Throughout history, well-connected children have been shown no mercy if they’re in the way of somebody trying to seize royal power. The hereditary principle means that if somebody has a better right to the throne but you want to be king or queen – well then, you’d better bump off the competition. And if those in the way of your unbridled ambition happen to be rather young – that will simply have to be overlooked.
When King Edward IV of England died in April 1483, his son – also called Edward – was acclaimed as the next king. Aged only 12, he obviously needed a protector so step forward the late king’s brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. He was a perfectly competent administrator and had proven himself by keeping control of the north of England from his power base in York.
Now he was Lord Protector of the Realm and should have been making urgent preparations for the coronation of his nephew as Edward V. Instead, he began moving against the queen mother Elizabeth Woodville and those around her whom he accused of plots and intrigue. She fled to Westminster Abbey demanding sanctuary while Richard suggested to the king-to-be that he reside in the Tower of London for his own safety.
Richard’s next move was to find a priest who would declare that the marriage between the late king and Elizabeth was invalid – and therefore his children were bastards. A man of the cloth obligingly offered to support this argument. Richard then moved Edward V’s younger brother Richard, Duke of York, in with him. Through to the summer, the two young boys were seen around the Tower’s gardens and then – they disappeared.
Next thing you know, Richard the protector had become Richard the king. And for the rest of history it was assumed that wicked Richard III had bumped off his two child nephews to get to the throne. But not everybody agrees. And those that don’t agree get very heated on the topic.
Why didn’t he kill his nieces too, who also had a claim on the throne? Why didn’t he announce the deaths of the two boys, show their bodies in pubic? Could they actually have survived only to be killed by Henry VII, the Tudor prince who killed Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth?
Your views would be welcome!