King Charles Reportedly "Supports" DNA Test to Solve Centuries-Old Royal Child Murder Mystery
A short timeline of centuries of drama.
As if the British Royal Family weren't roiling with enough drama, this week UK news outlets reported that a 500-year-old royal child murder mystery has resurfaced—and King Charles III has reportedly voiced his support for DNA testing that may resolve the case. Read on to find out what the mystery involves, how Shakespeare figures in, and where an investigation might lead.
It's a five-century-old rumor that provided the premise for Shakespeare's Richard III: In 1483, Princes Edward, 12, and Richard, 9—heirs to the throne upon their father's death—were upstaged by their uncle, who claimed the throne for himself as Richard III. The boys were declared illegitimate heirs by the king and abruptly disappeared. The scuttlebutt was that the scheming king had his nephews murdered.
For years, historians have wanted to test the remains of four children, two found in the Tower of London in the 1600s and two in the grounds of Windsor Castle in the 1700s, to see if they are the princes.
The bodies are interred in royal crypts, and permission for DNA testing must be granted by the monarch. Queen Elizabeth reportedly blocked any inquiry. However, Prince Charles, who studied archeology in college, has a different take.
"He has said he would like an investigation to go ahead, so that we can determine, once and for all, how the young royals died," said Tracy Borman, joint chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, according to the Daily Mail.
Shakespeare's play was only the start of the historical drama surrounding Richard III and his nephews. In 1483, Edward IV died unexpectedly, leaving custody of the boys to his brother. The children were said to have disappeared when Richard assumed the throne, leading to rumors he had them murdered.
In 1674, a pair of skeletons were found in the Tower of London. But no direct evidence of the princes' murder has been discovered. Some say the murder narrative was propaganda spread by the Tudors. And some say the elder boy's mother, Elizabeth Woodville, made a secret pact with Richard III to allow her son to live under a secret name in a rural village.
Researchers with the Missing Princes Project—which is led by Philippa Langley, a historian who discovered the remains of Richard III under a parking lot in 2012—have uncovered medieval documents and symbols that suggest the older disappeared prince, Edward V, was allowed to live his life under the pseudonym "John Evans." Historians believe DNA testing could separate fact from fiction. However, it won't explain why a streaming service hasn't made a series about all of this by now.