Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Princes in the Tower


Henry Tudor, a descendent of the House of Lancaster, had a tenuous claim to the throne of England.  He was the son of a commoner, Owen Tudor, who had married the widow of Henry V.  However, he had an ambitious mother and a number of significant supporters.  Two of these were Bishop Morton and the Duke of Buckingham.  Buckingham had been the primary supporter of Richard III during the frenetic period between Edward IVs death and Richards assumption of the throne, but betrayed Richard and joined the cause of Henry Tudor.  Several reasons are given by different authors for Buckinghams defection.  The first, and probably the most reasonable, is that Richard reneged on promises to transfer to Buckingham extensive properties.  The second is that Buckingham was repelled by Richards murder of the two princes.  Some theorists regard Buckingham as the most likely murderer of the princes, perpetrated in order to secure Henry Tudors claim to the throne.  A variation of Buckinghams deed by some of the traditionalists camp is that Buckingham was the murderer, following instructions from Richard to carry out the deed.

Portrait of Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, the successor to Richard III and the father of Henry VIII (National Picture Gallery)
Portrait of Henry Tudor, later
Henry VII, the successor to
Richard III and the father of Henry
VIII (National Picture Gallery)

Portraits of Henry Tudor present a thin-lipped, sly man, much more likely to evince a response of distrust in the viewer than the famous portrait of Richard III.  Like all of the English kings during the late medieval period, Henry was ruthless.  He justified the killing of Richard at Bosworth Field by declaring that he had been declared king the day before the battle, thereby classifying Richard as a traitor against the crown.  He conveniently dispatched to the headsmans block Sir James Tyrell after extracting a confession from Tyrell that he and two others were the actual murderers of the princes.  While he solidified the Tudor hold on the crown for his son, Henry VIII, he was noted for his mean and stingy nature.

When Henry landed in Wales in 1483 with his forces of French mercenaries and English and Welsh rabble, he had lived half of his 28 years outside of England.  In some respects, he was a foreign invader.  But his noble supporters were intent on toppling Richard and replacing him, even if it had to be with the relatively unknown Henry Tudor.

If the Earl of Stanley had not kept his forces out of the Battle of Bosworth, Henry might have been defeated, and Richard III would have remained king.

One of Henrys first acts as king was to see that Parliament repealed Titulus Regius, the act by which Richard had used to declare Edward IVs children illegitimate.  Now, his future queen, Elizabeth of York, sister of the princes, was legitimate and a proper wife for a king.  However, by repealing the act, Edward V and his younger brother were legitimate once again.  Hence, Henry was acknowledging that the princes were dead, since, by restoring Edward Vs legitimacy, he was acknowledging that the dead boy had been the rightful King of England.

Whatever Henrys personal traits, he gave his reign peace and stability, ending the War of the Roses by uniting, in marriage, the House of Lancaster, his family, and the House of York, his wifes family.

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