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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

August 17

Murder of the Princes in the Tower

By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

  • From Richard III, Act IV, Scene 3.
  • Edward V. and his brother, the Duke of York, were smothered in the Tower of London on August 17, 1483, by order of their uncle, who succeeded to the throne as Richard III.

  • Enter TYRREL.
    Tyrrel.The tyrannous and bloody deed is done,

    The most arch act of piteous massacre

    That ever yet this land was guilty of.

    Dighton and Forrest, whom I did suborn

    To do this ruthless piece of butchery,

    Although they were fleshed villains, bloody dogs,

    Melting with tenderness and kind compassion

    Wept like two children in their deaths’ sad stories.

    ‘Lo, thus,’ quoth Dighton, ‘lay those tender babes:’

    ‘Thus, thus,’ quoth Forrest, ‘girdling one another

    Within their innocent alabaster arms:

    Their lips were four red roses on a stalk,

    Which in their summer beauty kissed each other.

    A book of prayers on their pillow lay;

    Which once,’ quoth Forrest, ‘almost changed my mind;

    But O! the devil’—there the villain stopp’d;

    Whilst Dighton thus told on: ‘We smothered

    The most replenished sweet work of nature,

    That from the prime creation e’er she framed.’

    Thus both are gone with conscience and remorse;

    They could not speak; and so I left them both,

    To bring this tidings to the bloody king.

    And here he comes.