Major spoiler alert: if you don’t want to know the ending of The Princes in the Tower: The New Evidence, skip the next paragraph.
Still with me? Good. The answer is no, Richard III did not order the killing of the two princes. That was just Tudor propaganda. Both boys, the sons of Edward IV, survived, and escaped to Europe. Thence, supported by their aunt Margaret of Burgundy, they made separate, ultimately unsuccessful attempts to regain the throne for the Yorkists, one under the name Lambert Simnel, the other as Perkin Warbeck.
I’m telling you this not to be a spoilsport but to spare you 82 minutes of valuable life. Yes, the bare-bones story is fascinating, and researcher Philippa Langley deserves huge credit for her discoveries. What I don’t get is why Channel 4, rather than allowing her to tell it herself, insisted on roping in TV barrister Rob Rinder to sift the evidence and expertily deliver his expert verdict.
I’m a fan of Rinder, despite – or possibly because of – his eye-popping intensity and extravagant hand gestures. But dragging him into this felt like a calculated insult to the viewer. It said: ‘Look, we know you’re a bit thick. History is a bit of a mystery to you and you’re incapable of forming your own conclusions. So here’s TV’s Judge Rinder!’
A lot of the research depended on rediscovered manuscripts in continental archives. Rinder’s job was to accompany Langley in the hire car on jaunts to places like Lille and Arnhem, pretend not to know what was coming next (‘Where are you taking me?’, ‘Is this important?’), then, on seeing the 15th-century document being gingerly unfolded by some white-gloved curator, say something like: ‘Wow! No, double wow! In all my years as Britain’s top TV barrister, fighting any number of high-profile cases, this is the most amazing piece of corroborative evidence I have ever seen.