the discovery of the remains there was no contemporary evidence of either kyphosis or scoliosis and x-ray examination of the Windsor portrait confirmed that the raised shoulder was painted in later over a previously even one, so I think people could be forgiven for believing, in the absence of contradictory contemporary evidence, that it was a later embellishment to Richard’s physical appearance designed to make him more easily caricatured. The discovery demonstrates the benefits of the continued study and re-evaluation of evidence and new discoveries that you seem averse to. For the record, I don’t like the use of the word ‘deformed’ either to describe a medical condition.

      I presume you are not going to go into the detail of rubbishing Margaret Beaufort’s involvement because there isn’t any to provide. I have been clear in my post that I do not say Margaret did it, I have simply examined the assertion that it was impossible for her to have done it to demonstrate the holes in the premise. Your determination to believe Richard III is responsible whilst conceding that he may not have had them killed is almost admirable. Even if someone else murdered them, he still did it.

      The very fact that Richard did not announce the deaths of his nephews must cast doubt on his own involvement. If he ordered the murders, he did it to secure his throne. If he did not announce that they were dead, how was his throne more secure? The murders were for nothing if no one knew the Princes were dead.

      My issue with the argument that Margaret would not have been involved because there were so many other claimants between her son and the throne is that it is demonstrably incorrect. By October 1483, which at least suggests planning in September 1483, if not earlier still, Henry Tudor was at the head of an invading army as part of a rebellion with the stated aim of placing him on the throne. Crowland notes that the rumours of the Princes’ deaths were started by Buckingham as part of this rebellion so that Henry Tudor could become the figurehead. No one else had died, yet there Henry was, claiming the throne in precisely the way you argue he could not have done.

      I’m not sure how you mark Richard as particularly adept at murder because he killed Henry VI. Although there is no direct evidence of this, I tend to believe that he was involved in his role as Constable of England, but Henry would have been killed on Edward IV’s order. Involvement in one death ordered by the king hardly makes Richard an adept murderer willing to kill children. It is also odd that Margaret Beaufort is excused involvement because she was pious and would not have endangered her immortal soul, yet the equally pious Richard is not provided the same protection.

      I have never tried to portray Richard III as a saint of any kind. I find him and the times he lived in fascinating and like to examine the numerous questions that remain about him and the period with an open mind. I don’t think everything has to descend into an argument when rational, reasonable discussion is far more enjoyable, though it seems to me that one of us has already made up our mind about everything.

      1. Oh,Matt,I am so sorry that someone always drags me into this again,but this it is a must.All this only confirms my theory that this subject is not only historical.It has to do with my theory,however tricky it is for British Ricardians,that even Shakespeare was wickedly misinterpreted to serve the monarchy that has its roots in the Tudors.People who are capable to write down things like ‘he was deformed.Boom’ should not be answered to,their malice is almost burning.If you read it,you know what I say about this in my book.Richard was very handsome,and his condition is practically invisible,if we look at people who have the same condition.It proves the wickedness of the really very ugly guy,Tudor’s propagandists until the present day,that they use this mean argument against us,Ricardians, Shakespeare. Included as the greatest of us.
        .Am I also biased? Yes,but I hate and not serve and follow unscrupulous power believing it’s most obvious lies.After our exchange of messages below your post ‘one year on..’,I posted an article on my site with the title Shakespeare on Trump.
        I didn’t want to bother you with it,but there is always a malicious power-admirers who upsets me.
        Your new post is very interesting, I didn’t want to comment it,but now that I am commenting this, I d like to stress once more,that your more measured, calmer approach could do very much good to the cause of the Ricardian IShakespeare. I am passionate,still, I know and I got feedback from people who read it,that my observations about the Eli,zabethan theatre are interesting,simply,be cause I saw the analogies with my own eyes.Even if it may sound too strong what I think about the responsibility of the still existing monarchy,authors and researchers like you can go on discovering tall the characteristics of the Ricardian Shakespeare.To show him up to malicious people saying’He was Ricardian.And deliberately misinterpreted.’

      2. I love this. It solidifies what I said in another response about people not believing that women could be malicious, plotting, murderesses. Margaret couldn’t have done it because she was too pious and saintly (and womanly), but the equally devout Richard III, must have caved into his baser male nature, and ordered the deaths of his nephews. Can’t people see how long held beliefs about the nature of men and women play into this dismissal of Margaret as a suspect? If they can’t, then bias against men, is firmly implanted.

    2. I’m really glad that you’re “done arguing with people who already have their mind made up”. We can at least be sure that you’re never going to be arguing with yourself, then. It’s so good to see someone who is so sure about what “facts” are, while being absolutely unable to provide one single true and proven fact, and for the most part, does not even bother to mention any corroborating evidence for their claims, but proudly declares that the opposing opinion is “rubbish” and uses Straw Men arguments like “if you don’t accept the dogma that Richard was a usurper and murdered his nephews, you are a loon who considers him a saint!”

      FYI: the reason why Ricardians doubt that Richard had the princes murdered is because there’s, in fact, about as much evidence that he murdered them, as there is about the existence of UFOs. People talk about it a lot, but no one has ever actually been able to prove even that they were murdered in the first place. Congratulations, you fail at the basic rules of the justice system. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, not the defense. There can be no trial for murder if there is no proof that a murder even took place, let alone any evidence that this particular person was involved, other than hearsay and speculation. The case against Richard wouldn’t even get to the trial, it would get thrown away at the hearing.

      But you have a curious relationship with the facts in general. It’s a fact apparently that Edward IV’s previous marriage was just propaganda, because… look, Tudor historians said so, that’s proof enough! And Henry VII abolished Titulus Regius! He had serious political reasons to do so in order to make his future wife the heir and secure his throne, but never mind. But didn’t want to let anyone read that document, or let the Parliament talk to Robert Stillington… How strange that he did not want to expose the lie and prove to the world that Richard was a usurper and that Edward’s children were legitimate? Ah but Henry was a swell guy, Margaret was a swell lady, I’m sure they’d never lie or do anything bad for power, unlike that bad Richard. And that’s totally not treating Margaret or Henry as saints. Not at all.

      Somehow it is a fact that Richard murdered Henry VI? Based on…what? What Tudor historians wrote decades later, with no explanation as to how they got that info. at the time when shifting Edward IV’s crimes onto Richard III was the preferable thing to do? Not to mention that, as Matt pointed out, Edward IV would have been the one to give the order, either way. What, you are going to argue that Edward was a powerless, clueless teddy bear who let his brother do whatever he wanted, and that Richard went and killed Henry on his own accord, and Edward was told later and was like “oh, you’re usurping my royal authority… but that is a good thing! I will rely on you even more and give you more honors and responsibilities!” Maybe it was just because Richard was a decade older… oh wait, it was the opposite. Poor Edward, he just let his 18 year old brother walk all over him. Edward was known as a weak king, wasn’t he? Oh wait. No, he definitely wasn’t.

      But most of all, I am amazed by your open ableism, combined with the total failure of getting the actual facts about Richard’s medical condition and what the actual forensic findings are. This is why discussions about Richard III are so illuminating, you never get to see that amount of open ableism. I love how you call him ‘deformed’ and how you imply that, since his spine was not perfect, he is all the more likely to have been evil and a murderer. Clearly the Tudors were right – including, I guess, when they maintained that a bodily “deformity” also implied an evil mind, and used the fact Richard had a “crooked back” to soil his reputation based on that idea?

      I’d love to see what it would be like if you publicly called Rebecca Romijn or Sarah Michelle Gellar (that’s the actress who played Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, in case you don’t know) or Liz Taylor or tennis player James Blake or the fastest man on Earth, Usain Bolt, “deformed”. (These are all people with scoliosis, the same condition Richard had.) I’m guessing that wouldn’t go so well with the public.

      Now. if you had actually bothered learning the facts, you’d know that, yep, the Tudors did paint over Richard’s portraits and did try to make his shoulder far higher than it was. You’d also know that he wasn’t a “hunchback”, as many popularly believed because of Shakespeare – he did not have kyphosis. You’d also know that Richard’s condition was not actually visible to his contemporaries when he was dressed – and that none of the contemporary chroniclers (including foreigners, or the hostile to Richard Croyland Chronicle) or the actual eyewitness accounts (including a very detailed one by the German visitor Poppelau) mention any kind of spinal problem, or even seem to have noticed anything unusual about his shoulders. And it’s not like foreign ambassadors and visitors were ever shy about telling folks back home negative things about the physical appearance of foreign monarchs they had visited (check out the Venetian ambassador’s account of Charles VIII of France and his wife). You would also know that scoliosis of Richard’s type and degree is neither debilitating not visible and wouldn’t have affected Richard’s abilities or reputation during life, at all. And that scoliosis is most obvious when someone is shirtless and bending over – which is why news of Richard’s ‘crooked back’ would have spread after his enemies had so graciously stripped his body and flung it over a horse taking it to Leicester to be exhibited for 3 days, so everyone would know he was dead. So, nope, I’m afraid,, the Tudors were not “right” – the Tudors took a tiny kernel of truth and blew it out of proportion, added a lot of ableism and superstition, and started a legend that evolved into Richard being a grotesque monster and super ugly (which, sorry, neither the contemporary drawings and portraits nor the facial reconstruction support) and, in the popular consciousness once Shakespeare wrote a fictional play that did not even stick to what were considered facts that he read in chronicles at the time, unable even to properly walk or carry armor due to a supposed hunchback – which never made any sense, since he was a renowned warrior.

      1. I completely agree with all of what you say,dear ‘timetravellingbunny’,except for your remarks about ShakespeaRE.You are right that his character named Richard III is impossible. But please,note that it is meant to be that way
        The malicious pro-Tudor comment above betrays precisely what I claim. These people are defending power,the lies of the propagandists of power which has its roots in the Tudor age. They are getting nervous,because tthey are losing ground,Richard is already more respected internationally than Tudor.
        But we must take our last and strongest stronghold ,Shakespeare back.
        Don’t follow,please,the Tudor admirer,for whom the ‘real’ historians are the cowardly liars who represented the ‘official’ versions for centuries. New and valid thoughts ALWAYS come from independent thinkers. So dson’t think that the ‘scholars’ who wrote all the nonsense about Shakespeare working for instiyutions maintained by establishments,that they know more than the few of us who defend the Ricardian Shakespeare. We may know much more,but we haven’t sold ourselves to establishments.So please,take into consideration what we say.For some Brtitish Ricardians my hostility towards the present monarchy of the UK may bew too strong,but this is not the basic question. The basic question is that Shakespeare is misinterpreted,he was Ricardian,our greatest ally. The causes of the misinterpretation may be discussed,but to lose our greatest ally is a huge error. The ricardian Shakespeare can be the last blow to the already nervous Tudor admirers.

      2. Is this fetish to support the Tudors political? See, Edward IV must be exhonerated because he is Bess s daddy. They are all saints and Mr. Tudor was a great King because the current British Royal family is descended from him and EOY.

    3. I concur. Also – why would Lady Margaret have aided in the failed plot to free the princes as some historians allege – including White Queen/Princess author Gregory? Nothing – including child murder – with that group in that time period seems beyond reason, however, I think it is a grave disservice to the memory of a purported pious woman to make these allegations with no proof whatsoever. Uncle Richard was ultimately the responsible as Lord Protector for the care of his nephews – the younger of which he virtually tore from sanctuary and the arms of his mother. The entire Woodville family was obviously under dire threat and duress by Richard III or Woodville would never have surrendered her second son to the same man who had already murdered numbers of her kinsmen – including young King Edward’s guardian. Even the young king questioned this. Woodville was also not a stupid woman. I doubt she would have agreed to such as dangerous (if secret) arrangement to marry her beloved daughter to Henry Tudor if she remotely suspected Lady Margaret in the death of her sons. Main point – Richard III was Lord Protector of his nephews. He obviously FAILED miserably in this, and I do strongly agree – any “uncle” and especially “Lord Protector” should have been concerned that the helpless young kinsmen in his charge went “poof”. Gone. Good treatment of this intriguing topic.

      1. ” Also – why would Lady Margaret have aided in the failed plot to free the princes as some historians allege – including White Queen/Princess author Gregory?”

        Which historians allege this? Philippa Gregory is not a historian.

        “Nothing – including child murder – with that group in that time period seems beyond reason, however, I think it is a grave disservice to the memory of a purported pious woman to make these allegations with no proof whatsoever. ”

        Richard III is known to have been a pious man. It doesn’t stop numerous people from assuming he murdered his nephews, with no proof whatsoever. There’s no proof whatsoever that they were even murdered, let alone by whom if that even happened, so your outrage should be directed at anyone who assumes that anyone committed it. If your outrage is reserved only at accusations against pious people, then Richard and Margaret are both in the same boat.

        “The entire Woodville family was obviously under dire threat and duress by Richard III”

        And Richard, Duke of Gloucester was just as much obviously under dire threat and duress by the Woodvilles from the moment Edward IV died. It’s funny how you’re trying to portray the Woodvilles as innocent, harmless and powerless victims in the entire story, when the only difference is that they lost and Richard won.

        “or Woodville would never have surrendered her second son to the same man who had already murdered numbers of her kinsmen – including young King Edward’s guardian.”

        No, he didn’t *murder* a number of her kinsmen, or any of them. It’s funny that you complain about allegations of murder and then make an accusation of murder that’s factually wrong. He had arrested her brother Anthony Rivers and her son Richard Grey and they were in custody. Then they were tried and executed – not murdered – after young Richard had already joined his brother in the Tower.

        ” Even the young king questioned this.”

        You have info about Edward V’s statements at the time that the rest of us don’t?

        “I doubt she would have agreed to such as dangerous (if secret) arrangement to marry her beloved daughter to Henry Tudor if she remotely suspected Lady Margaret in the death of her sons.”

        There is no proof she ever did before Henry won the Battle of Bosworth. There is only proof that Henry gave an official promise to marry Elizabeth of York.

        What we do definitely have a proof of is that Elizabeth Woodville agreed in 1484 to leave the sanctuary, have her daughters join Richard’s court and for Richard to arrange marriages for them. So would she have agreed to let Richard take care of her daughters and their future if she suspected him in the death of her sons? I think you just shot yourself in the foot there.

        ” Main point – Richard III was Lord Protector of his nephews.”

        No, he wasn’t. You obviously don’t know what the title Lord Protector means. He was the Lord Protector and Defender of England. A Lord Protector was supposed to be governing the country when the King wasn’t in position to do so due to age, illness, absence etc. John, Duke of Bedford and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester were Lord Protectors of France and England, respectively, when Henry VI was a child. They weren’t supposed to be Henry’s babysitters. (Bedford obviously couldn’t even be that, since he was in another country.) Richard, Duke of York was appointed Lord Protector to rule England because Henry VI was catatonic and couldn’t do it – he was not appointed to stand guard in front of Henry’s door. Other people were in charge of that. And Richard, Duke of Gloucester was supposed to be Lord Protector of England during Edward V’s minority, not Edward’s guardian.

        It’s funny how you start your post by claiming that “real historians” (who are they?) “don’t take Ricardians seriously” (so Annette Carson and John Ashdown-Hill, for instance, aren’t real historians?) and then proceed to show that you can’t even get the historical facts right.

  11. Sorry,but the typing errors in my comment only show again that independent free-thinkers are in difficult situations,I struggle with stupid,cheap tablets,while those who sell themselves to the establishment of ANY country,receive all the support of the establishment,huge salaries,etc. But they don’t deserve more respect and more attention because of this

  12. Excellent article, Matthew. I have often thought that if anyone had the Princes killed or motive, and there is no solid evidence that they were killed plus there is every possibility of their survival, as explored in your latest book, that Margaret Beaufort had just as much of a motive as anyone else with a self interest in advancement. Her motive was her son, Henry Tudor, who she saw suddenly getting closer to the throne. In a very few years the House of York had lost two senior members, Edward iv and George, Duke of Clarence, the House of Lancaster in the direct male line had gone, then Edward of Middleham died in 1484. The sons of Edward iv had been declared illegitimate and unless something happened to Richard iii, they were out of the succession. The other male candidate was Edward, Earl of Warwick, who was disbarred by the attainder of his father, Clarence, although Richard could reverse this if he chose. There are also male heirs in John de la Pole and his brothers, who was later named Richard’s heir. The five Princesses, although now illegitimate, should not be ruled out as rivals but they had other purposes as brides and would only follow any male heirs if they were again made legitimate.

    So there are reasons for and against Margaret Beaufort being involved in their murder. For could simply be to get rid of two of the list above and to promote her son nearer to the throne. If the boys were believed dead Elizabeth of York was the leading best option for a Yorkist rallying point and Margaret saw a bride for her son, in exile. There was contact between Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort while the former was in Sanctuary. They used the same doctor as their go between and eventually there was an agreement for Henry to marry Elizabeth, which he swore to do in Rennes Cathedral in a sacred ceremony. If Elizabeth was now the focus of attention as a potential Queen then Henry Tudor needed her as his bride, because if he did invade and win the crown, his marriage to her then aided his claim. Margaret may simply have focused on the two Princes as the nearest rivals to her sons plans and the potential marriage value of Elizabeth of York. Either way, even with other male claimants around, getting rid of two such obvious claimants would not do any harm to her son’s cause.

    The argument against, of course is that there are a number of other male candidates ahead of Henry Tudor, the sons of the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk, for example. This ironically rules out anyone bothering to kill the Princes in the Tower as you would need to get rid of all of the above as well to be really secure, unless you had a family of your own. Attainders can be reversed. Illegitimate status can also be reversed, both by Parliament, if the current King or later King wish to do so or the person themselves came to the crown. Henry Tudor reversed the illegitimate status of Elizabeth of York in order to marry her. In doing so all of her brothers, dead or not and sisters were also made legitimate again. Either Henry didn’t know if the Princes really were dead or didn’t care but for them to be out of sight certainly made his case better. Elizabeth was his trump card and the support Henry needed came via Elizabeth. Another case of a future Queen being declared illegitimate but still inherited the crown was Mary Tudor, whose declaration by her father as illegitimate was reversed by her own laws on her success in removing Queen Jane Grey, for whom she had been set aside inspite of her father’s will and the Third Act of Succession 1544, which placed her and half sister Elizabeth back into the line of Succession, after Edward without reversing their illegitimate status. Elizabeth, on her succession did not follow suite. However, if Margaret was inclined to murder, I doubt she even gave any thought to other rivals, but took an opportunity to act and remove those uppermost in her mind, the former Edward v and Richard, Duke of York.

    The other question is did Margaret have opportunity and access? Via her husband, Lord Thomas Stanley, it is possible that she may have found someone to access the Tower. Her husband was responsible for who went and came from the Tower so there is a possibility she or somebody was admitted with food and they were poisoned. Thomas Stanley could have unilaterally had them killed. If he was considering a conspiracy to back Henry Tudor, but then it went wrong, the boys would be in his way. If they were still housed in the Tower shortly before Bosworth, even an uncommitted Stanley may have had ideas of backing Henry Tudor and taken the opportunity to rid himself of the boys. All of this is pure speculation of course and the sons of Edward iv may well have been moved to a northern stronghold and then out of the country. It does go to show that until we have proof of the actual fates of the Princes in the Tower that more than one suspect is on the list of who killed them and more than one possible fate awaited them, including surviving and natural death.

    Finally, I have only really thought of Margaret Beaufort as a possible candidate for their demise as it was raised in a documentary drama from 2005 on channel four as a possibility due to Margaret doing penance for an unknown crime and being really even more pious in her later years. Now this may only be that she was advancing in age and thinking towards death as people did in the Middle Ages or did she have a secret sin to atone for? I think there is an obscure source which points to Margaret Beaufort, but I really don’t know what or if that really is the case. Of course, all this could be a red herring and nobody killed them. Certainly the potential survival of the Princes is clearly examined in your book which I am reading on the trail and evidence which points to them having lived beyond Bosworth and well into the reign of Henry Vii.

  13. I love this. It solidifies what I said in another response about people not believing that women could be malicious, plotting, murderesses. Margaret couldn’t have done it because she was too pious and saintly (and womanly), but the equally devout Richard III, must have caved into his baser male nature, and ordered the deaths of his nephews. Can’t people see how long held beliefs about the nature of men and women play into this dismissal of Margaret as a suspect? If they can’t, then bias against men, is firmly implanted.

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