Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Princes in the Tower

Discovery in the Tower

Other than the account of Sir Thomas More, often repeated and embellished by other 16th century writers, nothing was known of the fate of the princes.  In 1674, 191 years after their disappearance, an interesting discovery was made in the Tower of London.  Assembling the known facts together, one might imagine that the discovery occurred something like this: 

July, 1674

The clanging of picks resounded through the White Tower.  The stairs leading up to the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist had been crumbling for a number of years, and the king had ordered its demolition and replacement.  The large broken stones shattered under the workmens picks, and a large pile of rubble had formed in the open area leading to the steps.  The workmen had reached the floor of the basement and had been surprised to find a layer of loose stones, rather than a stone floor, as they had anticipated.

After they had removed about a 10-foot layer of stones, they looked at the top of a wooden chest.  Clearing away the last of the debris, one of them carefully raised the lid and reached in.

Portrait of Charles II (Scottish National Photo Gallery)
Portrait of Charles II
(Scottish National Photo Gallery)

He held up a bone.  It was an arm bone.  An hour later, the workmen had collected the bones of two humans.

Charles II, king at that time, ordered that the bones be examined by the royal surgeon. who was afterwards satisfied that they were the remains of the two princes, Edward V and his brother.

Four years later, after having lain in a safe place in the Chapel of the White Tower, the bones were placed in a small marble casket and given a place of honor in Westminster Abbey.  At the service, the Archbishop of London said the prayers, and Charles II spoke.

It is right and meet that we commend the bones of these young princes to a place of final rest.  Their fates at the order of Richard III grieves us, and though almost two centuries have passed, the vile deeds of that villain shall neer be forgotten.  The King crossed himself, turned, and led the small funeral procession out of Westminster Abbey.

The Central Nave of Westminster Abbey (CORBIS)
The Central Nave of Westminster Abbey

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