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The Princes in the Tower by Josephine Wilkinson

Posted By Claire on January 27, 2014

The Princes in the TowerIn the introduction to “The Princes in the Tower”, historian Josephine Wilkinson explains how this book, which is more of a collection of essays or articles, came about. She was working on the second volume of her biography of Richard III and was struggling with the issue of handling the question “what happened to Edward V and Richard, Duke of York” without the topic swamping her biography. Wilkinson came to the conclusion that her research into primary sources regarding the boys’ disappearance could be handled better in a collection of essays published separately to the biography, and this book is that collection.

“The Princes in the Tower” includes the following essays:

  • Edward V: A Short Life – A biography of Edward’s short life.
  • Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York – A biography of Richard’s short life.
  • Richard III: Preserving Sacred Kingship, an Analysis of Titulus Regis – Here, Wilkinson examines in detail Richard III’s Act of Settlement, the statute which settled the crown on Richard and his heirs. Wilkinson makes the interesting point that evidence points to Richard’s role in the bill as being passive, rather than initiating it.
  • John, Lord Howard, and the Mowbray Inheritance 28 June 1483 – Wilkinson looks at the theory that the Princes were murdered by John, Lord Howard, who was granted Richard of York’s Mowbray inheritance by Richard III on 28th June 1483. Evidence leads Wilkinson to conclude that the theory has no real merit.
  • The Duke of Buckingham – Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, is the next suspect to be examined and Wilkinson looks at the rather contradictory sources before concluding that Buckingham too is innocent.
  • Sir James Tyrell and the Mystery of the Princes – It was Francis Bacon who wrote that Sir James Tyrell and John Dighton confessed to murdering the Princes, and in this chapter looks at the evidence. Wilkinson concludes that Tyrell and Dighton too are innocent of the Princes’ murder, but that Tyrell may have had a hand in their disappearance. Interesting!
  • Henry VII – Here, Wilkinson considers the evidence for the theory put forward by some “revisionists” who want to clear Richard III’s name, the theory that Henry VII killed the Princes. After examining the evidence, she is convinced of Henry’s innocence.
  • History and Imagination in Sir Thomas More’s History of King Richard III – Wilkinson considers “the evil legend of Richard III” which was popularised through Thomas More’s work. After careful consideration, she concludes that the work is “a fascinating study in morality” rather than an historical source to be used as evidence.
  • The Rumour – In this essay, Wilkinson examines the earliest primary sources regarding the Princes’ time in the Tower and their fate – letters, payments/accounts, Mancini’s narrative, Caspar Weinrich’s chronicle, Croyland, Vergil…
  • Were the Princes Dead? – Were the Princes killed? Did one or both of them die of natural causes? Did one or both of them go abroad? These are the questions examined in this chapter.

The book also includes full notes and bibliography.

I really enjoyed reading “The Princes in the Tower”. Wilkinson’s examination of the sources is excellent, it is detailed and makes sense. She doesn’t tell the reader what to think, she sets out the theory and the evidence for/against it and then comes to a conclusion. Ultimately, her conclusion is that all of the main players are innocent of the murder of the Princes and concludes that “those who would seek to know what happened to the Princes could do worse than to begin where Perkin Warbeck first emerged: Flanders.” and her conclusion is sound when it is based on her analysis of the sources. Many will disagree with her conclusion, but she is not dogmatic in stating her thoughts, she simply goes where the evidence takes her.

All in all, it’s an excellent book for anyone interested in that period of history and the question of what happened to Edward IV’s sons. It is well-written, fully referenced and easy to read and understand.

Thank you to Amberley Publishing for sending me “The Princes in the Tower” to review.

Book Details

Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing (11 Oct 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1445619741
ISBN-13: 978-1445619743
Also available on Kindle.
Available from – click here, Amazon UK – click here, or your usual book retailer.


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