A murder case that’s gone unsolved for more than 500 years has just been opened back up. Historian and screenwriter Philippa Langley is launching a fresh investigation into the deaths of the “princes in the tower,” one of the most infamous crime mysteries in British history.
After the death of their father, Edward IV, in 1483, the two young brothers Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York were lodged in the Tower of London under the care of their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. This was prior to what was meant to be 12-year-old Edward’s coronation, but his uncle ended up taking the crown instead after Edward and his 9-year-old brother Richard mysteriously vanished.
It is widely believed by historians that King Richard III murdered his nephews to secure the throne for himself, but Philippa Langley isn’t so confident. To crack the case she’s teaming up with cold case investigators, some of whom have experience working on unsolved murders. One thing she’s discovered is that the perspectives of these professionals don't always match up with the historical narrative. “They all say the same thing,” she told the Independent, "that’s it’s very questionable whether there was a murder at all, considering what happened with all the pretenders that arrived under Henry Tudor’s reign; and second, that Richard III is not their prime suspect—because they go on motive, opportunity and proclivity.”
This isn’t the first historical mystery Langley has set out to untangle. In 2009, she founded the Looking for Richard project that led to the discovery of Richard III’s grave beneath a Leicester parking lot. For this new case, she’s not only enlisting the help of private investigators but also British families with private archives dating back to the Plantagenet and Tudor periods. The Church of England has proven to be less helpful, repeatedly refusing requests from researchers over the years to exhume what are likely the remains of the two boys buried in Westminster Abbey.
The team has narrowed the investigation down to four prime suspects: Richard III, Richard’s rival Henry VII, his loyal servant Sir James Tyrell, and Henry Stafford, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham who supported Richard’s rise to the throne. Langley hopes to collaborate with the Richard III Society once again after successfully working with them to dispel another Richard III myth—the one surrounding his death and resting place. Same as with the Princes in the Tower story, old theories surrounding Richard's death supported the idea of him as an archetypal villain. But the true story, as Langley hopes to uncover through her investigation, is often much less glamorous.
[h/t: The Independent]