Did Richard III really kill the Princes in the Tower?

For centuries, received opinion has had it that the Yorkist king ordered the murder of his young nephews, Edward and Richard, in a ruthless bid to secure his throne. But might the two princes instead have lived on into the Tudor era? Matthew Lewis and Nathen Amin debate the issue

A painting of the Princes in the Tower

It’s one of the most notorious episodes in all of British history, but one that stubbornly refuses to give up all its secrets. When Edward V and his younger brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, disappeared into the Tower of London in 1483 – where, many believe, they were murdered – the finger of blame for their fate soon alighted on their uncle, Richard III. And there it has stayed for the past 500 years. But proving Richard’s guilt has proved fiendishly difficult, and throughout those five centuries a strand of opinion has advanced the case for Richard’s innocence.

Here’s what we know: in April 1483, Edward IV died suddenly at the age of just 40. Edward’s eldest son was proclaimed king (as Edward V). But the young Edward was just 12 years old, and so a lord protector was required to help him through his minority – that role fell to the new king’s uncle, Richard.

Edward’s coronation was set for 22 June, but soon events had taken a dramatic turn: Edward IV’s marriage was declared bigamous, Richard was himself declared king (as Richard III) and then young Edward and his brother vanished into the Tower, apparently never to be seen in public again.

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