A Royal Unsolved Mystery

Sandra Worth

Ask anyone about the Princes in the Tower, and they’ll probably tell you Richard III murdered his two little nephews for the throne. Contrary to what they believe, however, the mystery of the Princes in the Tower is a cold case file, and their disappearance remains unsolved to this day, five hundred years later.

Let’s talk about murder.

Did Richard III murder the princes, or did someone else? Was a murder even committed? If the princes weren’t murdered, what happened to them?  Historians have considered a wealth of scenarios and new research lends weight to the possibility that one of the princes survived, as many contemporaries thought!  This is what my research convinced me was the case. A closer look at the evidence might persuade you, too.

The facts.

After he took the throne, Richard sent King Edward’s two sons to live at the Tower. At the time, it was a royal residence, not the torture chamber it became under the Tudors. Londoners heard the princes playing in the garden and saw them shooting arrows. Then abruptly, one autumn day in 1483, the arrows stopped flying. The little princes were never seen again. That is all we know for certain.

What happened next.

In 1492, a mysterious young man appeared in Europe, claiming to be the younger prince in the Tower, Richard of York.  There had been many rumors about the survival of the younger prince, but no proof. This young man was put forward by Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, sister to Richard III.   Elizabeth Woodville, the mother of the princes in the Tower, was alive at the time, and a prisoner of Henry VII. She was the only one who could definitively identify the young man as genuine. As soon as the news of the survival of Prince Richard thundered across Europe, the Tudors announced she had died of an illness.

Very convenient for the Tudors, and devastating to the cause of the young pretender who has been recognized as the true king of England by all the crowned heads of Europe, and is about to return to England to claim his crown.

Was he, or wasn’t he?

Was this young man the true prince? Many at the time believed he was. There is evidence even Henry Tudor believed he was. But Tudor propaganda has been so effective that the question is rarely raised in England. Aside from a sprinkling of a few authors and historians who championed the young pretender’s cause over the centuries, it’s taken for granted that he was a fraud. Now, a new book presents evidence that can be taken to suggest this young man, nicknamed “Perkin Warbeck” by the Tudors, was really who he said he was—the younger prince who vanished from the Tower. King James IV of Scotland certainly believed in him. He supported the young man not only with men and money and arms, but gave him the hand of his royal cousin, Lady Catherine Gordon—a dazzlingly beautiful and spirited girl who believed utterly in her husband to the end of her days, and who later became known as the “Pale Rose of England.”

Pale Rose of England.

My forthcoming novel, Pale Rose of England, presents the case for Perkin Warbeck as the younger prince in the Tower. But more than royal murder and the question of Perkin Warbeck, Pale Rose of England is about the beautiful Scottish princess Lady Catherine Gordon who gave up everything for love. To quote from the Romantic Times, this is “a love story amidst war, a history filled with glorious people and an unforgettable female character who triumphs when others fail; whose faith and love move a king and who has been lost to history until now.”

Catherine’s story of love amidst war is as compelling as the royal mystery that shrouds her husband’s identity.


Sandra Worth is the author of five novels that chronicle the demise of the Plantagenet dynasty in England and the rise of the Tudors. She has won numerous awards. Each book is the recipient of multiple honors. Visit her website at www.sandraworth.com

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