Sunday, November 18, 2018

Goodreads Review : "' The Blue' Is a Triumph"

I'm pleased and honored to share this review written by mystery author James Lincoln Warren. James is a frequent contributor to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and is the author of two mystery short fiction series and several standalone short stories. The "Treviscoe of Lloyd's" series features 18th century insurance investigator Alan Treviscoe.

The review was posted on Goodreads.






By James Lincoln Warren


Crime fiction is primarily a literature of human behavior under extreme moral pressure. At its worst, it is sensationalist and emotionally shallow at one extreme, and escapist and emotionally inauthentic at the other. But at its best, it is a contemplation on the power of evil acting upon both the innocent and the culpable, the dangers and rewards of shadowy compromise on the one hand and moral inflexibility on the other, and the confused morass of human motivations and interactions.

Good historical crime fiction, by changing its cultural context to another time, compelling the reader to compare the past with the present, benefits by limning these issues against an ethical background that starkly contrasts with the familiar. In 18th century England, a pickpocket could be hanged for stealing a handkerchief, but human trafficking was perfectly lawful.

By their nature, historical mysteries provide the reader with two complementary insights.

The first is an awareness of how differently people behaved in the past than they do today, conveying how much our attitudes have evolved over time, and stimulates meditation regarding our ethical evolution our time, good and bad.

The second, and to my mind, more important, is an awareness of how much people remain very much the same, and how much their existence is governed by their essential humanity, irrespective of the wider circumstances. Crimes and sins may change, but love, hate, hunger, greed, and compassion, to name just a few characteristics, are eternal.

As are certain themes—the themes explored by Nancy Bilyeau.

In her new novel, The Blue, Bilyeau revisits several of the dominant themes she explored in her well-received earlier trilogy featuring Joanna Stafford, a displaced young nun in Henry VIII’s England, but sets the drama in 18th century England and France, during the Seven Years’ War. Like the Stafford novels, The Blue is a first-person narrative (but in present tense) told by an artistically gifted young woman frustrated by the restrictions placed upon her in the society in which she lives. Along the way, there are other similarities: discussions on the nature and abuse of power, the major and minor tragedies attending religious intolerance, the role and purpose of art, the loneliness of exile, the pitfalls of overweening ambition, the need for painstaking discretion to avoid peril, the challenges of keeping a pure conscience, the pain of imprisonment (both literal and figurative), and romantic love as a means of salvation.

It may seem on the surface that The Blue is a reiteration of the story told in The Crown, The Chalice, and The Tapestry. Even the similarity of all the titles may seem to indicate that the books are all one of a piece. But this is misleading.

Joanna Strafford was a nun who had to learn how to live out of the cloister as a layperson against her will. Genevieve Planché, the protagonist of The Blue, is a third generation English Huguenot, a staunchly anti-Catholic Calvinist, who knows exactly how to thrive in her community as far as she is allowed to do so, but dares to dream of a more fulfilling existence. Joanna lost her vocation, but Genevieve is looking for how to enter hers: she longs to be a serious painter in oils, an occupation closed to women. (The first celebrated female portraitist was still a generation away: Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun was only three years old when The Blue takes place, and was a scion of Paris salon society rather than a middle-class member of an iconoclastic sect.)

And the title has a secondary meaning from its literal one. Crowns, chalices, and tapestries, while powerful symbols, are tangible things. The color blue, however, is an abstraction, tangible only to the eye, and was at the time the most sought after tincture in the spectrum. A rich, enveloping, royal blue—although there was Prussian blue available at the time, it was not considered entirely adequate—a blue that was just beyond the reach of art. Like Genevieve’s ambition, it was an artistic goal fraught with barriers and obstacles.

Although Genevieve’s quest is directed squarely at canvas, the primary medium for this color to which Bilyeau directs our attention is fine porcelain: delicate, fragile, sublime, formed through a metamorphosis of rough clay, God’s earthly material for creating Man, into something altogether precious and celestial, the paragon of taste and elegance.

Something that leads beyond simple avarice. Something that leads to obsession.

That singular theme is something new in her work, and imbues her story with an even greater psychological depth.

Nancy Bilyeau has given us a world of industrial espionage and international intrigue, high art and low cunning, profound love and intractable hatred, rational discourse and irrational behavior, all for the love of a color, painted in deft strokes both fine and broad. The Blue is a triumph.


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[Full disclosure: this book was provided to me by the author’s publicist at the author’s request. I moderated Nancy Bilyeau’s first appearance in a panel at a mystery convention, Bouchercon XLIV in 2013 in Albany, NY. The topic was historical mysteries.]

Saturday, November 17, 2018

From Sir Walter Ralegh to Samuel Pepys, the Sinister Westminster Gate-House Prison

By Nancy Bilyeau




In 1663, in the flush of the Restoration, a woman named Mary Carleton went on trial for bigamy. Born in Canterbury of humble parents, she’d married a shoemaker and given birth to two children before disappearing to Cologne. There she had a torrid affair with a nobleman, turning down his offer of marriage but keeping his rich gifts and some money besides.

Mary Carleton then returned to England, claiming to be an orphaned German princess and marrying one John Carleton. A discovered letter betrayed her first marriage and she was arrested.

Bigamist and impersonator Mary Carleton, 1663
© National Portrait Gallery, London, licensed under CCA.

Mary’s colorful life—she was acquitted of bigamy after a spirited defense and went on to marry, steal from, and abandon a string of new husbands before being transported to Jamaica and, finally, hanged for theft in 1673—is not, however, the focus of this post. It is her place of incarceration before going on trial, a strange prison within a very short distance of Westminster Abbey where men and women had been held for three centuries before Mary’s celebrated trial, captured in the book The Arraignment, Tryal and Examination of Mary Moders, Otherwise Stedman, Now Carleton, (styled, the German Princess) At the Sessions House in the Old Bayly, Being Brought Prisoner from the Gate-House Westminster, for Having Two Husbands.

The Tower of London holds claim to being the prison of greatest tragic renown, where queens were feted and beheaded and Jesuit priests screamed on the rack. But the Westminster Gate-House has many stories to tell too, holding errant clerks, religious dissidents, poets and legendary Englishmen such as Sir Walter Ralegh and Samuel Pepys before imprisoning a great many miserable, anonymous debtors.


In a description of the Gate-House Prison written in 1768, it "is situated near the west end of the abbey, entering into Tuttle Street, and the Almery...it is the chief prison for the City of Westminster liberties, not only for debt, but treason, theft and other criminal matters."

In the beginning, the prison was more connected to Westminster Abbey, which makes sense. Some say it was a powerful abbot who transformed the gatehouse into a prison, but documents point to William Warfield, the cellarer of Westminster Abbey. In 1370 he arranged for the gatehouse’s upper storey to house a jail.

But why?

By the time of the reign of Edward III, Westminster was in full medieval throttle. William Rufus' majestic Great Hall, where Parliament met and kings sat on marble thrones, was raised near the spectacular Westminster Abbey, founded by Edward the Confessor in 1065.

Westminster Abbey today.
Image by ChrisO, licensed under CCA.

In Walter Thornbury's Old and New London (1878), he speculates about the preeminence in Plantagenet times of Westminster Abbey and the importance of even the "butler," who was most probably this same William Warfield: "A magnificent apex to a royal palace, the abbey church was surrounded by its own greater and lesser sanctuaries and almonries; its bell towers (the principal one 72 feet 6 inches square, with walls 20 feet thick), chapels, gatehouses, boundary walls, and a train of other buildings, of which we can at the present day scarcely form an idea. In addition to all the land around it, extending from the Thames to Oxford Street, the Abbey possessed 97 towns and villages, 17 hamlets and 216 manors. Its officers fed hundreds of persons daily, and one of its priests (not the abbott) entertained at this pavilion the king and queen, with so large a party, that seven hundred dishes did not suffice for the first table, and even the abbey butler, in the reign of Edward III, rebuilt at his own expense the stately gatehouse which gave entrance to Tothill Street."

Tudor-era historian John Stow wrote that the eastern part of the north gate was used as the bishop of London's prison for "clarks convict." So was it originally an ecclesiastical prison? That's contradicted by another report that during the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, rioters set the Westminster prisoners free. It's difficult to picture the peasant rebels fired up to liberate errant clerks. But in 1596, a Southwark preacher confined in the Gate-House did write an abject letter to Lord Burghley "for keeping Wednesday a fast, and transferring the observation of it unto Thursday." Hardly a violent felon.

Another Tudor troublemaker, Giles Wigginton, a Cambridge-educated clergyman, was twice confined in the Gate-House, once for refusing to swear he was not the author of The Marprelate Tracts, pamphlets attacking the kingdom's traditional Anglican leaders. While imprisoned in the 1590s, Wigginton was joined by other fiery Puritans, such as William Hacket, who claimed to be the messiah, called for the removal of Elizabeth I, and on the way to his execution insulted the clergyman determined to comfort him.


Sir Walter Ralegh

The first "celebrity" prisoner of the Westminster Gate-House was Sir Walter Ralegh. After a lengthy imprisonment in the Tower of London under James I, he was released to lead a disastrous expedition to Venezuela to find gold. But on his return to England, he was re-imprisoned in the Gate-House, perhaps because he was to be executed in the Old Palace Yard in Westminster.

Tradition has it that Ralegh wrote this poem shortly before he met his end on Oct. 29, 1618:
Verses Found in His Bible in the Gate House at Westminster 
"Even such is time, that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust;
Who, in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days;
But from this earth, this grave, this dust,
My God shall raise me up, I trust."
 On the scaffold, Ralegh was shown the ax that would soon decapitate him and said, "This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries." Ralegh was buried in St. Margaret's Church nearby, and never moved.

Richard Lovelace

The next poet adventurer to be held at Westminster--but not, fortunately, beheaded--was Richard Lovelace, a wealthy knight's son who at the age of 13 became a "gentleman wayter extraordinary" to King Charles I. In his twenties, Lovelace was arrested for destroying a pro-parliamentary petition. During his several months' stay in the Gate-House, he is believed to have written his most famous poem:
To Althea, From Prison 
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an Hermitage.
If I have freedom in my love,
and in my soul am free,
angels alone that soar above,
enjoy such liberty."
Ruined by his undaunted support of the royalist cause, Lovelace died in poverty in 1658, two years before the restoration of the monarchy in Charles II.

In the late 17th century, the two most famous prisoners were condemned to the Gate-House.

Jeffrey Hudson and the Queen,
by Anthony van Dyck

The first was court dwarf Sir Jeffrey Hudson. He was presented to Queen Henrietta Maria as a surprise when he was a child 18 inches tall: he emerged from a pie, dressed in armor. Hudson became a cherished member of the royal household and eventually traveled with the Queen to French exile. At some point, Hudson tired of insults about his size; responding to a taunt from the queen's master of horse, he entered a duel and shot his opponent in the head. He then fled France. Sometime later, Hudson was on a boat seized by Barbary pirates and it took him many years to escape and make his way to England. But this was now the time of Titus Oates, and Hudson was arrested for being a "Roman Catholick." He died in 1682, two years after being released from the Gate-House.

The last illustrious prisoner was the erudite Samuel Pepys, jailed in 1690. A longtime civil servant, wit and bibliophile, he kept a diary that is one of the leading records of the Restoration, the Anglo-Dutch War, the Great Plague and the Great Fire. A correspondent of Newton's, he also wrote about his personal problems--bladder problems, fights with his wife, squalid extramarital affairs--and his love of wine and theater. But he too fell afoul of anti-Catholic paranoia. He was suspected of being a Jacobite in secret contact with the exiled James II; because of his poor health, he was given bail.

In the 18th century, the occupants of the Westminster Gate-House were almost all debtors. In 1769, this article was published about the grim conditions to be found in Westminster:
"The Gate-House, near Westminster Abbey, is the jail whereunto those poor wretches, who cannot pay their small debts, are committed, for forty days, unless they do what is all too often impossible; namely, pay the debt sooner. Add to this, that these prisoners have no other maintenance but what they derive from charity...for strange as it is, yet true it is, that there is no provision by law for the subsistence of prisoners in this jail..."

A rendition that could be the Gate-House in its final dreary decades.

Charity for the prisoners was obtained by way of a box hanging from a pole forty feet long, let down by a chain, to those who wished to give. Even more incredibly, "gin and other spirits" were allowed into the Westminster Gate-House as freely as at the "public houses." The prison keeper or under keeper would go to the window and shout into the street, "Jackass! Jackass!" so that an employee of a public house would come to receive orders.

In the year 1776, as the question of freedom was raging across the ocean, the Westminster Gate-House also was liberated. The prison was closed, some say after a public campaign by the author Samuel Johnson who said "a building so offensive ought to be pulled down."

Dr. Johnson died eight years later and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

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Nancy Bilyeau is the author of a trilogy of mysteries, The Crown, The Chalice, and The Tapestry, for sale in North America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and Spain.

The Crown was an Oprah pick: "The real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of murder, lust, conspiracy and betrayal."

Nancy's new novel is The Blue, a thriller set in the art and porcelain world of 18th century France and England.

For more information, please visit Nancy's website at http://www.nancybilyeau.com/


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Read My New Novel Serialized & For Free

I'm excited to share that my publisher, Endeavour Quill, has joined forces with The Pigeonhole, a global, interactive, online book club, to offer participants my new novel, The Blue, in serialized form, and for free!



Anyone who signs up will be able to read The Blue in segments--which they call staves--and I'll be checking in to chat with any readers along the way. 

It's interactive and innovative--and though, yes, I write books set in past centuries, I love to see new ideas and creative ways to support reading. Right now, participants are reading Jeffrey Archer's new novel. Before that, it was Ruth Ware, one of my faves. I'm honored to be in this company.

To check it out, go here






Sunday, October 28, 2018

Mary, Queen of Scots' Castle Prison, Rediscovered

Queen Elizabeth I kept her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, a prisoner in England for almost 20 years before finally ordering her execution in 1587.

The physical and psychological toll that years of imprisonment took on Mary are well known; the entire time she furiously protested that as an anointed queen of Scotland, she was not a subject of England and should be freed.

Mary in captivity, by Nicholas Hilliard, c. 1578.

Now, thanks to an ambitious excavation and research project launched in the late summer of 2018, a virtual model has been created of one of Queen Mary's castle prisons in the 1500s.

Viewing it brings into focus Mary's daily existence as Elizabeth's rival and enemy for 14 years at Sheffield Castle, once one of northern England's most impressive castles but destroyed by Oliver Cromwell's parliamentarians in 1646.

Elizabeth I in her coronation robes, patterned with Tudor roses and trimmed with ermine

Ron Clayton, of the Friends of Sheffield Castle group, told The Guardian in August he was delighted that work finally got underway. “In its day, Sheffield castle overlooked the village of Sheffield. This has seen the thunder of war, the rattle of the drum, the blast of the cannon; people have been killed fighting to take possession of this castle,” he said.

“It’s a great day,” Clayton said. “This is going to give Sheffield a whole new identity in the 21st century.”

The new virtual model was developed by creative agency Human and by computer scientists from the University of Sheffield.

Sheffield ruins


Professor Dawn Hadley told the BBC: “Sheffield Castle was almost completely destroyed during the English Civil War and most of what does remain of its original structure has been hidden away from the public for hundreds of years.”

The large castle's remains were covered by an indoor market in the 1960s, but it closed five years ago.

The plan of Sheffield Castle in relation to current buildings. Photo by Gregory Deryckère CC BY 2.5

Professor Hadley said, “The castle and its history are largely unknown. But now we hope that with the creation of this augmented reality experience people will be able to see the castle in all of its glory and learn more about its fascinating history.”
 
Mary, Queen of Scots was confined at Sheffield Castle between 1570 and 1584, as the “guest” of one of Elizabeth's leading noblemen, the Earl of Shrewsbury.

During that period, Mary was waited on by her ladies, gentlemen, and servants and insisted on a cloth of state being mounted. It is clear that her imprisonment, all things considered, was a comparatively comfortable one.

Mary was driven out of her kingdom by an army led by her disaffected Scottish nobles.

She was accused of having been part of the murder conspiracy to eliminate her second husband, Henry, Lord Darnley. Some of the nobles who accused her had in reality been deeply involved in the murder of the widely hated Darnley, the father of James VI of Scotland and eventual James I of England. Mary's involvement in her husband's death has been hotly debated for centuries. His house was blown up with gunpowder, and he was found, strangled, near the smoking ruin.

Lord Darnley
            

Mary's hasty marriage to her third husband, the swaggering Earl of Bothwell, definitely one of the circle who killed Darnley, did nothing to support her claim of innocence.

After losing a battle in 1568, Mary decided to go south to seek support from her cousin, Elizabeth, in retaking Scotland. But to Protestant Elizabeth, the Catholic Mary had long been a focus of disaffected Catholics in her own kingdom, and she was reluctant to put her back on the throne.

Instead, Elizabeth cut a deal with the nobles and supported the reign of the very young James.
The Darnley Portrait
                =

Plots were bubbling for years aimed at freeing Mary from Sheffield, with some of them ousting Elizabeth and putting Mary on the English throne. The Earl of Shrewsbury was often berated by Elizabeth for lax security measures, while he protested he did his best.

During her years at Sheffield, Mary's health deteriorated, caused by lack of exercise due to escape fears and the damp environment inside the castle walls. The queen suffered from severe rheumatism, arthritis, and “dropsy.”
Drawing of the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots, October 14–15, 1586.[/caption]

The Earl of Shrewsbury's high-tempered wife, Bess of Hardwick, volleyed between being friends with Mary, and joining her for daily gossip and embroidery, and accusing her husband of having an affair with the still-beautiful queen of Scotland. Such accusations were denied by both parties. As treasonous suspicions darkened around Mary, she was removed from Sheffield for castles with stricter security, and harsher jailers as well.

After a trial during which she claimed innocence, Mary was executed at Fotheringay Castle. The nervous headsman required three blows of the ax to sever her head. For a number of minutes, her lips still moved, traumatizing the noblemen who witnessed her death, including the earl of Shrewsbury, who burst into tears.

It is a death that centuries later affects us still. 

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Nancy Bilyeau is the author of a trilogy set in Tudor England, The Crown, The Chalice, and The Tapestry, available in nine countries.

Her new historical novel, The Blue, is a thriller set in the 18th century world of art and porcelain.
 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

'The Blue' on Pre-Order for Special Discount



Some great things are happening :)

The Blue, my fourth novel, goes on sale on December 3, 2018. But it can be pre-ordered now! Only the ebook is available for advance orders now, the paperback will be offered next week.

For my US friends, you can get The Blue ebook for $2.99, the publisher's special price, today. Click here.

If you want to preorder the paperback now, you can get it through Book Depository. Click  here.

For my UK readers, order the ebook or paperback here.

Also, some great advance reviews rolling in:

Nancy Bilyeau's passion for history infuses her books’ – Alison Weir

'With rich writing, surprising twists, and a riveting sense of 'you are there,' The Blue is spine-tingling entertainment.' – Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Assassins

‘...transports the reader into the heart of the 18th century porcelain trade—where the price of beauty was death.’ - E.M. Powell, author of the Stanton & Barling medieval mystery series. 

Thank you!

 





Saturday, September 22, 2018

Evidence Found of a Centuries' Old Scottish Feud

There are feuds, and then there are feuds.

The conflicts between clans in 16th and 17th century Scotland are famous, and one that raged between the Campbell family and the MacDonald family was particularly unrelenting.

Now a seal owned by one of the clan leaders, Sir John Campbell of Cawdor, has come to light. It was buried beneath mounds of rubble at Dunyvaig Castle on Islay, where the clans fought.

Islay is the southernmost of the Inner Hebrides islands, off the west coast of Scotland, and is celebrated today for its whisky. In fact, Islay is known as “The Queen of the Hebrides” and celebrated as the reigning monarch of a typically smoky, peaty style of single malt whisky. Its 17th century history was considerably more tumultuous.

 
The artifact that attests to the conflict was described as “remarkable” and “extremely rare” by archaeologists.

Once used to sign and seal charters and documents, the seal is a disc of lead that carries the inscription “Ioannis Campbell de Calder.”  (Calder was the original spelling of Cawdor). It carries the Cawdor coat of arms with a galley ship and a stag and is dated 1593.

The Campbells and the MacDonald’s fought over Dunyvaig in the early 17th century, with a series of sieges of the castle until the Campbells won. Sir John took ownership of Islay in 1615.







A field school student has unearthed the seal of Sir John Campbell of Cawdor, a leader of the Campbell clan. Photo by Islay Heritage and the University of Reading

 
Losing the castle was a bitter blow for the MacDonalds. The castle was once the naval fortress of the Lords of the Isles, the chiefs of the clan MacDonald. Most of the castle remains are from the 16th century but the foundations are believed to be centuries older.

The seal was found by a field student during an excavation of the castle being carried out by Islay Heritage and the University of Reading. According to the BBC, University of Reading student Zoë Wiacek, who found the seal, said everyone on the dig became excited when it was uncovered.

She said: “I removed a piece of rubble and it was just sitting there on the ground. I immediately knew it was an important find, but had no idea what it was. I called over my trench supervisor, and when it was lifted, the soil fell away to show the inscription.”

The clan feud was a bitter one and long lasting, with much blood spilled.

The website Memories of Scotland says, “Memories run long in the highlands of Scotland and, we've heard tell, the bitterness between Clans Campbell and MacDonald continues to this day. The clash between these two ancient Celtic houses, which has lasted for hundreds of years, is not just about lands, religion, Jacobitism, or even betrayal. Rather, it is about power.”

In 1344, the chief of the MacDonalds began to style himself “Lord of the Isles.” Each of the succeeding Lords of the Isles rebelled against their Stewart king, often in coordination with the English kings.
Dunyvaig Castle, Islay, Scotland. Seen from northeast. Photo by Otter CC BY-SA 3.0

Said Memories of Scotland, “They sought an independent Highland kingdom and bitterly resented paying fealty to lowland Scots. They had been kings and wished to be kings still. Yet, they were completely unsuccessful and there were only four acknowledged Lords of the Isles.”

The Campbells, however, sought power in Scotland while cooperating with the Stewart kings, and they were the ones who tried to take down the MacDonalds.

“The Campbell lands lie in Argyll. By the 16th century, the chiefs were Earls of Argyll, and these days (and for some time past) there has been a Duke of Argyll, the 9th of whom married a daughter of Queen Victoria.”


As the clan with the muscle in that part of Scotland, the Campbells were all too ready to besiege the castle on Islay and try to dislodge the MacDonalds. After they won, there was of course considerable bitterness.

The most notorious chapter in the clans' feud was the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692. The Campbells, now loyal to the British Crown, held by William of Orange, instead of the Stuarts and their Jacobite cause, initiated an underhand and savage attack against the MacDonalds. Their soldiers killed the chief of the clan, 33 other men, two women, and two children.

The massacre took place after the Campbells and their followers were welcomed by the MacDonalds for two weeks of Celtic hospitality. The Campbells had pretended to come as friends. But in the dark early morning of February 13, 1692, the guests slaughtered their unarmed hosts, not even sparing the children.

The horror of the Glencoe Massacre is thought to have inspired George R. R. Martin in his “Red Wedding” section of Game of Thrones, in which one family is wiped out under the guise of hospitality.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

DNA Evidence and the Princes in the Tower

The fate of the Princes in the Tower, who disappeared in the late 15th century, has become not only an obsession but a question loaded with potential blame--and exoneration too.

Some say Richard III, the boys' uncle, had them killed, but others furiously defend Richard and point the finger at those they say stood to gain from the removal from the succession of the vulnerable sons of Edward IV.

Before he died at the age of 40, Edward IV instructed his younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to serve as Lord Protector for his oldest son, also named Edward, who was just 12.

Portrait of Richard III of England
The trouble was, Edward's queen, Elizabeth Woodville, and that brother, Richard of Gloucester, hated each other. There was a lethal split in the family, and Richard seized his older nephew and had him put in the Tower of London for his "protection" before the coronation. The boy's maternal uncles were killed, and Elizabeth Woodville fled with her other children to Westminster Abbey, claiming sanctuary.


But after weeks of intense pressure on the widowed queen, Richard was able to secure the younger son, too. Both princes were placed in the Tower of London. Richard declared himself the rightful king and took the throne as Richard III. He was the one who had the coronation, not his nephew, on July 6, 1483.
The Two Princes Edward and Richard in the Tower, 1483, by Sir John Everett Millais, 1878, part of the Royal Holloway picture collection.
The two princes were last seen by any members of the public in the summer of 1483. Richard III reigned as king but was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and in the time of his successors, Henry VII and Henry VIII, it was widely said that Richard had murdered his nephews. Rumors of the deed circulated in the last year of Richard III's reign as well. It became a baffling mystery, and source of debate.

Now researchers say a recently identified DNA sample could bring some answers.
The DNA obviously cannot come from the boys' direct descendants, since the two of them, Edward V and Prince Richard of York, were assumed to have disappeared before they reached adulthood, married, and had their own children.

 
But the boys' maternal grandmother, Jacquetta Woodville, is the confirmed ancestor of a modern-day English opera singer, a woman named Elizabeth Roberts, whose female-line mitochondrial DNA scientists were able to isolate. Elizabeth Roberts is the 16 times great-granddaughter of Jacquetta Woodville, also called Jacquette of Luxembourg.
King Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower of London, by Paul Delaroche.


That still raises the question: How does one compare Elizabeth Roberts' DNA to the boys' DNA when they disappeared?

That brings the story to a wooden box discovered two centuries after the boys vanished. Workmen in the Tower found a box buried in the grounds near the White Tower in 1674. The bones were thought to be that of the two princes and were buried in Westminster Abbey in an urn by order of Charles II.

Researchers say that if the DNA could be extracted from those remains and compared to that of Elizabeth Roberts, and there is a match, it proves that the dead boys were Edward V and his younger brother, Richard of York. And that, some say, strengthens the theory that Richard III had them killed while they were confined in the Tower of London.



However, there are problems with that line of logic. Some defenders of Richard's reputation say that Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII, and also the Duke of Buckingham both had something to gain from the murder of the princes, and could possibly have gained access to the Tower during that time, or bribed someone with access.

If the bones of the boys in the buried box do not match with the Woodville descendant, Richard's defenders say that means the princes did not die in the Tower of London. Some say one or both were spirited away and lived in obscurity, although why that would happen is hard to explain. Some say the younger prince was Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the throne eventually executed by Henry VII.

“The discovery of the descendant, and her decision to supply a sample of her DNA have opened up significant avenues of investigation. The traditional narrative surrounding the so-called Princes in the Tower is deeply problematic – but this new DNA brings solving a number of key questions that much closer,” said Philippa Langley, the historical researcher who was responsible for successfully discovering the long-lost grave of Richard III, in an interview published in The Independent.

Sarcophagal urn of the presumed bones of Edward V and his brother, Richard, Duke of York


Another problem with this theory is that it is unlikely permission will be granted for the bodies buried in Westminster Abbey to be tested. The Abbey has turned down similar requests in the past 50 years, and there seems but a slim chance of officials changing their mind.

The new book The Mythology of the Princes in the Tower in which the DNA discovery is revealed “was written by an Essex University historian, John Ashdown-Hill, who tragically passed away just a few months ago,” according to The Independent. It is being published in July 2018 by the UK publisher Amberley Books.