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Home  > News  > Mystery Of The 'Princes In The Tower' Grows

Mystery Of The 'Princes In The Tower' Grows

May 25 2007

A historian has come up with new research* that might help to solve the mystery of the Princes in the Tower that has puzzled people for centuries.

painting of two blond haired boys dressed in black standing in a dark room

The Princes in the Tower is the name given to two Princes called Richard and Edward. The boys were nephews of the English King Richard III, who lived from 1452 to 1485.

Here they are in a painting by Sir John Everett Millais. This was painted in 1878, years after the boys lived. It's part of the Royal Holloway picture collection.

The fact that Millais painted them so long after their deaths is a clue to how fascinated people have been by the story of these two boys.

So what happened? Well, King Richard was worried that one of the princes might one day try to become king himself so in 1483 he locked them up in the Tower of London.

Prince Richard was only 10 years old at the time, his brother Edward 13. They were never seen again.

Over the years the Tower of London was home to many, many prisoners, locked up there for all sorts of reasons.

Two child-size skeletons were found under a staircase at the Tower in 1674. Could these have been the boys? No-one could tell for sure whether these were the princes or not.

Picture © Viki Male.

photo of a large square castle next to a river with towers at each four corners and a huge flagpole

Some people believe the skeletons probably were the boys and that the princes were murdered on the orders of King Richard. Others say they might not have been murdered at all but died of disease in the Tower.

The new research says that Edward, the elder prince, died of natural causes and his younger brother Richard was allowed to leave the Tower!

It then says that he went to Leicestershire and on to Bosworth Field to be with Richard III, who was about to fight a big battle against Henry Tudor.

Painting of a serious looking man with long hair, a black cap and a patterned coat.

Henry Tudor won and became king and the historian thinks that young Richard then travelled to St John's Abbey in Colchester, Essex, where he became a bricklayer - a far cry from the life of a prince.

Here's a painting of Richard III made in the 15th century, almost 500 years ago.

Time will tell whether these new ideas become accepted by other historians or will just add to the mystery of the Princes of the Tower.

Richard and Edward aren't the only famous prisoners that were kept in the Tower of London.

Queen Elizabeth I had to spend two months there in 1554 before she was queen because she was suspected in helping a rebellion.

This is the famous White Tower, just one part of the Tower of London.

© 24 Hour Museum.

photo of a large white castle with towers at its corners

Guy Fawkes, the man who tried to blow up Parliament in 1605, was kept there until he was executed, and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh spent 13 years there in all.

The Tower of London was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror and as well as being a prison was a fortress and royal home.

photo of a castle corridor

You can now go and visit the Tower and see where prisoners like the princes would have lived.

© 24 Hour Museum

Can you imagine what it must have been like to have been locked up in a cold, draughty tower?

Why don't you send us your ideas of what you think really happened - get in touch!

* The new theory is detailed in a book by David Baldwin called The Lost Prince, The Survival of Richard of York, published by Sutton.

Graham Spicer