Mastodon The Writing Desk: How to murder a king – the mysterious death of King Henry VI

24 November 2015

How to murder a king – the mysterious death of King Henry VI

I would like to sincerely thank all the readers around the world who have made Owen – Book One of The Tudor Trilogy an Amazon best seller. I am now close to completing the first draft of Jasper – Book Two of the Tudor Trilogy and have been taking a closer look at the untimely death of Owen’s stepson, Jasper Tudor’s half-brother, King Henry VI.

Imagine, for a moment, you are Edward of York, returned to the throne of England for the second time – and determined to learn from mistakes which nearly cost your own life. Having placed the devout but confused King Henry in the Tower of London (and captured and imprisoned his troublesome wife, Queen Margaret) you must worry just a little that he will become at best a martyr to Lancaster, at worst the focus for a new rebellion.

Here’s what you need to do:
  1. Place your ambitious younger brother (Richard of York) in charge of the Tower where the king is held – and make sure nobody sees you wink when you tell him to make sure he takes care of him.
  2. Make sure you have a good alibi for the night of the 21st May 1471, and avoid the Tower of London or any discussion of the former king’s health or lack of it.
  3. Profess great sadness when you learn the king had died of grief and melancholy in the night and issue a proclamation (press release) to make sure everyone knows the official story.
  4. Put the late king’s body on public display in St Paul’s cathedral to stop any rumours that he is actually alive and well and just waiting to be rescued.
  5. Arrange to be crowned the next day, as if nothing has happened.

I think it would be trickier these days. When King Henry’s body was put on display, only his face was visible, instead of his whole body, the normal custom. People turning up to pay their respects were also alarmed to see a pool of blood on the pavement but were reassured when told this was simply proof the king had died of his grief.

Sir William St John Hope
Assistant Secretary of the
Society of Antiquaries
When Henry’s tomb was opened by curious (but unqualified) investigator Sir William St John Hope in 1910, the back of his skull was found to be shattered, as could be caused by a blow from a heavy object such as a sword or poleaxe. They also noted that some hair remained, which seemed to be matted with a dark substance that looked like dried blood.

There are still arguments about who might have inflicted the horrific wound, although the list of suspects is rather short. 

Tony Riches

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