Richard of Shrewsbury Duke of York (born August 17, 1473), was the second son of King Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville.
Along with his older brother, King Edward V, Richard’s disappearance following Richard III’s ascension to the throne in 1483 remains one of history’s unsolved mysteries.
A Prince and His Titles: The Duke of York and Norfolk
At a young age, Richard of Shrewsbury Duke of York was bestowed with numerous titles. In May 1474, he was created Duke of York and appointed a Knight of the Garter the following year.
It soon became a tradition for the English monarch’s second son to hold the York dukedom. Richard was also made Earl of Nottingham in 1476.
In January 1478, four-year-old Richard of Shrewsbury Duke of York married Anne de Mowbray, the 8th Countess of Norfolk, who was only five years old.
Following Anne’s death in November 1481, a series of events led to Richard of Shrewsbury Duke of York being granted the Mowbray estates in January 1483.
The Controversial Heir Presumptive: Scandal and Illegitimacy
Upon his father’s death in April 1483, Richard’s brother Edward became King of England, with Richard of Shrewsbury Duke of York as the Heir Presumptive. However, their legitimacy was soon challenged.
A priest, believed to be Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, claimed that their father had been previously married to Lady Eleanor Talbot, rendering his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville bigamous and their children illegitimate.
Consequently, Richard of Shrewsbury Duke of York and his brother were declared illegitimate and removed from the line of succession on June 25, 1483.
Their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, ascended the throne as King Richard III.
The Princes in the Tower: An Enduring Mystery
In mid-1483, Richard and his brother were sent to the Tower of London, a royal residence at the time. Although occasionally seen in the Tower’s garden, there were no known sightings of them after the summer of 1483.
The fate of the “Princess in the Tower” remains a subject of speculation and intrigue.
Historically, their uncle, King Richard III, has been accused of orchestrating their demise. However, other theories suggest the Duke of Buckingham or Henry Tudor (later King Henry VII) may have been responsible.
In 1674, workmen found bones believed to belong to two children in the Tower. These were later interred in Westminster Abbey in an urn bearing Edward and Richard’s names.
However, subsequent examinations have cast doubt on the bones’ authenticity.
Richard’s Legacy: The Union of York and Lancaster
In 1486, Richard’s eldest sister, Elizabeth of York, married Henry VII, uniting the Houses of York and Lancaster.
The Impostor: Perkin Warbeck’s Pretense
In 1491, Perkin Warbeck, a Flemish youth, was proclaimed by Yorkist supporters to be Richard, claiming he had escaped from the Tower.
Over the next six years, Warbeck received recognition from various European monarchs as “Richard IV” of England.
However, following his capture in 1497, Warbeck confessed to being an impostor and was subsequently executed.
An Unresolved Enigma
The disappearance of Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, and his brother Edward V continues to captivate historians and the public alike.
While numerous theories have been proposed, their ultimate fate remains shrouded in mystery.
*Feature Image: Creator: John Everett Millais, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons