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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Conspiracy theory for fun

The mystery surrounding the little Princes in the Tower is well known – and generally the libel by Shakespeare concerning Richard III’s hand in the matter has been debunked. After all, Richard had already had them declared illegitimate since Edward IV had been through a previous form of marriage ceremony before marrying Elizabeth Woodville, which was at least attested to, whether true or not. He had no need to kill his nephews – and it is notable that it was many years before the claim that he had done so was first made, a suspicious note in a king trying to establish his legitimacy like Henry VII not to declare right away that the princes had been done away with – if they had. After all, would he not be concerned about the fates of his wife’s brothers? Apparently not very.

Personally I am inclined to think they may have died of natural causes in Henry’s custodianship which gave him the idea to claim them murdered by their uncle, but there is no proof as to whether that happened or whether indeed Henry thought sons of the House of York, however legitimate or otherwise, too inconvenient to be allowed to live. Or if one died the other was, as you might say, pushed….. And poor old Tyrell who ‘confessed’ under torture showing once again that the tortured tell their interrogators what they want to know.

 the Millais painting was really the only pic available...
typically romanticised in the Victorian fashion when belief in the
wicked uncle was the only accepted theory

It is however interesting to note that they were not the only convenient deaths to aid Henry in his dynastic pretensions.  Margaret Drummond was the mistress, sweetheart, and said by some to be the secret wife of James IV of Scotland; she had a daughter by him, Margaret Stewart.  In 1501 she and her sisters Eupheme [probably known in the Scots fashion as Pymma] and  Sibylla succumbed to some form of poisoning.  It may well have been food poisoning – hygiene was not always well practised in the era – and they did all eat the same meal.  However in a case of food poisoning it’s not that common for everyone who ate the same thing to die as different people do react differently. 
Her death came shortly after Henry VII lit upon the idea of potentially controlling Scotland by marrying his daughter Margaret to James IV.
Interesting that.
James prayed for the souls of his mistress and her sisters all his life, and maintained their daughter; somehow I find it hard to see him being implicated in a murder to clear the way for marrying into the family of more politically powerful England.
Henry on the other hand was a shrewd and canny operator who could think in the long term.  And if nothing else a dynastic marriage meant a better likelihood of truces being kept [well that one went down the tubes] and therefore no expenditure on border war.  Henry VII was a very thrifty man.
He had motive.
He had means – a long purse.
And a skilled poisoner could always find opportunity.
Have I any proof?  Not a jot.  It’s just a conspiracy theory based on the idea of convenient deaths and a monarch with a sufficiently tenuous claim to need security.

 James IV of Scotland courtesy Wiki

The upshot of this was that Henry sent his 12 year old daughter to a cold foreign land and a husband more than twice her age for his ambition.  The little Scottish Queen was not happy with the bargain and her husband always mourned his lost love. 
Real Politik.  Don’t you just love it.

1 comment:

  1. What a great and intesting post!!!

    I've been a card-carrying believer that Henry VII dun nit for YEARS. (This despite the fact that I love Shakespeare's Richard the Third, and that a local copy of Holinshed's Chronicles was the very first rare book I ever held in my hands...a seventeenth-century copy in the local research library when I was sixteen...) He had, as you say, motive, opportunity, and much more of either than his predecessor, who in some ways needed the children alive in order for
    his legitimacy as regent to be interchangeable with his claims to kingship...and he had the perfect cover, because both his son and his granddaughters would offer patronage to writers who laid the blame on his adversary...a real example of history being written by the winner!!!

    Funny, when you think of how basically good the Tudors were for England, that they had to be such Machiavellian monarchs to stay in control...

    This was an excellent post!!


    P.S. So, does the author belong to the Richard III society??