Having finally found their man more than 500 years after he was killed in battle, sleuths at the Richard III Society have turned their attention to another enduring mystery – what really happened to the princes in the Tower?
Most historians believe Richard killed his nephews in the summer of 1483 after their father, Edward IV, died unexpectedly, although there is no hard evidence linking him to the murders.
The boys, Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, were 12 and nine respectively when their father died. They were taken one by one to the Tower of London in expectation of Edward V’s coronation. This never took place.
Philippa Langley, the historian and screenwriter whose determination led to the 2012 discovery of Richard III’s body beneath a car park in Leicester, has vowed to uncover the truth.
In pictures: The remains of King Richard III
In pictures: The remains of King Richard III
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The Plantagenet Alliance wants the remains to be buried at York Minster, claiming that was the wish 'of the last medieval king of England'
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A picture shows a scale model showing the design for the tomb that will house the remains of medieval English king Richard III as it is unveiled at a press conference at Leicester Cathedral in Leicester, central England on June 16, 2014. British judges on on May 23 finally ended a bitter debate over the burial of king Richard III, ruling that his remains should be laid to rest at Leicester Caathedral the city where they were found under a car park.
AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
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Richard III Society member Philippa Langley and society Chairman Dr Phil Stone stand besides a facial reconstruction of King Richard III in London. After carrying out a series scientific investigations on remains found in a car park in Leicester, the University of Leicester announced that they were those of King Richard III
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The first major production of the play since the discovery of the king’s remains will use the new archaeological evidence on the stage
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A facial reconstruction of King Richard III is displayed on 5 February 2013 at a news conference in central London. The reconstruction is based on a CT scan of human remains found in a council car park in Leicester which are believed to belong to the last of the Plantagenet monarchs of Britain who was killed at the battle of Bosworth in 1485
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Students at the University of Leicester were involved in the excavation of Richard III’s remains. On 4 February 2013, scientific tests confirmed that the battle-scarred skeleton with spinal curvature dug up from underneath a council car park was that of the last English king to die in battle. He had been buried five centuries ago but all physical trace had long since been lost
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Remains found in trench one of the Grey Friars dig
University of Leicester/Rex Features
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The remains of King Richard III were found in a hastily dug, untidy grave, researchers have revealed
University of Leicester
“This is the last big question around Richard III,” she told The Independent on Sunday. “We need to look at what happened to the princes in the Tower because most of the Establishment always state that Richard was the murderer, yet there is absolutely no evidence to support that. Nothing.
“Nobody has put this to the top of their agenda before, but we’re going to now. It was the same with the search for Richard’s remains – everyone presumed they were in the river Soar. Nobody was particularly interested in searching for his lost grave.”
Officially, the princes’ remains were found in 1674, when workmen at the Tower dug up a wooden box containing two skeletons. Four years later, the bones were placed in an urn and interred in Westminster Abbey on the orders of King Charles II.
A request by the Richard III Society to remove the urn to allow carbon dating and other scientific analysis was rejected by the Queen. Ms Langley believes the urn does not contain the princes’ remains, because the depth at which the box was found – 10ft under the staircase leading to the chapel of the White Tower – makes it unlikely.
“That depth is Saxon/Roman level and a skeleton of another child found a few decades ago in that area was carbon-dated to the Stone Age,” she said.
Richard III’s loyal servant, Sir James Tyrell, has been named as the boys’ killer, after a confession, obtained under torture, before his execution for treason in 1502. But this is dismissed by Ms Langley. For it to have been worthwhile for Richard to kill the princes he had to display their bodies, she argues, “otherwise he did it for no reason”, putting himself in jeopardy.
According to Ms Langley, the society has been invited by some of Britain’s “big families” to inspect their archives in the hunt for the princes’ killer. One example is the Brackenbury family – Robert Brackenbury was Constable of the Tower of London.
National archives in Spain, Portugal and the Low Countries are also being searched and Ms Langley called on the Vatican to open its archives. “We’re going to get into it pretty soon and the specialists will start looking – we want to discover the truth.”Reuse content