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‘Extraordinary’ new evidence Richard III may not have killed Princes in the Tower

Memory Lane: Professor Kate Williams details project

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The disappearance of King Edward V, 12, and his younger half-brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, nine, in 1483, is a case that has long fascinated historians. Upon Edward’s accession to the throne on the death of his father, the boys were lodged in the Tower of London by their paternal uncle and all-powerful regent, Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, ahead of Edward’s coronation.

However, before Edward could be crowned, they were declared illegitimate, their uncle became Richard III and they were never seen again, presumed murdered.

Kate Williams analyses the young boys’ ‘murders’ in the Tower of London on Channel 5 this evening.

The historian fronts the documentary series, ‘Secrets of the Royal Palaces’, which goes inside some of the country’s most famous buildings.

In the latest episode, Ms Williams looks at the notorious deaths of the Princes in the Tower.

The episode also catches up with photographer John Swannell, who discusses his 1994 photoshoot with Diana, Princess of Wales.

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The presumed deaths of the Princes in the Tower remain a mystery, but it has often been held that their uncle Richard III, who became King after they disappeared, had them murdered.

Richard became Lord Protector of the youngsters after the death of their father, Edward IV, and put them in the Tower of London for their ‘protection’, never to be seen again.

However, more than five centuries later, fresh evidence has shed new light on the mysterious case.

In December, experts researching the princes made a breakthrough as they unearthed “extraordinary” evidence suggesting that Richard did not murder his nephews after all.

The group is led by Philippa Langley, whose team famously discovered Richard III’s remains under a Leicester car park in 2012.

In the new investigation, the researchers found that a deal may have been struck, allowing Edward to secretly live on his half-brother’s land under a fake name.

They traced a trail of evidence to a Devon village church, where they found a carving of a man called ‘John Evans’, who they believe may be the young Edward V.

John Dike, the lead researcher of the four-year ‘Missing Princes Project’ spoke to the Daily Telegraph about their finds.

He said: “The idea of a missing prince lying low in Devon might appear fanciful at first.

“With all the secret symbols and clues, it sounds somewhat like the Da Vinci Code.

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“But the discoveries inside this church in the middle of nowhere are extraordinary.

“The evidence suggests that Edward was sent to live out his days on his half-brother’s land as long as he kept quiet, as part of a deal reached between his mother and Richard III, and later with Henry Tudor.

“Once you take all the clues together, it does appear that the story of the princes in the Tower may need to be rewritten.”

The theory that Richard III had the boys murdered has been popularised throughout history, including by William Shakespeare.

However, the researchers in the Missing Princes Project, are far from the only experts to back theories absolving Richard III from guilt over the boys’ disappearances.

Historian and author Matthew Lewis, who wrote the book ‘Richard III: Loyalty Binds Me’, is among those to doubt that Richard murdered his nephews.

In a 2020 article for History Extra, he explained how there is evidence to show that “rumours of the princes’ deaths emerged as part of a major uprising against Richard III in October 1483”.

He added: “For me, therefore, the possibility of the princes’ survival into the reign of Henry VII is very real indeed.”

‘Secrets of the Royal Palaces’ airs on Channel 5 tonight from 8:30pm-9:30pm.

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