The Richard III Foundation, Inc. is respectfully requesting that the bones in the Tower, that are alleged to be the sons of Edward IV, be subjected to modern scientific examination and the treatment of DNA analysis.
The examination of the bones will not only bring closure to their identity, but it will also bestow them with an appropriate and lasting place in the annals of history.
King Richard III, the reigning monarch from 1483-1485, has through the writings of Sir Thomas More and William Shakespeare been vilified for over 515 years.
It is imperative that we put to rest the resolution of one ofEngland’s greatest historical mysteries. But, it is equally paramount that we provide justice for a man wrongly accused.
Sir Thomas More wrote “The History of Richard” in 1513. More was five years of age when Richard became King of England and lived in the household of John Morton, a Lancastrian sympathizer. More had no interaction with Richard and relied upon anti-Yorkist sources for his information. His publication was never published during his lifetime and contained many blank spaces making it plausible that they were filled with historical inaccuracies.
We have no knowledge if Charles II read More’s account. What we do know is that during his reign, bones were found while demolition was taking place in the Tower and were presumed to be the missing princes.
The wording of presumed and alleged has been passed down through the century. Neither word defines the bones categorically to be the princes. The study conducted in 1933 is filled with inaccuracies but has been accepted as the final chapter in this mystery. The magnitude of this issue and its implications must be elevated and given the proper attention and importance that is required.
We have no definitive validation to endorse the opinion that the sons of Edward IV were murdered at the order or hands of King Richard III or anyone else during the Fifteenth Century. We have no conclusive evidence that Edward V contracted the sweating sickness that was prominent in the summer of 1483. We have no conclusive evidence that Richard, Duke of York emerged as Perkin Warbeck or that they lived incognito inEnglandor elsewhere on the continent.
What we do know is that Charles II for whatever reason had them honorably buried in Westminster Abbey. We know that King Richard III reigned from 1483 through 1485 – a span of two years, one month and 17 days. During his tenure as King of England, he passed enlightened laws that benefited the people of his country, rich and poor alike. He has been paying the price for 515 years.
The study of 1933 conducted by Tanner and Wright is indecisive and has been challenged on far too many important points. It is unconscionable to let this important issue that involves three people, who no longer can speak to defend themselves go unchallenged any further. It is imperative that we begin by righting the wrong that has been done to their good names and honor.
King Richard III has been wrongly accused of a crime that has never been categorically authenticated to conclusively prove his guilt. King Richard III has been charged with the serious allegation of murder by two accounts.Englandhas had men who have sat on the throne ofEnglandwho have been more despicable, blood thirsty and power hungry when compared to the actions of government of King Richard III. No one is stating that King Richard III did not live in turbulent times but to single him out based on the writings of two men whose writings are so unreliable has been the greatest injustice inflicted on any human being.
The unreliable source of Sir Thomas More, who in his work gives out three separate accounts of where he perceives the bones to be and the dramatization of William Shakespeare, who used the distorted histories written under the reign of Henry VII.
We are on the threshold of a new century, and with it holds new and unforeseen promises of discovering ways by which countries can live in harmony and understand our histories and heritages. Let us finally give the bones, whoever they might be, a chance to rest in peace. Let us more importantly give King Richard III the justice that he deserves and let us finally acquit him of the wrongs that have been done to his good name and reputation for over 515 years.
The Princes in the Tower
Visitors to the Abbey are rewarded if they stroll to the east and up the stairs to the chapel of Henry VII, one of the most beautiful buildings thatEnglandhas to offer. There, along the north wall, at the east end of Queen Elizabeth’s chapel, a white coffer stands as a focal point. It’s plaque proclaims that it contains the bones of royalty:
“Below here lie interred the remains of Edward V , King of England, and of Richard, Duke of York. Their uncle, Richard, who usurped the crown, imprisoned them in theTowerofLondon, smothered them with pillows, and ordered them to be dishonorably and secretly buried. Their long desired and much sought after bones were identified by most certain indications when, after an interval of over a hundred and ninety years, found deeply buried under the rubbish of the stairs that led up into the chapel of the White Tower, on the 17th July, 1674 A.D. Charles II, most merciful prince, having compassion on their unhappy fate, performed the funeral rights of these unfortunate princes among the tombs of their ancestors, A.D. 1678, the thirtieth year of his reign”.
King Richard III, the reigning monarch from 1483-1485, has through the writings of Sir Thomas More and William Shakespeare has been vilified for over 515 years. Despite his stellar achievements in the short time that he reigned, his reputation has been clouded with the disappearance of the sons of Edward IV, commonly known as the Princes in the Tower.
More’s History of Richard III
“King Richard, after his coronation, taking his way to Gloucester to visit in his new honour the town of which he are the name of his old, devised as he rode to fulfil that thing which he before had intended. And forasmuch as his mind gave him that, his nephews living, men would not reckon that he could have right to the realm, he thought therefore without delay to rid them, as though the killing of his kinsmen could amend his cause and make him a kindly King. Whereupon he sent one John Green, whom he specially trusted, unto Sir Robert Brackenbury, constable of the Tower, with a letter and credence also that the same Sir Robert should in any wise put the children to death. This John Green did his errand unto Brackenbury, kneeling before Our Lady in the Tower, who plainly answered that he would never put them to death, to die therefore; with which answer John Green, returning, recounted the same to Kin Richard atWarwick, yet in his way.
Wherewith he took such displeasure and thought that the same night he said unto a secret page of his. ‘Ah, whom shall a man trust? Those that I have brought up myself, those that I had weaned would most surely serve me, even those fail me and at my commandment will do nothing for me.
Sir, quoth his page,‘there lieth one on your pallet without, that I dare well say, to do your Grace pleasure, the thing were right hard that he would refuse’, meaning by this Sir James Tyrell, which was a man of right goodly personage and for nature’s gifts worthy to have served a much better prince, if he had well served God and by grace obtained as much truth and good will as he had strength and wit.
The man had a high heart and sore longed upward, not rising yet so fast as he had hoped, being hindered and kept under by the means of Sir Richard Ratcliffe and Sir William Catesby, which longing for no more partners of the prince’s favour, and namely not for him whose pride they wist would bear no peer, kept him by secret drifts out of all secret trust. Which thing this page well had marked and known. Wherefore, this occasion offered, of very special friendship he took his time to put him forward and by such wise do him good that all the enemies he had, except the devil, could never have done him so much hurt.
For upon this page’s words King Richard arose (for this communication had he sitting at the draught (privy), a convenient carpet for such a counsel) and came out into the pallet chamber, on which he found in bed Sir James and Sir Thomas Tyrell, of person like and brethren of blood, but nothing of kin in conditions. Then said the King merrily to them: ‘What, Sirs, be ye in bed so soon!’ and calling up Sir James, broke to him secretly his mind in this mischievous matter; in which he found him nothing strange. Wherefore, on the morrow, he sent him to Brackenbury with a letter, by which he was commanded to deliver Sir James all the keys of the Tower for one night, to the end he might there accomplish the King’s pleasure in such thing as he had given him commandment. After which letter delivered and the keys received, Sir James appointed the night next ensuing to destroy them, devising before and preparing the means.
The prince, as soon as the Protector left that name and took himself as King, had it showed unto him that he should not reign, but his uncle should have the crown. At which word the prince, sore abashed, began to sigh and said; ‘Alas, I would my uncle would let me have my life yet, though I lose my kingdom.’ Then he told him the tale used him with good words and put him in the best comfort he could. But forthwith was the prince and his brother both shut up: and all others removed from them, only one called Black Will or William Slaughter except, set to serve them and see them sure. After which time the prince never tied his points, nor aught wraught of himself, but with that young babe his brother lingered in thought and heaviness till this traitorous death delivered them of that wretchedness.
For Sir James Tyrell devised that they should be murdered in their beds. To the execution whereof, he appointedMilesForest, one of the four that kept them, a fellow fleshed in murder beforetime. To him he joined one John Dighton, his own horsekeeper, a big broad, square, strong knave. Then, all the others being removed from them, this Miles Forest and John Dighton, about midnight (the silly (innocent) children lying in their beds) came into the chamber and suddenly lapped them up among the clothes, so bewrapped them and entangled them, keeping down by force the feather bed and pillows hard unto their mouths, that within a while, smothered and stifled, their breath failing, they gave up to God their innocent souls into the joys of heaven, leaving to the tormentors their bodies dead in the bed.
After that the wretches perceived, first by the struggling with the pains of death, and after lying still, to be thoroughly dead: they laid their bodies naked out upon the bed, and fetched Sir James to see them. Which, upon the sight of them, caused those murderers to bury them at the stair foot, meetly deep in the ground, under a great heap of stones.
Then rode Sir James in great haste to King Richard, and showed him all the manner of the murder, who give him great thanks and, as some say, there made him a knight. But he allowed not, as I have heard, the burying in so vile a corner, saying he would have them buried in a better place, because they were a King’s sons. Lo the honourable courage of a King!
Whereupon they say that a priest of Sir Robert Brackenbury took the bodies again, and secretly entered them in such a place, as by the occasion of his death, which only knew it, could never since come to light. Very truth is it and well known, that at such times Sir James Tyrell was in the Tower, for treason committed against the most famous prince King Henry the Seventh, both Dighton and he were examined, and confessed the murder in manner above written, but whither the bodies were removed they could nothing tell.
And thus have I learned of them that much knew and little cause to lie, were these two noble princes, these innocent tender children, born of most royal blood, brought up in great wealth, likely long to live to reign and rule in the realm, by traitorous tyranny taken, deprived of their estate, shortly shut up in prison, and privily slain and murdered their bodies cast God knows where by the cruel ambition of their unnatural uncle and his dispiteous tormentors.
More’s creditability as a source
Thomas More was born in 1478 and was 5 years old when Richard became King of England. At the age of 14, he was sent to live in the household of John Morton, who had strong Lancastrian sympathies. During the reign of Edward IV, Morton had been created Bishop of Ely. In 1483, Richard III had him arrested and while in the custody of Buckingham, he was considered one of the major plotters in the downfall of Richard III. Morton fled toFrancereturning toEnglandafter Richard’s defeat at Bosworth. In 1486, Henry VII made him Archbishop of Canterbury and later became his Chancellor.
More’s History of King Richard III was written in or about the year of 1513. More had no first-hand experience with the affairs of state during Richard’s reign and relied on anti-Ricardian sources for his information. More’s History was never finished and contains blank spaces that were probably filled in at a later date.
Richard Grafton published More’s work in 1543 as a continuation of Hardyng’s Chronicle and in 1548 as part of Hall’s Chronicle. In 1557, William Rastell, More’s nephew, published the work. Rastell states when the work was composed and provided the title of the publication now known as The History of Richard III. He later fled to the Low Countries and had in his possession a Latin version that was published in 1565 in More’s Opera.
In 1596, Sir John Harington, godson of Queen Elizabeth, was the first to declare in print that Morton might be the author of the Latin version. His history is not taken seriously is filled with too many mistakes.
Despite his three denials that the bodies remained at the foot of any stairs, Sir Thomas More begins the mischief of the bones in Westminster Abbey. Denials notwithstanding, Sir Thomas More’s little ‘merry tale’ has now become a bit of history, although it cannot live up to that name. His opening description of Edward IV for his tale is the most pathetic bit of historical research ever pawned off on an unsuspecting public, and his efforts never get any better. He cannot get the names of the principles, Shaa, Buckingham or Hastings correct, but he can name the murderers in great detail: John Green, Miles Forest, John Dighton and, best of all, William ‘Black Will’ Slaughter. This is vintage More, destroying a man’s reputation with false facts, spurious authority and invented events.
Sir Thomas More, clearly states that the bodies are not under any stairs; their grave site is lost to history. Unfortunately, people remember only half of what they read, and so More’s tale is carried forward and elaborated upon. The spurious tales are endless. Jean Molinet, who died in 1507, thought that the princes had been poisoned while their father, Edward IV, still lived. In 1647, this story seemed to be confirmed. A man named Johnson quoted a man named Webb who said that two sets of human bones had been found in a walled-up room in the Tower. These bones were thought to be those of the princes. S. B. Chrimes, a noted historian, gave some credence to the story in 1963 because, he thought, it confirmed Molinet’s words. Fortunately these bones disappeared, lost before they occupied a competing urn inWestminster.
Sir George Buck, writing about 1615, noted that some bones were found in a high and desolate turret in the Tower, and that these bones were thought to be those of the princes. Buck points out that many thought the bones were those of an ape kept in the Tower. Allison Weir, in Princes in the Tower, adds another facet to ape lore. She mentions that the Johnson/Webb team claim that some bones were found in a tunnel, not a turret, and that these were thought to be the bones of the princes. Some protested that they were bones of an ape, but, in any case, the bones disappeared, savingWestminster from a simian invasion.
John Rastel, in 1529, pondering upon why the bones of the princes had not been found in 1485 when Tudor might have looked for them, invented yet another yarn. His version is that the princes were trapped in a trunk and then put aboard a ship for burial at sea. This was not an act by Brackenbury’s priest, but by a friend of Richard III’s. Apparently no children’s bones recovered from the sea looked royal, andWestminsterescaped again.
If the princes were murdered in the Garden Apartments, as More says, it would take a lot less sweat to load the bodies in a boat. More could have presented us with a picture of Will Slaughter skulking through the night mists from wharf to sea; perhaps he just didn’t think of it. As is, he has the bodies carried across the yard, put under the stairs after digging down ten feet, then dug up again and carted off to some unknown place. A good night’s work, compared to using a next door wharf.
Bones can show up at any time. The ‘Tower’ has been around since Roman times, and children buried often over the years. It was not always a sinister place, not until Henry VIII, and was tended by families. In 1977 bones were discovered in the yard, but modern techniques placed them in the Iron Age, and that ruined any tales about a prince. Over the years other caches have been found in crypts and in the moat when it was drained. Apparently none of these looked royal.
Who is it that decides what bones go toWestminster, and which do not. In the case of the 1674 bones, we’re in the uncomfortable position of not knowing. Some unknown, looking at a pile of bones on a rubbish heap and half remembering More, made a bad guess and set the mind of future generations. This decision was in defiance of the written words of More, Shake-speare, Molinet, Buck and dozens of others. It was enough, though, to put the bones inWestminster.
It is quite possible that the bones in the Abbey are not even the bones dug up in 1674. After their discovery, the bones lay in a rubbish heap for some time before they were recovered by sifting. It was only in 1478 that Charles II ordered the bones sealed in Wren’s coffer. During the intervening four years, custody is not established. They may have been inWestminster, or they may have been in the custody of Sir Thomas Chichely. During this time some bones were apparently distributed as souvenirs or gifts and some, given to theAshmoleanMuseumatOxford, never recovered. When the urn was opened in 1933 investigators were greeted by a collection of human and animal bones, along with some rusty nails. If the 1478 experts could not tell animal from human, nor iron from finger nails, how did they know royal from common? No modern court would admit such evidence so carelessly controlled, so obviously contaminated.
By 1933, public pressure had mounted to the point that the Dean and Visitor, George V, felt it worth while to dispel doubts. They ordered an examination which gained them an opinion – not well founded, as we shall see, that identity was established. Mind set carried the day, for their was precious little evidence to use. Mind set is a powerful force. We need look no further than the Piltdown Man hoax of the same period to see it in play. The artificially combined jaw and skull were accepted as first man, British at that, by a wide assortment of experts. According to John Shreve this was the ‘Indiana Jones’ decade of paleontologists, and Arthur Keith was delighted to put Piltdown Man into the human evolution chain that led to “Basic White”. Eventually science caught up with hoax, but not before many had embraced the idea, including some at theBritishMuseum. More, of course, also perpetuated a hoax of sorts, but none would be more surprised than he to see his fiction on display. He did try, very hard, to prevent a digging frenzy so that his imaginary bones could lie in peace.
The Reign of Charles II
In July of 1674, workmen were rebuilding the stairs to the royal chapel in theWhiteTower. They discovered a wooden chest containing bones that was supposedly buried 10 feet deep within or below the stairs. The bones were thrown aside with other debris.
John Knight, Principal Surgeon to Charles II, wrote the following account:
“A 1674, in digging down a pair of stone staires leading from the Kings Lodgings to the chappel in the white tower ther were found bones of two striplings in (as it seemed) a wooden chest upon which the presumptions that they were the bones of this king and his brother Rich: D. of York, were by the command of K.Charles the 2nd put into a marble urn and deposited amongst the R family; Family in H: 7th Chappel in Westminster at my importunity.”
The second account, published in 1677, gives Knights as its authority but a little fuller:
“In order to the rebuilding of the several Offices in the Tower, and to clear the White Tower from all contiguous buildings, digging down the stairs which led from the King’s Lodgings, to the chappel in the said Towe, about ten foot in the ground were found the Bones of two striplings in (as it seemed) a wooden chest, upon which the survey which found proportionable to the ages of those two Brothers viz, about thirteen and eleven years. The skul of the one being entire, the other broken, as were indeed many of the other Bones, also the Chest, by the violence of the labourers, who cast the rubbish and them away together, wherefore they were caused to sift the rubbish, and by that means preserved all the bones. The circumstances being often discoursed with Sir Thomas Chichley, Master of the Ordinance, by whose industry the new buildings were then in carrying on, and by whom this matter was reported to the King”.
John Gibbon, Bluemantle Herald, dated 1674, gives this account:
“July 17 Anno 1674 in diggin some foundacons in ye Tower, were discovered ye boides of Edw 5 and his brother murdered 143, I my selfe handled ye Bones Especially ye Kings Skull. Ye other wch was lesser was broken in ye digging.” Johann Gybbon, Blewmantle
If Charles II was given the impression that these bones were those of the princes, he was ill advised. More’s account states that the bodies were moved to another place but never states that they were buried under the staircase or any other location.
In 1483, the princes were residing in theGardenTower, now known as theBloodyTower. It is unexplainable that if they were indeed murdered at this location, then why would their bodies have been brought to theWhiteTowerfor burial when Traitor’s Gate and access to the River Thames was closer.
The digging through Kentish ragstone with limestone fromCaenthrough or near stairs make this a formidable job. The job to dig a hole ten feet deep by one man, possibly two, in one night is certainly a Herculean task. What sort of equipment was used to dig the hole and where did they put the materials while the operation was taking place. What of Brackenbury’s priest who had them reburied – what energy did he have to have them exhumed and reburied?
There were over 600 people residing in the Tower, and with the commotion of digging through stone, no records indicate anyone questioning the noise in the dead of night.
The bones were supposedly reburied because Richard III had pangs of guilt and wanted them buried in a more consecrated place. What location in the Tower is more consecrated than another? The only consecrated location is the Chapel of St. John.
The Study of 1933
On 6 July in 1933, under public pressure and under the orders of George V, the urn containing the reputed bones of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York were exhumed.
An examination of the bones was conducted in six days and their findings published by Mr. Lawrence E. Tanner, who had no medical background, and Professor William Wright, Dean of the LondonHospitalMedicalCollegeand President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Irelandin Archaelogia, Volume LXXXIV. All of their findings have been challenged in one form or another.
Professor Wright was himself convinced by the bone condition that the skeletons were those of children who could not be as old as the princes were in August, the heights he deduced from isolated bones were 4ft9″ and 4ft6″, which corresponded to the average of slightly older children when the last medical records on this were made (1913). It might, however, be taken into consideration that their father, Edward IV, was a conspicuously tall man 6ft4″ tall appeared from his skeleton when his coffin was opened.
According to Wright, the older child had a serious infection or disease of the lower jaw, which he suggests is consistent with the condition of Edward V. Although Edward was attended by Dr. Argentine, there is no evidence that he had such an affliction. Indeed, More purports to quote a speech by Elizabeth Woodville in which she describes the younger prince as “sore diseased with sicknes.”
Wright also noted a “blood stain” on the skull of the older child. He considers this indicative of death by suffocation, as described by More.
The analysts had no method of dating bone age. They did work backward; believing that the bones were those of Edward V and his brother, and that the bones were thus of a ten and thirteen year old, they could guess at how long the bones had been buried.
Age of Individuals
The skeletons were of pre-puberty, small and slender individuals with incomplete bone fusion and tooth eruption.
Sex of Individuals
The analysts had no way of determining the sex of the individuals.
Bone Structure Similarities
The analysts detected a similarity in bone structure between the two skeletons and assumed that they were related. However, there was no method to determine if the bones belonged to only two individuals, to say nothing about the animal bones and the rusty nails.
Cause of Death
There was no method for determining cause of death. One member thought that a blood stain he detected on one skeleton might indicate suffocation. Modern tests could probably detect if it is blood, but this would prove nothing about the manner of death.
In identifying the skeletons as belonging to Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, the investigating team made a leap of faith of Olympic proportions. There is considerable unease about their results and, of course, about their lack of technology that would have helped them. Lacking much, and pressured by mind set, the team made the choices expected, not unlike the researchers working with Piltdown Man.
The Study of 1955
In 1955, Dr. W.M. Krogman, a Professor of Physical Anthropology at the Graduate School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Arthur Lewis, an orthodontist, Dr. Richard Lyne-Perkis and Professor Bertram S. Kraus, of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. Dr. Lyne-Pirkis and Professor Bertram were asked to examine the report that was written 30 years before by Professor Wright and Dr. Northcroft. They were not permitted to view the bones but were able to study the photographs.
The reviews were consulted with author Paul Murray Kendall, who in 1955 wrote the definitive biography on Richard III. The following is a summary of their findings as published by Kendallin Richard The Third:
Dr. Krogman summarizes his conclusions regarding the evidence as follows: “The ages as given are, in my opinion, a little too precisely stated. The dental evidence for age is, I think, the soundest. The evidence of age from the bones is limited because of the absence of most of the centers of ossification of the long bones. All things considered, the total age range of all the material is such that both children could have met their death as historically stated (i.e., in August of 1483).
“The so-called staining of the facial bones, attributable to the suffusion of suffocation, is not borne out by experience. Unless there were rupturing of vessels, the suffusion would be limited to facial tissue and would not register itself upon the bones.”
On the basis of the dental evidence, Dr. Arthur Lewis gave his opinion that the elder child might be anywhere from eleven to thirteen years of age but that he most probably appeared to be about eleven and a half, according to the description of the dentition set forth in the article, the terminology of which was not altogether clear.
Professor Bertram Kraus writes, in part: “…the conclusion that the two skeletons were those of the male sex was not substantiated (indeed it would be difficult to establish sex on pre-pubertal skeletons), and the terminology with regard to the dentition is somewhat questionable.
“Two points lead me to the conclusion that the individual (the elder child) is not over nine years of age. First, assuming that there is correspondence between skeletal age and chronological age, the status of eruption of the permanent dentition would place the individual at nine years of age and definitely under twelve. Secondly, it is stated that there are no signs of epiphyseal union at the proximal end of the humerus. Complete union at this point occurs at the age of eighteen and if the union has not occurred there is no accurate way of assessing age by the degree of incompleteness of the union. I notice that the apex of the odontoid process of the axis was not fused, which …’makes it impossible to say with confidence that it belonged to a child who had not yet attained the age of thirteen.’ This, unfortunately, is not a correct statement. Fusion of the apex to the odontoid process takes place between four and six years of age. This would merely indicate that the child is under four years of age.”
Dr. Lyne-Perkis, of Godalming, Surrey, who kindly discussed with me the anatomical evidence relating to the elder skeleton, likewise declared that the inference drawn from the state of the odontoid process of the axis was incorrect; and like Dr. Krogman, he was of the opinion that the so-called stain upon the facial bones of the skeleton was not a bloodstain resulting from the suffusion of suffocation.
Osteomylitis or chronic inflammation of the bone, in the jaw of the elder child: “It’s a very slow, chronic disease; in those days there was no means of curing it so it just went on for years until either the body was able to defeat the infection and leave itself with a disorganized and rather odd-looking bone, in this case the jaw, or of course if the defenses of the body weren’t good enough, it finished you off and you died.”
“In Professor Wright’s day particular attention was directed only to when these centres of ossification first appeared, and the time of epiphysis joined on to the main shaft. They never bothered about the changes in the bones, and it wasn’t until a man called Professor Wingate Todd ofWestern ReserveUniversityinCleveland,Ohio, got the idea of going about this in a scientific way, that any fresh light was thrown on how to date bones.”
In 1926 Prof. Wingate Todd “began his great pioneer work on how bones develop and grow old…So he and his associates started examining about a thousand babies from the year age nothing until they were twenty. They chose them from a good cross-section of American society, so that there would not be too much variation in their health and so on, so he could get a uniform result, and at regular intervals, every three months when they were babies, every six months until they were about thirteen or fourteen, and then every year until they were about eighteen or nineteen, he had them measured as to their height, and to their weight; a note was made of any disease they’d had during the course of the previous period when they’d not been seen, and they were X-rayed; in fact, every joint was X-rayed very, very carefully … and then, before he could really publish his work, he died in 1938. But his successors carried on his work…”
“There is a great deal of difference between the apparent age of the bone as seen on the X-ray plate and the real age,” and “even in the homogeneous group of children … selected from the better class of parents, there was a big range of variation in the maturity of the bones.”
“Now we have to distinguish between chronological age and skeletal age, or maturity. Chronological age is the actual age that the child is; the skeletal age, or maturity, is the apparent age that the bones show. In other words, if a child develops very fast, its bones will appear to be the bones of a child older than its actual age. If it’s slow in developing, then its bones will have the appearance of a younger child than it actually is. And he was able to show that there was a big difference in perfectly normal children as to the actual maturity of the bones or the apparent age of the child. And this is an endeavor to show what I’m saying. These are children who were four years old, these are children who were six years old, these are children who were eight years old. And yet they are exactly the same. The maturity of them all is that of a six year old boy…So it at once disposes of any attempt at accurately assessing the age of a skeleton from the appearance of the bones. All you can do is say that this skeleton has an apparent age of eight years, ten years, or twelve years, but it could easily be two years older or two years younger. Well that I think deals a rather strong blow against Professor Wright’s coming down so definitely about the ages of the children, or of the bones in the Tower.”
“The times at which ossification centres appear are now only used to really indicate how much vitamin D the child has been taking in its diet; no attention is paid to them as regards dating the age of the child, they merely indicate its state of health. So if we applied modern standards to these old bones we are going to be out, apart from the big swing of uncertainty, by about a year to a year and a half from a poor diet , and in the case of the elder child, probably by a further year or a year and a half, which means that if we accept Professor Wright’s estimation of the apparent age of Edward…at between twelve and thirteen, then he would really be between fourteen and sixteen.”
“It is quite impossible to arrive at the age of a child from the time the teeth erupted, because there was such enormous variations even in normal children. So that shattered at one blow the long held belief that you could date bones from either the time when the teeth came out, or when epiphyses like this joined onto the main shaft here in the femur and in the tibia…”
“There is no method of dating bones, over a matter of several hundreds of years, to a greater accuracy than plus or minus about a hundred years, so quite obviously, if we used radio-carbon dating… we are only going to get an answer which would say 1370 to 1570…and, incidentally, it would destroy most of the bones, for you need quite a large quantity of bones to get enough radio-carbon out…” (techniques have improved).
Professor Charles Ross, another author and historian, consulted Dr. Juliet Rogers, a specialist in the study of ancient bones, Dr. J.H. Musgrave, anatomist, and Professor E.W. Bradford, professor of dental surgery. Their comments, printed in Ross’ Richard III, are as follows:
Dr. Juliet Rogers … expresses reservations on the identification with the princes: she points out (a) that the sex of the bones cannot be determined from the existing remains, and (b) that ‘the only certain evidence here is that they are pre-1674 … They might equally well have been less than a hundred years old or date from a much more remote period of the past, for the area has been the scene of vigorous occupation since a very early period of time, and finding of skeletal remains at a depth of 10 feet could just as well be consistent with a very much greater age. After all, we are digging up Romano-British skeletons at lesser depths at this moment.”
Dr. J.H. Musgrave … reports that Professor Wright’s ‘assessment of the age of Edward V from the state of development of his axis or second cervical vertebra alone is very convincing indeed’. He adds two points: (a) that Professor Wright’s comments on the stain on Edward’s facial bones are not conclusive: ‘It may well have been a blood stain but one couldn’t tell for certain without the aid of modern biochemical analysis; (b) ‘The skeletal – as opposed to dental – remains of Richard duke of York are perhaps less informative. But the dental evidence is strong.’
Professor E.W. Bradford, on evidence from molars and canines from the older skull, concluded ‘that with one-third of the crown (of the third molar) formed’ this ‘would put the child at more than 11 years…if one assumes the child is about average then the best guess would be 12 years old’. Of the younger skull, on the basis of the eruption of the permanent incisors, that the child was ‘8 years old plus or minus 2 years, i.e., somewhere between 6 and 10.’ He adds that other evidence would add ‘1-1 years to the above figures, i.e., the child would be between 7 and 11.’ Finally he says that not ‘very much credence can be attached to evidence of cosanguinity’ because ‘tooth development seems to be on a time-scale of its own somewhat independent of the overall development of the individual.’
Other experts consulted have given a variety of opinions. One did express an opinion on the sex of the individuals based upon tooth and skeletal evidence. None could determine the cause of death. Some have thought that there was a relationship in the two skeletons. Almost all disagreed about the presence or meaning of a blood stain. It should be remembered that all of the above experts were working with only a written report and photographs.
Their report states:
There is no evidence to prove that the skeletons were those of two boys. It is difficult to determine the sex of children before the age of 13; it is possible that the skeletons were that of 2 girls or a boy and girl.
The bones and teeth of the elder child suggest that he was less than 12 years old and most probably between the ages of 9 and 11.
The stain on the skull of the elder child was not a blood strain resulting from death by suffocation.
We cannot say how long the bones had been buried, and these bones in question could have been buried before the reign of Richard III.
The Royal ? Bones in Westminster Abbey
Today there is a far greater array of forensic tools at our disposal. A new examination of the bones would provide a definite link, if one exists, between royalty and the bones. With a new study on the bones, the following can be determined:
Paleontologists could assemble and measure the bones and determine if all belong to one of two individuals. Tasks such as x-ray, photography and chemical analysis could be done with advanced technologies.
The stain could be determined to be blood or environmental.
DNA technology could be used to determine ancestry.
Cause of death, to a limited extent, might be determined.
Age of the individuals at death could be set within a broad band. Various tables now available of how people develop could be used.
The sex of the skeletons could be determined.
The bones could be dated to at least the century of burial.
Cause of death, to a limited extent, might be determined.
Certainly a new look is well worth the effort if it can lift the cloud of doubt from the good name of King Richard III.