The Princes in the Tower

The Princes in the Tower

Book - 1995
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Despite five centuries of investigation by historians, the sinister deaths of the boy king Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York, remain two of the most fascinating murder mysteries in English history. Did Richard III really kill "the Princes in the Tower," as is commonly believed, or was the murderer someone else entirely? Carefully examining every shred of contemporary evidence as well as dozens of modern accounts, Alison Weir reconstructs the entire chain of events leading to the double murder. We are witnesses to the rivalry, ambition, intrigue, and struggle for power that culminated in the imprisonment of the princes and the hushed-up murders that secured Richard's claim to the throne as Richard III. A masterpiece of historical research and a riveting story of conspiracy and deception, The Princes in the Tower at last provides a solution to this age-old puzzle.

Publisher: New York : Ballantine, 1995, c1992
Edition: 1st Ballantine Books trade pbk. ed
ISBN: 9780345391780
Characteristics: xv, 287 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., facsims., 1 geneal. table, ports. ; 21 cm
Call Number: 942.044092 WEI


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May 10, 2011

I’m clearly a fan of Weir as both an historian and a writer of historical fiction. And I was no less impressed with her research behind the murder of Edward IV’s two young sons, Edward V and Richard, the Duke of York, at the hands of Richard III – who usurped the English throne during the tumultuous years now referred to as the War of the Roses.

Although there is certainly no surprise that Weir reaches her verdict that Richard is solely responsible for ordering the two princes deaths while locked up in the Tower of London – despite a long-held belief by contemporary Yorkists sympathetic to Richard III that it was someone else – she does provide thorough evidence against Richard, as well as evidence against pro-Yorkist theory. She also manages to elucidate life in pre-Tudor England, by remarking that anti-Richard sentiment was oft exaggerated for the benefit of later Tudor rulers. In fact, she commented that Henry VII – who defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth -- was very much like him.

He was ambitious, unscrupulous, devious, avaricious, astute, cautious and highly intelligent. Not violent by nature, he preferred to adopt a policy of reconciliation and pacification, but he could be ruthless when crossed. He love money to excess, but, like Richard III, he possessed great qualities of leadership and was an able administrator.

In hindsight, Richard will always be the wicked and power-hungry hunchback as depicted by Shakespeare. But in reality, he was just like most other successful English monarch who had act with singular impunity to stabilize his reign and realm. (In fact, one could easily argue that Henry VIII was even worse than Richard, although Tudor writers and dramatists would not have deigned to depict him as such.)

For a thoroughly considered evaluation of Richard’s culpability in the deaths of the two princes in the Tower, look no further than Weir.

Nov 20, 2010

I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Richard III Society. My husband was (I bought a membership for him as a birthday present) and occasionally wears a sweatshirt with the White Boar emblazoned across it. He remains a staunch Ricardian (and a champion of James I, the subject of his thesis for his Honours History).

This book would drive him crazy. I had never heard of Alison Weir; she seems to be a prolific writer. She pretty much agrees with Shakespeare's portrayal of Richard, opening her book with two quotes from his Richard III. She sets out her evidence, relying heavily on primary sources, in a readable way, but every time she makes a sweeping statement, I find myself muttering "Wait a minute! How does this prove anything?" This isn't the sort of feeling one should keep confronting while reading a history book, is it?

I don't have strong feelings pro or con for Richard of York, but I have spent the past year in particular with books by other historians on other topics, including Ian Mortimer and Elizabeth Longford. If I'm going to read a book about who murdered the little princes in the Tower, I think I'd feel more confident somehow with the work and research of one of them.


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