Digging Deeper into History
I have always liked mysteries of history. Was King Arthur and his knights based on real people? Were there really Amazons living near Ancient Greece? What happened to the settlers o Roanoke?
The mystery that has inspired my own writing is the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower in England, 1483-1485.
The Princes were Edward V, King of England, twelve years old at the time he came to the throne, and his younger brother Richard. Before Edward V could be officially crowned, a priest declared his father’s marriage illegal and all his children illegitimate. So Edward V and his brother and five sisters were no longer eligible for the throne. His father’s brother, Richard, became king, Richard III. The last sighting of Edward V and his brother Richard is in the summer of 1483.
The royal family at this time was broken into two factions, the York branch and the Lancaster branch, who were warring with each other for the throne. Richard III was a York. In 1485, Henry Tudor, a Lancaster, killed Richard III in battle, declared himself king, and married Edward V’s sister. He said Richard III murdered his nephews to tighten his hold on the throne. Of course, if Henry Tudor had found the boys alive and well when he took over, he would have a good reason for making them disappear and blaming their disappearance on a dead man. Both men had motive, means, and opportunity. Other people have also been suggested as the possible murderer. No bodies were found until nearly two hundred years after the crime. Skeletons have been unearthed near where the boys were living, but no modern examination of the bones has been conducted.
I became interested in this crime when I read The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Ms. Tey believed the Tudors used Richard III as a scapegoat for Henry Tudor’s crime. She uses fictional characters to conduct research on the real crime and it becomes an exploration of how history is recorded and how accurate it is.
I am working on a mystery where my main character is a seventeen-year-old history buff and is reading about the Princes out of curiosity. When a series of murders strikes the leading family in his county, he sees a pattern with a murder from over fifty years ago. Using The Daughter of Time as a guideline on how to do research, he discovers parallels between the current crimes and the disappearance of the Princes, specifically that a dead man makes the perfect fall guy.
If you are interested in the Princes, many books have been written about them, but I have discovered a very unusual aspect about them. Many of them are very pro-Richard III — he couldn’t have possibly killed his nephew — or very anti-Richard III — he is the only one who could have committed the crime. For a crime over 500 years old, it stirs strong feelings in people like it was committed last week. So you have to read a lot of books to get a balanced understanding
Side note: Many tales revolved around what happened to Richard III’s body after he was killed in battle. It was recently discovered and reburied with a service in 2015. For more on Richard III, click here. Here is the Wikipedia article on the Princes.