Edward IV died in 1483, and his brother Richard of Gloucester became Protector to his two little sons - the ‘Princes of the Tower’ - aged 12 and 9. Richard installed the boys in the Tower of London, where they were seen playing in the gardens. While Richard persuaded Parliament that he should become king, the princes were never seen again.
In the following century Thomas More investigated the disappearance, and wrote a very well-known book condemning Richard III for murder. The trouble with relying on More’s account is that it’s a secondary, not a primary source. He wasn’t there – so how could he know? Later Shakespeare picked up the story, and also painted a villainous picture of Richard III in his play of the same title. Perhaps Richard III’s mistake was merely to have lost the struggle to the Tudors. The winners always re-write history to suit themselves, and paint the losers blacker than black. A society whose members aim to repair Richard III’s reputation exists to this day.
‘On the evening of the Feast of St George, the stonework of a certain noble gateway which the king had constructed in a most opulent fashion collapsed, as if struck by an earthquake, together with its forebuildings and outworks’. This is the chronicler Matthew Paris, writing in his Greater Chronicle, and describing the collapse of a tower at the Tower of London. He also included a little illustration showing the building falling into the moat. Archaeological excavations in the moat in 1995-7 located the bottom of a tower, skewed at a most alarming angle. In this case, it seems that Paris was proved absolutely right: his story was backed up by physical evidence.