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Sunday, February 10, 2013

King Richard III and Princes of the Tower

If there's one war related to English monarchy that drew so much interest among royal watchers, it's the War of the Roses. Aside from its almost dramatic and intriguing title, the war itself was surrounded with so many myths, controversies and mysteries, some of it remained unsolved up to the present times.

The war occurred partly because of the succession dispute by two cousins: the York and Lancaster. It had not only torn the relationships of royal families  but also brought disasters and horror to the English during the Middle Ages.

The name "War of the Roses" was taken from the scenario of the conflict itself. It was fought by two warring houses: York and Lancaster, both descendants of King Edward III. Its leaders used the flower ROSE as  war emblems. York used Red Rose while Lancaster used White Rose. The final years of the war saw the madness of King Henry VI, a Lancastrian and the only child of King Henry V, dubbed the Hero King of England during the Hundred Years of War, and Princess Katherine of France, whose father, King Charles VI, suffered from the constant bout of insanity and mental illness. 

After the murder of King Henry VI and his heir apparent, the young Prince Edward, at the tower of London, the throne was occupied by the Yorks headed by Edward IV. The King however disappointed many of his advisers, including his younger brother, Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, when he married, Elizabeth Woodville, a widow. The marriage started the friction within the royal court. 

When Edward IV died, the throne passed to his eldest son, Edward, the Prince of Wales, who was 14 years old at that time. But before he could take control, he and his 12-year-old brother also named Richard were brought to the Tower of London ordered by the Duke of Gloucester. He also made sure that the marriage of the young princes' parents would be declared null and void so that their children would become illegitimate. The Duke of Gloucester was declared King and crowned as Richard III when the young Edward V and his brother were never seen alive.

What happened next was a series of events that made Richard III one of the worst Kings of England in history. No one knew what really happened to the Princes at the Tower of London, they disappeared mysteriously and nobody heard about their whereabouts since then, if ever they were dead, their bodies were not found. The death of these two princes became a myth that passed through many generations. Even after their sister, Princess Elizabeth, married the man who killed Richard III during the battle of Bosworth, Henry Tudor who reigned as King Henry VII, the whereabouts of the young Princes remained a mystery.

Lately, a team of archaelogists from Leicester University in Britain had dig the skeletons of Richard III and the controversies of his short reign resurrected again. The ancient argument of whether he ordered the killing of his two nephews became the favorite topic again among royal writers. 

For many centuries, royal historians wrote nothing good about this last Plantagenet King maybe because he ascended the English throne under questionable circumstances. He paid a high prize anyway when he was brutally killed in the battlefield. His skeletons revealed a twisted spine, a broken skull,  a sword slash in his bones that went through to his brain, a stab that went through his buttocks and pelvis, history evidences showed he was killed at a close range and probably mutilated later.

As the skeletons continued to attract stories about the past, the old argument whether Richard III had his nephews murdered at the Tower of London would forever part of the medieval royal history drama that could never be proven by any means.  

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