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King Edward V - His Short Reign and Death circa 1483

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King Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower of London

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

King Edward V (1470-1483) - The Princes in The Tower

Edward, Prince of Wales was only thirteen years old when his father Edward IV suddenly died, and his brother Richard, Duke of York was just ten years old. At the time, the Prince of Wales, who was born in Westminster Abbey after his mother took sanctuary there, was with some of his relations in Ludlow and Richard (of Shrewsbury), the young duke, was with his mother in London. Their guardian was their uncle, the ambitious and wicked Richard, Duke of Gloucester who wanted to be the next king of England himself. He succeeded him as Richard III on 26 June 1483.

The Prince of Wales was brought to a palace in the Tower of London by his uncle as several loyal noblemen feared for Edward's safety. The uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester was also a very cunning man and he soon contrived to have the younger Richard brought there as well so the boys could be together. They were heavily guarded and were seen less and less as time went on. He then declared that he wanted to discuss Edward's future and coronation with the little king's loyal friends who had then all gathered in the Tower of London. After a typical show of strength and bad temper, Richard, Duke of Gloucester started to have some of the king's friends executed on trivial and false accusations. This behavior frightened the people who were then easily persuaded to make him king of England instead of the young prince who he claimed was not fit to be king. Richard now wanted both the little princes murdered so that they would be out of the way permanently.

What follows is the popular belief of what happened and how the princes were killed in the Tower. It cannot be proved and, of course, there were no witnesses so you cannot be sure of the truth of it.

After sending the honest and trustworthy governor of the Tower of London, Sir Robert Brackenbury, away on business for a few days, Richard, Duke of Gloucester gave the keys to a wicked servant named Tyrrell to look after. Tyrrell then promised a great deal of money to two more men if they would go into the children's room and murder them while they were asleep. The two men involved were called Dighton and Forrest, and they took some cushions with them and smothered the two boys while they were sleeping. (Thomas More wrote that the princes were smothered to death with their own pillows). Then they carried both boys to a back staircase near their room in the Tower, and buried them in a great hole under the stairs, and covered them with stones. A long time later, in 1674, some workmen who were repairing that part of the Tower found bones in that place which might have been theirs. The bones were subsequently placed in Westminster Abbey, in an urn bearing the names of Edward and Richard on the orders of Charles II.

It is said that the nursery story of the Babes in the Wood and their wicked uncle was based upon this sad and dreadful story.

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