To the Tower Born: A Novel of the Lost Princes

To the Tower Born: A Novel of the Lost Princes

by Robin Maxwell


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The author of the highly praised The Wild Irish is back with a mesmerizing novel that probes one of the most intriguing unsolved mysteries in history — what happened to the lost princes of York

Debated for more than five centuries, the disappearance of the young princes Edward and Richard from the Tower of London in 1483 has stirred the imaginations of numerous writers from Shakespeare to Josephine Tey and posited the question: Was Richard III the boys' murderer, or was he not? In a captivating novel rich in mystery, color, and historical lore, Robin Maxwell offers a new, controversial perspective on this tantalizing enigma.

The events are witnessed through the eyes of quick-witted Nell Caxton, only daughter of the first English printer, William Caxton, and Nell's dearest friend, "Bessie," daughter of the King of England, sister to the little princes, and founding ancestress of the Tudor dynasty.

With great bravery and heart, the two friends navigate this dark and dangerous medieval landscape in which the king's death sets off a battle among the most scheming, ambitious, and murderous men and women of their age, who will stop at nothing to possess the throne of England.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060580513
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/06/2005
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.05(d)

About the Author

Robin Maxwell is the acclaimed author of The Wild Irish, The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, The Queen's Bastard, and Virgin: Prelude to the Throne. She lives in Pioneertown, California.

Read an Excerpt

To the Tower Born

By Robin Maxwell

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006

Robin Maxwell

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060580526

Chapter One

The judge's expression was one of seething disapproval. "You are saying that you wish to retain your given name, that which was yours previous to this marriage?"

"I do, your lordship." "And what, for the record, is that name?"

"Elizabeth Caxton, though I've long been known in my trade as Nell, and would request -- "

The judge turned to the court scribe. "Record that on this day of Our Lord, twenty-three April, 1502, one Elizabeth Caxton, daughter of William Caxton, has been granted by the courts a divorce from the aforementioned Gerard Croppe, on the grounds of -- "

"Desertion," Nell finished for him in a firm but even tone.

"Silence, Mistress Caxton."

"And fornication many times over," she added, ignoring the judge, whose nose, crisscrossed with veins, had turned an alarming shade of purple.


Nell held the judge steadily in her gaze. He dislikes women, she silently observed. The entire species of them.

"If this display is any indication of your disobedience and rebellious nature," the judge said, "then I can only commend your husband for his desertion."

"And his adultery?" asked Nell, smiling mildly.

"Out of my court!" he shouted.

"With pleasure," she said, then turned from the bench, where ascraggly assortment of crooks, prostitutes, and battered housewives sat. There she found her friend Jan de Worde, looking the prosperous businessman he was, amongst the crowd of spectators. The native Dutchman had come to witness the dissolution of Nell's marriage to a man about whom Jan had stringently warned her after first meeting him. Knowing Jan, there would be no recriminations. He was the kindest person alive.

"I'm well rid of him," said Nell.

"Your father would have been pleased."

They walked out of the precinct hall into the spring morning. Nell was a free woman again. The sun on her face and a warm breeze delighted her senses, but all round her on the London streets were disturbing reminders that all was not well.

As they walked a brisk pace down Fleet Street, they were struck by the sight of every house and every shop swathed in black crepe. It was even draped cross the narrow roadways, strung from window to window, a grim reminder of a loss, at once public and, for Nell, personal.

Her godchild, Arthur, Prince of Wales, heir to the fledgling Tudor dynasty, lay dead, struck down suddenly at the age of sixteen, his shining future as King of England no more than a fading memory. The somber period of his mourning had, however, two weeks after his death, been rudely punctuated by a scandal of sorts. No, thought Nell, 'tis more like the ripping open of an old wound.

A man named James Tyrell had just died a brutal traitor's death at Tyburn for crimes against England and his king, Henry the Sev enth, and few had taken notice of his death. But yesterday all round London had been posted the man's confession -- not of the crimes for which he had been hanged, drawn, and quartered, and his head stuck on a pike on London Bridge. What James Tyrell had confessed to was a crime he said he'd committed eighteen years before -- the murder of the little princes Edward and Richard of York. He had named not only his accomplices in the crime -- the men who had actually suffocated the boys with their feather beds and buried their bodies under a stairwell in the Tower -- but his master at the time, and instigator of the foul killings.

He named the long-dead King of England, Richard the Third.

Jan de Worde, the most prominent printer and publisher in the country, heavily patronized by the present-day royal family, had, in fact, produced the broadsheets of the confession, hundreds of which were now nailed at every street corner, church, bath-, and public house in London.

Nell and Jan paused at the Hound and the Fox pub, where a group had gathered to read and argue the content and merit of the posting.

"Well, of course he did it, crook-backed, wither-armed old Richard!" cried a housewife, her market basket hiked on her hip. "I was but a girl back then -- "

"If you was a girl, I was the Archbishop of Canterbury," declared a man beside her.

The crowd, all neighbors, laughed and hooted at the gibe.

"You were thirty-five with seven brats in 1483."

"Whatever my age," said the housewife indignantly, "I remember it as if it were yesterday."

There was a general murmuring of agreement in the gathering.

"'Twas as sad a time as it be today," said another.

"Sadder," said a robed priest who stood at the back of the crowd. "Our beloved Prince Arthur was taken by God's will to his bosom. But those poor children were taken in a crime so unnatural, so wicked, that God and his angels cried in heaven."

"Aye, remember the great rains that followed?"

"The Lord and his minions weeping," the priest told his parishioners.

"Aye, aye," murmured the crowd.

"A terrible thing."

"Richard of Gloucester is burning in hell for his sin."

"And will be for all future and eternity," the man of God assured them.

"Come," said Nell to Jan. "I've heard enough."

They went onto the north end of London Bridge, where above them ravens were still having their way with what was left of James Tyrell's head, and strolled down the bridge's ancient roadway, both sides of which were closely lined with the shops of textile and clothing merchants -- mercers and haberdashers who, with their families, lived above their establishments in gilt and gabled houses, the upper stories leaning precariously out over the lower.

"I hope you understand that I had no choice but to publish the broadsheet of Tyrell's confession," said Jan.

"Of course I do," Nell assured him. "If my father was still alive, he would have been bound to do the same. When your patron is the King of England -- "

"More to the point, the king's mother," her friend added.


Excerpted from To the Tower Born
by Robin Maxwell
Copyright © 2006 by Robin Maxwell.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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To the Tower Born: A Novel of the Lost Princes 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best discussion of the Princes' fate is Royal Blood by Bertram Fields. He carefully lays out a legal and historical discussion. Maxwell's book is breezy and entertaining, but lacks sound authoritative arguments.
wizardsheart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I gave the book 3 1/2 stars. The main reason that I read it is the fact that I am a sucker for anythig Richard III related. As well as a lover of historical fiction. The writing was a bit awkward and stiff in places. And some things that happened in the story made me raise my eyebrows. But in the end I found Maxwell's idea of what happened with the princes to be both plausible and interesting. I just wish that the writing had been better. Although in fairness it wasnt so bad that I even once considered abandoning it. I am also hoping that she has another book planned, because the ending was a bit disappointing and...choppy. Definitly a must read for historical fiction fans of this era.
nellista on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I couldn't agree with wizardsheart's review more! I enjoyed the book, but found the writing a bit light on at times. Some instances gave me that "as if!" feeling. Would have liked a little more detail at times.