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The Princes in the Tower

by Alison Weir

Other authors: Ruth Rendell (Foreword)

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1,706387,010 (3.57)65
Despite five centuries of investigation by historians, the sinister deaths of the boy king Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York, remain one of the most fascinating murder mysteries in English history. Did Richard III really kill the young princes, as is commonly believed, or was the murderer someone else entirely? Carefully examining every shred of contemporary evidence as well as the dozens of modern accounts, Weir reconstructs the entire chain of events leading to the double murder to arrive at a conclusion Sherlock Holmes himself could not dispute.… (more)
  1. 30
    Royal Blood: King Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes by Bertram Fields (Scotland)
    Scotland: Fields work is largely a discertation against Weir's book. I will leave it up to the readers on who interprets history more accurately.
  2. 10
    Edwin: High King of Britain by Edoardo Albert (LiteraryReadaholic)
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» See also 65 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
We now know that Richard did indeed suffer from scoliosis in his spine, and that his body remained at the Greyfriars in Leicester until rediscovered in 2012. But we still don't conclusively know whether he had his nephews murdered or not. Or if in general he was a Bad Thing, or indeed a Bad King (vide 1066 and All That).
However, rereading this book has convinced me that the overwhelming probability is that he did have them killed. Weir looks at contemporary accounts, noting that they often corroborate one another even when the sources are completely in ignorance of each other. And the common talk in 1483, well before the accession of Henry VII, was that the boys had been done away with. So why did Richard not produce and parade them to contradict rumours?
Richard also had a history of acquisitiveness and violence, even if much was not premeditated but opportunistic. There was also a tradition of "weak" monarchs being dethroned and then secretly done away with.
Weir is also pretty convinced that the bones discovered deep at the foot of a stair in the Tower in 1674 are indeed those of the poor kids.
So, sorry all you romantic Ricardian revisionists. He may not have been the scheming hunchback of later Tudor embellishments, but he was a ruthless opportunist and not a very nice guy. As she points out, the reason the argument rages still is that we don't want to believe, even after more than 500 years, that such a pitiful crime was committed.
  PollyMoore3 | Oct 28, 2019 |
Alison Weir is always a favorite, and she did not disappoint.

I have to say that she did put me off slightly in the Author's Preface. She seemed a little smug about the Richard III debate. I agree, the evidence is pretty overwhelming that he murdered his nephews, but she basically says anyone who doesn't believe it is a moron...I paraphrase. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Judge for yourself:

"In my research, I have analyzed every sentence written about the disappearance of the Princes in original sources, even rearranging information in to its correct chronological sequence, and I have found - somewhat to my surprise - that it is indeed possible to reconstruct the whole chain of events leading up to the murder of the Princes, and to show, within the constraints mentioned above, how, when, where, and by whose order, they died. The truth of the matter is there in the sources, for those who look carefully enough. We are dealing here with facts, not just speculation or theories which I have tried very hard to avoid."

Then there was the one bit on page 227 where she is refuting the whole "Tudor Propaganda" argument of the "Revisionists" (That would be the Richard the III lovers who refuse to believe any of the historians from Henry VII onward. They say it's all lies and "Tudor Propaganda").

"Much of what was written under the Tudors certainly served as propaganda against Richard, but for propaganda to succeed it must be believable: it only works if it is based on fact, and there were many people still living who had known Richard III well."

Uh...I get what she's saying about people still living during Henry VII for sure, and even Henry VIII to some extent that would have KNOWN if lies were being written about Richard III. But, much as the reason for why many didn't write much bad about Richard III until after he died because they were afraid he would have them killed, I'm sure there weren't many people who would point out to Henry VII if he was spreading lies. Also, "...it only works if it is based on fact..." HUH? Rubbish! WWII, Goebbels spread all sorts of ridiculous propaganda about the Jews and the majority of Germany circa 1939-1940 ate it up! That wasn't based in fact at all, but it was infectious as a disease! Propaganda need not be based in any fact what-so-ever. It just needs to SOUND like it is and be spread round by someone people feel is credible.

Whatever, other than those two little moments in the read It was great. I love the way she lays it out there. Brilliant read. I remember being at The Tower of London and some tour guide telling me (in the 1990's) that the bones they found were of girls...it seems I must have had a "Revisionist" tour guide. Heh. ( )
  Amelia1989 | Jun 10, 2019 |
Blames Richard III for the murder in a way that appears to balance the evidence but does not. does not ( )
  mumoftheanimals | May 10, 2018 |
Alison Weir writes an engaging account of the end of the War of the Roses and the last of the Yorkist kings, addressing the two big questions:


* What happened to young Edward V and his brother the Duke of York, and


* Were the bodies discovered during construction at the Tower in 1674 and reexamined in 1933 theirs?


Although Ms. Weir considers a surprising variety of alternatives, her answers are the historically accepted ones: (1) They were murdered on orders from their uncle, Richard III, and (2) Yes.


Perhaps the first three-quarters of the book are an analysis of the military and political situation. Although written with Weir’s usual facility, the really interesting part comes with the discussion of the young princes. I hadn’t realized there were so many theories: they died natural deaths; they were still in the Tower after Bosworth Field and were murdered by Henry VII; one or both escaped and appeared later as Lambert Simnel or Perkin Warbeck; and one or both escaped from the tower and lived incognito in Tudor England.


As Weir points out, since there was no CSI: Late Medieval London, Richard III could never be convicted of anything in a modern court. Nevertheless, he had opportunity, means, and motive. His modern supporters generally use contemporary accounts stating that Richard was a good king as evidence against his culpability; however, it’s perfectly possible to be a good king and a despicable human being, and that seems the case with Richard III. Ambassadors and other foreign residents in England, with nothing to lose or gain, generally believed that Richard III killed his nephews; everybody, even his fans, agrees that Richard III eliminated anyone who blocked path to the throne, including his former supporter Hastings (summarily executed in the middle of a council meeting); and there’s no report of the princes being seen alive after August 1483. (Based on the movements of the various parties, Weir thinks they were murdered on the night of September 3).

For the argument that Henry VII was the murderer - certainly Henry VII’s claim to the throne was based on the rickety foundation that his grandmother, Katherine of Valois, widow of Henry V, may or may not have married her wardrobe master Owen Tudor before having a child by him leading to Henry VII’s paternal line, and that his great-great grandfather, John of Gaunt, may or may not have married his mistress Katherine Swynford before she originated his maternal ancestors, the Beauforts. Henry would, therefore, have been discomfited to find the princes still alive in the Tower after Bosworth. Since there’s no physical evidence, Weir has to base her argument on logic, and it’s pretty sound. If the princes were still alive, Richard III had a great deal of incentive to produce them; his claim to the throne was not based on the argument that Edward V was dead but that he was illegitimate, and showing him would have diffused a lot of the hostility toward Richard (although it may have led to complications later, Richard presumably would have been able to deal with those).


The argument that the 1674 bodies were the princes is more tenuous but still plausible. Although there are likely to be a lot of bodies buried here and there around the Tower, these two skeletons were at the base of a stairway, right where legend said they should be; both the 1674 and 1933 examinations suggested they were about the right age; the workman who found them in 1674 said there were scraps of velvet on the bodies (a rare and princely material in 1483); and a 1964 disinterment of their cousin Anne Mowbray showed facial similarities to the skulls described in 1933. A reopening of the urn in Westminster Abbey and examination of the remains with modern technology might or might not settle things, but the Deans of the abbey have so far refused to apply to the Queen for the necessary permission.


As usual for Ms, Weir, fascinating history. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 28, 2017 |
(7/10) "... only one man could have been responsible for their deaths: Richard III."

If you are expecting an unbiased account of the disappearance of Edward V and his brother then this is not the book for you. Weir makes her point abundantly clear throughout and presents a very wide range of evidence to back up her conclusions. At times I did feel we wandered off topic a little into a general recounting of major events of the period, not something I really want to criticise as I love history and found the diversions very educational.

As a history nerd I really enjoyed this book, it's about a new topic for me and I feel I should read some of the revisionist arguments before drawing my own conclusions as to whether Richard murdered his nephews or not. Regardless, I found this book really interesting, well researched and most importantly engaging, there really is nothing worse than a history book that sends you to sleep! ( )
  LiteraryReadaholic | Mar 8, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alison Weirprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rendell, RuthForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Modern writers on the subject of the Princes in the Tower have tended to fall into two categories: those who believe Richard III guilty of the murder of the Princes but are afraid to commit themselves to any confident conclusions, and those who would like to see Richard more or less canonised.
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