By Isolde Wigram
Published Online by the Richard III Society
It has been convincingly argued in D.M. Kleyn’s Richard of England that ‘Perkin Warbeck’ was, as he claimed to be, the younger prince, Richard Duke of York. Now Gordon Smith in a recent article in The Ricardian has argued for the theory that the ‘Edward VI’ crowned by the Irish in Dublin in 1487 was none other than the former Edward V of England, the elder prince. If this be so, then according to Gordon Smith’s theory Henry VII was ready to substitute the obvious impostor ‘Lambert Simnel’ after the death of ‘the King from Dublin’ at the battle of Stoke in June 1487, which he must therefore have been expecting. ‘Perkin Warbeck’ was hanged at Tyburn in 1499 for allegedly plotting to escape from the Tower and overthrow the king. In other words both were killed for being who they were: the sons of Edward IV. Let us now examine the evidence.
In 1483, the date of the last incontrovertible sighting of the princes, we are faced with two conflicting accounts, those of the French spy Dominic Mancini and the Great Chronicle of London. According to the latter the boys were seen ‘shotyng and playying in the Gardyn of the Tower by sundry tymys’ during the mayoralty of Sir Edmund Shaa which ran until 28 October, while according to Mancini they were simultaneously ‘seen more rarely behind the bars and windows, till at length they ceased to appear altogether’. If both reports are to be believed, the ‘sundry tymys’ would have had to be between 16 June, when young Richard of York joined his brother in the Tower, and the early days of July when Mancini left England. In fact the phrase ‘sundry times’ implies a longer period than about three weeks and one may well doubt the accuracy of Mancini’s informant(s). The fact that there were already rumours about the probable death of one or both of the boys need surprise no one. Imagination tends to run riot where rumours about royal personages are concerned, and the journalistic mind certainly pre-dated the media.