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Re: Who Killed The Princes In The Tower ?
Posted by: Bonnie Bunce (ID *****7989) Date: December 02, 2004 at 15:49:30
In Reply to: Re: Who Killed The Princes In The Tower ? by Jerry Anderson of 1696

I have a four volume set of books written by Thomas B. Costain on the Plantagenet family. It is a history, not historical fiction of the family. You might be interested in the following.

In the book, The Last Plantagenets by Thomas B. Costain, c. 1962 in the last chapter, he puts forth some interesting information concerning the story that Richard III had his two nephews smothered to death with pillows. First, he puts forth the information concerning a medical examination made of the bones of the young nephews which were found in a rubbish heap beneath an old set of stone stairs that were replaced in July, 1674, during the reign of Charles II. The bones were placed in an urn and it was placed in the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster.

On July 6, 1933, the bones were removed from the urn and examined by Professor William Wright, then dean of London Hospital. On Nov. 30, 1933, a paper was read before the Society of Antiquaries, which contained a historical review of the case prepared by Mr. Lawrence E. Tanner and the findings of Professor Wright. Professor Wright expressed his opinion that the bones were of the two princes and that they had been killed sometime prior to the Battle of Bosworth.

However, Mr. Costain then presents some other evidence. He states that from the princes' bones Professor Williams estimated the height of the elder boy, Edward, to have been 57.50 inches and the height of the younger, Richard, to have been 54.50 inches. He states "[t]he bones indicate that both boys were very tall for the ages which Professor Wright assigns to them." Costain then presents a chart of the average heights of boys in England in both town and country that was published in a book, Housebook of Hygiene, in 1913:

12 years        54.97
13 years       56.91
14 years        59.33
15 years       62.24

Costain further points out that in the Middle Ages men in general were much shorter than they are today, and that no modern man can fit inside the coats of armor used by men in the Middle Ages. Therefore, "[a]llowing for the greater stature of present-day youth, it seems reasonable to place him [Prince Edward] at an age of at least fifteen years, which would mean that he could have lived into the first years of the reign of Henry VII [the first Tudor king]."

Additionally, Costain points out that the story behind the killing of the young princes was apparently concocted by an Italian historian named Polydore Vergil, who was hired in 1505 by King Henry VII to write a history of England. It is said that he would borrow manuscripts from libraries and not return them and that he was also accused of burning wagon loads of histories and papers so that his errors would not be uncovered. From this history, Costain quotes the story of the murder of the princes in the Tower.

"Whereupon," says the History, "he [Richard III] sent one John Green, whom he especially trusted, unto Sir Robert Brackenbury, constable of the Tower, with a letter and credence also, that the same Sir Robert should in any wise put the two children to death. This John Green did his errand unto Brackenbury, kneeling before Our Lady in the Tower, who plainly answered he would never put them to death, to die therefore." The meaning of which is that the constable would die himself rather than commit such a crime. Then the story proceeds with the sending of Tyrell to the Tower later. "Wherefore, on the morrow, he was commanded to deliver Sir James all the keys of the Tower for one night, to the end that he might then accomplish the king's pleasure." There is a final reference to the constable in the report. "Whereupon they say that a priest of Sir Robert Brackenbury took up the bodies again, and secretly interred them."

Costain goes on to call Sir Robert Brackenbury an "eyewitness," and that he was known as an honorable man, and nothing was said or written against him. Yet on the day of the Battle of Bosworth, when he heard about the gathering armies of Richard III and Henry of Richmond, he got a group of men together to join the battle. Ironically he did not join the side of Henry of Richmond, but joined the battle on the side of Richard III, which Costain believes is clear evidence that the princes had not been killed prior to the battle.

Costain ends the book with a personal note of how he became interested in the Plantagenet family and also describing the character that he had found of Richard III, that he was not the hunchbacked evil uncle, but that Costain discovered "many glimpses of him as a warm and understanding human being." He felt that at this late date it was impossible to reach any definite verdict regarding whether Richard was guilty or innocent of the deaths of his nephews. "But if Richard cannot be declared innocent, should it not be made clear that he cannot in all honesty be accounted guilty?"

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