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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Centuries of Lies? Part 2

So, when we left off Richard III had named himself King of England.  His son and heir was named Prince of Wales and everyone seemed to be happy, more or less.  However, plots to dethrone Richard and put the young Edward V on the throne began to develop.  Elizabeth Woodville, conniving queen that she was, plotted with Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor to bring Henry back into England from France with an army he would raise on the continent and together with the Duke of Buckingham and his forces and those raised by other lords Henry would take the throne of England and marry Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV.  This would not make Elizabeth Woodville's son king, but it would make her daughter queen.  This plot was discovered, however, and the discovery, in addition to rain which flooded much of the north of England prevented Henry Tudor's forces from moving south towards London.  Buckingham was arrested and inevitably executed.  Everyone else seems to have been granted clemency, including Margaret Beaufort, who was married to Lord Stanley, a powerful lord who owned so much land in England that his eventual abandonment of Richard on the battlefield at Bosworth would lead to his downfall.  Such powerful landowners commanded legions of troops and their allegiance could make or break a king. 

Time passed and later that year Richard's only son died followed by his wife, Anne Neville.  Anne and Richard were cousins who grew up together and he most likely mourned the loss of a wife he truly loved.  More time passes and a second rebellion against Richard is raised by Woodville and Beaufort.  Henry Tudor came into Wales with his uncle Jasper Tudor, who himself was a great lord in Wales.  The Tudors marched down through England collecting troops as they went.  They met Richard's army at Bosworth where the king himself was leading his army.  At the last minute Lord Stanley ordered his troops to switch sides and start fighting against Richard and his men and Richard, who had been unhorsed, was killed.  It is said he went down fighting and yelling for a horse.  Henry Tudor rode into London in triumph after being crowned king Henry VII on the battlefield.  Five months later he married Elizabeth of York and united the red and white roses of England, or the houses of York and Lancaster, Tudor and Plantagenent. 

Henry quickly moved to have the act of Titulus Regius destroyed, not repealed, but destroyed.  If the act were left in existence it would draw into question the legitimacy of his wife, and if it was repealed it would declare Edward V to be the rightful king of England.  It was a double edged sword for Henry.  So he did the only thing he could do and obliterated the memory of such a law.  He passed a bill of attainder against Richard III accusing him of tyranny and cruelty but supposedly not of killing the two princes.  I have not been able to verify this fact, but if it is true and the princes were in fact missing and had been killed by Richard why would Henry not charge him with the crime?  It would be his biggest smoking gun and would make people loathe Richard and gladly accept their new king, whose claim to the throne was tenuous.  Anyhow, Henry's queen Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Arthur after they had been married for about a year and the succession was safe.

In 1489 Henry suddenly had Elizabeth Woodville put away in a nunnery, perhaps she started asking too many questions about her sons.  Prior to this he had granted her a hefty annual income and all of the rights and privileges of a dowager queen.  Around this time, in 1502, a man named Sir James Tyrell was arrested for treason and executed.  After his death a "confession" was published saying that he had been sent by Richard III to the tower with two other men to kill the young princes.  He relieved the constable of the tower, one sir Robert Brackenbury of the keys to the fortress for one night and the two hired thugs killed the young princes.  He supposedly buried them under a set of stairs.  The skeletons of two children were found in the 1700s and they were believed to be those of the princes.  It has never been proven however, but they are interred in state in Westminster Abbey.  They were not the only two skeletons found in the tower though, there is a tale from the time of Elizabeth I of the skeletons of two children being found laid out on a table in a walled up room.  What became of them is not known however.

So, was Richard guilty of the murder of his nephews or not?  Did only one of them die?  In the time of Henry VII a young man named Perkin Warbeck appeared on the international scene claiming to be the younger prince, Richard, Duke of York.  He was believed by many people in high places, but his claim remains unsubstantiated one way or the other.  All accounts of Richard as a murderer were written under the Tudor regime, the regime that usurped Richard's throne.  So who was the real killer?  Richard?  Henry Tudor?  Neither one?  I don't know that we will ever know but it makes for a really great mystery!

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