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Princes in the Tower

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Princes in the Tower

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The Princes in the Tower is a term that refers to Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York. The two brothers were the only sons of Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville alive at the time of their father's death. Sometime around 1483, it is assumed that they were murdered, although there is no proof of this theory other than their disappearance.

In May 1483 Edward, arriving in London for his coronation, was accommodated in the Tower of London, then a royal residence. Richard at that point was with his mother in sanctuary, but joined his brother in the Tower in June. Both princes were declared illegitimate by an Act of Parliament of 1483 known as Titulus Regius, and their uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester was crowned as Richard III. There are reports of the two princes being seen playing in the Tower grounds shortly after Richard joined his brother, but there are no recorded sightings of either of them after the summer of 1483. Their fate remains an enduring mystery, but historians and contemporary popular opinion agree that the princes were probably murdered in the Tower. There is no record of a funeral.

According to some sources, the household accounts from one of Richard III's holdings in the north suggest that the boys were moved there for safekeeping early in 1485, and remained there until some time after the Battle of Bosworth.

In 1674, the skeletons of two children were discovered under the staircase leading to the chapel, during the course of renovations to the White Tower. At that time, these were believed to have been the remains of the two princes, although the staircase was apparently the original, and therefore built around two centuries before the boys disappeared, making it unlikely that the skeletons belonged to the princes. On the orders of Charles II the remains were reburied in Westminster Abbey. In 1933, the grave was opened to see if modern science could cast any light on the issues, and the skeletons were determined to be those of two young children, one aged around seven to eleven and the other around eleven to thirteen. However, at least one of the scientists involved stated that the younger skeleton almost certainly belonged to a child younger than nine, leaving doubts as to whether the skeletons belonged to the princes.

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