The Survival of the Princes in the Tower Extract

The Survival of the Princes in the Tower

It seems that a lot of the hardback copies of The Survival of the Princes in the Tower are not reaching people after the release on Thursday. I’m told there has been a delay getting copies to the warehouse, but that they are there now and should be shipped early next week.

The Kindle version is available if you like your books electronic, but I know the feel of a hard copy book is irreplaceable to many. I’m sorry that there has been this delay in getting copies to you of a book I’m really keen for everyone to read. By way of an apology, I’m dropping a little extract here from the section dealing with Perkin Warbeck, detailing some of the rising tension in England in 1493-4. I hope you enjoy it until the books begin to drop on doorsteps.

The lack of direct action from Margaret’s pretender does not mean that concern in England was not reaching a thinly veiled peak. On 20 July 1493, Henry VII wrote a letter recorded in Ellis’s Original Letters Vol I to Sir Gilbert Talbot and expressly blamed Margaret for instigating the problems he now faced and tried to dismiss her prince as a ‘boy’, but it also ordered Talbot to be ‘ready to come upon a day’s warning for to do us service of war’ against the threatened invasion of ‘certain aliens, captains of strange nations’. It was all very well for Henry to call this pretender a mere ‘boy’, but Richard, Duke of York would have been nineteen years old by this point, an age at which his father was leading armies and devouring enemies, not only at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross but at the cataclysmic Battle of Towton, the largest battle fought on English soil, which Edward IV won to cement his own position on the throne. Henry would have been all too aware of this so his flippant disregard can only have been a blustering front.

Ellis’s Original Letters Vol II offers further illumination of the concern Henry felt, but needed desperately to hide. This document is a set of instructions given to Clarenceux King of Arms for an embassy to Charles VIII in France. The current holder of the office of Clarenceux King of Arms on 10 August 1494, when these papers were signed by Henry VII at Sheen Palace, was Roger Machado, who had been appointed to the role on 24 January that year. Roger Machado was of Portuguese extraction, which may be important to the tale, and had served Edward IV as Leicester Herald and appears, during the early part of 1485, to have undertaken several journeys on behalf of Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, which may have been in relation to Henry Tudor, then in exile and planning his attack, or might equally have related to one or more of Thomas’s half-brothers, the Princes in the Tower, in hiding abroad.

In this instance, Henry VII’s instructions remain in full. The first part of the instructions order Machado to let Charles VIII know that his emissary, Messire George le Grec, had been afflicted by gout on his way to England but that Charles’ messages had been received from an esquire, Thomyn le Fevre, who had travelled in le Grec’s stead. Henry wished Charles to know that he had received the news that an embassy from Charles to Maximilian had returned to Paris with confirmation that the Holy Roman Emperor meant to do all in his power to assist Margaret’s pretender and that Maximilian had travelled to Flanders to help champion that cause. Charles appears to have sent Henry an offer of assistance, despite his own efforts to raise an army to assault Naples. France would lay the fleets of Brittany and Normandy at Henry’s disposal on the sole condition that he met the costs of running them whilst they served him and Charles, in line with his agreement at the Peace of Étaples, had ordered that none of his subjects should join or aid the pretender’s efforts. Henry thanked Charles for this offer, but said that he would not need to avail himself of it because the ‘garçon’ was of so little importance that Henry was not at all concerned by him. This, of course, was not true, as the king’s letter to Gilbert Talbot attests. Henry, though, needed to maintain a calm appearance above the surface as his legs beat furiously below the water, against a strengthening tide. The instructions, written in French and containing parts that cannot be clearly read, continue;

‘And in regard to the said garcon the King makes no account of him, nor of all his . . . . , because he cannot be hurt or annoyed by him; for there is no nobleman, gentleman, or person of any condition in the realm of England, who does not well know that it is a manifest and evident imposture, similar to the other which the Duchess Dowager of Burgundy made, when she sent Martin Swart over to England. And it is notorious, that the said garcon is of no consanguinity or kin to the late king Edward, but is a native of the town of Tournay, and son of a boatman (batellier), who is named Werbec, as the King is certainly assured, as well by those who are acquainted with his life and habits, as by some others his companions, who are at present with the King ; and others still are beyond the sea, who have been brought up with him in their youth, who have publicly declared at length how . . . [a few words are wanting] the king of the Romans. And therefore the subjects of the King necessarily hold him in great derision, and not without reason. And if it should so be, that the king of the Romans should have the intention to give him assistance to invade England, (which the King can scarcely believe, seeing that it is derogatory to the honor of any prince to encourage such an impostor) he will neither gain honor or profit by such an undertaking. And the King is very sure that the said king of the Romans, and the nobility about him, are well aware of the imposition, and that he only does it on account of the displeasure he feels at the treaty made by the King with his said brother and cousin, the king of France.’

Here we have Henry’s riposte to Richard’s pretension; the king claims that the youth is a native of Tournay, the son of a boatman and that his true name is Werbec, though it is unclear whether this is offered as the imposter’s forename or the family name of his father. Henry asserts that he has a wealth of creditable information confirming this and that Maximilian knows he is supporting an imposter, rather than a genuine pretender. This accusation is important for the very reason Henry points out. It should be considered beneath a prince of any nation to undermine the authority innate in royalty by holding up a known impostor, and a commoner from a foreign land to boot, against a fellow prince, whatever their personal quarrels may be. Supporting a legitimate potential alternative was fair game and an important political tool, but to cause a common man to be treated as royalty, allowed to wear royal cloth of gold and be hailed as a rightful king was not something any prince should, or would, do lightly, not least for the harm it would do to their own exalted position. From the descriptions provided earlier, Maximilian does not seem likely to take such an unwise step simply to help the step-mother of his deceased wife keep a personal feud alive. It is possible that Maximilian took the inadvisable step as an expedient to keep Margaret onside and harness her popularity in Burgundy for his son’s benefit, or that he turned a blind eye to the possibility that Richard was not Margaret’s nephew, at least not the one he claimed to be. One explanation for the family likeness is that this Richard was an illegitimate son of Edward IV, though a child from Edward’s exile in Burgundy in 1470-1 would appear too old and one fathered during his 1475 invasion of France too young to pass off as Richard, Duke of York, born in 1473. It is possible that another illegitimate child was sent to Margaret to be raised in comfort, away from the glare of Elizabeth Woodville, and that Margaret now saw in him the perfect chance, but such an illegitimate child is undocumented and no contemporary is recorded to have made such a suggestion.

Henry went on to offer his mediation in the dispute over Naples, since he and Charles VIII were now firm friends and the King of Naples was also on good terms with Henry, being a knight of the English Order of the Garter. Machado was, if asked about the state of domestic affairs, to assure Charles that England was more peaceful now than at any time in living memory, though Ireland remained something of a lost sheep that the king was resolved to bring back into the fold. In this way, any further input from Ireland into current problems could be written off as typical Irish troublemaking. Henry expressed his intention to send an army to quell the ‘Wild Irish’ and bring firmer order back to the Pale, where the English writ at least nominally ran. The last instruction to Machado was to thank the King of France for his assurance that if the King of Scotland were to launch an attack on England, Charles would neither condone nor offer any support to the action.

A separate instruction was added to the end, after the main set had been signed, giving Machado authority to show evidence to the King of France that Maximilian knew the pretender he supported was a fake and that his sole motive was anger at the peace now being enjoyed between England and France. Henry expressed a firm belief that he could reach terms with Maximilian if he wished to, but said that he would not for as long as Maximilian continued on his present course, trusting that England and France together could comfortably overcome any storm opposition to the Holy Roman Emperor might bring their way. Early the following year, Machado, having returned from this embassy, was sent back to France with fresh instruction drawn up at Greenwich on 30 December 1494. Henry reminded Charles that the French king had promised to send an envoy to discuss the state of affairs in both their countries but that none had arrived. Machado was therefore returning to France with news that Henry was in fine health and as beloved by his people as any of his predecessors had ever been. All was well in Ireland, where the men of power had submitted to Henry’s Lieutenant.

The final instruction to Machado (who, as well as holding the office of Clarenceux King of Arms was Richmond Herald) was ‘Item, in case that the said brother and cousin of the King, or others about him, should speak at all touching the king of the Romans, and the garçon who is in Flanders, the said Richmond may reply as he did on his former journey. And he shall say, that the King fears them not, because they are in capable of hurting or doing him injury. And it appears each day more and more to every person who the said garçon is, and from what place he came.’ It seems that Machado was briefed with a response to be used only if the matter to the pretender was raised by the King of France or any of his ministers. The response was to be repeated as it had been before; Henry was not afraid, but in sending Machado back so quickly on the pretence of a delay in Charles’ envoy arriving, Henry betrays a strong sense of concern. He protests too much and perhaps wanted a trusted, experienced pair of eyes at the French court again to make sure that Charles was not double-dealing. The constant reference to Richard as a boy smacks of bluster, an attempt to depict smooth confidence where none really existed. All was not, as Henry tried to make out, quiet in England and this second embassy by Machado was in response to shocking events at home.

18 thoughts on “The Survival of the Princes in the Tower Extract

  1. I pre booked my kindle version and it arrived at five past midnight. brilliant. I am still working my way through it

      1. I have read most of the book but I need to read it all to absorb, I am now thinking it really was possible that the 1487 rebellion was in favour of Edward V. The destruction of all records in Ireland on pain of treason is strange to me as I am sure they would somehow have revealed he was claiming to be warwick…so why not preserve them,
        I think it a little strange if tyrell was involved in the concealment (and CERTAINLY the murder) that he decided to stay in England and not flee

      2. I hope you enjoy the book when you’ve finished it. The evidence around the 1487 revolt is really interesting. I wish we could uncover more about Tyrell and his role. Please let me know what you think when you reach the end.

    1. Matthew, may I first say I was sceptical about your book, even if was looking forward to it because the two theories, wisely placed at the end, I had read before don’t persuade me personally. Having said that, now I am halfway through your book is well researched, cites a number of sources I had not encountered before, certainly made me think, which few academic texts do, and the reason I am so slow in finishing is I have to stop to make notes on the Kindle every few minutes, that is how much your book has challenged me. It is wonderful to find a new take, although some areas were covered before, by John Ashdown Hill and others, but you have gone into much more analysis and detail and even the smallest snippet of information can be vital. I am thoroughly enjoying being challenged and your books are always a pleasure to read.

      However, I do have one observation. Endnotes may be helpful as you are using a lot of original sources and although you have a bibliography, it is helpful for further research for readers to know the exact reference within the source or how to find it later on. It is also better academic practice and more professional. I know you do extensive research and your books show excellent knowledge, but many people find traditional reference notes helpful. There are a number of modern authors who don’t use a reference section, especially if most of their material is from original sources which although cited in the text are not fully referenced in an appendix or endnotes. I am sorry to mention this and hope you are not offended, it is just something I feel is important and miss.

      Thank you in advance for your thoughts on this matter and again congratulations on your marvellous book.

      1. I’m glad you’re enjoying the book – especially if you weren’t expecting to. I’ve tried not to force any of the theories on a reader so if the later theories don’t grab you, hopefully they won’t spoil the book either.

        I take your point about endnotes (and I’m not at all offended). To be honest the decision not to use them is entirely mine. I find they distract from then narrative and take readers out of the story, but I do take your point that not fully referencing things isn’t great for those who wish to dig further. I reference material in the text so that hopefully it isn’t impossible to find but maybe I should rethink my approach – especially if readers want to research further. To be honest, it still blows my mind that anyone reads what I write at all!

        I hope you enjoy the rest of the book and I look forward to hearing what you think when you reach the end. If there are any references you would like better explained please just let me know.

      2. Thanks for your swift response and explanation. No, I am enjoying the book, immensely and there is a definite trail to be followed for both Princes. I am looking forward to starting Henry iii as soon as possible and I will definitely let you know what I think when I have finished. I also appreciate what a task references can be, bringing them together for my own dissertation was a complete nightmare. I appreciate the hard work and research in all of your books as well as the hard work you must put into this excellent blog.

  2. Hi Matt, I have finished your book and am very impressed. The use of little known sources and local knowledge or stories to find clues to the life of Prince Edward and Prince Richard (although not legitimate) is impressive. The dark hole scenario is very true, they draw everyone to them and they disappear without trace. I loved that. I did have difficulty with the John Clements theory and don’t really buy it but it is interesting to read it in full. I really can’t imagine Henry Viii knowingly having a true York heir in his court, even at 17. He had York families of course as his closest allies in the Neville and Pole families but he was also later suspicious of them ( well of everyone) but his religious changes and marriage adventures partly explain the fall of these great families. I did have one mad idea about John Clements but I doubt it has any value. I was thinking that John Clements could have been the lost son of Richard of England born after his father’s execution, which was on the feast of Saint Clement. I also don’t see More hiding him, unless he really had no idea who his true parents were. Well just a thought.

    I really wanted to ask if you have a theory about a rather regular if dumb question that comes up on comments about the murder of the Princes. Before the so called Buckingham revolt in favour of himself/Henry Tudor, there was the thwarted attack to free the boys in July, which ended in those responsible paying the price for treason and clearly Richard took steps to up security around them. It is often asked why not produce the boys if they were alive in response to Buckingham allegations of their deaths, but a better question would surely be why not produce them if dead and within his control, assuming Buckingham didn’t kidnap them? Richard could have blamed Buckingham publicly whether he was responsible or not. Richard could claim he was in the North when the deed was done and others did this without his consent, received criticism but mourning them to clear his name. If the boys died of ill health, then public mourning would be appropriate. But what if they were alive?

    Hindsight teaches us a lot and a lesson can perhaps be found in an error made by Henry Tudor in answer to the dilemma Richard may have faced. In 1486 less than a year after he seized Richard’s throne after his lucky victory at Bosworth Henry faced the threat of a boy crowned in Dublin and claiming to be Edward Earl of Warwick, or Edward v, depending on the sources and he was worried about trouble in York. He had what he believed was the real Warwick in the Tower, but some doubted this and Henry was clearly nervous. He made the error of showing the boy, allowing him to speak with his cousin, John de la Pole and his father, bringing attention to the boy and maybe planting the conspiracy which John, Earl of Lincoln led the following year. It was a mistake because the young Prince was cheered, much to the shock of a nervous new King. Had Richard shown the young Princes he would draw unnecessary and unwelcome attention to them. Locked up in custody, moved north or abroad they were out of sight, could not be encouraged and cheered and could not be held by the rebels either. I believe Richard wanted them secure, not open to possible kidnap, the focus of a following and he wanted the rebels confused about their fate, so as their aims were confused and their followers uncertain and not confident about the claim of either Buckingham or Henry. The more secure they were the better and if Buckingham lost a following he would be put down earlier. Either way there is not enough certain evidence of Richard’s motivation but Richard seems to have benefited more from silence. There is just as much evidence for the survival of the Princes as any rumours of their demise and why get rid of his two most valuable nephews and leave so many other heirs alive if Richard really was the monster Shakespeare made him out to be? The most dangerous person in Richard’s reign was Elizabeth as Henry had proclaimed publicly that he would marry her as the eldest York heiress and this secured him Yorkist support. As you say, why leave the daughters alive, the other male heirs and kill two boys who had been declared illegitimate? In 1483_neither child was any threat and his treatment of everyone else belies the accusations of murder and his reputation for good just laws and fairness which he still upheld also belies those accusations.

  3. I really enjoyed this book Matthew it was thought provoking and although I am a convert to these theories that Richard iii was not responsible for the boy’s deaths I understand why he will always be the chief suspect. The way you put forward thoughts on why we should just think outside of the box was brilliant such as the boys hardly knowing each other, the treatment of Lovell after Bosworth, info on Edward Guildford and Jane Dudley, the burial place of John Clement and treatment of Richard of Shrewsbury to name a few. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, people will always believe what they want to but really there is just as much there to suggest they could have lived to them having died at the hands of their uncle. Great book.

    1. Thank you Sarah. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. I think it is striking how much of what we think we know can be refuted, or at least contested, by going back to the contemporary sources.

  4. I do think that Richard III may well not have killed them but wanted to keep them secure. It’s been many years since I studied this era of history but I always came back to thinking Margaret Beaufort with powerful support from her Stanley husband with a base of wealth, land connections and influences in the North West may have been very influential in deciding what happened to them. She and Henry her son worked as a partnership.

    Personally, I’m a believer in possible kidnap rather than murder (although sadly murder fits better with realpolitik). I have relatives in the Cheshire area who saw a small plaque around 10-12 years ago years ago by a waterway near Frodsham south of the Mersey that made reference to the two boys. They went back a few years later and it was gone gone. At first I thought ‘how odd’ to find a mention there, but then, if you stretch to a few if’s … a waterway leading to the Mersey that takes you to the Irish sea and the high seas, the fact that Cheshire and Wirral was Stanley territory……could they have been taken out to Ireland and lived under house arrest for life? Or, perhaps slightly more sinister shipped out to Rome or Venice (to be prisoners of the Catholic Church whom Margaret Beaufort was close to) or sold into poverty or slavery. I have the feeling Elizabeth Woodville may never have known what happened to them. I admit that I’m no expert but I think this helps in some respects to be able to see a story from more angles. I’m not a fan of the romanticised versions of history.

    I also do feel that this is something that will have a paper trail somewhere and maybe Europe still has records that can help. Literally there must have been people who knew what happened to the children and where they went. I think Henry VII never really believed Perkin Warbeck was his lost brother in law/distant cousin but he had to deal with the situation of having a pretender face him. Elizabeth of York never recognised him. It would be interesting if the Vatican archives could be used. Also I am doubtful of the friar Mancini although his evidence didn’t appear until the 20th century. It seems a bit to convenient to point to finger to Richard when Margaret was, as I’ve said, so close to the power hungry church.

  5. I have been trying to order this book, but I live in the U.S and every store and amazon or wherever I go says the book is out of stock or not available. Why!? Is not available in America?

      1. Do you know when it should be available? I can’t believe they’re sold out!

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