If the Princes were murdered in the Tower of London, three men are generally considered the main suspects. Each had his own motive for eliminating the Princes from the line of succession.
King Richard III
Richard, Duke of Gloucester was Edward V’s uncle and protector, but worked to have the Princes declared illegitimate. Although he succeeded in taking the crown for himself, he may have decided to murder the brothers to prevent them or their supporters from taking it back.
Years after the disappearance, James Tyrrell confessed to killing the boys on Richard’s orders. Sir Thomas More recounted the confession in his History of King Richard III and wrote that the Princes’ bodies were buried underneath a staircase. However, the confession was made under torture.
He has historically been blamed for their deaths. Though some believe he was unfairly maligned by his successors.
Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham was a close ally of Richard III. He also had a tentative claim to the throne, which would be strengthened by the Princes’ death. A contemporary source noted that the Princes were “put to death in the tower of London by the vise of the Duke of Buckingham,” though historians debate the meaning of the word “vise.”
He may have had the boys killed to benefit Richard, but it is also possible he ordered the murder knowing Richard would be blamed, causing the country to turn against him. He eventually betrayed Richard and was executed.
King Henry VII
In 1485, Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth and became King Henry VII. He married the Princes’ sister and, in order to do so, had to reinstated their legitimacy. Because they were no longer illegitimate children in the eyes of the law, his claim to the throne could only be accepted if both Princes were dead. Henry was in exile at the time of the disappearance, but it is possible the brothers survived until 1485 and were then murdered.
Henry VII pardoned James Tyrrell, the confessed killer, for “unspecified crimes” in 1486. It is possible that he had ordered Tyrell to commit the murder and Tyrrell later blamed Richard to cover up what had really occurred.