Edward V,king of England, of the York branch of the Plantagenets, son and successor of the preceding, born Nov. 4, 1470, in the sanctuary of Westminster abbey, whither his mother had fled from the army of the Lancastrian Queen Margaret and of Warwick, died doubtless by murder in the tower of London in 1483. At the time of his father's death, April 9, 1483, young Edward was residing on the borders of Wales, in the care of Earl Rivers, brother of the queen. In company with Rivers he immediately set out for London, while the duke of Gloucester, brother of the late king, and now regent during the minority, started south from York, attended by a splendid retinue. The two processions met at Stony Stratford, when Gloucester approached the young prince with the greatest demonstrations of respect, but soon after charged Rivers and the queen's son, Sir Richard Grey, with having aimed to estrange from him the affection of his nephew, arrested and imprisoned them in the castle of Pomfret, and endeavored unsuccessfully to satisfy Edward with regard to the violence thus exercised upon his kindred. The king was from this time a captive.
The queen mother hastily took refuge with her second son, the duke of York, and her five daughters, in the sanctuary at Westminster. Gloucester postponed the coronation of the young king, confined him for security in the tower, and was formally invested with the office of protector. His next step was to withdraw the duke of York from his retreat with his mother at Westminster; but he had still to fear opposition on the part of those noblemen, such as Lords Hastings and Stanley, who were friends of the late king, and unswerving in their fidelity to his children. Their destruction or imprisonment without form of trial, or even specification of offence, swiftly followed. Earl Rivers also and his friends were put to death without any semblance of judicial forms. The amours of the late king now suggested to Gloucester a means of vilifying the queen dowager and her descendants. He did not hesitate to malign his own mother, affirming that the resemblance of Edward IV. and of the duke of Clarence to notorious gallants was a sufficient proof of their spurious birth, and that the duke of Gloucester alone, of all his sons, appeared by his features and countenance to be the true offspring of the duke of York. He openly denied the title of Edward V., who meanwhile, with his brother, languished in prison.
The precise time and the details of the death of these princes are unknown. A conspiracy had been set on foot for their liberation during the first year of the usurper's reign, when it was announced that they were no longer alive. Sir Thomas More's account, which was collected from the confession of the murderers in the next reign, is as follows: that Richard had in vain tampered with the governor of the tower, Brackenbury, to put them to death, but found a ready instrument for the execution of his purpose in Tyrrel, his master of horse; that Tyrrel was despatched with a commission to receive the keys of the tower for one night, and during that night he watched without while one of his grooms, accompanied by a notorious assassin, entered the sleeping room of the princes, stilled them with feather beds and pillows, and buried their bodies at the foot of the staircase. The testimony of More is almost contemporaneous with the event itself, and is confirmed by the honors which were certainly conferred upon the alleged murderers. In the reign of Charles II., when alterations were made in the tower, there was found at the foot of an old stairway a heap of decayed bones which were supposed to be those of two boys.
They were removed by royal command to Westminster abbey, where an inscription, beginning Ossa desideratorum diu et multum qaoesita, was placed upon the monument.