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Too Important to Talk About

For centuries, historians argued about the nature of Richard III’s physical appearance. With the discovery of his remains, we now understand that he had a twisted spine.

Before Richard’s corpse was found, the reality of his imperfection was debatable. His military prowess suggested that his defect was not severe enough to impede him. Moreover, no defect was ever documented before Edward IV’s death, although there is at least one image of Richard that suggests an imbalance. After Edward’s death, all of Richard’s defects became magnified as his reputation suffered, and what was once a irregularity that people overlooked suddenly became a deformity.

Edward V’s Rivals

This is human nature. We ignore the faults of those we admire but focus on the faults of those we dislike. This demonstrates that there are many ways to destroy or neutralize an enemy.

The rivalry between Edward V and Richard III, and between Edward V and Henry VII, was and is real, even though it has been so long a part of this history that few have noticed.

It is easy to understand that Edward and Richard were rivals, but it would be folly to think that Henry VII wasn’t threatened by Edward, whether he was alive or dead.

Richard’s and Henry’s Cover-Up

Richard and Henry had a lot in common — they knew that they were shams, and so they were motivated to cover up what happened to Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, who were the gold standard to their brass.

Paranoid and always feeling inadequate in his own right, Henry knew that he was, as Christine Carpenter states, only the substitute for Edward IV’s dead sons. He took as great a care to ignore his brothers-in-law as Richard did. For Henry, reminding the world of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, was not something that would add value to his own questionable claim to the throne. It was particularly dangerous because their sister, Henry’s wife, had a better blood claim to the throne than Henry did. Taking a lively interest in what happened to his brothers-in-law would only serve to remind people of this.Therefore, Henry kept silent about their appearance until Warbeck’s imposture forced him to make a statement.

Since then, people have misinterpreted the importance of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, but the fact that their successors purposely ignored them doesn’t devalue their importance – it adds strength to it.

Henry VII was as afraid of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, and what they stood for as Richard was. The fact that both of them wanted the world to forget about them only highlights their unspoken confession that they both knew they were inferior to them.

People who don’t realize this – and there are many who don’t – miss the point, and those who believe that nobody cared that Edward and Richard were pushed aside are greatly mistaken.

A long line of suspects in the assassination of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, has been developed over the years, but no one has ever drawn up a similar list of those interested in assassinating Richard III prior to Bosworth. Ricardians like to pretend that Richard’s usurpation was popular and that his reasoning for the deposition was accepted by the public. If the boys were as unimportant as Ricardians claim they were, why would anyone want to assassinate them at all, let alone make them the prime targets for permanent removal?

A Lot of Conjecture

Of course, there are those who think the boys were spirited away and were both so unambitious (or perhaps so psychologically destroyed by Richard’s betrayal) that they were content to be stone masons or priests instead of trying to reclaim what had already been purchased by the blood of their friends.

Or perhaps one believes that Perkin Warbeck was young Richard. Then we have to believe that young Richard, having escaped the Tower, failed to take advantage of the instability of Henry’s reign and let an impostor be the figurehead of Henry’s opposition in 1487, waiting until he was a young man and Henry more secure on the throne before making an appearance. (Why wasn’t Edward ever chosen for an impersonation? Probably because he was better known than his little brother.)

Henry’s attempts to eradicate the Titulus Regius, the obscurity of his first Parliament’s reference to “the shedding of infants’ blood,” and Henry’s failure to aggressively investigate his brothers-in-law’s disappearance are not “proof” that they weren’t dead or were dead by Henry’s hands. Henry was not the Goebbels of his times. Forthrightness would have been politically disadvantageous. Clamming up was Henry’s style, so he clammed up about Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, until he was forced to say something. Richard clammed up too. He said nothing, did nothing, and expected everyone to forget that he was a usurper who had destroyed them both.

As decades went on, even into the next reign, people were reluctant to talk freely about what they knew. Sometimes because of their own political connections or maybe even out of embarrassment. Forty years after a cover-up is not a long time at all. Emotions, memories, and allegiances are still very open and raw.

Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, were so important that people were afraid to talk about them.