Redfox5's Reviews > Portrait of an Unknown Woman

Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett
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Jul 12, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, tudors
Read in April, 2010

I really loved this book and I totally agree that it was nice to be away from Tudor Court and more on the streets of London. I've not read an awful lot about the Princes of the Tower so I was able to go with that theory for the books sake. Just googled 'John Clement Plantagenet prince' and you get a lot of results linked to Holbeins painting so maybe there is something there. However I'm pretty sure when I went to the Tower of London the tour guide said that they did discover the skeletons of two young boys in a chest. From Tower Of London website "Two skeletons, identified as those of the princes, were discovered when a building in front of the White Tower was demolished in 1674. You can see a plaque commemorating the princes near this site. The skeletons were examined in 1933 and pronounced as belonging to two boys, aged about ten and twelve." So that seems more likely. I didn't really warm to John Clement anyways. I was much more intrested in Meg and Holbein. I think the book trys to make you like Thomas More more than you should. Having read some more historical reports of him he doesn't seem like a nice man at all. This book also makes me very glad I've never been treated by a Tudor doctor!
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message 1: by Ivana (new)

Ivana I dind the theory behind the book contrived, but for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the skeletons that were "identified" as the Princes. What "identified" actually means here is "they found skeletons of two children on the Tower grounds in the 17th century and immediately decided they must be the Princes in the Tower, even though there has never been anything resembling an actual identification." When the bodies were exhumated in the 1930s, they were examined again, but the findings were very questionable (again, they just assumed those were the Princes even though the actual findings didn't do much to support it) and have been questioned by many experts since. In short: we don't even know if those are two boys, let alone which age exactly they are, or which period they lived in. All that the bones actually showed was that those were child bones; their sex has never actually been identified and proven, they could be two boys, a boy and a girl, or two girls. The bones were also mixed with animal bones, and some have expressed the opinion that they may have been bones of more than two humans there as well. Their exact ages were never really established; one of the examiners in the 1930s claimed to have established their ages as that of young Edward and Richard in 1483, but his claims have been debunked by experts since: he could not have actually assetained their ages with any certainty, certainly not as precisely. Finally, the children may have lived in earlier centuries, in Saxon times, in Roman times or even in the Iron Age. Those were not the only child skeletons found on the Tower grounds; another child skeleton that was found there was carbon dated and found to be from the Iron Age. In fact, it's far more likely that those children were from an earlier period, since skeletons were found 10 feet (3 meters) deep, under a heavy stairwell. So, for them to be the Princes, one would have to believe that the murderers wanted to dump the bodies secretly, but instead of dumping them into the river and burying them hastily in a shallow grave in some less conspicuous site, decided to spend time digging an unusually deep hole, under a heavy stairwell (that would be really difficult and time-consuming, to say the least!) in the middle of the Tower, which was a royal residence at the time and a place where a lot of people were going about their business all day. In fact, most remains found that deep under ground come from earlier periods, and were not initially buried that deep - it's a result of the ground accumulating with time. That couldn't have happened in just two centuries (from 15th to 17th century).

In short, the so-called identification is complete bunk and a perfect example of confirmation bias, and it's a shame that the Tower of London is perpetuating false history for tourist purposes. How about telling people the truth? That does not make it less interesting. It's even more interesting to speculate who various people whose remains were found on the Tower grounds were. They don't all have to be "important" people. Or maybe the people who wrote that just didn't know better and never cared to actually check the facts beyond the popular myths, which is also less than commendable.


Redfox5 You would think as well, with all the DNA Testing they can do now, like they did with the bones of Richard III they would be able to check all remains again and try and identify them, along with all the bodies buried under the chapel as well. But thanks for the new info, something to think about! :)


message 3: by Ivana (new)

Ivana The reason they can't do that, at least for now, is because they are still buried in Westminster Abbey where Charles II had them buried (they were returned after the exhumation in the 1930s), and Queen Elizabeth is against another exhumation. She's probably fearing that there would be calls for other exhumations for research purposes and doesn't allow that on principle. Richard III was a different case because they found his remains under a car park, on public property, and not even in a grave, since the Greyfriars got dismantled in the 16th century.


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