Although he had now been formally crowned, Richard III’s claim to the throne remained distinctly shaky while his nephews, the two little princes in the Tower, remained alive. Nobody knows for sure what happened to them, but it seems highly probable that Richard had his nephews murdered in late August 1483.
Popular rumour at the time had it that King Richard ordered Sir Robert Brackenbury, the newly appointed Constable of the Tower, to do the dirty work. Brackenbury refused, so Richard told him to surrender the keys of the Tower to Sir James Tyrell instead.
The ambitious Tyrell then arranged for Miles Forest and John Dighton to murder the princes in the Bloody Tower while they slept. Forest was one of the princes’ servants. He had committed murder before. Dighton was Tyrell’s groom, ‘a big, broad, square, strong knave.’
‘All the others being removed from them, this Miles Forest and John Dighton about midnight (the innocent children lying in their beds) came into the chamber and suddenly wrapped them up among the clothes – so bewrapped them and entangled them, keeping down by force the featherbed and pillows hard unto their mouths, that within a while, smothered and stifled, their breath failing, they gave up to God their innocent souls into the joys of heaven, leaving to the tormentors their bodies dead in the bed.’
HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 67. So perished the two little princes. What did the murderers do with their bodies?
‘As sharp as Evelyn Waugh and sometimes better’ – Times Literary Supplement
‘Good, clean fun’ – Daily Telegraph
‘Pure comic pleasure’ – Spectator