I came across the work of Jack Leslau a few days ago, and the excellent elucidation of his argument by Matt Lewis (https://mattlewisauthor.wordpress.com). Leslau argued that the two Princes in the Tower were not killed by Richard III. He says they survived, and after Richard’s death in battle, a deal was done between their mother and Henry VII whereby they would renounce their rights to the throne, and assume new identities.
After carefully studying a Holbein painting of Sir Thomas More’s family (above), he suggested that Dr John Clement (who as a boy joined More as his pupil and servant) was the guy in the doorway, and that he was in reality Richard, Duke of York; further, that the text above his head suggested he had just become the rightful heir. He went on to argue that King Edward V assumed the name of Sir Edward Gylford, ‘son’ of Sir Richard Gylford (Guildford/Guilford), and he said that since the boys’ mother did not make a fuss about their disappearance, she most likely knew they were safe, that she was part of the deal.
Conventional historians argued that it would be hard for Sir Richard Gylford to have adopted Edward V, since pretending the boy was his own son would have been hard to explain… suddenly to come up with a teenager in 1485/6 would have been difficult, and it was said that many would have recognized Edward V, anyway. My feeling was that this was not a good reason for doubt, since the young Edward V could have been sent to the Continent (probably to Louvain) until he was older, and a suitable story for his reappearance as Sir Richard’s son could have been concocted. If Henry was in on all this, then few would have dared comment, even if they had suspected.
Another reason against Leslau’s proposal was that Dr John Clement was referred to by More as being a youth, while Richard, Duke of York (born in 1473) would have been a man several years More’s senior. He was also depicted as a youth by Ambrosius Holbein, it is said, serving Sir Thomas More with drinks, although I’ve not been able to trace that woodcut (anyone got a jpg?). In short, his having been born in 1473 was not compatible with his being a youth in the 1510-20 period, and thus a stretch too far. Sounded like a good argument to me as to why Leslau might be wrong.
And there was another problem no one mentioned. The painting seems to have been done in 1527, and Sir Edward Gylford died in 1534. He would still have been alive when the painting was completed, and when the young man was painted into the doorway. If he were Richard, Duke of York, why would he be regarded as having recently become the rightful heir to the throne? If I understood correctly, Leslau thought a royal death had just occurred raising him to that rank, but if so, whose? Sir Edward was still alive, and if Leslau was right, that meant Edward V was still alive: and Richard could not be the heir.
When I looked at the painting, though, I noticed faint traces of lettering on the gentleman in the doorway, and at first they seemed to suggest that he was actually Edward V, not Richard of York.
What I had missed, though, were the words ‘Papa’, and ‘Figlio de’ (‘son of’), and a year of birth of 1497. It seemed to be saying the lad in the picture was not Edward V, but his son.
I understand that Sir Edward Gylford got married in 1496 or a little before, and so for a son to be born in 1497 would not be not inappropriate. And if the man in the doorway were Edward V’s son, and went by the name of John, then this may well be who Dr John Clement really was…
The age problem goes away. Clement would have been a generation younger than More. And being Edward’s heir, he would be the heir as Leslau suggested, once ‘Sir Edward’ passed on, and there would be a good reason for him to be shown higher than anyone else in the picture. It seems to hang together. And it would also explain why the young man’s finger is bent… It is a gesture of contempt common in those days, especially in Tuscany. Michelangelo provides some wonderful examples!…and he is pointing at the letters ‘R3’ – ‘Richard III’.
Anyway, to try to work out what was happening here, I was looking for further portraits of the More Family by Holbein, hoping, just hoping I might find Sir Edward Gylford. But I didn’t. I found this instead… ‘Sir Thomas Godsalve and his Son’. ‘Godsalve’?!
I knew what it was as soon as I saw it, and it is the proof everyone has been despairing of ever finding. The guy on the left rang a bell. He looked for all the world like the man in the other Holbein, the man in the doorway:
It says ‘Edward 5 and son’ to the left, and on the cap of the elder man (Edward would have been 57 in 1527), it also says ‘Edward V’, more than once actually, making it a bit harder to decipher.
The text is ever so faint, but having studied some 3000 examples of this over the past three years, I’m satisfied it is real. A five hundred year old mystery has been solved.