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Audrey Williamson Mystery of the Princes in the TowerAudrey Williamson’s assessment of the evidence surrounding the disappearance of the two Princes in the Tower, Edward V and his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York, is as frustrating as it is enlightening. Williamson does well in defence of Richard III, playing her part in the campaign to restore his reputation after hundreds of years of apparently unwarranted demonisation at the behest, or at least, in the interests of those who followed him on the throne of England, Henry VII and his second son, Henry VIII. She tears apart the loosely collated near-contemporary indications that Richard was an inhuman monster, responsible for not only the murder of his nephews, but also the deaths of this brothers, Edward IV and George, Duke of Clarence and perhaps even his wife, Anne Neville, undermining the credibility of sources that have provided the basis for the myth of the monster. But her forensic demolition of the evidence that has been used to propagate the myth, mostly famously by the likes of Sir Thomas More and Shakespeare, is not matched by the quality of evidence presented to bolster her argument that Richard was in fact an early version of a Renaissance Prince, albeit an asexual one. She is prone to flights of fancy in favour of her hero, based on little more than conjecture and supposition to the extent that her argument becomes as weak that of those who have sought to undermine Richard III and his legacy.

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Research presented in a more scholarly manner seems to indicate that Richard was not responsible for the disappearance, let alone the murders, of his nephews, and thus that Williamson is correct in her overall thesis.  It is unfortunate the she did not choose to share with readers the basis for some of her suppositions.  The Mystery of the Princes is, however, a very readable introduction to one of the most tantalising mysteries in English history. There seems little room any longer to consider Richard III as the perpetrator. Some have suggested that Henry VII had more cause to do away with the princes, but Williamson demonstrates, in one of the finer sections of the book, that even this theory is doubtful.  But what, then, did happen to the young brothers, housed in the Tower of London at the beginning of Richard’s reign in 1483?  Williamson has no conclusive answer, but leaves the reader with tantalising possibilities.

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