The Princes In The Tower

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The Princes in the Tower By Alison Weir, book reviewThe Princes In The Tower by Alison Weir is an examination of the centuries old mystery of what happened to the 12 year old Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, when they disappeared in the Tower of London when Richard III usurped the throne in the 1480s.

Alison Weir is well-known for her books covering the Tudor period, the Wars of the Roses and some earlier periods as well. She is an authoritative writer, and one whom I respect as she writes clearly and in a very readable style, and when there is doubt over an event she lays out all the evidence before explaining the most likely conclusion.

In the case of the Princes in the Tower, no definitive answer has ever been reached as to their fate. There is evidence which points to one conclusion, which is the most likely, but it cannot be stated with finality that that is what happened. I was interested in reading more about this mystery which I had barely heard of until I read a novel by Philippa Gregory about that time, and I thought that Weir would be the best writer to read as she is good at examining all sides of the story.

The book is shorter than most of Weir’s other books, as it only covers a short period of time, and focuses on the usurpation of the throne and the disappearance of the princes. She opens with details of the sources that she uses, which doesn’t normally form part of the main text but is appropriate given that this is an investigation rather than simply a text about a period of time. She sets the scene by covering the background of the main “characters” and the lead up to the events which she will examine in more detail. Although I had read much of this introductory detail elsewhere, I felt it was necessary in order to refresh my memory and also to think of the lead up to Richard III and the disappearance with reference to those particular events, rather than in general terms.

Weir’s investigation is very well done. She quotes all sources, telling all sides of the story, but when she believes that something is incorrect or exaggerated, she gives clear reasons for why this is. Some chroniclers held information back, while others were biased, and so their accounts are not always perfect.

“I found The Princes In The Tower an enjoyable and fascinating read.”

The final chapter of the book is an interesting look at what happened after the death of Richard III. Henry VII tried to find the bodies but failed. They were found in the seventeenth century, declared to be those of the princes, and then buried in Westminster Abbey. They were re-examined in the 20th century, and although it was not completely conclusive, the scientists then agreed with the seventeenth century conclusion that these were the Princes in the Tower. This chapter serves to bring an end to the story, as Weir sums up in her closing paragraphs that which she has made clearer and clearer through the text – what she concludes happened to the boys.

However, it is clear more or less from the start of the book that Weir is setting out to prove what she already believes happened. She talks of the revisionists, those who try to change the bad reputation that Richard III has gained through history, in slightly indulgent tones, as you would those who are labouring under a misconception. While I believe that her conclusion of Richard III’s guilt is accurate, it is clear all through the book that this is the conclusion she is working to prove.

I found The Princes In The Tower an enjoyable and fascinating read. It wasn’t too long and stuck to the story at hand, with just enough background information to set the scene. Weir’s style of writing is engaging, and her books are not “dry” history, but rather they bring it to life.


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Princes In The Tower, The
by Alison Weir

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Written by eilidhcatriona
eilidhcatriona

A Scottish lass in her late twenties living in London. A prolific reader always interested in something new.

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