Revealed the great mystery of the English monarchy, who assassinated ‘the princes of the Tower’?

Updated:15/02/2021 01:48h

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The dramatist William Shakespeare he summed up the fall of Richard III in one sentence: “My kingdom for a horse.” At only 32 years old, the Renaissance monarch died at the Battle of Bosworth, on August 22, 1495, supposedly due to a badly placed horseshoe. Literary and ironic ending for a king who, according to popular tradition, had parked any scruples in order to become and then keep the throne of England.

The long list of outrages committed to gain access to the crown includes the imprisonment of his two nephews, Eduardo V, 12, and Ricardo, Duke of York, 9 years old, both sons of his brother King Edward IV. Upon the death of this penultimate representative of the York House, Richard III seized power, convinced Parliament to declare the sons of the deceased king illegitimate, executed his supporters and imprisoned the youth in the tower of London. The footprint of the children disappeared then and forever from the face of the earth. Even today it is unknown what happened to the “princes of the Tower,” but history has ruled that Richard murdered them, as shown in Shakespeare’s play.

Portrait of Richard III.
Portrait of Richard III.

The lost fountain

Five hundred years later, a British historian named Tim Thornton, a professor in the Department of History, English, Linguistics and Music at the University of Huddersfield, believes he has unraveled the mystery that, in effect, points to the guilt of Richard III. Most of the evidence implicating the King, who suffered an intense propaganda campaign against by his enemies, is based on speculation and draws more lurid than confirmed details about the murder of the princes. These accounts include theories of drowning, poisoning, suffocation, starvation, and other savage methods of taking the lives of minors. More exaggeration than reality …

Few reliable sources have presented evidence pointing to Ricardo III. One of the best known and most compelling works on the subject is “History of King Richard III”, of the thinker, theologian, politician and humanist Tomás Moro, which was not published until time after the writer was assassinated by Henry VIII, in 1535.

In this book, Moro details that Sir James Tyrell, a member of King Richard’s inner circle, was the one in charge of carrying out the execution of the princes. Tyrrel tasked horse keeper John Dighton and Tower Guard Miles Forest with entering the princes’ bedroom late at night and suffocating the sleeping children with their pillows and down comforters.

Thomas More (1527), by Hans Holbein the Younger.
Thomas More (1527), by Hans Holbein the Younger.

More’s book became the dominant account of the fate of princes and William Shakespeare’s source of information for his play. However, the fact that Moro never clarified who had told him this information that occurred fifty years earlier, when the humanist thinker was a baby with a tit, has always caused historians to quarantine this popular version.

And this is where Thornton’s new study brings news. The teacher of the University of Huddersfield rules out Moro being able to speak to Dighton and Forest, who were already dead when he began writing his account of the alleged murders, but points out that Forest had two sons, Edward and Miles, who were still alive at the time.

“Far from being pure propaganda or a much later embroidery of earlier vague stories, Moro’s account was therefore potentially based on very immediate access”

Both men were prominent members of the King’s court Henry VIII during the first decades of the 16th century, and that would have placed them in the same social circles as Moro, Thornton has discovered. “Far from being pure propaganda or a much later embroidery of earlier vague stories, Moro’s account was therefore potentially based on a very immediate access to family members of one of the alleged murderers,” defends this historian in an interview with Live Science.

The revelation provides, for the first time, a direct connection between the version defended by Moro and someone who knew the facts first-hand. In any case, the matter would not be without irony if it turned out that a horse-keeper, in addition to the guardian of the tower, had been behind the murders with which Richard III reached the crown. Again, “my kingdom for a horse!”

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