Biography: The Princes in the Tower (Edward V and Richard Duke of York)

PrincesEdward V (Born November 2, 1470- Date of Death Unknown). Richard Duke of York (Born August 17, 1473- Date of Death Unknown). Sons of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Richard was married to Anne Mowbray. Edward V and Richard Duke of York are known as “The Princes in the Tower”. They were placed in the Tower of London after their father’s death and were never seen again. Their disappearances and whether or not they were murdered has become one of the greatest mysteries in history.

Edward and Richard were both the sons of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Edward IV had married Elizabeth Woodville in secret, causing distrust between Edward and his biggest ally Richard Neville Earl of Warwick. With the rise of the Woodvilles, Warwick feared that they would overthrow his title of the second most powerful man in England.

Warwick decided to side with Edward’s power hungry younger brother George Duke of Clarence, and Louis XI of France, who promised Warwick land in France if he overthrew Edward. Warwick’s plan was to depose Edward and place George on the throne. Warwick had Edward imprisoned in the Tower, but when his reputation began to suffer, he released Edward in October 1469. Warwick and George both decided to reconciled with Edward but Edward never truly trusted either of them ever again.

Warwick knew that if he was going to restore his power, he had to discuss matters with Louis XI and Margaret of Anjou, which meant that he had to defect to the Lancastrian cause, which he did. In September 1470, Warwick and his rebellion made its way to England; Edward was unprepared and was forced to leave England on October 2 and seek aid from his brother in law the duke of Burgundy. His wife Elizabeth Woodville and their children were forced to seek sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. It was there on November 2, 1470 that the future Edward V was born.

Edward returned to England on March 11, 1471. His army defeated Warwick’s army at the Battle of Barnet, where Warwick and John Neville were killed. On May 4, 1471, Edward faced off against the Lancastrian army at the Battle of Tewkesbury, where the Lancastrians were finally defeated and Edward of Westminster was killed. Edward V was created Prince of Wales in June 1471. In 1473, Edward V was moved to Ludlow Castle and was created president of the Council of Wales and the Marches. Edward was in the care of the queen’s brother Anthony, Earl of Rivers, who was a renowned scholar.

Edward’s brother Richard was born on August 17, 1473. In May 1474, he was made Duke of York and the following year, Richard was made a Knight of the Garter. From this point on, the second son of the king was created Duke of York. On June 12, 1476, Richard was created Earl of Nottingham. It was on January 15, 1478 that Richard was married to Anne Mowbray, 8th Countess of Norfolk. The groom was around 4 years old and the bride was 5 years old. On February 7, 1477, Richard was created Duke of Norfolk and Earl Warenne. Richard’s brother Edward was arranged to be married to Anne of Brittany in 1480 to conclude an alliance between England and Brittany, but the marriage never happened. In November 1471, Anne Mowbray died and instead of her Mowbray estates passing onto the next heirs, William, Viscount Berkeley and to John, Lord Howard, Parliament ruled in January 1483 that the estates would pass onto Richard Duke of York.

On April 9, 1483, Edward IV died, leaving his eldest son Edward V to be king at the age of 12. Edward did not hear about his father’s death until April 14, 1483 since he was at Ludlow Castle at the time. Edward IV’s brother Richard Duke of Gloucester was named Lord Protector. On April 29, as previously agreed, Richard and his cousin, the Duke of Buckingham, met Queen Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, at Northampton. At the queen’s request, Earl Rivers was escorting the young king to London with an armed escort of 2000 men, while Richard and Buckingham’s joint escort was 600 men. The young king himself had been sent to Stony Stratford. Richard had Earl Rivers, his nephew Richard Grey and his associate, Thomas Vaughan, arrested. They were taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were executed on June 25 on the charge of treason against the Lord Protector after appearing before a tribunal led by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. Richard took the young king under his protection, escorted him to London, and placed him in the Tower for his protection. Elizabeth Woodville took her daughters and Richard Duke of York and fled to sanctuary at Westminster Abbey yet again.

The coronation for Edward V was scheduled for June 1483, but it was postponed. On June 16, it is said that Richard Duke of York joined his brother in the Tower. It was around this time that Richard Duke of Gloucester announced that he believed that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville had been illegal since Edward IV had a pre-contract marriage arrangement with Lady Eleanor Butler. This meant that his children with Elizabeth Woodville were considered illegitimate, including the young king Edward V and his brother Richard. This meant that the next in line to the throne, Richard Duke of Gloucester, was the rightful king. On June 25, 1483, King Edward V was deposed and Richard Duke of Gloucester became Richard III. We do not know if it is true if Edward IV did indeed enter into a pre-contract marriage with Lady Eleanor Butler.

Edward V and Richard Duke of York were last seen in the Tower in the summer of 1483. We do not know what happened to them. There are theories that they were murdered, which includes a list of suspects including their uncle Richard III as the main suspect. There are also theories that the boys somehow managed to escape the Tower and came back as pretenders like Lambert Simnel or Perkin Warbeck. The simple fact is right now, we do not know what happened to Edward V and Richard Duke of York, “the Princes in the Tower”.

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