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The Survival of the Princes in the Tower: Murder, Mystery and Myth Kindle Edition
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Its great advantage is that it is based on logic, and avoids the trap of basing theories on sweeping assumptions about the characters of those involved. While, as the title already shows, this book`s premise is to show up the possibility of the princes surviving their uncle`s reign and not, as traditionally assumed, dying in the Tower in 1483, the basis of this is not Richard`s character or any alleged nobility of nature on his or someone else`s part, but simply that the few facts available do not fit the traditional assumption. The author shows exactly why he believes this is so, backing himself up with verifiable facts, not vague beliefs about the personalities and motives of men and women dead for over 500 years, and illustrates the holes in the story of Edward and Richard being killed in 1483.
Naturally, to do so and built convincing arguments, this book heavily relies on primary sources. The book, presumably for easier readability, does not have footnotes, but any sources which are used and any quotes which are used are scrupulously named and easy to find and check. (I`ll admit I didn`t follow up every last one. I picked a few at random and checked, and all of those were flawless.) In some cases, it is not just what the sources say, but also where they are lacking which is discussed, but the fine line between fact - "this is where the sources are missing/lacking" - and speculation - "this is what it could mean" - is always clearly marked. Most crucially, at no point is speculation passed off as fact to base a theory on it. Speculation there naturally is, as it is impossible to write about something the solution to which is at this moment in time, and perhaps will always remain, unknowable, but where there is speculation, it is clearly stated. Said speculation is easy to follow; there are no leaps of logic which leave the reader baffled as to how this conclusion was reached from what was stated before.
The book does not patronise or tell the readers what to think, and yet it makes a good case for its main premise, by showing evidence and using logic. I`d recommend it to everyone interested in the subject.
Lewis takes what most people think we know about 'the princes in the Tower' and really bears down on how it is that we think we know it. In truth, there is very little concrete reason to feel certain that the princes died in the Tower - but plenty of incentives for Henry VII, whose grasp on power was fairly fragile during the early years of his reign in particular, to argue that these two potential rival claimants were well and truly dead.
The central image Lewis uses for the 'princes in the Tower' is that of a black hole. Like a black hole, they are in themselves invisible (or nearly so) in the historical record, but it's possible that we can learn a great deal from the motion of other bodies acting with respect to them. So it is that some well-documented events make more sense if one assumes, not that the princes died soon after their uncle's accession to the throne as Richard III, but rather, that they survived, perhaps in hiding, and also that Henry VII and those around him were aware of this. Lewis works through the Lambert Simnel crisis, the Perkin Warbeck crisis, and indeed follows the story on into the reign of Henry VIII, in a way that suggests that the Wars of the Roses didn't end in 1485, but perhaps a whole generation later.
Not all the arguments are equally persuasive, of course, but they are always interesting, and in aggregate they certainly are enough to raise doubts about the conventional version of the story.
The only downside of this book is that the author could have done with better editorial support. Although there's an index and a bibliography, footnotes would have helped those who enjoy following up some of these points themselves. There are also some typos of the kind that get past a spell-check programme, but not a proper old-fashioned proof-reader. There are points where a little less repetition might also have streamlined Lewis' argument. But the book still merits five stars, because it brings some genuinely new thinking to a very well-trodden subject area. It has certainly changed the way I look at the reign of Henry VII, and in history, shaking up received ideas by going back to the primary sources is often a thoroughly good thing.
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