Top Five British Royal Family Mysteries

Top Five British Royal Family Mysteries

Here in the UK we’re celebrating the Platinum Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth the Second, Britain’s longest reigning monarch.

Although the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee was actually on Sunday, February 6th, we’re celebrating it it in June now that Covid restrictions have been fully lifted. We’re currently enjoying a four day bank holiday weekend, a Platinum Party outside Buckingham Palace and street parties across the country.

To celebrate the Jubilee I want to explore five British royal family mysteries. To avoid offending anyone I will limit the list to long dead royals, this will ensure that my article doesn’t end up resembling a celebrity gossip column.

1 – The Princes in the Tower

The Princes in the Tower are perhaps one of England’s most well known historical mysteries. During the War of the Roses, Prince Edward V and his younger brother (aged twelve and nine respectively) were being held within the Tower of London by Richard, the Duke of Gloucester. While the Duke claimed to be holding the boys for their own protection it was clear to everyone that they were his prisoners. As the summer of 1482 continued, the Princes were seen less and less frequently by castle staff until they disappeared completely. In July of that year, Richard was crowned Richard the Third, the new King of England.

Princes in the Tower - Wikipedia
The Two Princes in the Tower during 1483 by Sir John Everett Millais in 1878, 

The mystery is thus, did Richard the Third murder the two Princes to claim his crown? Upon first glance it seems very likely. When he was accused of their murders King Richard denied the crime but was unable to provide proof that either boy was still alive. Although Richard was not present at the Tower of London during the boy’s disappearance the castle was garrisoned by his loyal men. Two hundred years after the Princes’ disappearance workmen remodelling the Tower of London for King Charles the Second discovered two skeletal remains of children buried beneath a staircase.

However the mystery isn’t that simple. In total, four bodies of children have been found within the castle grounds and none of them match the ages of the missing Princes. It would also have been in King Richard’s interest to keep the boys alive for as long as possible in order to strengthen and legitimise his claim to the throne. While it is an evil act to kill children and history is full of evil men, Richard the Third’s reputation as an antagonist was painted by later writers, most notably Thomas Moore and William Shakespeare (more on that point in a moment). Was King Richard really wicked enough to order the assassination of two boys?

The Tower of London, at night.

There are other suspects in the Princes’ disappearance. Henry Stafford, the second Duke of Buckingham, King Henry VII and several of the King Richard’s mistresses have also been accused. The most striking theory and the most optimistic, is that the Princes somehow escaped the Tower of London and fled the country. There are supposed sightings of the two boys living in Wales and France while several nobles claimed to be the missing Princes although this could have just been empty boasts. The disappearance is fascinating and I highly recommend that you research this conspiracy theory, if you are a fan of the historical mysteries.

2 – The Real King Richard the Third

The timeline of British monarchs has many colourful characters. While some rulers such as King Henry VIII and Queen Victoria are household names, you will be hard pressed to find many people who know about King William the Third or King Stephen. To make the list of monarchs easier to remember they are caricatured or reduced to a single personality trait. King Richard the Lion Heart was brave and loyal, King John was evil and cunning, Henry the VIII was the fat one and so on. (Interestingly all three of those examples are wrong. Although King Richard was a good fighter he only visited England for six months and never learned the language. King John wasn’t evil but simply disliked by his subjects and while King Henry VIII was fat, for a majority of his life he was fit and handsome.) One of these stand out characters from British history is King Richard the Third.

Richard III of England - Wikipedia

King Richard’s most notable feat is his murder of the Princes in the Tower (if he did order their deaths) but he is also famous for being physically deformed. According to historical writers King Richard suffered from a limp, a hunchback and a deformed arm. These were believed to be proof of his evilness as it was thought that evil would corrupt the human body, resulting in deformities. King Richard the Third only ruled for two years and died in the Battle of Bosworth where he was cut down by supporters of Henry VII.

All of Richard’s character traits were added by Tudor writers long after Richard’s death and are little more than historical propaganda. Thomas Moore, Lord High Chancellor to King Henry VIII first wrote about Richard’s deformities and William Shakespeare, who was writing to impress the late Queen Elizabeth the First, popularised these ideas in his play, Richard III. Shakespeare also associated the famous lines “Now is the winter of our discontent” and “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” to the monarch. To quote the famous saying “history is written by the victors”.

We can now prove, categorically, that most of the claims against Richard are false. On 12th September in 2012 King Richard’s body was discovered. After the battle of Bosworth, the King had been hastily buried in Greyfriars Church in Leicester which was later destroyed by King Henry VIII’s soldiers. Richard’s body survived the destruction of the church and he was unearthed beneath a modern day carpark, under the letter r in park. Upon examining the body it was discovered that Richard suffered severe scoliosis causing one shoulder to be higher than the other but that this was his only physical defect.

King Richard the Third’s body after being unearthed. Note the wound to the skull that killed him.

3 – Queen Elizabeth’s secret lovers

I should clarify that we are talking about Queen Elizabeth the First, not the second.

Queen Elizabeth the First was the eldest daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth’s journey to the throne was an eventful one involving the death of both her younger brother and sister who both wore the crown. When she eventually reached the throne at the age of twenty five she declared her intent never to marry as she saw herself married to England. From this point on, Queen Elizabeth would be known as the Virgin Queen.

Elizabeth’s decision not to marry was both political and personal. Whoever married Elizabeth would inherit her wealth. This isn’t to say that Queen Elizabeth lived a loveless life. Although none of these cases can be proved or disproved I will discuss the men who had the most impact on Elizabeth’s heart in chronological order.

Thomas Seymour – When Elizabeth was fourteen her Father, King Henry VIII, died and she was sent to live with her former stepmother Catharine Parr, King Henry’s sixth and final wife. Catharine Parr was married to Thomas Seymore who was the brother to Jane Seymore who was King Henry’s third wife. Confused yet? Thomas Seymore used to play with the young Elizabeth in her bedchambers, one morning Catharine Parr caught the pair in an “intimate embrace”. After Parr’s death Seymour asked for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage. Elizabeth refused him, fearing that he would use her power to take the throne, a fear that was later confirmed. Thomas Seymore was found guilty of over thirty accounts of high treason when his plan to overthrow King Edward VI, Elizabeth’s older brother, was discovered. Some historians speculate that Elizabeth was so hurt by this betrayal and manipulation that she resolved never to love.

Robert Dudley – Robert Dudley grew up along side the future Queen Elizabeth and is one of the few suiters who can claim to be her childhood friend. During the rule of Queen Mary, Dudley risked his own life several times to protect Elizabeth and the pair grew close. Although they seemed like an ideal match on paper there were complications. From a political stand point it would make more sense for the Queen of England to marry a royal from another country in order to strengthen an alliance. There was also the risk of forming cliques within England’s court, which could lead to a coup. Despite this, when Elizabeth came to power she appointed Dudley as her Master of Horse and he was allocated a bed chamber beside the Queen’s. Dudley eventually married Amy Robsart but when she was found dead in 1560, her neck broken after falling down a set of stairs, both Dudley and Elizabeth were accused of her murder. When Dudley remarried Elizabeth took a strong dislike of his second wife and the couple scarcely attended court.

Sir Frances Drake – Sir Frances Drake was perhaps Elizabeth’s most famous potential lover. He became a Tudor celebrity when he circumnavigated the globe and became a hero of the English by plaguing Spanish treasure ships returning from the New World (America). By some accounts his exploits saved England from financial ruin. When Drake returned from his famous voyage he was visited by Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth who gifted him a locket bearing her portrait. An oddly personal gift for a common English man. Elizabeth protected Drake from the complains of the Spanish and called him into court and her bed chambers to hear tales of his adventures when he attended court.

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex – Devereux was a brash soldier who, despite constantly proving himself as a source of irritation, managed to stay in Elizabeth’s good graces. Elizabeth allowed Devereux to lead the British army against a rebel uprising in Wales but due to poor planning he was forced to sign a humiliating peace treaty. Devereux fled back to England to beg the Queen’s forgiveness only for his rights and titles to be revoked when he enraged Elizabeth by barging into court unannounced. In anger, he tried to launch a rebellion against Elizabeth by rallying the people of London against her. This too failed and he was executed in the Tower of London. Devereux died as he lived. A disappointment.

The Tenth Doctor – According to historical records a man was captured by Queen Elizabeth’s forces but charmed the Queen with his wordplay. He was able to escape the torturers’ rack at the Tower of London and seek refuge in Elizabeth’s bed chamber. The stranger proposed to her in a glade before the pair were attacked. After defeating their enemies, the pair held a small wedding ceremony before disappeared. Elizabeth’s heart turned cold at the rejection and in 1599 when the pair reunited at The Globe Theatre following a performance of the Love Labour’s Won she ordered his execution. He was able to escape capture by the royal guards and was never seen again.

4 – Queen Victoria’s Secret husband

From one famous British Queen to another. As I stated above the British monarchs are often reduced to one characteristic so they are easier to remember. Queen Victoria is normally remembered as a stern woman wearing black. This was not always the case. When Victoria met her first husband, Prince Albert they were both young and beautiful. The death of Prince Albert deeply affected the Queen. She grew depressed, gained weight and her mental health plummeted. Yet there was another man to win her heart.

John Brown was a great friend of Albert prior to his death and like Victoria was deeply affected by his loss. The pair grew closer in mourning and as Victoria grew older and she gifted John presents, even creating two medals to award him with. However Victoria’s family were less approving. Brown used to beat Queen Victoria’s younger children when they went out on rides with him but as Victoria disliked her children she was happy to ignore this. The older family members complained that he was a commoner and who acted informally and improper with the Queen, even within company. Victoria disregarded these complaints and ignored the rumours that John Brown had become her secret lover.

The diaries of Lewis Harcourt (a British politician with the nickname Lou Lou) recorded a deathbed confession from Rev. Norman Macleod, one of the Queen’s chaplains, admitting that he oversaw the secret marriage between Queen Victoria and John Brown in Scotland. The diary entry is suspicious for several reasons. It isn’t a first hand account and it was written several years after Macleod’s death. However there are other documents supporting this idea. In letters unearth in 2004, Queen Victoria described John Brown’s death as follows:

“…feels that life for the second time is become most trying and sad to bear deprived of all she so needs … the blow has fallen too heavily not to be very heavily felt…”

The phrase for the second time suggests that she felt Brown’s death as deeply as Albert’s. Although Queen Victoria kept her own personal diaries these were heavily altered or outright destroyed by her daughter Princess Beatrice. All references to John Brown were destroyed.

When Queen Victoria was buried she held a plaster cast of Prince Albert’s hand intertwined in her own. In her other hand she held letters from John Brown.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

5 – The Royal Family are shape shifting aliens

There are countless conspiracy theories thrown at the royal family.

My personal favourite is that they’re secretly shape shifting aliens from the dawn of time.

Enjoy the Jubilee and I’ll see you next shortly. Take care and have a good one.

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