Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Princes in the Tower

The Plot

Sir Thomas Mores version

Portrait of Sir Thomas More (National Picture Gallery)
Portrait of Sir Thomas More
(National Picture Gallery)

Sir Thomas More gives an account of how the murders were planned. According to him, Richard hatched his plot while on a royal progress through England, an attempt to visit regions throughout the land and establish his popularity. Mores description might be dramatized with the following scene: 

Gloucester, July 30, 1483 

Do you understand?  You are to hence to the Tower and instruct our Lord Brackenbury to carry out the deed.  It must be done, and done quickly.

John Green, loyal retainer to a fault, bowed to his sovereign, King Richard III.  Your majesty, I will leave at once.

Four days later, Green was in the small chamber that was used by the Constable of the Tower, Sir Robert Brackenbury.  He had revealed the purpose of his visit to the constable, who sat silently after Green had delivered his charge from the king.

In distress, Brackenbury finally said, Sir, I cannot.  I love the king, but I cannot do this thing that he wishes.  It is not within my purview.  I have no stomach for it.

The king will not be pleased, Sir Robert.  It is not a great thing that he asks of you.  The young princes have no future, as you are well aware.

Brackenbury knelt before Green.  Before our Lady in the Tower, I could never put the princes to death, though I should die therefore.

Now at Warwick Castle, Richard awaited the return of Green.  Is it done?

Your majesty, he will not.  He says he cannot.

Ah, a man of scruples is our Lord Brackenbury.  We shall not compromise his loyalty.  Yet, I will have it done.  Is there not a man amongst my party who can do this?  Ah, whom shall a man trust?  Those that I have brought up myself fail me, and at my commandment will do nothing for me.

There is one, said Green.  He lies outside your door.  James Tyrell.  You need only command him, and the princes will be dead. 

Again, four days passed.  At the gate of the Tower wall, Tyrell met with Brackenbury.  Lord Brackenbury, this is my man, John Dighton, who assists me with this mission.  I have here, mLord, a letter from the king, sealed by his hand.  It directs you to deliver unto me the keys to the Tower wherein the princes lodge.

Brackenbury read the letter.  Looking up, he said, I see.  Very well, you shall have the keys.

Tyrell took the large ring of keys and said to Brackenbury, Who is with the princes?  Who waits upon them?

There are four.

Is Miles Forest amongst their number?

He is.

I suggest that you dismiss all but Forest, and then retire to some place of refreshment within the city.  You shall enjoy a full days deliverance from your duties.

Brackenbury sighed.  I see.  I will do as you suggest.

Two hours later, Tyrell, Forest, and Dighton were at a table at the Golden Cockerel.  Tyrell spoke,It is now going upon nine oclock.  You shall carry out the deed about midnight.  There must be no mistake, no chance that either will survive.  I will await you in the passageway.  When you have finished, fetch me and show me that you have done what the king has commanded.  Understood?

Ay, mLord, Forest and Dighton both replied.

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