Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York

This Richard, Duke of York was the second son of Edward IV. He was born in Shrewsbury – it is believed in August of 1473.

At the time of his father’s death in 1483, Richard was with his mother, Elizabeth Woodville. She fled to the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey with her household once Richard, Duke of Gloucester had secured the person of Edward V and had imprisoned various members of her extended family. Ultimately, Elizabeth allowed her son Richard to join his brother in the Tower of London. Her motivation for allowing this has been the source of much speculation ever since. Many cannot conceive how she would have allowed her youngest son into the hands of the enemy of her family. However, others have argued that her perspective on Gloucester, and his motivations, has been provided by later generations and that she did indeed trust his care and concern for the two boys. Or, it may be that she felt she had no choice.

These questions will never likely be answered satisfactorily. Suffice to say that Richard joined his brother and eventually disappeared from public view. No absolute answer as to his fate has ever been forthcoming.

One thread of speculation has it that his uncle, Richard III, intended, on their disinheritance, to permit their ‘retirement’ in anonymity somewhere within his many estates. This certainly would have been more humane than actually doing away with the boys. The need for complete secrecy is obvious in that had their existence been well known, they would have become the focal point for rebellion. In point of fact, this possibility eventually came to pass with the Perkin Warbeck conspiracy of 1497. Warbeck claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury and nearly succeeded in defeating Henry VII. In any event he failed, and he was ultimately executed for his troubles. Henry took good care to ensure that his claim to be the younger Prince in the Tower  was dismissed as fantasy, and that Warbeck was a tool of malcontents. While there are considerable doubts about Warbeck, there are sufficient grounds supporting his claims to take them seriously. At the least it suggests a more humane Richard III than the one commonly attributed to him.


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