Book Review: “The Survival of the Princes in the Tower: Murder, Mystery and Myth” by Matthew Lewis

35888548One of the greatest mysteries of all time is what happened to the young princes, the sons of Edward IV, who were held in the Tower of London. Many people believed that they were killed. There are some who believe that Richard III had them murdered and there are some who say that Henry VII ordered the deed to be done. But what if they were never killed? What if they survived? That is the premise of Matthew Lewis’s book “The Survival of the Princes in the Tower: Murder, Mystery and Myth”.

I have always been one of those people who believed that the princes were indeed murdered and that the one who ordered their murders was Richard III. I have read the “sources” and I came to my own conclusions. A few months ago, I attended the Tudor Summit (for those of you who do not know what this, look it up it is a fantastic two- day summit with fellow Tudor nerds) and one of the speakers was Matthew Lewis. Normally I don’t pay attention to the Ricardian side of this debate, but his talk made me interested, so I decided to read his book.

I am really glad I decided to read this book. It gave me something new to think about when it comes to this mystery and it did it in such a constructive way that made sense. Lewis starts his book by exploring the facts and the different sources that made the case that the princes were murdered, and then he looks at why these sources have been misinterpreted and don’t tell the whole story. For example, the fact that More said that Edward IV died in his fifties when in fact he died when he was in his forties, which is a big age gap.  Lewis asks rather obvious questions about the anti- Ricardian argument like why did Elizabeth Woodville turn over to her sons if she believed that Richard III was truly evil. It was by going through these sources and these obvious questions that started to create a lot of doubt in my mind whether or not the side I was on in this debate was accurate.

Lewis then dives into the lives of those we call the “pretenders”, Lambert Simnel and image015Perkin Warbeck. These were the most famous pretenders and the ones who challenged Henry VII’s right to the throne. If they were really the princes in the tower, why were they defeated? Why were they considered pretenders? Lewis explores other people who could possibly be the princes, including a theory by amateur art historian Jack Leslau on “The Family of Sir Thomas More” by Hans Holbein the Younger.

The theory that Matthew Lewis presents in this book is very unique. In order to understand what he is trying to do, you have to be open to a different perspective on this quagmire of a topic: the princes in the tower. There are certain books that come along and totally shake what you believe in, but you should not be afraid to read these kinds of books. I did not know what to expect when I started this book, but Lewis presented an argument that made sense and made me question everything I thought I knew about this mystery. Now I want to reread the sources and try to understand them better. I would recommend this book for anyone who thinks Richard III is innocent, guilty, or you are unsure of your position in this debate. “The Survival of the Princes in the Tower: Murder, Mystery and Myth” by Matthew Lewis breathes new life into this debate and begs the question: what if the princes in the tower lived?

One thought on “Book Review: “The Survival of the Princes in the Tower: Murder, Mystery and Myth” by Matthew Lewis

  1. blancsanglier

    Thank goodness for Matthew Lewis I say! We ‘loony’ Ricardians have been saying this for YEARS!
    No, I doubt we will ever know the absolute truth but for far too long Richard has suffered the ignomy of being labelled a murderer of these boys, a usurper, a tyrant blah blah ……. all thanks to Messrs More and Shakespeare. A thousand thanks to Matthew for putting it in black and white the most obvious flaws to this – he has done what numerous historians have failed to do for far too long and that is ASK THE QUESTIONS!!!
    As Duke of Gloucester, Richard’s personality was impeccable. He had a reputation for being most fair and an upholder of Justice. He served his brother the King most loyally. So why should he suddenly have an overnight personality change on April 9th 1483? He had every intention of Edward being crowned, there were coins minted in in his name, documents Edward signed as Edward V… all was going well untill Bishop Stillington decided to unburden himself to Richard and therefore unwittingly signed his death warrant. Because of Richard’s high sense of Justice and ‘doing the right thing’ he realised that a young boy could not possibly be King, especially now he had been declared illegitimate so who was there to take his place? There was his next older brother’s child Edward of Warwick but he too was a child – who Richard had never harmed in any way – and was under his father’s Attainder. I believe it was with reluctance that Richard accepted that crown. His first and only Parliament showed, by the laws he passed, that he had the welfare and common good of his subjects at heart. If you haven’t read it then please do – that isn’t the Law of a tyrant.
    Again – thank you Matthew for opening the eyes of the die hard, traditionalists …… and what a great day for ‘Loony’ Ricardians (as one Tudor historian called us).


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