England’s King Edward IV died leaving his sons in the care of his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Richard placed the boys in the Tower of London in preparation of the eldest son, Edward’s, coronation. The boys disappeared in 1483 and Richard assumed the throne himself. In the end, Richard probably murdered them, but the evidence is circumstantial.
Edward IV died in 1483. He named his brother, Richard, Lord Protector of the Kingdom for his son, 12-year-old Edward V. Richard moved his nephews, Edward and Richard of Shrewsbury, to the Tower of London. The boys would remain there until the June 22 coronation.
With the new king safely under lock and key, Richard annulled Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville making the boys illegitimate and therefore invalidating their claims to the throne. Next, parliament rubber stamped Richard’s action and he assumed the throne. Richard, Duke of Gloucester became Richard III.
Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York remained threats to Richard III. They were last seen alive in August. They simply disappeared. Rumors immediately swirled. Many believed Richard III murdered the two princes.
Two months after the last sighting of the princes, Richard faced a revolt led by Henry Stafford, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham. Richard defeated and executed Stafford. Then, Henry Tudor landed in England and finally defeated Richard III. Richard died in battle in 1485. Whether the princes were alive or dead at the time of Richard’s demise is unknown.
Richard III is the most likely suspect in the princes’ disappearance. He nullified their royal clams and assumed power. However, some have argued Henry Tudor murdered the children after defeating Richard. The boys would have posed a threat to Tudor’s tenuous claim to the throne. As Henry VII, Tudor executed potential rivals. However, the boys had disappeared before Richard’s death. On top of this, Richard most likely would have produced the children for his critics to quell the accusations against him. Additionally, Richard did not investigate the disappearances and allegedly mentioned their “murder.”
Nearly 200 years after their disappearance, workers discovered the skeletons of two children while working on renovations in the tower. Most assumed it was the princes. In 1933, forensic scientists examined the bones, but shed little new information on the identity of the remains. To date, the current royal family has declined to allow more rigorous scientific testing. Queen Elizabeth II wants to let the boys rest.
Edward V and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury disappeared in 1483. Although the evidence is circumstantial, Richard III remains the most likely suspect. He legally eliminated their inheritance rights and stole the throne. He did not investigate their murder nor did he produce the boys to exonerate himself or stop the rumors about their murder. They represented a threat to his power, so he eliminated them.