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Princes in the Tower

If the King undertook the barefoot walk to make offerings at the shrine, he would have been walking in the footsteps of another notorious monarch. Three hundred years earlier, Henry II had taken that route as penance for his role in the death of Thomas Becket. Did he, like Henry, have a burden on his conscience that he sought to alleviate? There is no question that Richard made any sort of public penance. He did not moan or flagellate himself in public as the former King had. He was however, a devout man, even by the standards of the time, whose religious conviction is one of the aspects agreed upon by many of those who debate his motives and reputation.

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Of course he could not have openly bewailed their deaths in public, as this would necessitate confessing his guilt by association. Instead, he may have visited Canterbury Cathedral in order to make his peace with God. In actuality, though, it was their disappearance that underpinned his downfall and blackened his reputation for centuries after.

Photograph: Getty Images Amy Licence is a late medieval and early Tudor historian focusing on women's lives. Sign up. You are browsing in private mode. Amy Licence is a late medieval and early Tudor historian focusing on women's lives. Related articles.

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Once he was king, Henry made no attempt to investigate the rumours that the Princes were dead. In the year history of the Tower, human remains have been unearthed on a number of occasions.


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In , two such skeletons were discovered in a chest, by workmen effecting repairs. At first, the bones were cast unceremoniously out with the rest of the rubbish.

In , the urn was opened and found to contain a mixture of human and animal bones, but precise identification as to age and sex of the deceased was impossible. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, currently will not permit another examination using modern forensic testing methods.


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  • However, there were others who also had motive and opportunity to murder the Princes: Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham — he had a blood claim to the throne, and rebelled against Richard in the autumn of — perhaps he favoured his chances as king?