The sons of King Edward IV, 12-year-old Edward V and his younger brother Richard, were sent to the Tower by their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. By July 1483 they were declared illegitimate and the Duke was crowned King Richard III. The Princes were never seen again.
Were they murdered?
Richard III has usually been considered the most likely culprit. By declaring the princes illegitimate, he cleared his way to the throne. He would safeguard his position by having them killed.
In 1485, Richard III was killed in the Battle of Bosworth. The victor, Henry Tudor, was crowned King Henry VII. It was in the Tudors’ interest to paint Richard as a villain.
Henry VII is also a suspect. He married the princes’ sister, Elizabeth of York, strengthening his claim to the throne. This could have been jeopardised if the boys had survived. It does seem unlikely that they survived beyond the end of Richard’s reign without being seen.
There are also other suspects including the Duke of Buckingham, once Richard’s closest ally, whom he later had beheaded.
Thomas More, writing over 30 years later, stated that the princes were smothered on their uncle’s orders, secretly buried ‘at the stair foot’, and then reburied elsewhere in the Tower. Two skeletons, identified as those of the princes, were discovered when a building in front of the White Tower was demolished in 1674. You can see a plaque commemorating the princes near this site. The skeletons were examined in 1933 and pronounced as belonging to two boys, aged about ten and twelve.