Poring over the Latin manuscript of Sir Thomas More's History of King Richard III, in which More squarely lays the blame for the murder of the Princes in the Tower on Richard III, cryptographers have made a shocking discovery as to the Princes' real cause of death.
Five-year-old Thomas More himself was the killer.
The tragedy occurred when young Thomas, visiting the Tower with his father, who had legal business there, encountered the young Princes shooting on the grounds. When Edward offered to let Thomas have a turn, Thomas's arrow went awry, landing in Edward's back. When Richard ran over to help his brother, Thomas, thinking Edward IV's eldest son was "playing dead," took a second shot—fatally wounding Richard as well.
"He was a great humanist, but a lousy archer," concludes a professor at Cambridge University, who preferred to speak anonymously until the whole amazing story is published in a scholarly journal.
But why, knowing his own guilt, did Thomas smear Richard III's name? Explains the professor, "He was so shocked at what he had accidentally done, he was in denial, as we might say now. For years, he probably did really convince himself that Richard III did it. Then something—we don't know what—caused him to recover his lost memories, and he remembered what had really happened. But he'd written such a compelling tale, he really didn't want to change it, so instead he added this coded confession, knowing that someday the code would be broken. Took us long enough, didn't it? But we did get a damn good Shakespeare play out of it, you'll have to admit."
Though the team of cryptographers have remained close-lipped as to the precise details of the code, it appears that More took the Latin version of the manuscript with him to the Tower during his imprisonment there by Henry VIII. There, he made revisions that to the untrained eye appear to be superficial changes but that in reality formed a sophisticated code in which he confessed his guilt. "He had a lot of time on his hands," explained the professor.
Why was young More never punished for his actions? "He ran off, and when the guards came across the bodies and realized what had happened, they were afraid they'd be accused of negligence and lose their heads, so they buried the bodies quickly and started rumors that the boys had been smothered by the king's agents. It was a really successful cover-up for such rank amateurs. Goes to show that there's hope for us all, doesn't it?"
Asked to comment, an official with the Richard III Society said, "On the one hand, it's complete vindication; on the other, it pretty much puts us out of business, doesn't it? I think I'll go down to the local and have a pint or two."