Posts Tagged ‘Princes’



   Posted by: Barbara Gaskell Denvil    in Medieval Miscellany, Medieval People

The drama, the tragedy and the thrill of a good colourful story obviously attracts. Villainy can seem far more interesting than honest hard working decency. So can we ever be convinced to relinquish our attraction to myth and propaganda?

The recent discovery of King Richard III’s burial site has renewed so much public interest that many of the old controversies are once again being discussed. Some articles and FB posts are astonishingly antagonistic, even when the writer clearly has never researched the subject at all, let alone seriously studied the few known facts. So why do people still feel so strongly about a historical figure who died more than 500 years ago?

Of course the main accusation against Richard III has always been the assumption that he murdered his nephews, and the discovery of the skeletons of two children under a Tower staircase in the 17th century has often been quoted as virtual proof of this dastardly act.

I should like to try and put a few of these assumptions into perspective.

In 1674  at the Tower of London a group of workmen were employed to demolish a stone staircase attached to the White Tower, and over several days had dug a full ten feet down to the level of the Tower foundations, when they came upon two human skeletons. Seeing little of interest in this discovery, they threw the bones, along with the surrounding rubble, onto the rubbish dump.

When they related these facts afterwards, others realised that this find could be of some importance. Since the skeletons appeared to be of two young people, being neither of fully grown adults nor of small children, someone began to wonder if these could be the remains of the so-called ‘princes in the Tower’ – i.e. the two sons of the late King Edward IV who had seemingly disappeared during the subsequent reign of King Richard III. Sometime later the bones were therefore recovered from the dump. The reigning monarch at the time (Charles II) subsequently ordered the bones entombment in an urn, to be kept in Westminster Abbey. The assumption, given that forensic examination was unknown at that time, was to accept the bones as those of the allegedly murdered ‘princes’.

This was certainly not the first time that human bones had been discovered in and around the Tower. However, not only did these particular skeletons seemingly, judging by size alone, match the ages of the king’s lost boys, but they were discovered under a staircase, and this rang bells with the unfinished story written long before by Sir Thomas More and entitled “The History of King Richard III.”

So those are the simple facts. But a considerable number of myths, misinterpretations and assumptions have gathered around these facts ever since, and the principal one concerns that same unfinished story left by Sir Thomas More.

Neither at the time, nor during the Tudor age following, did anyone else conjecture as to such precise details concerning the boys’ fates – though assumption continued and increased as the blackening of Richard III’s reputation became a political tool of the Tudors. The only reliable account of when they were last sighted (at least by anyone who cared to write of it) appears in a monkish chronicle which indicates they were still resident in the Tower in late August or early September 1483. Yet surprisingly the actual contemporary evidence appears to indicate that little interest was aroused in the vicinity at the time of this disappearance, and Londoners went about their business as usual. Whether the sons of Edward IV then died, were murdered, or were simply smuggled safely away, was guessed at but never proved.

It was not until around 1515 (30 years after the death of Richard III) that Sir Thomas More started to write his ‘history’. Over the years he wrote several versions of this but neither finished nor published any of them. They have survived however, and many researchers have chosen to take them seriously in spite of the anomalies, excessive number of mistakes, and insistence on recording discussions word for word even when the possibility of knowing what had been said was completely non-existent.

Within his pages, More initially records that the fate of the boys remained in doubt. Then later and quite suddenly he offers a detailed scenario of their heinous slaughter. He gives no explanation of how he could possibly know the exact details which he relates, however the story appears to be partially inspired by Polydore Vergil, the man recently employed by Henry VII to write a history of England. More, however, elaborates hugely on Vergil’s account, adding no end of specific extra colour. How (more than 30 years after the fact) he suddenly came by this wealth of gossip is difficult to imagine. Did More chat afterwards with the murderers? Did he talk with the priest, yet decide to confide in no one else even though he then wrote it down for anyone to read? Did he receive information from some other nameless soul, who also chose to disclose these essential facts to no one else? More, however, now confidently tells us that after their violent deaths the two sons of Edward IV were secretly buried at the foot of a staircase in the Tower of London. He then goes on to explain that Richard III (who had ordered the murders) objected to such an improper burial and ordered a priest to dig up the corpses and rebury them in another more suitable (but unnamed) place, and that this was promptly done.

So the burial under a stairwell is certainly mentioned. Yet according to More, (the only one ever to mention burial under a staircase at all) that is NOT where the two bodies were finally left. He specifically says they were moved to a secret place more appropriate to their station. And here the secret supposedly remained – no longer under a staircase at all.

Yet the actual ‘bones in the urn’ were originally found under a stone stair attached to the exterior of the White Tower (known as the Keep). Apart from the contradiction within More’s story, such a rigorous endeavour is difficult to accept as this area was the access point to the only entrance, and would certainly have been one of the busiest parts of the Tower. Anyone digging there would have been clearly visible. So we are asked to accept that a couple of amazingly determined murderers managed between them to dig 10 foot under solid stone, avoiding all passing gentry including the guards, and to deposit there two suspicious bundles – all while the ‘princes’’ staff raised no alarm nor even blinked in curiosity. And the subsequent solitary priest somehow dug them up again? As the night quickly passed, was he, in absolute secrecy, able to dig 10 foot under stone to rebury the boys’ remains? And if so, in accordance with More’s little book – why were they still found under the staircase?

At that time hundreds of busy people, many with their entire families, lived and worked in the Tower. This was no dreadful place of isolated dungeons and cold haunted corners. It was a royal palace with grand apartments and a number of council chambers, beautiful gardens complete with gardeners, clerks and administrators, a menagerie and its keepers, the Royal Mint and all its wealth of workers, a whole garrison of guards, kitchens, cooks, scullions and cleaners. How a pair of strange and suspicious ruffians could have dug such a deep secret grave in one night completely unnoticed by anyone is frankly an impossible situation. Even at night the Tower really was a hive of industry and activity, and the ‘princes’ themselves had servants day and night. They were not under arrest and nor were they locked in the dungeons – they lived together in a comfortable apartment and more than 14 personal staff were paid to look after them. Yet we are asked to believe that their murder was magically accomplished without anyone at all knowing how, who, or even exactly when.

But let us leave that puzzle and return to the urn. It rested undisturbed in the Abbey for many years, but in 1933 it was decided to open it and discover just what was inside.

The complete description of the contents is on record of course, and the boy’s remains were immediately examined by experts of the time.

Apart from the human remains, there were a number of animal bones – clearly all collected together from the rubbish pit. There were, however, no textiles of any kind. So please – let’s forget that other silly myth of the scraps of expensive velvet. Yes – hundreds of years ago an anonymous scribble in a margin evidently mentioned velvet – but no such thing is mentioned elsewhere, no such thing has survived in any form, and the anonymous scribble has also disappeared – if it ever existed in the first place. So no velvet. Another red herring.

I have also read that a dark stain which ‘could’ be blood, was found on one skull. After 200 years underground we are asked to accept an anonymous stain as an indication of violent murder??? And when this same skull had been left for some time rolling around with fresh animal remains from the butchers? Indeed, those who mentioned the possibility of the stain being blood, later entirely retracted their statement, although this important development is often overlooked. So please! Another ludicrous exaggerated myth.

Now the more important evidence – the scientific examination. Oh – but, wait a moment. This was 1933 and science has moved a long, long way since then. No DNA examination was possible back then. Carbon dating was not employed – too suspect, especially with bones that had been so contaminated for so long. Their antiquity could not therefore be established, so simple assumptions were made – which have been seriously questioned since. The age of the children when they died is also extremely open to opinion. There is absolutely no possibility of sexing these bones. They could have been girls and this remains perfectly likely. At the time a conclusion was made that the two children had been related (this from an examination of the teeth and not from DNA) which has now been shown as probably erroneous. Historians and orthopaedic experts are divided. Some still maintain that these remains ‘could’ be the sons of Edward IV, while others point out the inconsistencies and inaccuracies. There really is no consensus of specialist opinion. The arguments have occasionally become quite heated and no confirmed or complete conclusion has been reached. And there are other anomalies.

For instance, it has been shown that the lower jaw bone of the elder child indicates the presence of a serious bone disease. This would have been both painful and visible. Yet the young Edward V is documented as having been fit, active, prepared for coronation, and described as ‘good looking’. No record is shown of any such existing disease which would have seriously undermined his future life and reign.

There’s another red herring here. Doctor Argentine, the elder prince’s long-standing physician, related that, “the young king, like a victim prepared for sacrifice, sought remission of his sins by daily confession and penance, because he believed death was facing him.”

But Dr. Argentine did not visit his charge because of ailing health. All junior royalty were under the permanent care of doctors who were responsible for their day to day health. A doctor’s appearance here was a consistent matter of course, and would have been ever since birth. And the prince’s recorded statement, apart from being second-hand hearsay, is extremely ambiguous. I doubt he was cheerful at the time, poor boy – with his status in doubt, and his expected coronation suddenly delayed. He may well have expected (and been warned by his dour and pessimistic Lancastrian and Woodville guardians) a bitter end. This does not mean it actually occurred.

So these are the basic facts, and as anyone can see, they do not point specifically in any direction. They prove nothing, not even circumstantially, and any assumption that the bones in the urn are almost certainly those of the two lost boys of Edward IV is absolutely unjustified. Until permission is finally given (many have asked and always been denied) for the urn to be opened once more and the contents subjected to up-to-date forensic examination, we cannot know anything at all. So far the very sketchy facts seem to point towards the bones dating from Norman, or even from Roman times, and at least some experts strongly suggest that the elder is female.

Those interested authors of articles claiming these bones are definitely those of the lost boys, are either fooling themselves or attempting to fool their readers.

Should the bones eventually be examined and proved by DNA matching to be the ‘princes’ after all – we may with our present level of technology discover roughly when they died (to the nearest 50 years). We may perhaps also ascertain the causes of their deaths, but unless there are signs of injury it is unlikely we will learn whether they were killed – still less who killed them.

If, on the other hand, as seems most likely, they are proved NOT to be the ‘princes’ it will settle a long-standing controversy, and provide some very interesting material for archaeological study. In particular it will silence some of the more exaggerated and erroneous myths.

There remains the bigger question – WHAT exactly happened to Edward IV’s sons, and on whose orders? Well that is quite another problem – and there is as yet no answer to that either.

Note: Barbara Gaskell-Denvil is a historical novelist and member of the NSW branch of the Richard III Society.  Her new book, Sumerford’s Autumn, which deals with – possibly – one of the princes, is has hit the shelves during the past week.  It is published by Simon & Schuster Australia, ISBN 9781922052582.

This article appeared first on Barbara’s website and is reposted here with her permission.

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The Princes in the Tower?

   Posted by: Judy Howard    in News

While perusing the website of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor, UK, I found on their Archives Blog, an article which is yet another angle on the fate of the Princes in the Tower. I found this particularly intriguing at a time when another skeleton is under scrutiny by a team of archaeologists at the University of Leicester which may prove to be the remains of Richard III.

Apparently in 1789 when the paving was being repaired in the North Quire Aisle of St. George’s Chapel, the entrance to the burial vault of Edward IV was identified.  When they entered the vault they found a lead coffin with the remains of a wooden coffin on top – which were the coffins of Edward IV and his consort, Elizabeth Woodville.  Two further coffins were also found and they were believed to have contained the bodies of George, 3rd son of Edward IV who died in 1479 aged 2 years, and his sister Mary, 5th daughter of Edward IV who died in 1482 aged 14 years.  Both George and Mary were known to have been buried at Windsor.  The vault was not investigated any further and the vault was closed with new a slab.

Then in 1810, two more coffins were found in what is now the Albert Memorial Chapel and the inscription on one of these suggests it is the coffin of George and not the one in the vault near Edward IV.  It is known that when George was buried at Windsor on 22 March 1479, the Quire at St George’s Chapel was still under construction and therefore he could not have been interred in Edward IV’s vault. The written account of Mary’s funeral states that she was buried near her brother George.

In 1813 both of these coffins were moved to the vault near Edward IV.

The question remains however – who did the two coffins found in Edward IV’s vault in 1789 belong to??  They were important because they were buried in a place of honour near Edward IV. There is no evidence to suggest who these two coffins belonged to.

The choir of St George’s Chapel, Windsor (photograph by Josep Renalias, obtained through Wikimedia Commons)

The Assistant Archivist at the College of St George has asked the question whether these two coffins could contain the remains of Edward’s other sons, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, the “Princes in the Tower”?

In light of the momentous discovery of skeletal remains which could possibly be those of Richard III, how marvellous it would be to take this investigation further and attempt to obtain genetic material to determine:

1.    The identification of the bones in the urn at Westminster Abbey, purportedly those of the two “Princes in the Tower”; and
2.    Identification of the bodies in the two coffins discovered in Edward IV’s vault in 1789.

After more than 500 years surely this is not too much to ask, given the sophisticated technology currently at our disposal.

A mystery would be solved, if only.

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Was Edward V Sick?

   Posted by: Annette Carson    in Medieval Miscellany, Medieval People

The following article by Annette Carson, author of Richard III – The Maligned King, was originally published in the March 2012 issue of Ricardian Register, the journal of the American Branch of the Richard III Society.  We are very grateful to Annette for making it available to our branch as well.

In the course of researching and writing my book about Richard III,1 I was struck by an apparently widespread assumption that the boy Edward V was sickly and, if not despatched by nefarious means, probably died of some kind of illness.

Leaving aside storytelling and wild speculation, there are very few respectable sources to which this misapprehension might be traced. Of these, only one was writing at the time of the events he described, and this was the Italian cleric Dominic Mancini, who reported that ‘like a victim prepared for sacrifice … [Edward] believed that death was facing him’.2

It is generally accepted that Mancini had come to England at the behest of his patron Archbishop Angelo Cato, a key figure in the intelligence-gathering circle of Louis XI of France. His visit coincided with a catastrophic breach in Anglo-French relations, on which Cato was doubtless looking for a first-hand report; instead of which Mancini found himself present during a far more interesting series of events: the death of Edward IV, the accession of his son, Edward V, and the latter’s replacement by Richard III.

Mancini gives a very full description of the twelve-year-old Edward V, his graces and accomplishments, physical appearance, whereabouts and general state of mind. This knowledge is attributed to his access to Dr John Argentine, the physician who attended Edward at his lodgings in the Tower of London after his deposition in the summer of 1483. With such a valuable and free-speaking source of information at hand, Mancini’s report would have been a poor effort indeed if he had not winkled out from the boy’s doctor all possible information about his health – a matter of great interest to the French court in those turbulent times, especially if he was ailing or even quite sick.

Yet Mancini’s comment about Edward’s daily confession ‘like a victim prepared for sacrifice’ is conspicuously devoid of reference to any issue of medical health, on which Argentine would have been the prevailing authority. Rather than suggesting that he was physically ill, it sounds like one of those hints Mancini likes to drop that young Edward was set to meet a sticky end.

Some 25 years later, the French chronicler Jean Molinet also wrote briefly of Edward V, describing him as ‘unsophisticated and very melancholy, aware only of the ill-will of his uncle’, a boy who believed that he and his brother were marked for death. Obviously coloured by the then-current assumption that they had been murdered by Richard III, Molinet’s retrospective account depicts Edward as a pathetic figure but undermines its own credibility with the adjective ‘unsophisticated’, which scarcely chimes with the admiring words of Dominic Mancini, who wrote (presumably quoting the physician Argentine): ‘In word and deed he gave so many proofs of his liberal education, of polite, nay scholarly attainments far beyond his age … his special knowledge of literature, which enabled him to discourse elegantly, to understand fully and to declaim most excellently from any work whether in verse or prose that came into his hands, unless it were from among the more abstruse authors’.3

While mentioning John Argentine, by the way, it need not be taken as significant that Edward’s doctor looked after him during his stay in London, as did also a number of other personal attendants, some of whose names are officially recorded. Rather it may be viewed as a sign of the appropriate care and respect given to his royal person. Indeed, since there is no contemporaneous account of his health, we should probably never have heard of his physician had not Mancini enjoyed Argentine’s confidences.

If Mancini’s observations are deficient in crucial specifics, our next source has even less factual evidence to offer. This is Sir George Buck in his History of King Richard the Third written in 1619, over 130 years later. Buck was Master of the Revels at the court of James I, and one of those seventeenth-century antiquaries who made it their business to delve into ancient papers in order to find documentary evidence about times past. Buck was a firm believer that the pretender known as ‘Perkin Warbeck’ was in fact Edward V’s younger brother, Richard. Of Edward he admitted knowing almost nothing, assuming that he must have fallen ill and died while still residing in the Tower of London: ‘[I think the elder] brother Edward died [of sick]ness and of infirmity (for he was weak and very sickly …)’.4

The best argument Sir George could find to support his theory was that Edward’s siblings did not live to make old bones: ‘their sisters also were but of a weak constitution, as their short lives showed.’ It is difficult to construe what kind of lifespan Buck termed ‘short’ for a woman, when death in childbirth was a constant hazard. Certainly some of the sisters lived into their late thirties, and Catherine, Countess of Devon, is said to have died in 1527, in her late forties. Their half-brother, Edward IV’s illegitimate son Lord Lisle, apparently lived to be nearly eighty.

Another basis for Buck’s theory was that no pretender came forward to represent himself as Edward V. This may be so, but very little is known about what lay behind the pretender later dubbed ‘Lambert Simnel’, crowned in Dublin in May of 1487, and supported by the Earl of Lincoln and Edward’s aunt Margaret of Burgundy (and even, perhaps, by his mother Elizabeth Woodville and half-brother Thomas, Marquess of Dorset). Buck may have fallen into the same error as have historians throughout the ages, i.e. the assumption that what he knew then was all there was to know.

Buck’s is the first recorded suggestion in so many words that Edward fell sick and died. But his book about Richard III cannot be said to have been widely read. Indeed for 350 years the only printed version was one in such a bowdlerized form that, until a scholarly edition of the original was produced by Arthur Kincaid in 1979, it was virtually dismissed by historians.

So, I wondered, could it be that the common supposition about Edward V’s ill-health dates from a source that is much more recent? I am referring to something that attracts considerable scepticism nowadays, and that is Lawrence Tanner and William Wright’s 1933 examination of those skeletal remains currently in Westminster Abbey which Charles II decided, in 1674, on no evidence whatsoever, were those of Edward V and his brother.5

The anatomist Professor Wright, and his dental adviser Dr George Northcroft – both of whom agreed enthusiastically with Charles II – identified evidence of a disease of the lower jaw in the elder of the two skulls present, which is visible in their published photographs. Thirty years later another anatomist, Dr Richard Lyne-Pirkis, gave a talk to the Richard III Society in which he stated it as his opinion, on the basis of those photographs, that it was probably ‘a condition known as osteomyelitis or chronic inflammation of the bone, which was quite a common condition in those days’.6 Osteomyelitis would have been extremely painful and increasingly disfiguring, and was very likely to have proved fatal in those centuries before antibiotics.

Other experts in a variety of disciplines have offered alternative diagnoses, the most popular being osteitis, an unpleasant and painful inflammatory disease, though not necessarily fatal in itself; unless, of course, it deteriorated into osteomyelitis.

The Tanner and Wright report concluded that the child whose skull they named ‘Edward V’ suffered from an extensive, chronic condition which had persisted for some years and had spread so far as to affect the temporo-mandibular joints. From the photographic evidence it can be seen to have produced destruction and malformation of areas of the affected bone. The owner of that jawbone would have suffered from inflamed, swollen and septic gums, as well as constant pain and discomfort. However, the problem remained that the Tanner and Wright examination, using the limited means at their disposal in 1933, failed to establish scientifically whether this owner was prince or pauper, boy or girl.7

It seemed to me that the vague assumptions I had encountered about Edward V’s illness must have been assimilated by a kind of reverse-engineering process: in other words, extrapolating backwards from the Tanner and Wright conclusions and superimposing them on to the remarks of writers like Mancini and Buck.

I have always favoured holding assumption up to the cold light of logic, so I decided to make the question of Edward V’s health, and the apparent link with the bones, one of a number of lines of original research that would be unique to my book.8 My starting point was to look at the phenomenon from the viewpoint of his contemporaries. Had a royal child suffered chronically in this way, it must have given rise to comment and concern. Doubtless he would have needed specially prepared food as the illness progressed and teeth were lost or removed. And he would have endured the never-ending attentions of not one but a team of physicians whose ministrations were probably quite as unpleasant as the disease itself.

Yet there is no contemporaneous hint of anything of the kind relating to Edward’s appearance or behaviour. As Prince of Wales he was constantly visible to members of his household, his retainers and the public at large from the age of three when he was first given his own council at Ludlow. As he grew older he was seen regularly at court and was exhibited by his father, Edward IV, to the gaze of his subjects on numerous public occasions.9

Furthermore, Dominic Mancini’s description of Edward at the age of twelve (shortly before his alleged death) speaks of ‘dignity in his whole person, and in his face such charm, that … he never wearied the eyes of beholders.’.10 If Edward had really been the owner of an infected and disfigured jaw, Mancini would surely have made certain in his report, delivered in December 1483, to remark less on the charm of his face and more on the cruelty and heartlessness of Richard III’s treatment of an ailing boy. This would have been music to the ears of Archbishop Cato and the French court, always looking for vulnerabilities in the English regime, especially as England’s most recent Parliament (under Edward IV) had voted funds for renewed Anglo-French hostilities. Yet Dominic Mancini suggests nothing of the sort.

Written material from the fifteenth century is admittedly scanty, and its paucity cannot be held to prove that Edward V was hale and hearty. However, it is equally incumbent on anyone who speaks of his ill-health to back it up with evidence.

It would be fair to expect an exhaustive examination of Edward V’s life and person in a biographical work, of which the only one yet published was written by Michael Hicks. Yet Hicks mentioned nothing of illness or disfigurement, and instead described him as ‘a very good-looking boy’. He also avoided almost all reference to the bones in Westminster Abbey, and on the two isolated occasions where they were briefly mentioned, he showed no sign of being convinced of their identity.11

To conclude my investigation from the standpoint of logic, I turned my thoughts to consideration of how the chronic ill-health of the Prince of Wales would have influenced the way his own heir presumptive – his younger brother – was raised and trained.

Given that diseases of the jaw were not uncommon in Edward’s day, it would certainly have been known that such a chronic infection could worsen progressively and even lead to death. Emotion played no part where questions of inheritance were concerned, and this was a matter that involved succession to the crown of England. Their father the king would surely have stopped at nothing to secure his Yorkist dynasty.

Yet no provision whatsoever seems to have been made for the younger boy, Richard, to receive appropriate training in kingly responsibility. Instead he remained at his mother’s side, never taking charge of his own household, even after the appointment of his own council in 1477. Neither was he placed under the tutelage of a suitable nobleman to learn the arts of arms and chivalry. In May 1483, when his brother arrived in London as king, Richard lurked with his mother in sanctuary.

Such lack of interest in preparing the younger brother for the possibility of kingship seems to point fairly conclusively, I would suggest, to absence of any concern for the health of the elder.

Postscript: There is still considerable room for research into the findings of Tanner and Wright, including the possibility of facial reconstruction, with which I have found it difficult to make progress. I hope to pursue this further now that I have taken up residence again in England.


1. Annette Carson, Richard III: The Maligned King (Stroud, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011).

2. Dominic Mancini, De Occupatione Regni Anglie per Riccardum Tercium Libellus, ed. C.A.J. Armstrong (Gloucester, 1989) p.93.

3. Mancini, p.93.

4. Sir George Buck, The History of King Richard the Third (1619), ed. A.N. Kincaid (Gloucester, 1979) p.140.

5. Archaeologia LXXXIV, 1934.

6. Richard Lyne-Pirkis, Regarding the Bones Found in the Tower; speech given on 27 February 1963.

7. A survey of the principal academic commentaries devoted to the subject of the bones, whether by scientists or historians, can be found in Carson, pp.184-200, from which it will be seen that there is no consensus as to their identity, or sex, or age, or antiquity. What gives rise to most dubiety is that any attempt to calculate the age of the elder child is automatically stymied by the need to adjust computations to take account of retardation of development due to his or her chronic jaw disease, but nobody knows how much allowance to make.

8. For the record, examples of other matters explored in depth and generally overlooked by mainstream biographers include examination and reconstruction of the precise location at the Tower of London where the bones were found; a fresh look at the shifting allegiances which preceded the rebellion of October 1483; questions raised by the death of Edward IV; and Richard III’s proposed second marriage, particularly its implications as reflected in Elizabeth of York’s letter to the Duke of Norfolk.

9. Carson, p.190.

10. Mancini/Armstrong, p.93.

11. Michael Hicks, Edward V (Stroud, 2003) pp.176, 191.

© Annette Carson 2011

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50 Great Ghost Stories

   Posted by: Lynne Foley    in Bookworm

50 Great Ghost Stories, ed. John Canning, Odham’s Books, reprinted 1968. (No ISBN)

Occasionally, one finds matters Ricardian unlikely sources.  50 Great Ghost Stories, edited by John Canning, has two stories by Vida Derry and Frank Usher.

In Derry’s ‘Child Ghosts’, she mentions the Princes in the Tower. She does not accuse Richard, but relates the story that Tyrell was responsible for arranging their deaths according to the narrative of Thomas More. She does not say that More’s work is ‘gospel’ as far as Richard is concerned.

She finds it worth noting that the examination of the bones in 1933 was completed in five days whereas the examination of the remains of Anne Mowbray were still at work three months after they were found, despite protests by Lord Mowbray.

In Usher’s ‘Hauntings Royal’, the first paragraph names Henry VIII, according to popular opinion, as one of the arch-villains of history.  He deals at length with the alleged hauntings by Anne Boleyn, mention the elusive ghosts of Jane Seymour, Sybil Penn (Edward VI’s nurse) and Catherine Howard.  He refers to Henry as “the professional widower” and mentions more than once that unlike his victims, Henry rests peacefully in his grave. The following pages detail more executions and Henry is referred to as the “arch-villain of all these beheadings.”

When discussing the execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, he states “she had a better title to the throne than Henry himself, as his father Henry VII having usurped the throne from its lawful inheritors.”

Ectoplasmic manifestations aside, the book contains many well-known and not so well known ghost stories, and although not a believer, I would still prefer to have a strong light on, and my chair against the wall when reading The Brown Lady of Raynham.

50 Great Ghost Stories, ed. John Canning, Odham’s Books, reprinted 1968. (No ISBN)

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The Princes in the Tower

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

Recently the National Geographic Channel commissioned a series called The Mystery Files, which is also showing on this channel here in Australia.  The objective of the series is to re-examine the legends surrounding a number of famous and infamous figures from history.

One episode, entitled Royal Murder, is of particular interest to Ricardians as it deals with the Princes in the Tower.  As the Chairman of the Richard III Society, Dr Phil Stone, informed us the Society assisted with background information as well as suggesting a number of academic contacts who could be interviewed.  One of those chosen to take part was Lynda Pidgeon, whom we all know as the research officer of the Society.

Phil emphasised what a refreshing change it was to come across a popular programme maker prepared to examine historical events with an open mind rather than accepting the usual premise and twisting the facts to fit.

The programme has been screening on the National Geographic Channel in Australia for a while, the next showing is due on Monday 24 May 2010 at 14h30.  If you do not have access to Pay TV, don’t despair.  Phil has kindly send a copy of the DVD of the episode to our branch and members (of the NSW and QLD branches) are welcome to borrow it from Julia.

You can find out more on the Mystery Files website or check the time of the next showing on the Australian National Geographic Channel website.

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