Edward V, age 12, and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, were sent to the Tower of London under orders of their uncle, King Richard III. Their disappearance has been shrouded in mystery for centuries – was it murder? Or did they die from natural causes?
In June 1483, Parliament declared the two princes illegitimate on the grounds that their father Edward IV had contracted to marry Lady Eleanor Butler before he married Elizabeth Woodville.
This made his marriage to Elizabeth invalid.
With the princes’ claim to the throne discredited, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, became next in line as his other brothers, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, and George, Duke of Clarence, had both died.
On 6 July 1483, the princes’ uncle was crowned King of England.
The disappearance of the two princes made Richard III very unpopular with the people of England and this led to his downfall.
Henry married Elizabeth of York the sister of the two princes.
Perkin Warbeck pretended to be Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, and claimed that he had been hidden away and survived the murder. Warbeck traveled all over Europe and in 1490 declared he was Richard IV. Eventually, Warbeck was sent to the tower and executed for treason.
Nearly 200 years later, in 1674, King Charles II ordered the demolition of what remained of the royal palace to the south of the White Tower. The location included a turret that had once contained a privy staircase leading into St John’s Chapel.
Beneath the foundations of the staircase, some 3m (10ft) below the ground, the workmen were astonished to find a wooden chest containing two skeletons. It was concluded that they were the bones of children.
The bones were buried at Westminster Abbey and in 1933 they were examined. The scientist who examined the bones concluded they belonged to two boys aged between 10 and 12.
Many theories abound – some say they were murdered on the orders of their uncle Richard III, others believe they died from illnesses from living in a prison. No one can be sure exactly what happened, but their deaths remain one of the most mysterious events in English history.
Link/cite this page
If you use any of the content on this page in your own work, please use the code below to cite this page as the source of the content.
Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "The Princes in the Tower" https://englishhistory.net/middle-ages/the-princes-in-the-tower/, January 26, 2022