Where can I find the full results of The Missing Princes Project?
A complete and detailed account is now available in: The Princes in the Tower: Solving History’s Greatest Cold Case (The History Press, 19 November 2023). For more on this landmark work see here and here. It is also available online here. For the North American edition (Pegasus Books, 19 November 2023), see here, and also available online here.
Where can I find the feature-length TV documentary special?
The Princes in the Tower: The New Evidence is premiered on Channel 4 on Saturday 18 November 2023 at 8.00pm. For more information see here and here. Documentary also airs in North America on PBS on 22 November as part of the Secrets of the Dead series. More information is available here. For European broadcasts, please see your local channels. Documentary broadcast in Australia on Sunday 19th November on SBS.
It is hoped that a DVD of the UK feature-length TV documentary will be made available.
The Princes in the Tower: The New Evidence (Brinkworth Productions) Dir. Janice Sutherland.
What did the project’s investigative specialists advise?
Firstly, ‘follow the money and the law’ and examine all day-to-day administrative records, this is where truth will be found. Secondly, look at everything; you can’t prejudge or cut off any lines of investigation. And thirdly, discard all traces of hindsight, begin with a clean sheet and live at all times in the present – their present, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Create timelines and person of interest files. Cross check and cross-reference everything.
What are the project’s four headline discoveries?
These are, firstly, the product of intelligence gathering and forensic investigation of contemporary records undertaken over a four year period to 2019. And secondly, archival evidence uncovered when the project was extended into the reign of Henry VII (d.1509).
Discovery 1: Forensic investigation of all records dating to the reign of Richard III revealed no evidence of the death of Edward V or Richard, Duke of York. Both individuals are referenced as alive in all existing day-to-day accounting and legal records.
Discovery 2: Forensic investigation of all materials relating to the Battle of Bosworth (22 August 1485) revealed that the story of the murder of the Princes originated in England with the arrival of Henry Tudor and his French invasion force. Following the victory of Tudor’s forces (and death of King Richard in battle), and the interrogation of Yorkist/Ricardian prisoners, Henry delayed his march to London in order to conduct searches for the Princes in the north of England.
Discovery 3: Edward V: Proof of Life (aged 17). In May 2020, Albert Jan de Rooij of the Dutch Research Group discovered in the archive of Lille in France a receipt belonging to King Maximilian I dated 16 December 1487 and referencing Margaret of Burgundy (Edward’s aunt). The receipt is signed by three leading members of Maximilian’s court and records the king’s collection of, and payment for, 400 pikes (weapons for elite troops). The weapons had been collected by Maximilian in June of that year. The receipt states that the weapons were: ‘to serve her nephew – son of King Edward, late her brother (may God save his soul), [who was] expelled from his dominion.’ Four of the receipts details confirm the weapons were for Edward V. He was the nephew of Margaret of Burgundy, the son of King Edward (IV), the right age to lead an army and fight in battle (16), and had been ‘expelled from his dominion’ (to the Channel Islands). The Lille receipt also suggests that Edward V was alive, or thought to be alive, in December 1487 (age 17). This was after the Battle of Stoke on 16 June 1487.
Discovery 4: Richard, Duke of York: Proof of Life (aged 20), 1493. In November 2020, Nathalie Nijman-Bliekendaal of the Dutch Research Group rediscovered a four page, semi-legal manuscript in the Gelderland archive, in Arnhem in the Netherlands. It is a witness statement written in the first person and records Richard, Duke of York’s story from the point at which he left sanctuary in Westminster in London as a 9 year-old boy in 1483, to his arrival at the court of his aunt, Margaret of York, in Burgundy in 1493. The witness statement provides extensive detail.
Has any other evidence come to light?
Further proof of life discoveries support the survival of Richard, Duke of York.
In February 2019, Nathalie Nijman-Bliekendaal of the Dutch Research Group rediscovered a receipt and pledge of payment by ‘Richard of England’ to Duke Albert of Saxony dated 4 October 1493 in the Dresden archive in Germany. The receipt/pledge payment is for 30,000 florins (a significant sum). It is signed by ‘Richard of England’ with his royal monogram and seal. The receipt is also signed by two of his supporters: Sir Robert Clifford and William Barley, Esquire. To our current knowledge, this is the only surviving royal seal for Richard IV of England.
In December 2020, Zoë Maula of the Dutch Research Group discovered a letter from King Maximilian to Henry VII of England in the Austrian archives, dated 27 November-12 December 1493. In the letter Maximilian states that Richard, Duke of York can be recognised by ‘several signs’ including three birthmarks or body marks that ‘cannot be counterfeited’. Richard of York, writes Maximilian, would ‘show several signs by which those who knew him in his youth would recognize him, and especially three natural marks which he has on his body and which cannot be counterfeited, that is: his mouth, one of his eyes and a mark he has on his thigh.’
A search by Jean Roefstra and Nathalie Nijman-Bliekendaal of the Domain Accounts in archives across the Netherlands revealed the journey undertaken by Richard, Duke of York to the north of Holland in 1494-5. These extensive searches further revealed that he was known as Richard, Duke of York, the son of Edward IV, or the ‘White Rose’. No other name was attributed to him.
A letter patent in the National Library of Ireland, dated 13 August 1486, is now attributed to Edward V (aged 15). Attached to the grant is his royal seal with the royal arms of England and closed crown of a king.
How did you authenticate and interrogate these key discoveries – i.e., why are they proofs of life?
Each discovery was interrogated in three parts, providing three reasons for a firm attribution of authenticity:
First, these are archival discoveries so had been previously authenticated by the relevant archives.
Second, they were re-checked by the archive’s specialists when alerted to their potential importance.
Third, they were checked once again by the documentary filmmakers (including a number of historians) who then engaged independent specialists to confirm their authenticity. These included Professor Henrike Lähnemann and Dr Janina Ramirez, and two leading international specialists for the Gelderland manuscript – one in Europe, and Dr Andrew Dunning, Curator of Medieval Manuscripts at the Bodleian Library.
What was the influence and catalyst for The Missing Princes Project?
The project was influenced by the Looking for Richard Project (2005-2015) and the importance of evidenced-based research. A great deal of that research countered the belief of historians (based on 17th century rumour, hearsay and gossip) that Richard III’s body had been thrown into the River Soar. Much of that project was about undertaking evidence-based research to find out what actually happened, to determine where the king was buried.
The catalyst for this new project was a full-page article in the Daily Mail published on 24 March 2015 during reburial week. The headline read: ‘It’s mad to make this child killer a national hero’. It reiterated a lot of the traditional narrative which might, of course, have been true but it didn’t cite any evidence. As I headed home from Leicester after the reburial, it was clear I needed to undertake another evidence-based project.
What is the value of employing police investigative methodology?
It teaches us the importance of forensic techniques when studying history, to cross-reference and cross-check everything; to follow the money and the law to uncover the truth - the day-to-day administrative records not meant for public consumption; to search; to eliminate hindsight and conscious bias and to always work in the present (your subject’s present); to build extensive timelines and person of interest files, and to refrain from closing off, disregarding or ignoring any potential lines of investigation due to personal opinion or pre-judgement or because famous writers have done so in the past. Park all of that; start with a clean sheet, be your own boss and above all - question, question, question. To continually question is the biggest take away.
Can this methodology change how we study and research history?
Yes, undoubtedly. If cold case methodology had been applied to this mystery through the centuries, there would have been no need for The Missing Princes Project.
With the totality of evidences presented and the mystery solved, a reassessment of two dynasties – York and Tudor – through the reigns of Richard III and Henry VII, is an exciting next step. These new discoveries have changed what we know about both monarchs. We look forward to what the young historians of today will discover tomorrow.
Were there any key moments?
The publication of a new edition of Domenico Mancini in which the conscious bias of the original 1936 translation had been removed. For more on this important work see here. For anyone studying this period of history, this new translation is a must-read.
In the Channel 4 TV Documentary special, it has been reported that Rob Rinder was given pre-filming knowledge of the European destinations visited in the programme as well as pre-filming sight of the archival discoveries themselves. Is this correct?
Rob was not provided with prior knowledge of the European filming locations or archival discoveries. Everything you see on screen happened in real time. The journalist who filed this report did not contact Philippa or the film team beforehand. If we might please ask all journalists to first check the facts with us, it would be greatly appreciated.
In the TV documentary, Philippa Langley states that there are no bodies which can be identified as those of the Princes in the Tower, and this is why she undertook a police cold case missing person investigation to unlock the mystery. Why is she deliberately ignoring the burials of the two young Princes in the urn in Westminster Abbey?
A TV documentary is only allocated a certain amount of time. For those who wish to know more about the remains in the urn, Philippa has covered this particular issue in forensic detail in Chapter 9 of her book: The Princes in the Tower: Solving History’s Greatest Cold Case. Put simply there is no historical, archaeological or scientific evidence that these are the remains of the Princes in the Tower. As they were uncovered at a depth of ten feet down in the foundation level of the Tower building, the remains are likely to be of Saxon, Roman or Norman origin and could be a foundation burial, common at these times. For more see pp. 151-155 and Appendix 10, pp.345-353. Skeletal remains uncovered at this depth and close to this location have been carbon-dated to the Iron Age.
Philippa has therefore called for the ‘bones in the urn’ to be reinvestigated.
A number of commentators have reported that the archival ‘proof of life’ discoveries made by The Missing Princes Project prove nothing as they simply represent the imposters ‘Lambert Simnel’ and ‘Perkin Warbeck’ with false royal names and titles. Is this correct?
This supposition rests on the belief that the royal houses of York and Europe were happy to allow the public denigration of their blood royal, ancestral lines and royal majesty. In allowing common boys to be crowned and anointed in place of Plantagenet heirs, not only questioned their own right to the throne but also set an incredibly dangerous precedent: that any common person can be a king. The supposition also rests on the belief that the Houses of York and Europe were willing to ignore the Plantagenet heirs to the English throne. At the time of ‘Lambert Simnel’ this was Richard III’s heir, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln; and at the time of ‘Perkin Warbeck’ this was Lincoln’s brother, Edmund de la Pole, 3rd Duke of Suffolk. A police missing person investigation cannot rely on assumptions, it must always search for evidence. The only Plantagenet heirs with a greater claim to the throne than Lincoln and Suffolk were the sons of Edward IV, who in January 1486 had been re-legitimised by the English Parliament.
The above is reinforced by the vast sums of money invested by European rulers to finance four invasion forces in support of both Yorkist claimants to the throne of England.
What next for The Missing Princes Project?
Although the completion of Phase One means that so many pieces of the jigsaw puzzle surrounding this centuries-old mystery are now in place, our work nevertheless continues to search archives around the world, to gather intelligence and, through evidence-based research, tell the remarkable stories of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York. In the future we may be able to discover the final resting places of both Princes, thereby honouring them and their fight for the throne of England against the first Tudor monarch.
Finally, the debate about the fate of the Princes in the Tower is so embedded in peoples’ psyche thanks to Shakespeare’s famous play and Thomas More’s literary narrative that some may not believe or agree with the evidence laid out in the book and documentary – what would you say to those people?
I absolutely understand this view, change is difficult. Before Richard III was discovered, everyone thought his remains had been thrown into the river because of a later rumour, hearsay and gossip, but now we do not believe that story.
Evidence-based research enables people to hold an informed opinion, and if you have an opinion that contradicts the evidence, you have to ask yourself why.
The History Press, UK, 17 November 2023.
Pegasus Books, USA, 17 November 2023.
Philippa Langley and Rob Rinder at the Tower of London. Channel 4, image: Robert Parfitt.
The Battle of Bosworth – King Richard’s Charge (22 August 1485) by Graham Turner studio88.co.uk.
Henry VII (1457-1509).
Lille Receipt - Edward V: Proof of Life, 16 December 1487. Archives Départementales du Nord, Lille: ADN B 3521/124564.
Edward V (16) from coronation: Sunday 27 May 1487, Dublin. Image: John Dike, St Matthew’s Church, Coldridge, Devon.
Dutch Research Group, Albert Jan de Rooij, 2nd from left.
Gelderland Witness Statement (semi-legal, 4 pages) – Richard, Duke of York: Proof of Life, 1493. Gelders Archief, Arnhem, Netherlands, 0510, Nr. 1549 Diverse charters/diverse aanwinsten.
Richard, Duke of York (20) c.1494, pencil sketch (c.1560) from painting (uncredited). Library of Arras.
Nathalie Nijman-Bliekendaal, Dutch Research Group.
Zoë Maula, Dutch Research Group.
Jean Roefstra, Dutch Research Group. Image: Nathalie Nijman-Bliekendaal
Domenico Mancini: de occupatione regni Anglie New Translation with Introduction and Historical Notes (2021), Annette Carson (ed).
Rob Rinder and Philippa Langley filming in Edinburgh.
Urn, Westminster Abbey. Photo: Matt Lewis.
Philippa Langley and Nathalie Nijman-Bliekendaal filming in Lille.
‘Royal Matrix Seal of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, heir to Richard III.’ Image: British Museum, No. 1838,1232.16.
Dr Janina Ramirez with Rob, Philippa & crew filming at Oxford University.
Professor Henrike Lähnemann with Philippa filming in Dresden State Archive, Germany.
‘Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.’
Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)