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Tue Feb 5, 2013, 03:59 PM

Why the princes in the tower are staying six feet under

Correspondence shows Church of England has repeatedly refused to allow forensic tests on bones in Westminster Abbey
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
The Guardian, Tuesday 5 February 2013 15.04 EST

... DNA testing was refused on the grounds that it could set a precedent for testing historical theories that would lead to multiple royal disinterments. The church was also uncertain what to do with the remains if the DNA tests were negative, potentially leaving the church with the dilemma of how to manage bogus bones. Authorities also resisted on the grounds the tests could not finally establish "if Richard III is to be let off the hook".

Tudor and Stuart histories insist that the remains contained in an urn designed by Sir Christopher Wren are those of Edward V and Richard Duke of York who were "stifled with pillows ... by the order of their perfidious uncle Richard the Usurper", as the 17th-century inscription puts it. A concerted attempt to get the urn opened was made by the Richard III Society, the group behind this week's confirmation of Richard III's remains, together with the BBC in 1993 and again by Channel 4 in 1995. A Home Office file shows the then dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Michael Mayne, strongly resisted both requests despite being "pressed very hard to agree" to allow the bones to be submitted to carbon dating, to match their deaths to Richard III's reign, and DNA testing to prove their identities.

Buckingham Palace and then home secretary, Michael Howard, were consulted and both the Queen and the minister were in "full agreement" with the church authorities that matter should not be reopened. The dean took advice from the historian Lord Blake and an Oxford archaeology professor, Edward Hall, who said carbon dating of a sample from the late 15th century would only establish the accuracy of the bones within plus or minus 50 years. Richard III occupied the throne for two years between 1483 and 1485 before his death in the battle of Bosworth Field. "It could not therefore differentiate between Richard III or Henry VII – or another – being the guilty party. Nor would the C/14 technique give any clue as to the age at death of the children," the dean said ...

"A sample of bone (skin/hair/tissue) from a known individual related to the princes would be required, and that almost certainly means opening a second tomb in the Abbey or elsewhere. If the result is positive, the remains of the two princes are placed back in Sir Christopher Wren's urn. But what if they are negative: what do we do with the remains? ...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/feb/05/princes-in-tower-staying-under

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Response to struggle4progress (Original post)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 04:13 PM

1. The odds of the remains being anyone but the two princes is pretty remote

I'm glad they are going to leave them be, to rest in peace.

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Response to Siwsan (Reply #1)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 05:21 PM

5. It seems a credible story, since the bones found in the 1647 White Tower renovation were reportedly

found in a trunk under the staircase, which is an irregular burial but somewhat agrees with an account from 1513 of their burial in the Tower, and the 1933 examination of the exhumed remains produced appropriate age estimates and perhaps some evidence the deceased were related.

... Edward was born on November 2, 1470 and Richard on August 17, 1473 ... By many accounts, both of the princes were alive in the Tower of London at least until late summer of 1483 when the last sighting of them was reported ... http://georgielowery.hubpages.com/hub/The-Princes-In-The-Tower

... Edward was sent to Ludlow Castle, near the borders of Wales, for his education. On the death of his father on 9 April, 1483, the new King journeyed to his capital ... His progress was interrupted at Stony Stratford by his paternal uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester ... King Edward V was lodged in the Tower of London ostensibly awaiting his coronation. There was nothing sinister detected in this at the time when the Tower was a royal residence as well as a prison. On the pretext that his brother required his company and the Queen was being foolish, the ten year old Richard, Duke of York, was removed from the safety of sanctuary at Westminster and taken to join him in the Tower. At a meeting of the council at the Tower on the thirteenth of June, ostensibly to discuss Edward V's coronation, Gloucester, the Lord Protector, had William, Lord Hastings suddenly and unexpectedly arrested on a charge of treason ... He was executed, without trial, the same day ... http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/plantagenet_13.htm

... Richard then had a tame priest, Dr. Shaw, preach a sermon at Paul's Cross, claiming that Edward IV had been precontracted in marriage to another woman before marrying Elizabeth Woodville. Based on this 'evidence' Richard called an assembly which in due course asked him to take the crown as the only legitimate heir of the House of York ... http://www.britainexpress.com/History/medieval/princes-tower.htm

... In July 1483, Richard, Duke of Gloucester was crowned Richard III ... http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/princes_in_tower.shtml

... After the coronation the two young princes in the Tower were never seen again. Mancini who left England a week after Richard's coronation said that before his departure the boys were no longer being seen by anyone. Croylands Chronicle claims the princes were still alive at this point. More, using his contacts at the Tower, wrote that the boys were kept in close confinement, and were only served by one man, named William Slaughter ... http://www.infobritain.co.uk/Edward_The_Fifth.htm

The yong kyng and his brother murthered
... Then al the other beeing remoued from them, thys Miles Forest and Iohn Dighton, about midnight (the sely children lying in their beddes) came into the chamber, and sodainly lapped them vp among the clothes so be wrapped them and entangled them keping down by force the fetherbed and pillowes hard vnto their mouthes, that within a while smored and stifled, theyr breath failing, thei gaue vp to god their innocent soules into the ioyes of heauen, leauing to the tormentors their bodyes dead in the bed.Whiche after that the wretches parceiued, first by the strugling with the paines of death, and after long lying styll, to be throughly dead: they laide their bodies naked out vppon the bed, and fetched sir Iames to see them. Which vpon the sight of them, caused those murtherers to burye them at the stayre foote, metely depe in the grounde vnder a great heape of stones ... http://www.r3.org/bookcase/more/moretext.html

... Henry Tudor, a descendent of the House of Lancaster, ... was the son of a commoner ... He justified the killing of Richard at Bosworth Field by declaring that he had been declared king the day before the battle, thereby classifying Richard as a traitor against the crown. He conveniently dispatched to the headsmans block Sir James Tyrell after extracting a confession from Tyrell that he and two others were the actual murderers of the princes ... One of Henrys first acts as king was to see that Parliament repealed Titulus Regius, the act by which Richard had used to declare Edward IVs children illegitimate. Now, his future queen, Elizabeth of York, sister of the princes, was legitimate and a proper wife for a king ... http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/famous/the_princes/7.html

... A set of children’s bones was discovered in the tower between 1603 and 1614 while Sir Walter Raleigh and Lord Grey of Wilton were prisoners there ... The story says that bones were found in a walled up room, laid out on a table, and the finders assumed that these were the remains of the Princes in the Tower. The bones were "esteemed" to be from children 6 and 8 years of age, certainly too young to be the missing boys, if that estimate was correct. These bones were never medically examined and have never been seen since ... The Tower moat was drained between 1830 and 1840 and a great many bones were exposed ... http://medievalaccommodation.com/medieval-britain/LMB%20Pages/Pages-a-d/too_many_bones_in_the_tower.htm

In 1674, workmen ... demolishing a staircase ... leading to the chapel of the White Tower, made the discovery of the bones of two children in an elm chest, at around a depth of ten feet ... A number of accounts survive ..; the following ... was published in 1677:
"Upon Friday the ... day of July, An. 1674 ...in order to the rebuilding of the several Offices in the Tower, and to clear the White Tower of all contiguous buildings, digging down the stairs which led from the King's Lodgings, to the chapel in the said Tower, about ten foot in the ground were found the bones of two striplings in (as it seemed) a wooden chest, which upon the survey were found proportionable to ages of those two brothers viz. about thirteen and eleven years. The skull of one bring entire, the other broken, as were indeed many of the other bones, also the chest, by the violence of the labourers, who....cast the rubbish and them away together, wherefore they were caused to sift the rubbish and by that means preserved all the bones. The circumstances of the story being considered and the same often discoursed with Sir Thomas Chichley, Master of the Ordinance, by whose industry the new buildings were then in carrying on, and by whom the matter was reported to the King.''
... Charles II ... asked ... Sir Christopher Wren to design a white marble container and they were reverently placed ... at Westminster Abbey, close to the tomb of ... Elizabeth of York ... http://historicallyobsessed.blogspot.com/2009/08/bloody-tower-and-lost-princes.html

... In 1933 the bones were exhumed and Lawrence Tanner and William Wright declared that as they belonged to children of the right ages, they must be those of the princes. Nowadays though, the study is rather doubtful and the results probably amount to little. In 1933 forensic science was very primitive, and could not determine the sex of the bones, the cause of death, the century of death, or even whether the owners of the bones were related. The method used to determine the age of the dead children was also unreliable ... http://www.theinitialjourney.com/features/princesinthetower.html

... Professor Wright concluded that on the evidence of the ossification development of the bones of the vertebrae, he believed these were the bones of two children, the eldest aged twelve to thirteen and the younger nine to eleven ... They further stated that ... that congenital missing teeth and certain bilateral Wormian bones ... on both crania were evidence of consanguinity ... http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/plantagenet_13.htm

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #5)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 05:33 PM

6. I've made many visits to Westminster Abbey, and seen the urn

It's a sad, sad sight but it is in a beautiful chapel. It's my favorite part of the entire Abbey. If you can be there at a quiet time, it's a great place to just sit and, in my case, be entralled by the history and the people who made it.

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Response to struggle4progress (Original post)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 04:26 PM

2. "They're dead Jack, they're all dead!"

On the one hand, this could be a lot of fun, historical dogmas could be called into question. Sort of like paternity testing.

On the other hand, we have bigger real problems than the incestuous doings of medieval english royalty.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #2)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 05:37 PM

7. We do have bigger problems, but everyone needs a reflective break

Sometimes when you study the past, it can put the problems of the present into better perspective. Because, quite frankly, we are what we were. Our only hope is to pay attention to and learn from the past. But, maybe that's just my atavistic DNA talking.

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Response to struggle4progress (Original post)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 04:28 PM

3. All the members of the Royal Family are descended from their sister, Elizabeth of York

Finding a known individual related to the princes shouldn't be a problem.

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Response to Glorfindel (Reply #3)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 05:09 PM

4. This many generations on, what

percentage of the DNA would still match?

As I recall, the rule is that siblings, on average share 50% of their genes. Cousins, on average (the children of said siblings) share 25% of the genes.

How many generations removed is the current Royal Family from Elizabeth of York? Would that tiny percentage of shared DNA be enough to prove a relationship?

I know there's a lot I don't know about DNA matching, which is why I'm asking.

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Response to SheilaT (Reply #4)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 05:47 PM

8. Through the female line,

testing mitocrondrial DNA is very accurate. That is how scientists were able to positively indentify Richard III's remains, by comparisons to two living descendants through 17 generations of females.
Scientists have even been able to trace all humans to a single female ancestor they call "Eve", through mitocrondrial DNA.

Regarding the OP, the decision is understandable. If living relatives through the female line were discovered, confirmation of the remains of the alleged princes could be made. This would not identify who killed them, however. And if the remains were not those of the princes, what to do with them is a good question. I would be in favor of testing them, though. I love a mystery almost as much as history- and that would be a fascinating story.

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Response to HooptieWagon (Reply #8)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 07:08 PM

9. Testing would be straightforward.

We already have two DNA samples from descendants of the boys' aunt that were used to identify Richard. Both skeletons in the urn still have most of their teeth. Obtaining material from them would be fairly simple.
Of course, we'll still never know who killed them. They may actually have died of natural causes, since the examination showed signs of dental abscesses. If so, that naturally leads one to wonder why Richard didn't mention their deaths.

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Response to ChazInAz (Reply #9)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 07:19 PM

10. If he killed them, he wouldn't say so.

If he didn't kill them, its possible he didn't know of their death. Or wasn't informed until much later, when he had more pressingatters in hanging on to his crown. Also possible he thought revealing boys death would lead to blame being placed on him (which happened anyway), and he was trying to think of a solution. He did have a political split with one of the suspects, perhaps that was the reason?
Anyway, while a positive ID of the princes would be fascinating...I agree it doesn't solve the crime.

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Response to ChazInAz (Reply #9)

Thu Feb 7, 2013, 02:37 PM

11. The mitochrondrial DNA for the princes would come from their mother

Elizabeth Woodville, not anyone on their father's side (which is where Richard, and the direct ancestor of the DNA sample used for him, came from). There would be a fair chance they could find one (she had 5 daughters that survived to adulthood), but it's not guaranteed. Tracing through the female line can be tricky, especially once you get outside the nobility.

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