was summoned for the 26th of the same month, ostensibly with a view to continue his uncle Gloucester in the office of protector. But Gloucester's real design was to dethrone him; and as he found that in this matter not even Hastings would support him, he caused that nobleman suddenly to be arrested at the council table and beheaded within the Tower on 13 June. A secret plot suddenly discovered was alleged to justify the act; terror reigned everywhere, and Westminster was full of armed men. On the 16th the protector induced a deputation of the council, headed by Cardinal Bourchier, to visit the queen in the Sanctuary and persuade her to give up her second son, the Duke of York, to keep company with his brother in the Tower. She yielded, apparently seeing that otherwise she would be compelled, for it had actually been decided to use force if necessary. The coronation was now again deferred till 2 Nov., as if nothing but unavoidable accidents had interfered with it. But on Sunday, 22 June, a sermon was preached at Paul's Cross by one Dr. Shaw, brother of the lord mayor, on the text 'Bastard slips shall not take deep root' (Wisdom iv. 3), in which the validity of the late king's marriage was impugned, and his children declared illegitimate, so that, as the preacher maintained, Richard, duke of Gloucester, was the rightful sovereign. The result, however, was only to fill the listeners with shame and indignation. A no less ineffectual appeal was made to the citizens the next Tuesday at the Guildhall, when Buckingham made an eloquent speech in support of Richard's claim to the throne. But on the following day, 25 June, on which parliament had been summoned to meet, and when there actually did meet an assembly of lords and commons, though apparently not a true parliament, a roll was brought in setting forth the invalidity of Edward IV's marriage with Elizabeth Woodville, the evils which had arisen from it, and the right of the Duke of Gloucester to the crown. A deputation of the lords and commons, joined by the mayor and chief citizens of London, then waited on Richard at Baynard's Castle, and persuaded him with feigned reluctance to assume the royal dignity. The brief reign of Edward V was thus at an end, and it is tolerably certain that his life was cut short soon after. But the precise time that he and his brother were murdered is unknown. The fact was not divulged till a pretty widespread movement had been organised for their liberation from captivity. Then it transpired that they had been cut off by violence, and the world at large was horrorstruck, while some, half incredulous, suspected that they had been only sent abroad. But conviction deepened as time went on, and many years afterwards the details of the story were collected by Sir Thomas More from sources which he believed entirely credible.
From this account it would appear that Richard III, when shortly after his coronation he set out on a progress, despatched a messenger named John Green to Sir Robert Brackenbury, constable of the Tower, requiring him to put the two princes to death. Brackenbury refused, and Richard soon after sent Sir James Tyrell to London with a warrant to Brackenbury to deliver up the keys of the fortress to him for one night. Tyrell accordingly obtained possession of the place, and his groom, John Dighton, by the help of Miles Forest, one of four gaolers who had charge of the young princes, obtained entrance into their chamber while they were asleep. Forest and Dighton then smothered them under pillows, and, after calling Sir James to view the bodies, buried them at the foot of a staircase, from which place, as More supposed, they were afterwards secretly removed.
From the details given by More the murder could only have taken place, at the earliest, in the latter part of August, as Green found Richard at Warwick on returning to him with the news of Brackenbury's refusal; but it may have been some weeks later. The doubts which Horace Walpole endeavoured to throw upon the fact have not been seriously entertained by any critic, and in the fuller light of more recent criticism are even less probable than before. Although it would be too much to say that the two bodies discovered in the Tower in the days of Charles II, and buried in Westminster Abbey, were unquestionably those of the two princes, there certainly is a strong probability in favour of their genuineness, not only from the apparent ages of the skeletons, but also from the position in which they were found—at the foot of a staircase in the White Tower—which seems to show that Sir Thomas More's information was correct as to the sort of place where they were bestowed, though his surmise was wrong as to their subsequent removal.
[Fabyan's Chronicle; Polydore Vergil; Hall's Chronicle; Hist Croylandensis Contin. in Fulman's Scriptores; Excerpta Historica, 14, 16; Jo. Rossi Historia Regum, ed. Hearne; More's Hist, of Richard III.]