Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

Prince Charles could solve a 550 year old royal mystery when he becomes King

One of the benefits of being a royal is that there's no need to sign up to ancestry.com to find out your family tree – there's loads of books about it already.

But as in all families, there are nooks and crannies in the Royal Family that have been overlooked or ignored… but historians are hopeful that one mystery will finally be solved when Prince Charles takes the throne.

The debate surrounding the fate of King Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, known as the Princes in the Tower, is one that has raged for centuries.

They were the only surviving sons of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville at the time of their father’s death in 1483.

Aged just 12 and 9, the brothers were lodged in the Tower of London by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, supposedly in preparation for Edward’s looming coronation.

But Edward and his brother were soon declared illegitimate and their uncle ascended the throne, becoming King Richard III.

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Their fate remains a mystery to this day, as both boys vanished, but the prevailing theory is that they were both murdered almost 550 years ago.

Fuelling the belief that they were both killed so that their uncle could seamlessly take the throne without obstruction, two small human skeletons were found in the Tower of London in 1674.

On the orders of King Charles II, the bones were placed in an urn and interred at Westminster Abbey.

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The remains were removed and examined in 1933 and, by measuring certain bones and teeth, archivist Lawrence Tanner concluded the bones belonged to two children around the correct ages for the princes.

But was that really them?

In 1789, workmen carrying out repairs at Windsor’s St George’s Chapel accidentally broke into Edward IV’s vault, discovering a small adjoining vault in the process.

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In this, they found two unidentified children but no inspection was carried out and the tomb was resealed.

Centuries later in the late 1990s, a request was made to re-examine the vault as workmen carried out jobs on Edward IV's tomb, but Queen Elizabeth II never granted her approval.

Without the OK of the monarch, no access can be granted, but it is hoped that Prince Charles will recognise the historical significance of further investigation.

However, not everyone thinks that the lads met a grisly end.

Historical author Matthew Lewis argued in a 2014 History Extra debate that they were not murdered at the hands of their uncle, and the rumours surrounding their fate stems from the imagination of William Shakespeare, who brought the rumour to life in his play, Richard III.

He said: “Only Shakespeare made it fact for his work of fiction – a story that has become the history. The Bard invented facts as well as words.

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“Any plot by Richard III to murder the princes to remove their threat rested upon publicising their deaths. That he allowed uncertainty strongly suggests this was not his plan.

“If they died, who really benefitted? Plenty won – but not Richard.

“Is it not fatuous to blame a man for a crime with no evidence even of a crime, let alone his guilt, because a playwright says so?”

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