Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Henry Stafford, Our 16th Great Grandfather and the Murderer of Princes?

Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (4 September 1455 – 2 November 1483) was Anne Stafford’s father and our 16th Great Grandfather. When he was young he was the ward of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Consort of Edward IV of England. In May 1465 he married the Queen’s sister Catherine. He spent much of his life plotting to take the throne of England. He eventually supported the claim of his second cousin Henry VII for king. Henry VII later became King. Henry VII’s son Henry VIII eventually became king. We all know about Henry VIII (The Six Wives of Henry VIII). Yes, this makes Henry VIII a distant cousin. Ahhhh, the plot thickens.

Our 1st cousins 16 Times Removed, The Two Young Princes, children of King Edward IV and our 16th Great Aunt His Queen Consort Elizabeth Woodville. Murdered in the Tower of London? History seems to support the fact, and most likely our Great Grandfather either did it or played a major role in the murder.

It is rumored that our Great Grandfather was the murderer of the Princes in the Tower. The Princes in the Tower were Edward V of England (November 4, 1470 – 1483?) and his brother, Richard (17 August 1473 – 1483?), were the only sons of Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville (our 16th Great Aunt, thus our 1st cousins 16 times removed). They disappeared without a trace from the Tower of London 1483. Their uncle, Richard III of England, placed them both in the Tower in 1483. There are no records of them having been seen after the summer of 1483. Their fate remains unknown, and it is presumed that they were killed there. There is no record of a funeral.

In 1674, the skeletons of two children were discovered under the staircase leading to the chapel, during the course of renovations to the White Tower. At that time, these were believed to have been the remains of the two princes.

Did our 16th Great Grandfather have our two young cousins killed? Henry Stafford was third in line to the throne, behind Henry Tudor and Henry's mother. He also had loyalties to the current king. He in fact had the perfect opportunity to play both sides against each other. And so, in a matter of course, he did. He gave away battle positions (discreetly, through "spies") to both sides, allowing them to war each other down. When the Yorks began making large headways, he stepped in - though on the side of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, rather than Edward IV. He remained beneath the scenes, though he wrote his cousin Henry Tudor (Henry VIII’s Father) on occasion. When Edward IV passed away unexpectedly, Stafford saw his chance. Many believe he murdered the boys, and when Richard took the blame, he defected to the Lancasters, who used the deaths as a reason to declare Richard unfit for the crown. Were it not for a freak storm in which Henry's armada was soundly destroyed and Stafford's army demoralized perhaps he, and not Henry Tudor, would have become the next king of England.