Archive for September, 2015

Examining an alternative theory – a response to Sir Thomas More’s account of the murder of the princes in the Tower

September 4, 2015

I have always had several ‘bones to pick’ with Sir Thomas More’s account of the murder and disposal of the princes’ bodies. One point being practical considerations over how to transport and dispose of bodies in and around the Tower. If they were initially buried within a wooden chest – the two bodies found under the staircase were allegedly surrounded by velvet clothing or material and placed in a chest then how big was the hole dug out to receive them? Were the bodies dismembered as there was no sign of this on the skeletal remains? If they were buried together as fully articulated skeletons then the chest would have been quite substantial and difficult to lower 10 feet down into a hole dug for the purpose. Then there was the actual site of the burial – a staircase leading to the chapel in the Tower – where regular services and offices would have been conducted. How long would it take to dig out all the material and then fill it in? It doesn’t seem plausible if the burial was intended to be covert. Another issue I have is with the psychology of a murderer or several murderers. If you were going to order the secret murder of your royal nephews would you really trust that information to two men like those implicated by More? Any power-mad tyrant would surely have bumped off the hired killers almost immediately rather than leave them at large to blackmail you or spill the secret in a tavern after too many pints of ale or indeed take the information abroad to Henry Tudor. Richard would have removed the trail of evidence if he had been the evil mastermind of legend. Then there is Sir Robert Brackenbury who More suggests was revolted at the task of giving up the keys to their apartment for the night. At first he refuses and then he turns a blind eye but is clearly unwilling to be party to the deed. Again, if Richard was as ruthless as traditionalists would have us believe he would have punished Brackenbury for his failure to do his bidding. If Brackenbury was genuinely so unhappy with his master why did he follow him loyally to Bosworth and give his life in the last charge? None of it makes any sense at all. Then More’s account states that Richard decided to move the bodies to another location so the one place they wouldn’t be in where the remains were found in the Tower. I think the timing of their discovery may be much more significant. Charles II was not a king who sat comfortably on his throne. He also had an axe to grind about regicides and was descended through the Tudor/ Stuart line. The re-burial of the missing princes enabled him to put on a public show which emphasised the sanctity of royalty, emphasised that the true Yorkist line ran through Elizabeth of York into his Tudor ancestors and that regicides were to be despised forever and their crimes remembered before God and society.


For several centuries, some historians and other writers have connected Sir Thomas More’s narrative of the murder of Edward IV’s sons to the bones found in 1674 and declared them to prove his case, even to the point of deluding Tanner and Wright in 1933 into calling the bones “Edward” and “Richard” before they even started. This theory has required its adherents to believe that More, who was five in 1483, was telling the absolute truth at first but suddenly switches to falsehood when he tells of the bones being disinterred and reburied somewhere else. Now, of course, modern medical interpretations of Tanner and Wright’s results (Carson, pp.214-32) express doubts as to the age, gender and number of individuals buried there whilst Carson herself ( and in the same chapter) notes the extreme depth of the burial, implying that it considerably pre-dated 1480-90, together with the evidence that “Edward” was…

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