Richard III, King of England (reigned 1483-1485)


One of the enduring mysteries in English history is what happened to the two sons of Edward IV (reigned 1463-1483), who were taken into custody by his brother Richard after the king's death. The boys, Edward V, aged approximately 12 and Richard, Duke of York, approximately 10, were the only sons of Edward and his wife Elizabeth Woodville, and the elder was proclaimed Edward V in 1483.

The last confirmed sighting of the boys came later in the year. Richard usurped the throne and in July 1483 was crowned king. While he and his wife Anne Neville toured their new kingdom, whispers about the boys' whereabouts and fate began to spread, both throughout the country and then abroad. After the ascension of Henry VII (1485-1509) rumors continued, with the addition of stories about sightings of the young princes' ghosts wandering the grounds of the Tower of London, where they were last seen alive.



The English Court: From the Wars of the Roses to the Civil War (London: 1987).

Gillingham, John, The Wars of the Roses: Peace and Conflict in Fifteenth-Century England (Baton Rouge: 1981).

Kendall, Paul Murray, Richard III (1983).

Kendall, Paul Murray, The Yorkist Age: Daily Life During the Wars of the Roses (NY: 1962).

Wars of the Roses Websites

The Family

Ross, Charles Derek, Edward IV (Berkeley: 1974).

After the princes' disappearance, various young men presented themselves as one or the other of the princes, including Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger brother of Henry VII's Queen, Elizabeth of York. He obtained support and assistance from various Continental rulers, whose interests were assuredly as much in obtaining some leverage against Henry as in asserting Warbeck's supposed claim. 

The Accused 

Fields, Bertram, Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes (NY: HarperCollins, 1998).

Jenkins, Elizabeth, The Princes in the Tower (NY: Coward, McCann, & Geoghegan, 1978).

Kendall, Paul Murray, Richard III (NY: Norton, 1956). Frequently reprinted.

Pollard, A. J., Richard III and the Princes in the Tower (NY: St. Martinís Press, 1991).

Ross, Charles Derek, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

Seward, Desmond, Richard III, Englandís Black Legend (NY: Franklin Watts, 1984).

St. Aubyn, Giles, The Year of Three Kings, 1483(NY: Atheneum, 1983).

Wood, Charles T., Joan of Arc and Richard III: Sex, Saints, and Government in the Middle Ages (NY: Oxford University Press, 1988).




Other Suspects

The Trial

The Verdict and the Aftermath: Continuing Debate

Various societies devote themselves to Richard's vindication, including the Richard III Society.  The American Branch of the Richard III Society hosts the Richard III and Yorkist History Server. Also active is the Richard III Foundation. Stephen Schneider believes that Richard acted out of self-defense rather than aggression. See also the Richard III Discussion Page. Sir Thomas More's history of the period is also available on the net.

Richard in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture

The best-known fictional representation of Richard is that by William Shakespeare, in King Richard III. As one would expect from a loyal subject of Elizabeth I, it is a very negative portrayal. 

  • Shakespeare, William, The Tragedy of Richard the Third (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1927)(The Yale Shakespeare).


The earliest film portrayal of Richard may be in a 1912 silent movie, recently rediscovered by the American Film Institute, which maintains a Richard III page. AFI also provides a short history of Richard on film.

On film, Ian McKellan's version of Shakespeare's play emphasizes both Richard's somewhat tyrannical nature, and his genuine patriotism.

Several mystery novels feature the death of the princes and Richard's possible complicity.

  • Peters, Elizabeth, The Murders of Richard III (NY: Dodd, Mead, 1974).

  • Tey, Josephine, The Daughter of Time (London: Penguin, 1954).


See also Ricardian Fiction.

  • Richard III (MGM/UA Home Video, 1996). Starring Ian McKellen as Richard.

  • Richard III (Janus Films, 1990?). Starring Laurence Olivier as Richard. This is a home video version of the film made in 1955.

 Mysteryguide.Com's Daughter of Time Page discusses the theory that Richard is in fact not guilty of the murder of the Princes.



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