Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Cold Case Reopened: The Princes in the Tower
Rating: 2.5 Stars
I wavered back and forth between a two and three stars. While I disagree whole-heartedly with the author's conclusion that Henry VII had the princes murdered, that is not the issue for me. That the author is very up front about not being a historian or a writer, I can appreciate; the writing is not great, very basic, but gets the point across. So, it's not that either. I guess what makes this one so not good for me is the application of modern thought, morals (so to speak), etc. on a completely different time period. Additionally, there are some pretty big jumps to conclusions (Richard loved his two nephews and took care of them, he would never hurt them, etc.) that I just can not overlook. The author does politely ask that, due to his not being a writer/historian, that reviews not be scathing, so I will do my best to be as gentle as possible in ares that sorely need attentions.
As I said, I believe his conclusion is wrong. It was widely believed during Richard's own reign that the boys had been murdered on his orders. Whether it was Tyrell or Buckingham, whoever actually committed the crime we do not know. And while we do not know 100% Richard did...I mean, come on. You hear hoof beats in the park, think horses, not zebras. The most logical answer is USUALLY the right one. So, logically, Richard makes the most sense. When Richard moved to have the princes declared illegitimate, that would have negated their claims on the crown. When the rumors started, had Richard cared so deeply about his nephews as the author claims, he would surely have brought them out so people could see they were still alive. It would have greatly enhanced his image and his subjects would likely have given him more support. With the princes declared illegitimate, I don't believe anyone was going to risk being on the losing end of an uprising to place Edward V back on the throne. Instead, Richard let rumors swirl and as a result, he lost support throughout the country and of course the idea of a new king gained traction quickly. The author also points to the issue of Warwick being left alive by Richard as a clue to the fate of the princes. There is a problem with this though also. While Warwick would have had a claim to the throne as Edward IV's (and Richard's) nephew (his father was the executed Clarence), his claim would have been behind Richard's. If given the choice, Parliament was always going to put an adult on the throne in place of a child if there was a question of the succession - in Edward V's case there was no question, he was the rightful heir and king as Edward IV's oldest son. Thus, Richard had every reason to remove Edward IV's sons from his path. Warwick was irrelevant to the situation.
Another issue arises for me in the form of the author's focus on Elizabeth of York as the possible murderer of her brothers. Not only that, but inaccurate or unsubstantiated information regarding her characters. We really do not know a lot about her - despite Weir's biography. Yet here the author refers to Elizabeth having "shown a tendency for manipulative and unscrupulous behaviors." I double checked just to make sure the author was not talking about her mother, Elizabeth Woodeville, who also gets a lot of flak. But no, he was talking about the princess. Then there is the matter of Richard planning to marry Elizabeth of York - his niece. The author refers to this several times as a possible motive for Elizabeth, that by her having her brothers murdered, it would secure the crown for her and whoever her husband would be - either Richard or Henry. While this has been suggested many times, there is no actual proof that they were having an affair before Queen Anne died, or after. Yet the author states that, "A number of notable historians do suggest that Richard and Elizabeth were sleeping together on a regular basis." WHO?! Which historians are saying this? At first the author seems to just be suggesting this affair as a possibility, but later he asks, "Would Elizabeth of York have offered her affections so readily to Richard III if she believed he had murdered her brothers?" Uh, yeah? Once she had left sanctuary, what choice did she have but to return to Court and act as though everything were okay? It's not as though she could run through the streets shouting that he murdered her brothers, if that is what she thought happened. The Elizabeth theory just doesn't make sense and I can see why historians do not give much thought to it.
Another issue I have is with this idea involving Thomas More and how, because he was apparently such a huge prankster (?), that he somehow had the skeletons planted beneath the stairs in the Tower - either as a joke, or to give more weight to his work depicting Richard as a murderer (which he very well could have been - is it a distinct possibility that he was in the room when poor King Henry VI was murdered in captivity on Edward IV's orders and could even have committed the murder himself). Back to the topic at hand though, this idea that More somehow planted the skeletons - how would this even happen? The skeletons were found at least ten feet below the ground. It is almost impossible for the work this would have taken to have gone unnoticed. You don't just start digging around one of Henry VIII's residences without someone noticing.
So, here's my own final verdict: I think this was an interesting perspective with which to look at this mystery from. The author is/was an investigator. He looked solely at the only facts we really know (though some of these facts really are questionable). The problem is he is looking at this with modern eyes, and not in the mindset of the time, as a historian would do. That's not to say this is the worst book you will ever read, it is certainly interesting - though some of the theories are incredibly far-fetched. If you already know a lot about this subject, it is not likely your mind will be changed upon finishing it. Might be worth a quick look, at 84 pages.