The double murder of England's boy king Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York in 1483 has become one of histories most fascinating mysteries. Did the boys' uncle, the much-maligned Richard III, do his nephews in, or was it some other shadowy character from the British courts? Alison Weir, author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII and The Wars of the Roses, tries here to resolve once and for all the puzzle of The Princes in the Tower.
At the time of Richard III's ascension to the British throne and for some time thereafter, it was commonly believed that he was indeed the guiding hand behind the disappearance and presumed death of the two boys. Revisionist historians and proponents of Richard III have since cast doubt on Richard's responsibility for the murders, convinced that such accusations were merely propaganda perpetuated by the Tudors, who reigned in Richard III's wake. Weir's research, citing and verifying the validity of Thomas More's works against other veracious sources and putting as well to use modern resources, brings her to the conclusion that such pro-Richard revisionists are deluding themselves.
At the heart of this intriguing piece of historical detection is the struggle for power that characterized the Wars of the Roses. Several strong houses in England, locked in a fierce rivalry for the power that only holding the throne could grant, plotted and schemed to weaken their enemies and strengthen their own positions through all manner of courtly intrigue. Imprisonment, death sentences, and strategic forgivings were tools as useful as armies or a pinch of poison. Degrees of incest allowed by papal dispensation allowed near-scandals to become blessed unions. Conspiracies flourished, and deception ruled. Thus it is that Edward V and his younger brother take a back seat, in their tower cells and graves, to the wider conflict that nearly gave supreme power to the common Wydvilles, the family of Edward IV's queen and Edward V's mother.
Well-reasoned and fully documented, The Princes in the Tower will probably convince readers new to the debate of Richard III's culpability in the murder of the princes. Those who were already convinced that Richard was as innocent of murder as he was of having a hunched back will likely fail to be swayed even by Weir's convincing arguments. Regardless of where readers stand in the evil-uncle debate popularized by Shakespeare, they should find this five-hundred-year old whodunit a fascinating slice of fifteenth century power-grabbing life.