Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

The Little Princes in the Tower

You have already heard of the Tower of London—that gray old building over-looking the river Thames. Many sad stories have been told of the cruel deeds done within its walls; but there is none sadder than the story of little king Edward AT, and his young brother, the duke of York.

Their father died when little Edward was about thirteen years of age. On his way to London, where he was to be crowned, the young king was seized by his uncle Richard, duke of Gloucester. This man was very cruel and crafty, and, though he tried to make people think that he loved his nephew, had really made up his mind to be king himself.

The writers of the time have told us that the duke was deformed, and so went by the name of Richard Crookback. They also tell us that he had done many cruel murders; you can understand, then, how alarmed the queen was, when she knew that her eldest son was in his keeping.

So she set off, in great haste, with the rest of her children, to the church in Westminster. She thought that no harm would. befall them there. Soon after this, Richard and little Edward V reached London, and in a short time the young king was sent to the Tower. His uncle said he was to wait there until he could be crowned, but Richard never meant this to take place.

Richard III


After a while, Richard sent to the queen and told her that the little king was lonely, and wished to have his younger brother with him. At first, the queen would not part with her boy; but, in the end, she let him go for his brother's sake. She felt very sad indeed, when she thought of her two little boys, at the mercy of their false uncle, in the grim old Tower.

Now that the princes were in his power, their crafty uncle took a great deal of pains to get himself crowned king. One or two great men spoke up for the little captives in the Tower, but Richard III, as we may now speak of him, at once had these men beheaded. After this, no one dared to say a word, and the cruel king did as he pleased.

Still, he knew that he would never be quite safe while his nephews were alive. So, word was sent to the keeper of the Tower that the little princes were to be put to death. Now, the keeper had a kinder heart than the king, and refused to do this wicked deed.

He was then told that, on a certain day, he must give up the care of the Tower to another man. Of course, the keeper was forced to obey, as he was only the king's servant after all. So, a worse man took his place, and after that day no one ever saw the little princes alive.

Murder of Princes


Now you must know that these poor boys had only one room, and slept in the same bed. That night, when everyone else was fast asleep, two bad men crept quietly up to the room where the young princes were. They found them fast asleep, locked in each others arms, and none but wicked men could have harmed them.

But these men had been well paid to do their wicked work, and so, taking some pillows, they pressed them down over the faces of the boys, until they were dead. Then, in great haste, they dug a deep hole, at the foot of the staircase, and there buried the bodies of the little princes.

As you may suppose, no one knew of this cruel deed except the king and those who had taken part in it. Most people thought that the princes had been murdered, but in what way they did not know.

About two hundred years afterwards, some workmen were digging in that part of the Tower, and found a box several feet under the floor. In it were the bones of what everyone believed to be the two young princes.

Their cruel uncle did not long wear the crown he had thus wickedly gained. Two years later, he was killed in the battle of Bosworth, which was the last battle of the wars of the Roses.