A book about the princes has recently been published in USA written by a well-known American lawyer who most kindly refers to my lifework. Most but not all of the questions raised by Bertram Fields are touched upon however briefly in the foregoing text and FAQs except the Perkin Warbeck story and the story of Sir James Tyrrell. I therefore dedicate the following chapter from an unpublished book of mine detailing the life and times of Sir James Tyrrell to Mr. Fields, with compliments, and many, many thanks. (See : ROYAL BLOOD, RICHARD III AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PRINCES, by Bertram Fields, published by ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 1998)
We pause here, for just one moment, before we proceed. The reader may need to know, perhaps, one or two small points providing essential additional background material to “our” case which then flows unobstructed from one century into the next century and the story we are about to tell. First, we have to draw attention that the laws of marriage were established and in place when Edward IV was king of England. From this it follows that if Bishop Robert Stillington had indeed made a valid and visible pre-contract of marriage between Edward and Lady Eleanor Butler before the king had married Elizabeth Woodville, and this is our first assumption, then, we may expect the shocking allegation to have reverberated inside the walls and out through the doors of the parliament house -- and this is precisely what did happen and this is beyond any measure of doubt. If true, it meant that Edward’s second marriage, the Woodville marriage, was bigamous. If true, then the guilty party, Edward, would be found guilty of bigamy and the marriage annulled in the ecclesiastical court, which was the proper court to deal with disputed matrimonial matters. It was unprecedented. It simply could not have been worse. In this we have to draw attention, once again, that Edward had just died. The country was in mourning. The hands of the civil and church courts were tied. The children of the second marriage would be declared bastards. Who would now be king ? We see from our reading of history, in each book and in each case, that this version of events was current at the time soon after Edward’s death. We may now consider, very briefly, a second point.
A fifteenth century pre-contract of marriage was legal and binding on each party merely requiring the blessing and seal of approval of a Bishop of Rome for the marriage ceremony and consummation to take place. It was a declaration of intent and a promise of performance. The offspring of the union were legitimate heirs to whom there might flow all the benefits of inheritance without further juridic formality – if the partners fulfilled their obligations and carried them out in an open and honest way. The key words are ‘open’ and ‘honest’. Sadly, we have to draw attention that if a pre-contract had indeed been made many years earlier, Parliament had not been informed. The document disappeared. Eleanor Butler entered the monastery of the White Carmelites at Norwich and was not seen or heard of again. We will revert to this later.
For the present, the reader may not be surprised that the fair-haired, extremely tall and handsome Edward seems to have had a reputation for undistinguished womanizing. Not always, but upon occasion and from time to time, he further seems to have been quite open about it. The birth of his illegitimate son Arthur Plantagenet by Lady Elizabeth Lucy was acknowledged by the king and the child received at court. Edward’s short-lived affair with a certain Elizabeth Shore (also known as Jane Shore or Jane Shaw) was known both at home and abroad. There were other stories but we place no reliance upon them and draw no further inference from them. But there is more.
We do not know if Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville, was truly concerned by the lack of consideration for her feelings. There was little risk that the succession to the throne of her children, Edward’s legal heirs, was threatened by his pluralist sexual activities. Foreign ambassadors reported some of the stories, as we should expect, in dispatches to their masters. But the risk WAS there. Someone may have told/advised Edward to desist. His wife, or perhaps his mother, may have warned him that certain effete and fastidious kings might pay large sums of money in order to impress other effete and fastidious kings that the one thing they cannot stand and the very last thing they want to see is an English royal cousin making a complete ass of himself. However, we are not here to condemn, or to justify, or to compare one man with another man. We are merely trying to understand the history and for the purpose of this present examination this is our sole aim and intention.
Lastly, the reader is invited to examine one area of secret history that may directly concern us. This examination is not for any particular historical reason but merely from interest in one particular problem. In this connection, although sometimes deeply interested in puzzles, it is true that some people start to fade rapidly when confronted with the detail of a historical maze of distorting mirrors, our central point. Mirrors are confusing. Which is the left side of your head, which is the right side ? We need a simple and direct method of approach. We need some sort of guide to take us safely through the maze : first, perhaps, a guided tour of the Public Record Office at Kew. An inquirer may be slightly surprised if invited to ‘take a dip in the Black Bag’, as the exercise is often and oddly referred to in the United Kingdom. If permission is given, photocopy one or more of the official documents which are released for public scrutiny from time to time some twenty-five to fifty years, or even later, after the events to which they relate. It does not really matter which document one takes. We then visit the “Times Library” and compare our photocopy with the earlier contemporary report published in “The Times of London”, England’s old establishment newspaper of record. In this simple way one is now able to observe the process of secret history ; namely, the political expediency of the day which required concealment of the facts and the “true” history. However, we have one slight word of warning to offer to the reader. We have to draw attention that expert “weeding” of the files has taken place, often by retired civil servants, and unless we are aware of this interference in our or any other study of history, then, we may be deceiving ourselves.
The remarkable editing we see today in certain official records of the period is slightly worrying. It makes the task of proving or disproving a case more difficult. It does not make the task impossible. We merely look elsewhere. The on-going silence in the case of the missing princes is the outcome of expediency, as we should expect, when officialdom is faced with a universal fact ; namely, there is no end to discovery. The official is NOT foolish. He merely takes upon himself certain risks. This odd risk-taking remains his Achilles heel and he knows it. And now we know it.
We therefore continue to build upon our case. No one is excepted from the examination and no one is eliminated. Each event related is inter-related. And bearing in mind the remarkable inter-relation of certain seemingly disconnected and disparate events, we can now return with great confidence to the next part of the puzzle we propose to examine before the inquiry.
For the present, we may now return to Thomas More’s improbable proof of the murder of the princes during Richard III’s reign. A famous person was indeed beheaded for the alleged crime upon the orders of Henry VII. The flip chart shows us the name of that person, Sir James Tyrrell, and we are going to tell his story. It is an extremely sad story about an exceptionally brave man. It is this remarkable story that shows more clearly than any other, perhaps, the relentless dedication of the Tudor dirty tricks department, which by now we may have come to expect and, therefore, may not find quite so hard to believe. It also shows a rare blunder by these experts, just one mistake, and the case unravels before our eyes. Let us therefore now return, since certain other matters require attention and time is now pressing upon us, into the courtroom.
The Notional Murderer – Sir James Tyrrell
We have to draw attention, first of all, to the Tyrrell family stigma ; namely, the implication to the family of the alleged sending by King Richard III of Sir James Tyrrell to murder the princes in the Tower of London. We consider first the position of those relatives, who, you may decide, had indeed read the text of More’s account, section by section, which begins :
But in the meantime for this present matter I shall rehearse you the dolorous end of those babes not after every way that I have heard but after that way I have heard by such men and by such means as me thinketh it were hard but it should be true.
How did this affect the family and how did they react ? We consider the evidence on common sense grounds.
When seen as a blind, and this is our first assumption, it follows that More’s solemn description of the events immediately preceding the authorially alleged murders, and the murders themselves, is perhaps contrafactual. ‘Was it clumsy or was it clever’, asks Holbein, implying that time would tell. However, if perceived as factual and true, then the inquiry may decide the lines are both dramatic and instantly horrifying. We will continue to examine More’s text, if we may, as we go along.
Since we have already described and made clear certain new evidence that the circulation of More’s manuscript was restricted to a carefully selected circle of friends during his lifetime, you may conceivably decide that at least one, if not more, of the children of Sir James Tyrrell had read at some later time, perhaps, the printed version of More’s manuscript ; notably, how their father was directly implicated in pedicide of the most terrible kind. Two innocents had been suffocated, slowly and deliberately, to death. Even more distressing, the family would have to bear the stigma for all time. Gossip would see to that. The inquiry may need to know if at any time during More’s lifetime or at any subsequent time the Tyrrell family refuted More’s version. They did not. The inquiry may further need to know how the close and wider family had interpreted the text – in particular, the section that More unequivocally begins and relentlessly pursues :
For Sir James Tyrrell devised that they should be murdered in their beds. To the execution thereof, he appointed Miles Forest, 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 other being removed from them, this Miles Forest and John Dighton, about midnight, (the seely [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 featherbed 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 their tormentors their bodies – dead in the bed.
In this, and before we may usefully offer to the inquiry any sort of precise interpretation by the Tyrrell family of More’s account of the murders, we have first to make one or two small points. We will then enter the distorting maze of mirrors in the half-light, very briefly, and then come out into the full light of day. First of all, we have to draw attention that when these terrible accusations were repeated by More after 1513, when he allegedly began to write the manuscript Richard, each one of those other persons directly implicated by More in the alleged 1483 murders are unidentifiable for certain by us today : or were, in fact, certainly dead. For instance, later on, More claims : ‘Miles Forest at St Martins [in London] piecemeal rotted away.’ No certain involvement or positive identification of this Miles Forest and no verification or falsification of time, place and circumstances of death of a person of this name has been found to date. More goes on immediately to say : ‘Dighton yet walketh on alive in good possibility to be hanged ere he die.’
It is not at all clear but there WAS a John Dighton, a priest, living in Calais, where after many years he died ‘no less disdained than pointed at’ said a certain lawyer, Grafton, in the mid-sixteenth century, now oddly convinced of the identification and the guilt. However, we have to draw attention that Dighton was not charged with murder over a substantial period of time and the small living of Fulbeck, near Grantham in Lincolnshire, given to Dighton in Henry VII’s reign, on 2 May 1487, is unlikely to have been Dighton’s reward for his part in the murder of the two princes some four years earlier, as has been oddly claimed. We shall say it was a living for a country priest, one of many other similar cases recorded in the reign of the Tudors. We will return to Dighton, later.
For the present, we have to draw attention that More’s next sentence in the book is as puzzling as it is true :
But Sir James Tyrrell died at Tower Hill, beheaded for treason.
It is indeed recorded that on Monday, 2 May 1502, Sir James Tyrrell was tried in the Guildhall in London, with certain other persons who do not concern us here, for an ‘unspecified treason’. He was found guilty and the following day was condemned to death. The inquiry may conceivably decide that it is not at all clear how the unofficially alleged murder of the princes in the reign of Richard III might be seen officially as treason in the reign of Henry VII. We will revert to it again later. For the moment, we have to draw attention to the Tyrrell entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, which sometimes stands accused of being out-of-date and inaccurate, but nonetheless shows : ‘Knowing that he was to die, Tyrrell made, it is said while in the Tower, a confession of his guilt as to the princes.’
The words ‘it is said’ mean, presumably, this report is hearsay and readily dismissed. For the moment, we draw no further inference from it except that there is no conclusive evidence to date to refute it. We will now show to the inquiry, if we may, certain new evidence, which may perhaps change the position and, similarly, our perception of the events related.
We have first to draw attention to an Act of Parliament dated 1504, made some two years after Tyrrell’s execution, wherein we see that Tyrrell was attainted ‘of treason on account of his connection with Edmonde de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk.’ It means, presumably, that Tyrrell was not tried for murder nor was he officially accused of that crime at any time during the reign of Richard III or in Henry VII, which fits well with what we are saying. We will now examine the unspecified charge of treason against Tyrrell before the Act was passed in 1504, if we may, in the light of certain new evidence concerning the survival of the two princes.
The story of the execution was widely circulated at the time. We see in the Dictionary of National Biography that Tyrrell was beheaded ‘in great haste and without trial for his part in the murder of the two princes’. The key question here is why should Henry want to behead Sir James Tyrrell ‘in great haste and without trial’ some nineteen years after the alleged murder of the princes ? We will now show that if we rely upon the evidence of the new witness, Holbein, then Tyrrell was the one person who, most authoritatively, was in a position to give certain evidence, which we will describe and make clear, that the princes were alive and had NOT been murdered.
Before we go on we should pause, perhaps, for just one more minute. The inquiry will need to know, presumably, the received history concerning Sir James Tyrrell and we would like to introduce it at this point. Briefly, this history shows us that Sir James was a Yorkist who rose to prominence under the Tudor king, Henry VII. He had served Edward IV on several commissions and was created Knight Banneret, a title of some distinction, at the siege of the town of Berwick on the border between Scotland and England. Under Richard, who was known to him over a substantial period of time, presumably, there was only minimal advancement : and there is no record of him at the Battle of Bosworth. Perhaps he arrived late : certain people did indeed arrive late. However, we see that under Henry VII he positively radiated this Tudor king’s personal preference. He was appointed Constable of Guisnes, which was in English possession, the outer castle guarding the port of Calais against the French. He may even have known John Dighton. He was then sent as an ambassador to Rome. We will revert to this embassy again. When he returned he participated in the Treaty of Étaples, as a commissioner, in one of many repeated attempts to settle differences peacefully between the French and the English. For these services, Henry gave him a grant for life of certain lands in Wales and, for no clear reason, Henry then insisted that Tyrrell exchange them for revenues received in the Comté de Guisnes in France, of equal value. Suddenly, in 1502, Henry ordered the entire garrison of Calais, some several hundred men, to besiege the castle of Guisnes. Henry then sent one of his top statesmen, the Lord Privy Seal, to offer Tyrrell a guarantee of safe-conduct if he would come aboard a certain ship, then in Calais harbour, for a short conference with one other of Henry’s top appointees, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We know nothing, in fact, what happened thereafter except that Tyrrell was beheaded in great haste and without trial in the Tower of London. This contradicts the documented fact, as already described and made clear, of Tyrrell’s trial for some ‘unspecified treason’. The reporting is sloppy and was no doubt meant to be sloppy. We are being asked to believe, perhaps, that upon Tyrrell’s alleged confession of guilt ‘as to the princes’, he was beheaded in great haste and without further trial. The offer of a safe-conduct was, presumably, a trick to get him out of the castle and aboard ship for transportation under guard to England.
The “tricking” of Sir James Tyrrell is widely acknowledged and we will return to it later. For the present, we merely add that the report of his trial for an unspecified treason is odd. It is not at all clear if Tyrrell made a confession as to his treasonable activities some time during the arraignment proceedings. It is similarly not clear if, perhaps, a written confession was produced to the court. The impression is that the treason charge was denied. Alternatively, the accused may have refused to make answer to the charge. This means that he remained silent throughout. There is no official report of a confession of treason at this time but this is once again merely peripheral to “our” case. We have to draw attention, just one more time and finally, to the last part of the entry in the Dictionary of National Biography: ’Knowing that he was to die, Tyrrell made while in the Tower, it is said, a confession of guilt as to the princes’. What precisely was this confession ? We will now offer to the inquiry, if we may, a new interpretation of this odd statement on the basis of new evidence, as already described and made clear, of the survival of the two princes.
There is nothing better liked by lawyers, we are told, than to argue some neat and knotty little legal problem in a courtroom. Since we are merely reviewing the history, not as a lawyer but as a historiographer, we will only briefly make one or two small points. First, Tyrrell’s alleged confession was made, as already explained and made clear, some four days after his trial for an ‘unspecified treason’. It means, presumably, that Tyrrell was not charged with murder and put on trial at any time in the previous nineteen years. It also means there is no official record of this alleged confession, which was made under close interrogation, presumably, if not prolonged and severe torture. In this we shall say, first of all, and the inquiry may conceivably conclude, that the interrogation of Sir James Tyrrell at some time during a period of not more than four days in the Tower of London, was probably factual. We will further say that Tyrrell had knowledge of the deception concerning the two princes and was indeed part of it from the outset. We shall say that Tyrrell was beheaded in great haste and without trial because of the risk of disclosure of that knowledge to outsiders. Finally, we shall say that any subsequent public trial (as a result of Tyrrell’s alleged ‘confession of guilt as to the princes’) was an unacceptable risk that threatened to destabilize the on-going Tudor plan of deception. There is more.
Some two years after his death, Tyrrell was attainted of treason. Our reservations concern the apparent two years delay in proving the reason for the attainder : ‘on account of his connection with Edmonde de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk.’ However the substance of the 1504 Act is strong corroborating evidence that Tyrrell was not attainted for any other reason. Please bear this in mind when we come to read, as we will shortly, the Tyrrell family account of the reason for Tyrrell’s execution, which shows beyond any possible measure of doubt, that Tyrrell WAS executed for the murder of the princes.
We must apologize to the inquiry for interrupting this account of an already highly confusing story, and it IS confusing, merely for this fragment. However, we have to draw attention to this seemingly unrelated and unconnected fragment if we are to show that is neither unrelated not unconnected and that it relates directly to “our“ case. In this, then, we may now return finally and one last time to the attainder of 1504. An inquirer may not be surprised that Edmonde de la Pole was a Yorkist in line of succession to the English throne in right of the marriage of his father, John de la Pole, to Richard III’s sister, Elizabeth. Since we are now finished with the official reason for Tyrrell’s attainder, and you may indeed feel relieved that we are now out of the maze of distorting mirrors, we may now perhaps move on, some thirty or more years, to a certain Polydore Vergil, the Italian historiographer of Henry VII (d. 1509) commissioned by the Tudors, father and son, to write a book on the History of England. Vergil published his account of the reign of Henry VII some time during the period 1528 to 1534 with the story of the murder of the princes merely an episode in the reign of Richard III, a relatively short and un-detailed piece in an otherwise long work from the time of King Arthur to his present day. This book appeared first in Italy where Vergil lived. And Italy was a safe haven and far removed from the on-going troubles in England.
We will now show that Vergil oddly gave his version of Tyrrell’s disputed confession without mentioning a confession document. In this, we have to draw attention that More’s account shows the same remarkable omission, this time by a lawyer :
Very truth it is and well known that at such time as Sir James Tyrrell was in the Tower for treason committed against the most famous prince King Henry VII both Dighton and he were examined and confessed to the murder of the boy princes.
Without reference to an official confession document, then, Vergil (closely following upon and adding to More’s version) asserts as truth that Tyrrell had been forced to obey Richard’s command (More’s account shows that Tyrrell was a willing and equally evil participant), had ridden sorrowfully up to London from York (More had said from Warwick), that he had obtained the keys of the Tower from the former Lieutenant and Constable, Sir Robert Brackenberry (who died at Bosworth), that he murdered the two princes (there is no mention of Forest or Dighton), and finishes his account by saying : ‘…but what kind of death these seely [innocent] children were executed it was not certainly known.’
The impression, you may conceivably agree, is that Tyrrell had indeed confessed to the murders. This haphazard form of writing about history merits further attention. For the present, we merely draw attention, once more, first that no person named in this account by Polydore Vergil, nor in Thomas More’s account, was still alive to refute these serious allegations. We further draw attention that until the discovery of new evidence indicating the possible survival of the two princes there was nothing tangible with which to challenge either More or Vergil and their version of events, nor of Tyrrell’s alleged involvement nor his possible motive apart from gain or some other reward. Tyrrell received no advancement from Richard, as we should expect, if Tyrrell had not taken part in the alleged murders. Lastly, we have to draw attention that it was Henry Tudor who rewarded and greatly advanced this descendant of a long-serving Yorkist family, beginning some short time after his accession in 1485.
We have now to draw attention to the single solid piece of evidence produced so far : that some nineteen years later, in 1502, Tyrrell was tried and condemned to death. It is not at all clear but we shall say on balance of probability that on some unknown and quite uncertain date after the death of Henry’s eldest son, Arthur, on 2 April 1502, and certainly before 2 May 1502, when Tyrrell was put on trial, Henry had wanted the return of a certain official document which had been given to Tyrrell, as already described and made clear, some nineteen years earlier. We will return to this remarkable document in our evidence-in-chief. For the present, we shall merely say it was Henry who gave the order for Tyrrell to be brought back, by force if necessary, to London. We conjecture that the Set-Up devised by the planners was for the Privy Councillors to invite Tyrrell aboard ship in Calais harbour. They no doubt conveyed Henry’s request for the return of the document, with a friendly Come-On, perhaps, that Tyrrell would receive advancement. Since we know what followed, we will further say that it was NOT a friendly request but a Sting to get Tyrrell aboard ship and return him to London, with or without the document.
You may conceivably decide that Henry’s envoys knew Tyrrell was the notional murderer of the princes and since Prince Arthur had just died we may reasonably assume that any visit by the Privy Councillors might include a discussion of Henry’s plans for the future of his only remaining son, later Henry VIII, in the event of a minority following his own death. You may further decide that the Privy Councillors, one of whom it is reported was Sir Richard Guildford, hinted at the possibility of Tyrrell handing back the document given to him by Henry in 1486 as a guarantee that he would not support the return of the York prince Edward V, also known as Sir Edward Guildford, now aged 32 years ?
We shall say that the request was refused and this refusal to cooperate was the reason Sir James Tyrrell was forcibly brought back to London.
We shall say that following Tyrrell’s repeated refusal to produce the document, Henry ordered Tyrrell to be put on trial (2 May) and found guilty of unspecified treason and sentenced to death (3 May). We shall further say that after sentence had been passed, Henry once again asked Tyrrell for this remarkable document in exchange, perhaps, for a reprieve of the death sentence. When this offer was again refused, Henry made the further order to find out its whereabouts from Tyrrell under duress in the Tower. When this attempt and one more final attempt to obtain Tyrrell’s signature on a prepared account failed, Tyrrell was killed. (6 May).
We shall say that because of official muddying of the waters the story told by More and Vergil, as we should by now expect, is confusing and remains confusing until we consider the evidence which is not there and which, reasonably, we might have expected to find there. We will further say it is amazing that such glaring anomalies have not been minuted for objection and systematic examination long before now.
Firstly, no official document, nor Henry himself, nor the mother, nor any member of the Neville family or Woodville family refer in an open way to the fate of the princes. Secondly, Henry did not demand and insist upon a formal trial where Sir James Tyrrell’s unofficially alleged confession as to the murders could be officially recorded. Thirdly, if the confession was a true confession and not extracted by force (which might have been a false confession), the proper procedure was a public trial before judges of the High Court and, if found guilty, formal sentence and execution thereafter. For such an important show trial and its propaganda value to Henry – the procedure was not merely outside the law : it was foolish. And we know that Henry was not foolish. Lastly, you may conceivably decide this evidence has been known for centuries.
On the other hand, and this is our central point, if Tyrrell had REFUSED to confess to the murders, the charge of some unspecified treason against the person of the king is then perhaps appropriate in the reign of Henry VII. If true, Tyrrell would have to be silenced. We will say that Tyrrell DID refuse to confess to the murders and we will now show WHY he refused.
Before we continue we must pause for just one minute, in order to draw together certain other strands that are inextricably interwoven with this present examination. In this, first of all, as already described and made clear, certain manuscripts appeared in England at the beginning of Richard’s reign and, according to the evidence of our expert witness, R. S. Sylvester, it was from these sources that More had probably learned of the alleged murder of the two princes. There is certain other evidence, similarly described and made clear, that More was merely repeating in More’s Richard what had been said, in or about the year 1483, concerning the alleged involvement of Sir James Tyrrell in the alleged murders of the two princes. There is also certain new evidence to show how More might have tested this possible option. We now produce further new evidence that Tyrrell was not merely innocent of the murders of the princes but, at the cost of his own life, in security agency jargon, he ‘kept them alive.’
By now, the inquiry may wish to know precisely what was the nature and content of this supposed document that Henry wanted from Tyrrell. In this we shall say, and this is not contradicted and not in dispute, that before he was sent abroad Sir James Tyrrell was given a general pardon, on sixteenth June 1486, by the king. No reason was given but this was not uncommon. We know from direct inspection of the Memorials in the reign of Henry VII that it was a guarantee of exemption from prosecution for some slight misdeed that might subsequently come to light. It was an extremely valuable document, which was kept by the recipient, presumably, as “insurance”. We also know from the entries that the general pardon was granted at the end of a term of service to the king. If we draw these strands together it means that Sir James had performed some service for Henry VII during a period of some ten months; either immediately or from soon after Bosworth, 22 August 1485, or perhaps at some time after Henry’s crowned accession to the throne two months later, on 30 October 1485. There is nothing odd or surprising in this unknown service that finished, by definition, on the given date of sixteenth June 1486. However, one month later, on sixteenth July 1486, Tyrrell received a second general pardon. This IS odd. We have to draw attention that there is not another case of a person receiving two general pardons in the reign of Henry VII.
In this connection, we may now further draw attention to a book written by a certain Elizabeth MacIntosh under the pen name ‘Josephine Tey’, which was first published in 1951. This remarkable novel entitled The Daughter of Time has been re-published in some thirty-eight editions to date and is expertly regarded in the Complete Peerage and continues rightly to be regarded, you may agree, as ‘the finest defense of Richard III in a work of fiction’. In this work, Josephine Tey had first noted the two general pardons given to Tyrrell by the king. Tey then interpreted the two general pardons to mean that Tyrrell was being rewarded, perhaps, for his part in the murder of the two princes in the reign of Henry VII. Sir Clemence Markham had suggested much the same thing in the previous century. Markham had been opposed by a certain James Gairdner, nineteenth century editor of Letters & Papers, Foreign & Domestic, Henry VIII, published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, a collection of some 100,000 documents from the reign of Henry VIII, supported by a Professor Busch. Tey therefore argued authorially in a work of fiction in favour of Markham’s “new” and attractive possible option and took Gairdner severely to task for being self-contradictory and obtuse. Tey’s interpretation is, therefore, one possible option.
However, we now have one more option, another option : the third option. And since you may conceivably decide to accept the possible third option as even more attractive to you, which means that neither Gairdner’s nor Tey’s options could possibly be true and must be put to one side, then, this means that the princes were not murdered in the reigns of either Richard III or Henry VII – merely notionally murdered in the manuscripts circulated by Henry’s DDT. If true, it means “our” Sir James Tyrrell is vindicated of the crime of murder, one of the most serious crimes in the criminal calendar. It means that Josephine Tey shot well on the Ricardian target fractionally missing by a notional hairsbreadth the vital point at dead centre of the bull’s eye, if we may now show this to the inquiry.
We have first to draw attention that Tyrrell did not deny having committed the murders on any public occasion during his lifetime. If the princes lived on it means that “our” Sir James Tyrrell was not the murderer of the princes but merely the “notional murderer”. If true, it means Busch and Gairdner missed the target altogether.
We now pause again, for just one minute more. It is enough time to fit this one small piece into the historical jigsaw puzzle before we move on. First of all, the picture shows us a tightrope situation with Henry VII standing on the rope. If we may continue to allude to this extremely dangerous balancing act, such as one sees in a circus, the Tudor succession is in the balance. The king knows that one false step and he, the rope and the supporters, may crash to the ground. We may now place Sir James Tyrrell and perhaps his case officer on the tightrope beside Henry VII and somewhat dazzled by our sheer audacity while remaining safely down on the ground, we may now continue our examination.
In view of this assumed tightrope situation let us now further assume that Henry required someone to falsely confess to the murders of the two princes. You may conceivably decide that Henry wanted to add weight and credibility to the story that they were dead and Richard had them killed. If true, certain requirements would need expert attention. The professional specialists in the DDT would be asked, perhaps, to provide a list of suitable candidates. The reply would come back with a list of names and a polite reminder, presumably, that the person finally selected would have to receive some reward and a general pardon merely in order to reassure that person that in the unlikely event of the matter coming to light he was protected from any possibility of a subsequent prosecution. However, having started on this slippery slope with its clearly defined possible pitfalls, not least that there is no statute of limitation for the crime of murder, as already described and made clear, there was one other slight risk to be considered. It was a risk that, presumably, the case officer either overlooked or disregarded. The risk was that the person selected might then insist upon receiving a second general pardon – for having falsely confessed to the murders. In this, it appears, the case officer blundered. We will now show, on balance of probability, how Tyrrell in fact obtained his second general pardon. The case officer was pushed off the rope by the king as a result, presumably, at the same time as Sir James Tyrrell.
We do not wish to make the point too strongly or to over emphasize in any way unduly that this is the best fit hypothesis which fits all the facts and that if we can work it out, then Thomas More, “our” Thomas More, was much more capable and much more likely to work out this neat little puzzle without raising so much as an eyebrow. We, on the other hand, may struggle somewhat to do the same. But there is more and we will have help. We will not keep you long on this, just one minute, but let us assume that More did in fact see each person walking the tightrope. The success or failure of the Tudor dynasty was in the balance. The first general pardon would stabilize Henry and protect Tyrrell. But the known existence of this official document, which might be used subsequently to imply that her sons were dead, might have destabilized their mother. If Elizabeth Woodville became destabilized, and she was on the tightrope beside Henry and all the others, she might bring down the rope and the supporters.
More may then have noticed that the second general pardon restored the equilibrium. The princes might not then be removed and truly murdered by Henry who, to protect himself, might otherwise instruct his DDT to implicate Tyrrell and Richard III on the basis of the first general pardon. (See Footnote)
The first general pardon was indeed such a document. The second general pardon would merely imply the princes were missing and had not been killed. In view of all the circumstances surrounding this remarkable case, this final arrangement would have been acceptable, presumably, to the mother and sister of the princes, Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York. We will say that More advised Elizabeth of York to remain silent after her marriage to Henry VII and to continue to remain silent in an invidious and dangerous on-going situation after the death of her mother.
The most famous lawyer in the reign of Henry VIII, as we should expect, would have seen that Tyrrell’s assumed consent to become a notional murderer (on the grounds that during his lifetime he did not deny either officially or unofficially the rumour which implicated him) would in fact provide Tyrrell with certain protection. The princes were dead. Tyrrell had killed them and had been pardoned by the new king. There was something odd here. What was it ? We would be doing an injustice to ourselves and to the reader if we failed to consider this central and fundamental question.
First, we have to draw attention that Parliament had passed an Act to prevent Henry VII from handing out retrospective punishment to the followers of the late King Richard. Oddly, Henry claimed his reign had commenced one day prior to Bosworth and had executed some of Richard’s followers on grounds of treason before anyone could stop him. The monk-editor of the Croyland Chronicle, the contemporary journal of the Abbey of Croyland in Norfolk, now renamed Crowland Abbey, was scandalized : ‘Oh God’, he wrote, ‘What security are our kings to have henceforth in the day of battle if their loyal followers may in defeat be deprived of life, fortune and inheritance.’
Henry had attempted to intimidate parliament and gain and hold a legal threat of treason over the heads of the loyal followers of the late king. Parliament ignored this cynical contempt and enacted against him. But why was Sir James Tyrrell excepted from the list of approximately one hundred Yorkist knights and gentlemen of the realm and perhaps even more killed on Henry’s orders after the battle ?
We have to draw attention to the traditional Tyrrell family history that from late October 1483 until late August 1485 the princes were hidden with the full knowledge and consent of their mother and with the permission of their late uncle, Richard III, in the Tyrrell family home at Gipping in Suffolk. Sir James was perhaps ordered to remain at Gipping to protect the princes pending the outcome of the battle, the possible reason he was not present at the battle. After the battle, he made a rapid assessment of his immediate prospects, presumably, and those of his family and the princes. It was about this time Tyrrell became a double agent.
We have to draw attention that if the princes lived on it means that Tyrrell conspired with Woodville not to confirm the false story of the agent provocateurs in French pay that the princes were dead and Richard had murdered them. In return, Tyrrell and Woodville would remain silent that both princes were still alive and living under false names and identities. The Tyrrell/Woodville stand off was fixed firmly in place. Henry discussed the risks with his advisors, presumably, and decided not to destabilize the position for the foreseeable future. Henry had a hold on Woodville. Woodville had a hold on Henry. Tyrrell had a hold on Henry. Henry had a hold on Tyrrell and locked together like wrestlers fighting to win the final fall, Henry finally agreed for the princes to assume false names and identities, bad-humouredly banished his mother-in-law to Bermondsey Abbey and ordered his dirty tricks department to demonize and trivialize Tyrrell making him out to be a notional murderer.
We have to draw attention that Henry was twenty-eight years old when he first set foot on a battlefield. His opponent Richard was a warrior king, aged thirty-three years, who had fought in many campaigns and was known throughout Europe for his prowess in battle. Since Richard lost on the battlefield it suggests the real battle was fought and won by Henry off the field. This merits further consideration. What happened to Richard before the battle ? We know that his wife had died five months earlier, in March, and that his son had died the previous year. Was he so affected that he failed to notice the Stanley families were not taking position on the battlefield ? Did he forget that Henry’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, was married to Sir Thomas Stanley ? Why did he not retire to fight another day when the Stanley families and the Earl of Northumberland deserted him on the battlefield ? Instead, he charged into the Tudor knights surrounding Henry and tried to cut him down. He seemed blind to the risk he was taking and, predictably, was immediately killed. This betrayal of Richard by the Stanleys and Northumberland, who were greatly rewarded by Henry after the battle, fits well with what we are saying.
The inquiry may conceivably decide that this behaviour by Henry VII was symptomatic of what was to follow. Today we might decide to profile the psychopathology in the everyday life of a serial killer demonstrating a lack of conflict in the mind which did not allow the daily struggle known to each one of us trying to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong to distract him from what he wanted and what he was prepared to do in order to achieve what he wanted. The inquiry may conceivably decide that news of Henry’s arbitrary execution of Richard’s supporters soon reached Sir James Tyrrell and that his decision to co-operate was born of expediency and fear for his life and the lives of others.
We may now return, one last time, to this odd second pardon. Strictly speaking, Tyrrell did not need protection from a first or a second general pardon if the princes lived on. However, Henry had no doubt intimidated and gained a hold on Tyrrell and since Tyrrell now had gained an even more powerful hold on Henry, Tyrrell’s life was at risk in 1502. The Yorkists would restore Edward V to the throne if Tyrrell turned round and Henry knew it. There is more. We shall say that since Elizabeth Woodville was also at risk from her son-in-law until the year she died, in 1492, Woodville needed assistance to keep her place and maintain her balance on the rope. The remarkable person who held her hand and guided her in the dangerous game of double cross by a double agent, presumably, was “our” Sir James Tyrrell.
We will further say that by playing the part of the nervous conspirator who has falsely confessed to two murders he has not committed, and by cleverly anticipating the characteristic anxieties of Henry VII, Sir James outsmarted the DDT and obtained the second general pardon -- something unheard of in the reign of Henry VII. If true, he was a great actor and an even greater friend. Still loyally disposed to the Woodville children, he was perhaps a secret Yorkist. He was certainly anti-Tudor. The inquiry may conceivably conclude that by refusing to say the princes were dead Sir James Tyrrell indeed paid with his life to ‘keep them alive’. The second general pardon was the princes’ “life insurance”, from first to last, and when Tyrrell would not hand it over, and as he knew he would, Henry killed him. We shall say the Tyrrell family perhaps found that document. If true, we shall further say the Tyrrell family kept it as insurance if the Yorkists returned to power. It may still exist. If it can be found it would be a great discovery. And now, having dug our way through and having cleared away some of the pile of centuries old top soil, and knowing the next “lucky break” to look for in an on-going method of inquiry, we may now move on with our story.
Sir James, you may recall, was sent away to France. If, as it is oddly described in security agency jargon, Tyrrell was ‘getting into bed’ with Elizabeth Woodville, not literally getting into bed with her, of course, but making the metaphor plain enough for us to understand that it was an illicit and much too intimate relationship for Henry’s liking, then, as we should expect, Henry reacted angrily against his mother-in-law. Factually, he took away from her lands and income on the weakest of weak excuses, it is said, for having allowed her children to accept gifts from their uncle, King Richard III. However, we have to draw attention that the official order in council reads : ‘…for various considerations.’ It is Polydore Vergil elaborating once again some forty years later in the “official” version of Henry’s reign. Henry’s mother-in-law took up residence in certain apartments within Bermondsey Abbey due to her by right as the widow of Edward IV, where she remained, virtually a recluse, until she died.
The history in the Dictionary of National Biography tells us that Henry took away certain lands in Essex from his mother-in-law and gave them to his wife. He then, it is said, made over to his mother-in-law the handsome annual allowance of £400, to be paid each year for life. This means an annual income equivalent of something in the order of about three quarters of a million pounds sterling, or perhaps even more today. Against the authority of the given history, we have to draw attention to the last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Woodville. The evidence seen in the Will seems to contradict the given history. We see first of all, again from the entry in the Dictionary of National Biography : ‘In 1492, her last illness overtook her at Bermondsey, and on 10 April she dictated her Will, in which she desired to be buried at Windsor beside her husband, and having, as she expressly says, no worldly goods to bequeath to the queen, her daughter, or her other children, she left them merely her blessing.’
The impression, as already described and made clear, is that the dowager queen died penniless. If true, and her outgoings were no more than nominal or perhaps a little more, as we might expect, then, the official account is indeed contrafactual. We will say, then, it is a ‘whitewashing’ of Henry VII by conscious and unconscious agents.
The inquiry may perhaps allow us at this point to bring in certain evidence concerning another story, which is on-going and running parallel to this story at the same time. An inquirer may not be at all surprised that from the year of Woodville’s death, John Clement disappears from view in Flanders. He was now “vulnerable”, presumably, and we will show that he was taken to the German Provinces, to Italy and to Denmark. We will return to this again. For the present, we merely make the chronological point that nine months after the death of Henry VII, in 1509, and some eighteen years after the death of Woodville in 1492, who we are supposing is their mother, both Clement and Guildford are reported again at the royal court, as we should expect, if they were previously at risk from their brother-in-law, Henry VII. Guildford appears at a masked ball. Clement is taking part in a pas d’armes tournament and physically jousting with the king. They are both in the company of Henry VIII at the royal palace of Greenwich. The two uncles are not at risk in 1509 from their young nephew. We will return to this later.
For the moment we merely add that from the Tower of London to the Abbey of Bermondsey, which no longer exists, the mother and daughter were literally within sight of each other on the north bank and south bank of the Thames. Conjecturally, Henry needed the co-operation of both mother and daughter to maintain himself on the tightrope. One false move on the part of either and the royal plan of deception might fall to the ground. Although his sons were de facto legal heirs to his throne, the risk was that the rightful heirs might set fire to the rope and he would be “burned”. Henry must stand on the rope and juggle.
It is factual that for a substantial period of time nearly a quarter of a century, from the time of his accession to the throne in 1485 until his death in 1509, Henry juggled with one conspiracy after another. One by one the York families were ravaged by judicial murder and their estates and possessions confiscated to the crown with Henry the silent and determined petitioner. An inquirer will see that the last York male of any real danger, Edmonde de la Pole, died in the next reign. It means de la Pole continued to take risks vis-à-vis Henry VIII and lost his head in consequence. Henry cut it off. It also means, presumably, that the princes were not about to take any such risk.
The juggling act continued until tragedy struck, on 2 April 1502, when Henry’s eldest son, Arthur, died. Henry was short of male heirs. Henry Junior was only eleven years of age. There were no other sons. Henry mourned for Arthur, as we should expect, but he also mourned the fact that the death of his eldest son at the age of sixteen years was a serious setback with the possibility of a minority and all its attendant risk from certain noble Pretenders and Protectors in the event of his own death. We have to draw attention that this is what had happened to the sons of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Henry’s new fears were firmly and well grounded in fact. It had happened before on several occasions in France and England with dire results and would, in fact, happen again in England in the next century to Henry VIII’s only son, Edward VI. But this is peripheral to our case.
The death of Henry’s eldest son was followed shortly after by another sad death in the close family circle. Some 22 months later, on 11 February 1503, as we have already described and made clear, Henry’s wife, Elizabeth of York, whose sad passing was lamented by More in his poem ‘A rueful lament’, died soon after giving birth to a third daughter. The eleventh day of February in the year 1503 was the thirty-eighth anniversary of the birth of the tragically placed Elizabeth of York and More knew it.
We have to return, for one more minute, to the previous year, 1502. We have to draw attention that one month to the day after the death of Arthur on 2 April, Sir James Tyrrell was arrested (2 May 1502). The inquiry may decide that the two events are connected not merely by coincidence. The tricking and subsequent silencing by execution of Tyrrell now makes sense if Henry was afraid of Tyrrell destabilizing the Tudor position in favour of the York claim. It means the risk to Henry was that he might be permanently removed and the risk to his son, his only remaining son, a minor, was unsure if Tyrrell revealed the continued existence of the York princes and helped them regain the throne. Tyrrell had to be silenced. But there is more.
We have to draw attention first of all that in the same year (1502) the younger brother of Sir James Tyrrell, Sir Thomas Tyrrell, was beheaded. He had been ‘dealing treasonably with Edmonde de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk’, said the official report. We see further from our reading that approximately one month after the execution of Sir James Tyrrell, on the twentieth of June 1502, Henry gave the Emperor Maximilian of Austria the remarkably large sum of ten thousand English pounds. Maximilian promised in return ‘not to receive English rebels of any rank.’ It was, presumably, a bribe. It is not at all clear but the report claims Suffolk had also been plotting with Maximilian ‘who had promised a friend of his to obtain the crown.’
In this connection, we shall plead the case of the third option. This means, then, that the ‘friend’ was Edward V, also known as Sir Edward Guildford. We will further say the ’rebels’ included Richard, Duke of York also known as John Clement. Furthermore, Maximilian was a cousin by marriage to the two princes, married to Mary of Burgundy, the daughter of their Aunt Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy (née, Margaret of York). We will show that each monarch in Europe knew of the disappearance of the English princes in 1483 and as More himself hinted in a notional situation in his book Utopia – whilst one un-named king was performing his tightrope act, his royal cousins were trying to gain some hold on him ‘whom otherwise they might not trust an inch.’
‘A rightful heir with pretensions to the throne was ideal’, said More.
The Tyrrells were deeply involved in royal matters over a substantial period of time and since investigation shows that the Tyrrell family claimed descent from the Blood Royal of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, we might have indeed expected it.
Since we have travelled some distance away from the subject of the princes, to which we will shortly return, by now the members of the inquiry may be asking what precisely was the outcome of More’s implication of Sir James Tyrrell in the alleged murders of the princes upon the remaining Tyrrell family. The answers are contained in the official and unofficial records. However, recent investigation shows that some of these answers are not generally known and before we may turn to these remarkable records we have first to draw attention to the background of our story and in this we will not keep you long. We are trying to keep this story in as low a key as we can but this is extremely difficult as the following odd matters are highly emotional and personal conjectural situations. They are also essential, we like to think, if the inquiry is to see the whole picture.
In this we will say that the only remaining persons who might have had real cause to hate Sir Thomas More were the remaining members of the Tyrrell family and their descendants. Did they ever meet him ? Outraged, did they make reply to the most cruel and hurtful blow of More’s quite unnecessary personal association with unsubstantiated and nonsensical street gossip from a previous century ? Did they ever deny Sir James was involved ? They were surely unlikely to deny that the two Tyrrell brothers, Sir James and Sir Thomas, had been beheaded for treason. Sir Thomas had been officially implicated almost immediately with Suffolk but nothing was officially recorded in 1502 against Sir James, merely the charge and sentence of the court. The retrospective finding came two years after his death. This was intolerable. Did they try to defend the memory of Sir James on these or similar grounds ? Did the Tyrrells fight back ? In this, we have to draw attention, if we may, to the words of Supreme Court Judge Brandeis after the Watergate affair : ‘Sunlight’, said Brandeis, ‘is the best disinfectant’. How did the Tyrrells disinfect the on-going suppurating wound to their family, which sadly exists until today. Since the strict rules of evidence cannot be complied with here, we will attempt to answer these purely rhetorical questions by referring first of all to certain official documents.
The formal claims of the Tyrrell family are seen in the Inquisitions (these are official inquiries) and State Calendars (similar official documents) from as far back as the reign of King Henry II of England. These documents show further examinations in the reigns of Richard I, Henry III, Edward I, II and III, Richard II, Henry IV & V, Henry VII to Charles II, including Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I.
To begin at the beginning, the documents show that the first Tyrrell to come to England, Sir Walter de Tirel I, accompanied the French king, Guillaume le Conquérant, better known in England as William the Conqueror, in the year of the Norman French invasion of England in 1066. When William returned to Normandy in 1067 he left behind Sir Walter as one of the Commissioners for Essex. We may now turn to our “new” documentary source A Genealogical History of the Tyrrells, compiled and published in a private numbered collection in 1904 by a certain Joseph Henry Tyrrell. The inquiry may conceivably decide this book shows the Tyrrell alliances by marriage with the founding fathers of the United Kingdom and, if true, it means the Tyrrells claimed descent from certain ancient royal houses of Europe including Angoulème, Anjou, Aquitaine, Artois, de Bohun, de Burgundy, de Brabazon, de Clifford, de Montfort, de Mountjoy, Neville and Percy. There is more. Earlier family charts show that Sir Walter Tirel I claimed descent from the ancient Merovingian and Carolingian blood lines and we indeed see records of alliances by marriage with known descendants of Charles Martel, Charlemagne and Hugh Capet. Further back, the family records show other Tyrrell marriage alliances with one of the earliest ancestors of the Franks, Antenor, king of the Cimmerians ; a people settled on the shores of the Sea of Azof in the Crimea. The time span reaches back into the fifth century before Christ and the modern era.
And yet the information we are able to read in the ordinary sort of history book written today makes no mention of the alleged origins of Sir James Tyrrell. The entry ‘Sir James Tyrrell’ in the Dictionary of National Biography does not refer to his noble ancestry. This is odd. It suggests a possible muddying of the waters concerning the origins of Sir James Tyrrell. We now propose to examine this assumption in order to find a clear and compelling reason why this documented royal ancestry has been hidden, presumably, and how this relates to “our” case of the missing princes.
The inquiry may conceivably agree that if this genealogy can be tested and shown to be substantially true, it means that Tyrrell was descended from the Plantagenet kings. If true, it follows that on the strength of their family alliances, the Tyrrells had access to most if not all of the royal courts of Europe. You may perhaps further decide these origins were slightly more than ‘respectable’, as suggested in the history books. These were royal origins. Since time presses and we have to move on, we will merely say that a pedigree is testable by DNA profiling. The inquiry will be told more of the methods of this new procedure in connection with the princes. We will return to it later.
For the present, we will merely add that Tyrrell had a known pedigree in the time of Henry VII. This requires and merits expert assessment by England’s College of Arms in consultation with equivalent bodies in continental Europe. This is strongly recommended to the inquiry. If expert findings show this remarkable pedigree to be a true pedigree, then, we will further say that this true pedigree has been “buried” in order to show Tyrrell as a man with a shadowy past and background who associated with known murderers. If true, this is a classic case of ‘demonization and trivialization’ practiced by a black ops department within a national security agency. It means this is official muddying of the waters by conscious agents whose brief, presumably, was to show Tyrrell as an opportunist without conscience willing to do anything to advance himself in the time of Richard III. If true, we will further say it was Henry who gave that order some time after Tyrrell was killed in 1502. If true, this was subsequent and deliberate muddying of the waters by conscious agents of the Tudors. If true, the story was passed on by unconscious agents until today.
We may now return, one last time and finally to our documentary source where quite unobtrusively on the page marked ‘Tyrrells of Gipping, Suffolk’, near the middle of the book, we see beside his name, ancestors and descendants, the following :
Sir James of Gipping. Beheaded 1502 for murder of the Princes in 1483.
On the same line and slightly to the left we see a second entry concerning James’s younger brother, Thomas, which reads :
Sir Thomas, Master of Horse to Richard III. Beheaded 1502, for conspiring with Earl of Suffolk.
We have to draw attention that since appointees to the position of Master of Horse were members of noble families, over a considerable period of time, we shall say that by demonizing and trivializing Sir James Tyrrell’s alleged former ‘horsekeeper’ who was still alive in 1513, John Dighton, -- it might be unwise to assume that the most famous lawyer and intellectual in the reign of Henry VIII, Thomas More, did not know precisely what he was doing.
We have further to draw attention to the simple fact that there is no mention in the book of Thomas More, no attempt to fight back, no denial, no court action, nothing.
The inquiry may be tempted to think that the family account seems to reflect More’s version of the murders and that it must, therefore, be true. But this is not necessarily true. Not any longer. From this time forward, these entries may be studied from the point of view of the Holbein evidence.
If we choose to believe Holbein, and we are free to choose which interpretation of the evidence and whichever witness we may finally decide to choose, then, Sir James was innocent of murder.
If, on the other hand, we find this a soft option and slightly too easy and too intellectually unsatisfying because it merely ignores the contra arguments of our opponents, then, we are again free to consider those arguments.
Some opponents may say that if his family believed he was innocent would they have sat tame and still while others ignored and ostracized them, while yet others gossiped and sniggered over More’s account ? From family pride, would they not have immediately fought More’s version revealing every refutable argument and each creaking weakness in his case ? They were educated. They had friends. Would they not have rushed into print ?
‘Better still,’ our opponents may say, ‘if the family believed he was guilty, truly guilty as charged, we might expect this short account of the family shame.’ These are good arguments.
However, if we examine them closely we see that they are flawed arguments. Good yet fundamentally flawed arguments. They ignore something that is crucial to their case. It is the crux of their case. They assume first of all, without a shred of conclusive proof, that the princes were dead. Secondly, they assume that Sir James Tyrrell was beheaded for their murder. But suppose the princes were not dead. Suppose Tyrrell was not beheaded for their alleged murder. Suppose the family KNEW he was innocent and the family STILL remained silent ? Does this mean they were involved in knowledge of the cover up, like More, whom they never attacked ? We shall say that the traditional family account indeed reflects More’s account – and so it must if the princes lived on.
We shall say it is most unlikely that the More and Tyrrell families could have been friends, in an open way, in the reign of the Tudors. The personal risk was too high. We shall say, therefore, they were covert friends in a mutual enterprise, with friends like John Dighton. There was a second risk to the plan of deception. In this, neither family nor friends did anything to destabilize the position during their lifetimes. To do anything other than to remain silent might have destabilized the position with potentially dire results. The serious risk then was to the rightful heirs and their wives and descendants. It means the thirteen children of the sole surviving heir of Sir Edward Guildford and Lady Isobel de la Warr, Lady Jane Guildford, perhaps a covert princess married to John Dudley, later Duke of Northumberland; and the six children we have traced in Flanders ; namely, one son and five daughters of John and Margaret Clement whose eldest daughter, Winifred Clement married Sir Thomas More’s nephew, William Rastell, More’s sister’s son by John Rastell. Finally, there was the major risk to the country of civil war. We will return to it again.
Finally, we may now return one last time to Sir James Tyrrell. By now, you may conceivably conclude that the crime for which Tyrrell died was not for the murder of the princes. Tyrrell died because it was politically expedient for him to die. Great and unprecedented hidden forces were at work leaving indelible stains on the ermine of the judges. No one can excuse this. It was wrong. Some, like Thomas More, resisted and died. In this we shall say that these eminent persons became caught up in a whirlwind of deception. The consequences are some of the most grim we have had the misfortune to see. Our sad present and unenviable task is to show that the princes did in fact live on. Then, and only then, does everything fall into place without torturing the facts of the case in a courtroom drama. Only then we can begin to comprehend the incomprehensible. As More once said in his most cryptic and enigmatic manner : ‘A man may lose his head and yet have no harm.’ He meant, perhaps, that a man may lose his head for meddling and yet have no harm in another place.’ By now, the dream had faded into sleep. More died ‘The Kings good servant and Gods first.’ (See Footnote No. 2) He died because of the real fears and foolish fancies of Henry VIII who became obsessive, shown to us through ‘a door which is not a door’, by the witness Holbein. It was this obsession that resulted in the destruction of the unity of the Church in England.
Footnote No. 1:
Let us look once more and finally at the chronology of the two general pardons. Tyrrell’s first general pardon covered the period of some nine months from late 1485 up to and including sixteenth June 1486. This sine qua non exemption from prosecution given to Tyrrell covered, with the exception of treason, all other possible prosecutions for all time. Tyrrell was protected from prosecution for his part in the alleged murders. Tyrrell’s second general pardon covered the period sixteenth June 1486 to sixteenth July 1486 for all time. Briefly, Tyrrell obtained protection from subsequent prosecution for the alleged murders of the two princes and was also protected from prosecution for having falsely confessed to the alleged murders. The royal guarantee was implicit in this formal arrangement. Henry did not risk destabilizing the position, as already described and made clear, by putting Tyrrell on trial for murder. The only remaining option was to charge Tyrrell with treason against the person of Henry VII. It was this unspecified treason for which Tyrrell was tried and, as by now we should expect, found guilty as charged.
Footnote No. 2: “I die the King’s Good Servant but God’s first.”
More’s last words on the scaffold have been written down by scholars over a substantial period of time in the above manner. One option is that More claimed to the last to have been Henry VIII’s good servant but God’s first. However, we have to draw attention to the simple fact that the apostrophe had not been invented at the time of More’s death and the more likely way the words were written is, therefore : ‘The Kings Good Servant but (or, ‘and’) Gods first.’ This may seem one more option and only of academic interest until we realize that the speaker, ironic to the last, may have been the good servant of more than one king.
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