Book Review: The Killer of the Princes in the Tower

The mysterious and premature deaths of the young sons of Edward IV - the 'Princes in the Tower' have generated a huge amount of interest over the last five hundred years, and the debate continues today. 

Theories range from Richard III having the children quietly murdered to secure his right to the throne, to the possibility that the princes simply died from an illness or plague while in the Tower. Henry VII's mother Margaret Beaufort has also been suggested as a possible culprit, along with the Duke of Buckingham, who has been accused of carrying out the terrible deed on the orders of the king. 

A five hundred year old case, a crime scene that's been visited by millions of people, a long list of potential suspects and no bodies to analyse. 

Where the heck do we start? 

A new book by MJ Trow aims to help clear everything up, called The Killer of the Princes of the Tower. Thanks to Pen and Sword Publishing and Netgalley, I bagged myself a review copy to see if it could help me untangle this Medieval mystery. 

The book is very structured, and easy to follow. It firstly relates the background of how the princes ended up in the Tower in the first place, and the history of the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III, detailing the key players and the positions of power that they held, along with the known movements of the princes and their lives. Even though I knew most of these facts and the general narrative, I found this really useful as a refresher so that we could get into the nitty gritty of the suspects. 

The suspects are dealt with one by one. All of  them. The inclusion of some raised eyebrows - but if you're going to deal with a murder case that's exactly what you do - you take each person that had any contact whatsoever with the boys in the lead up to their death and look at their motives and potential, continuing to investigate them further or dismiss their involvement. I've watched enough court dramas on Netflix to know what's going on here.  

After the background of the period and the analysis of all the suspects, the author then puts forward a case for the identity of the real killer, and solves potentially two other contemporary murder mysteries at the same time. I have to say - and I won't ruin it all for you by revealing it here - the case put forward for the killer's identity was convincing, although for me not necessarily for the main motive the author puts forward. It makes for very interesting reading though and if you're interested in the story of the princes or Medieval England as a whole, it's definitely worth exploring. 

I liked the layout of the book - the way the chapters were organised, and the dialogue was written in an easy to read, entertaining way. The case was put together well and definitely raises new questions about this suspect, but as I mentioned, I think the motive was far simpler. The author puts a lot of emphasis on them acting maliciously and while I support the case for their  potential involvement, everything points to me as more likely their deaths were accidental. I think that more time building evidence for this motive, rather than the calculating, evil one would have strengthened his argument further.  

This book will make you rethink the case of the Princes in the Tower. The killer identified in the book does deserve to be in the line up of suspects involved in the case, but before I picked up the book, I didn't see it coming at all. This work definitely puts a new suspect into the spotlight so that more research can be done. 

Get a copy of The Killer of the Princes in the Tower at the Pen and Sword website, ask your local bookseller or buy online from (affiliate link >>) Amazon

Who do you think killed the princes in the Tower? Have you read the book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below... 

I explore many of the women who made an impact on this period in history in my book Forgotten Women of the Wars of the Roses, published by Pen and Sword.  Order your copy here. 

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