Tudor by Leanda de Lisle Page A

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Authors: Leanda de Lisle
Edward V described them as ‘false kings’. To do so justified their overthrow. It is also why subsequent monarchs had to demonstrate to the people that they were ‘true’ kings. In this respect the most obvious quality was royal blood, but true kingship was also reflected in a king’s abilities as a ruler. To ensure peace and harmony a king ruled justly, fought his kingdom’s battles, and also founded future stability on a secure succession. Instead of men vying for the chance to rule, kingship was settled in advance, so that when a king died, power passed to his heir. These issues – ‘true’ kingship, the securing of national stability and the need for a clear succession – were to be played out repeatedly during the Tudor period. Indeed the era began with them. This is why it is so important to look at the Tudor family story.
    When Richard was crowned in the summer of 1483, not everyone accepted his contention that the overthrown twelve-year-old Edward V was a false king. In their eyes, while Edward V and his younger brother were alive, Richard was a usurper. This gives Richard a strong motive for removing the princes as a focus of opposition. Unfortunately for Richard, when their rumoured deaths were followed by rebellion that October it signalled continued national disharmony. The death of Richard’s son and heir the following year appeared to offer further evidence that Richard was a usurper, cursed by God, a verdict confirmed by his death at Bosworth in 1485. Henry VII’s victory allowed him to argue his reign was the result of divine intervention.His Lancastrian blood claim, drawn through his mother, was extremely weak and so he had taken on the mantle of the ‘fair unknown’, the ‘true’ prince who emerges from obscurity to claim his rightful throne, just as the mythical King Arthur had once done. In support of this he had offered the story that the ‘saint’ Henry VI had prophesied his reign.
    While his victory at Bosworth offered the crucial evidence that he was indeed blessed by God, a fact then accepted by Parliament, he still had to rule as a ‘true’ king, establishing national unity and a secure succession. His marriage to Elizabeth of York in 1486 was meant to reconcile Yorkists to his rule and within nine months they had a son: a living embodiment of the union rose and peace between the houses of Lancaster and York. Despite this union, it was crucial for Henry to claim his right independent of his marriage, otherwise his right was dependent on his wife’s life, the claims of his children by her would be stronger than his own, and any children by subsequent wives would not be accepted as ‘true’ heirs. He therefore continued to project his kingship as providential, a new beginning that drew on a royal past, while promising something better, a hope expressed by naming his son Arthur.
    Nevertheless, his disgruntled subjects never forgot the princes who had vanished in the Tower and whose royal blood was so much more impressive than Henry’s. The modern debate over whether Richard III or Henry VII was responsible for the deaths of the princes has obscured how much the two kings had in common on this issue. Neither was wholly accepted as the princes’ replacement. Neither gave the princes a public burial or requiem – and this is key to shedding light on this perennially fascinating mystery.
    After 500 years, modern detective work is not going to prove that the butler murdered the princes with the candlestick in the Tower. Nor does it tell us anything when modern forensic psychologists assure us that Richard III was not a psychopath. You did not need to be a psychopath to do away with competing claimants to your throne,especially when maintaining stability was a king’s duty. 1 The mystery of the princes comes down to the absolute importance of remembering the context of the lost world that lies beneath

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