The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir


  of their discovery was sent to King Charles II. It also appears that several people removed some of the bones as souvenirs at this time, and replaced them with animal bones from the rubbish heap.

  Eventually, the King ordered that the skeletons be examined by the royal surgeon and a panel of experienced antiquaries, all of whom declared they were satisfied that the remains were indeed those of the Princes. According to Camden's Britannia (1695 edition), the bones remained in the Tower for four years, except for some few that were secured as curiosities by Elias Ashmole and sent to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. In 1678 Charles II asked Sir Christopher Wren 'to provide a white marble coffin for the supposed bodies of the two Princes'. The bones were translated from the Tower to Westminster Abbey and decently interred, according to Camden, 'under a curious altar of black and white marble' which may still be seen today, bearing the inscription:

  Here lie interred the remains of Edward V, King of England, and Richard, Duke of York, whose long desired and much sought after bones, after above an hundred and ninety years, were found by most certain tokens, deep interred under the rubbish of the stairs that led up to the Chapel of the White Tower, on the 17th of July in the year of our Lord 1674. Charles the Second, a most merciful prince, having compassion upon their hard fortune, performed the funeral rites of these unhappy Princes among the tombs of their ancestors, anno Domini 1678.

  It is not known what the 'most certain tokens' that facilitated the identification of their bodies were, only that they were accepted as sufficiently convincing by those most qualified to judge at the time.

  Those bones that had been sent to the Ashmolean Museum were recorded in a seventeenth-century catalogue of the museum's treasures. But in 1728, when the celebrated antiquarian Thomas Hearne went there and asked to see the bones, the keeper, Mr Whiteside, could not find them. All he could say was that he had seen them and remembered them as being 'very small, particularly the finger bones'. In 1933 a search was made in the museum for the bones, but they were not found.

  During the first part of the twentieth century, strong pressure was


  brought to bear upon the authorities of Westminster Abbey to have the urn containing the supposed bones of the Princes opened and its contents re-examined in the light of new advances in medical science. The Abbey was -- and still is -- a Royal Peculiar, which means that both the Sovereign and the Home Secretary have to give permission for any of the tombs to be opened. In 1933, George V, bowing to public opinion, finally authorised the opening of the urn, and an examination of the bones therein was carried out in the Abbey precincts by Dr Lawrence E. Tanner, an eminent physician, archivist and Keeper of the Monuments at Westminster Abbey, and Professor W. Wright, a dental surgeon who was President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain. Tanner's report on their findings was published in Archaeologia in 1934.

  Tanner and Wright found, to begin with, that the urn contained all kinds of bones including animal bones which probably came from the rubbish heap on the excavation site at the Tower. Once the human bones were separated from these, Tanner and Wright discovered they had the incomplete skeletons of two children, the elder 4 foot 10 inches tall, and the younger 4 foot 6V2 inches tall; both were of slender build with very small finger bones. Using dental evidence, they estimated that the elder child was twelve to thirteen years old (Edward V had been twelve years and ten months in September 1483) and the younger nine to eleven years old (York was ten in September 1483). Because the bones were pre-pubertal their sex could not be established. Nor could the age of the bones.

  Wright stated that the elder child had certainly suffered from extensive, chronic bone disease -- probably osteomyelitis -- affecting both sides of the lower jaw; this 'could not fail to have affected his general health', causing painful swelling and inflammation of the lower gums, making the patient miserable and irritable. In the light of this evidence it is significant that Dr Argentine was attending Edward V shortly before his disappearance; both Argentine and More confirmed that the boy was then sunk in apathy and depression, which may have been partly due to the discomfort in his jaw.

  Wright stated also that the structure of the jaws and bones in each skeleton indicated a familial link, and further claimed that a red stain on the facial bones of the elder child was a blood stain caused by suffocation.

  Tanner and Wright felt that there were too many coincidences


  between the evidence of the bones and the evidence of history: who else could these bones belong to but the Princes? Wright thought the evidence 'more conclusive than could, considering everything, reasonably have been expected'. This was a blow to those revisionists who had questioned the seventeenth-century identification of the skeletons. For, as the report concluded, if they were those of the Princes, 'by no possibility could either or both have been still alive on August 22nd 1485', the day of Bosworth. In other words, on the basis of the children's ages at the time of their death, it was likely that they had died in 1483 and that More's account of their deaths came very near to the truth since 'the evidence that the bones in the urn are those of the Princes is as conclusive as could be desired'.

  Since 1934 there have been several attempts to discredit the findings of Tanner and Wright. In the 1970s and 1980s the Richard III Society made several unsuccessful attempts to persuade the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey to apply for royal permission to re-exhume the bones for further tests, on the grounds that significant scientific advances since 1933 could now establish the ages of the children with greater accuracy, new chemical tests could perhaps determine their sex, radio-carbon dating could estimate the age of the bones to within twenty-five years, and biochemical analysis could resolve the vexed question of whether the facial stain on the elder child's skull is in fact blood. The Dean and Chapter, however, are reluctant to disturb the royal bones within their precincts and do not consider a new examination either desirable or worthwhile.

  Medical experts called upon in recent years to examine the forensic evidence for the identification of the skeletons have therefore had to rely on the report and photographs of Wright and Tanner. Within these constraints, there now exists a substantial body of medical opinion on the subject. In 1955 Richard Ill's revisionist biographer Paul Murray Kendall enlisted the assistance of four experts: Dr W. M. Krogman, Professor of Physical Anthropology in the Graduate School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania; Dr Arthur Lewis, an orthodontist of Dayton, Ohio; Professor Bertram S. Kraus of the Department of Anthropology of the University of Arizona; and Dr Richard Lyne-Pirkis of Godalming, Surrey. Professor A. R. Myers, the eminent mediaeval historian, canvassed the opinion of Professor R. G. Harrison, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Liverpool. In


  1978 Elizabeth Jenkins, author of The Princes in the Tower, obtained an opinion from Mr F. M. Lind, BDS Lond., LDS, RCS Eng., while in 1981 the late Professor Charles Ross, author of the most outstanding biography of Richard III, sought the opinions of Dr Juliet Rogers, a specialist in the study of ancient bones, Dr J. H. Musgrove, an anatomist, and Professor E. W. Bradford, a professor of dental surgery. Dr Jean Ross, senior lecturer in anatomy at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School, gave 'evidence' at the television trial of Richard III in 1984, and in 1987 there was a lively debate between The Times' archaeology correspondent Norman Hammond, Dr Theya Molleson and a Mr William White in the correspondence columns of The Times on the subject of the bones in the urn.

  The findings of the experts were in all cases consistent with the bones being those of the Princes in the Tower. Although some questioned the findings of Tanner and Wright they did not discredit them; indeed, their conclusions substantiated them.

  With regard to the age of the children, most of the experts preferred to rely on the dental evidence, which mostly showed that the age of the elder child was at least eleven years and at most thirteen years. The age of the younger child was more difficult to determine,
but was within the range of seven to eleven and a half years. These findings were consistent with the deaths of the children occurring in September 1483.

  Dr Ross found indications of a blood relationship between the skeletons in the bones of the skull, and the number and type of permanent teeth missing, a condition known as hypodontia. Dr Molleson agreed that these factors were strongly suggestive of kinship because of the rarity of such bone formations; William Wright disputed this on the grounds that research showed this was true of modern skeletons but not of seventeenth-century Londoners, but Dr Molleson had compared her findings with tests carried out on mediaeval skeletons found in Winchester, in which the incidence of hypodontia was the same as it is today. Dr Molleson also concluded that there was every likelihood of a blood relationship with Anne Mowbray, York's wife and a third cousin of the Princes, whose bones had been subjected to forensic tests in 1965, and whose permanent teeth were also incomplete.

  Dr Molleson was the only expert to pronounce on the sex of the children, it being agreed by the rest that it was extremely hard to ascertain the gender of pre-pubertal skeletons. She compared the dental


  and skeletal maturity of Anne Mowbray's bones with the bones in the urn and concluded that the latter were probably both pre-pubescent boys.

  All the experts agreed that the age of the bones could not be determined from the evidence available to them. Dr Juliet Rogers stated that the most that could be said was that the children died before 1674, and added that they could even be Roman. As we have seen, if one accepts the textile evidence, this could not have been so.

  None of the experts were able to determine the cause of death. Dr Ross and Dr Lyne-Pirkis could find no evidence of any facial bloodstain on the elder child, but Dr Krogman did concede that the mark there could have been blood resulting from the rupturing of vessels during suffocation, even though it was usually only facial tissues that were damaged in such circumstances. Dr Musgrove agreed that there might be a blood stain, but stated that proof could only be obtained by biochemical analysis.

  The weight of medical evidence may not be conclusive, but it in no way excludes the likelihood that these bones were those of the ill-fated Princes in the Tower; indeed, it corroborates Sir Thomas More's evidence and the findings of Wright and Tanner, and in its own right strongly suggests that the original identification of the bones in the seventeenth century was correct. No other pair of boys of rank disappeared in the Tower between 1483 and 1674: to suggest otherwise is really to stretch coincidence too far. It is true that the medical evidence presently available does not identify the cause of death of the children, nor their murderer. Nevertheless, it confirms that, if these were the Princes -- and there is no reason to suppose otherwise -- then they were dead by the end of 1483. And if that is the case, given all the other evidence already discussed in previous chapters, then only one man could have been responsible for their deaths: Richard III.


  Genealogical Table: Lancaster and York


  [table removed]


  Select Bibliography

  Primary Sources

  General Works

  Annals of Ulster (4 vols, ed. William Hennessey and B. MacCarthy, Belfast, 1888-1901)

  Archaeologia, or Miscellaneous Tracts relating to Antiquity (102 vols, Society of Antiquaries, 1773-- 1969)

  Calendar of Close Rolls, Edward IV-Richard III (3 vols, Rolls Series, HMSO, 1927-54)

  Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland, Vol IV, 1357-1509 (ed. J. Bain, 1888)

  Calendar of Papal Registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland (HMSO, 1960)

  Calendar of Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office: Edward IV, 1461-1467 (Rolls Series, HMSO, 1897)

  Edward IV, Henry VI, 1467-1477 (Rolls Series, HMSO, 1900)

  Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III, 1476-1485 (Rolls Series, HMSO, 1901)

  A Collection of Ordinances and Regulations for the Government of the Royal Household made in divers reigns from King Edward III to King William and Queen Mary (Society of Antiquaries of London, 1790)

  A Collection of Wills of the Kings and Queens of England from William the Conqueror to Henry VII (ed. J. Nichols, Society of Antiquaries, 1780)


  The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom (13 vols, ed. V. Gibbs, H. A. Doubleday, D. Warrand, Thomas, Lord Howard de Walden, and G. White, St Catherine's Press, 1910-59)

  English Historical Documents, Vol. IV, 1327-1485 (ed. A. R. Myers, Eyres & Spottiswoode, 1969)

  Excerpta Historica (ed. S. Bentley, 1831)

  The Great Chronicle of London (ed. A. H. Thomas and I. D. Thornley, 1938)

  The Harleian Miscellany (ed. W. Oldys and T. Park, 1810)

  Letters and Papers illustrative of the Reigns of Richard III and Henry VII (2 vols, ed. J. Gairdner, Rolls Series, 1861-63)

  Letters of the Kings of England (ed. J. O. Halliwell, 1846) Original Letters illustrative of English History (11 vols, ed. H. Ellis, 1824-46)

  The Popular Songs of Ireland (ed. T. Croker, 1839)

  The Registers of Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells (1466-91) and Richard Fox, Bishop of Bath and Wells (1492-94) (ed. C. Maxwell-Lyte, Somerset Record Society, 52, 1937)

  Rotuli Parliamentorum (The Rolls of Parliament) (7 vols, ed. J. Strachey, Record Commissioners, 1767-183 2)

  Statutes of the Realm, 1101-1713 (Record Commissioners, 1810-28)

  Sources before 1483

  Historie of the Arrivall of Edward TV in England and the final Recoverye of his Kingdomes from Henry VI, AD MCCCCLXXI (ed. J. A. Bruce, Camden Society, 1838)

  Three Chronicles of the Reign of Edward TV (ed. Keith Dockray, Alan Sutton, 1988)

  Warkworth, John, Master of Peterhouse College, Cambridge: A Chronicle of the First Thirteen Years of the Reign of King Edward the Fourth (to 1473; written c.1483; ed. J. O. Halliwell, Camden Society, 1839)

  William of Worcester: Annates Rerum Anglicarum (ed. T. Hearne, 1728, and J. Stevenson in Letters and Papers illustrative of the Wars of the English in France, 2 vols, Rolls Series, 1861-64)


  Ricardian Sources

  Acts of Court of the Mercers' Company, 1453-1527 (ed. L. Lyell and F. D. Watney, Cambridge, 1936)

  British Library Harleian Manuscript 433 (ed. R. E. Horrox and P. W. Hammond, 4 vols, Alan Sutton, 1979-83)

  A Castilian Report on English Affairs, 1486 (ed. Anthony Goodman and Angus Mackay, English Historical Review, LXXXVIII, 1973)

  The Cely Letters, 1472-1488 (ed. Alison Hanham, Early English Texts Society, 1975)

  Chronicles of London (ed. C. L. Kingsford, Oxford, 1905)

  The Coronation of Richard III (ed. Anne F. Sutton and P. W. Hammond, Alan Sutton, 1983)

  The Croyland Chronicle Continuation, 1459-1486 (ed. N. Pronay and J. Cox, 1986)

  A Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts bequeathed unto the University of Oxford by Elias Ashmole (includes Humphrey Lluyd's Latin manuscript; Oxford, 1845)

  Extracts from the Municipal Records of the City of York during the Reigns of Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III (ed. R. Davies, 1843)

  Grants etc. from the Crown during the Reign of Edward the Fifth (ed. J. G. Nichols, Camden Society, 1854)

  Gregory's Chronicle, or the Historical Collections of a Citizen of London in the Fifteenth Century (ed. J. Gairdner, Camden Society, 1876)

  Historiae Croylandensis Continuato in Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores Veterum (ed. W. Fulman, Oxford, 1684)

  Historiae Croylandensis in Ingulph's Chronicle of the Abbey of Croyland (trans, and ed. H. T. Riley, 1854)

  Historical Notes of a London Citizen, 1483 to 1488 (being the fragment discovered in the College of Arms in 1980) (ed. Richard Firth Green, English Historical Review, Vol. 96, 1981)

  Household Books of John, Duke of Norfolk, and Thomas, Earl of Surrey (ed. J. Payne-Collier, Roxburghe Club, 1844)

  Mancini, Dominic
: De Occupatione Regni Anglie per Riccardum Tercium (trans, and ed. C. A. J. Armstrong, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1969)

  Rous, John: The Rous Roll (ed. C. R. Ross and W. Courthope, Alan Sutton, 1980)


  'A Spanish Account of the Battle of Bosworth' (ed. E. M. Nokes and G. Wheeler, The Ricardian, No. 36, March, 1972)

  The Stonor Letters and Papers 1290-1483 (2 vols, ed. C. L. Kingsford, Camden Series, 1919) York Civic Records, Vols. I and II (ed. Angelo Raine, Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Record Series CHI, 1939-41)

  Tudor Sources

  Andre, Bernard: Vita Henrici VII (in Memorials of King Henry VII, ed. J. Gairdner, Rolls Series, 1858)

  Bull of Pope Innocent VIII on the Marriage of Henry VII with Elizabeth of York (ed. J. Payne-Collier, Camden Miscellany I, 1847)

  The Chronicle of Calais in the Reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII (ed. J. G. Nichols, Camden Society, 1846)

  English Historical Documents Vol. V, 1485-1588 (ed. C. H. Williams, 1967)

  Fabyan, Robert: The Concordance of Histories: The New Chronicles of England and France (1516) (ed. H. Ellis, 1811)

  Grafton, Richard: Grafton's Chronicle, or History of England (2 vols, ed. H. Ellis, 1809)

  Grafton, Richard: The Chronicle of John Hardyng ... Together with the Continuation by Richard Grafton (ed. H. Ellis, 1812)

  Hall, Edward: The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (London, 1550; ed. H. Ellis, 1809; facsimile edition of the original published 1970)

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