THE 'OTHER' PRINCES IN THE TOWER
Nearly eighty years before Richard III's nephews, another pair of young royal claimants were locked up to safeguard a usurper's reign
On February 13th 1405, a key clicked in a lock at Windsor castle. A door swung open. Urgent voices ordered two young boys to follow.
It was time to go. Time to escape.
The boys, named Edmund and Roger Mortimer, were aged 13 and 11 respectively.
They had been kept in genteel confinement in Windsor and the nearby royal residence at Berkhamstead for a long time. They were not poorly treated - in fact, they were brought up in regal fashion, alongside the younger children of the monarch of the day, Henry IV.
Nevertheless, for more than five years they had been prisoners. Until now. Thanks to the plotting of a group of disaffected aristocrats led by Lady Constance Despenser, who had bribed a locksmith to make keys to the right locks in Windsor Castle, the boys were being busted out.
The plan, such as it was, demanded getting Edmund and Roger as far away from Windsor Castle as possible, then delivering them to the most obstinate rebels in the British Isles: the boys’ uncle, Sir Edmund Mortimer, and the Welsh freedom-fighter, Owain Glyndwr.
At that moment, Glyndwr was in a strong position in the long-running war for Welsh independence. By right of blood, many people believed that the younger Edmund had a better right to the English crown than Henry IV, who had taken it by force in the revolution of 1399.
If the Mortimer boys could be united with Glyndwr, there was a chance of provoking a groundswell of opposition that could sweep Henry IV from his throne.
In his short reign Henry had so far resisted plots and risings led by inveterate enemies and disillusioned allies alike. Surely not even he could survive once these two proto-Princes in the Tower were loose…