GET A FREE BOOKGet a free book

What really happened to the princes in the tower?

Inspirations and research behind Elizabeth St.John's exciting new book The Godmother's Secret

Recently I posted an excerpt of author Elizabeth St.John’s thrilling new historical novel, The Godmother’s Secret. Today I’m sharing the behind-the-scenes story of how and why Liz wrote this book. I have a special place in my heart for the tale of her writerly journey, because I was honored to be along for the ride as a writing group partner and early reader. (Scroll to the bottom of this post to see my review of the book.)

I’ve always been intrigued by Liz’s family connections to illustrious historical figures of Great Britain’s past. The Lydiard Chronicles, her trilogy about influential women ancestors in the royal court of England during the 17th-century Civil War era, was a mesmerizing dive into an period of history I knew little about. The Godmother’s Secret, on the other hand, gives readers a fresh and tantalizing new theory as to the fates of the young princes who disappeared from the Tower of London in 1483, never to be seen again. This is an enduring mystery that has fascinated the British public—and other history enthusiasts the world over—for six hundred years.

Today, I’ve asked Liz to share with my readers how she developed her story idea and brought it to life in The Godmother’s Secret.

Welcome, Liz!

Amy, thank you so much for having me on your blog, and for all your support during my writing of The Godmother’s Secret. I have a whole new respect for the research you must undertake for your wonderful medieval novels—unlike my writing about the 17th century, there’s not a lot of extant documents to rely upon when we’re back in the 1400s. I also think we are particularly interested in women who may have impacted history but did not necessarily leave their own mark in what was predominantly a man’s world: we have tasked ourselves with even more digging than usual!

When I discovered Elysabeth St.John, my ancestress, and the heroine of The Godmother’s Secret, I could only find two documents in the archives, along with some key dates in her life. Writing a novel around her would be challenging; but fortunately she was surrounded by people such as Margaret Beaufort (her sister) and William Catesby (her son-in-law), as well as her husband, John Scrope, 5th Baron Scrope of Bolton, who are well-documented. And, with her appointment as godmother to Edward V, I could weave in all the extraordinary stories of the Princes in the Tower – from her perspective.

A medieval godmother to a prince

In The Godmother’s Secret I create a plot around Elysabeth’s vow as godmother and her desperate efforts to protect her 12-year-old godson, King Edward V, from the intrigue and betrayal that surrounds him after she delivers him to the Tower of London for his coronation. In my novel, Elysabeth is navigating her own conflict, upholding her loyalty to both her husband and her sister as competing factions battle for the throne. Within a few weeks of arriving at the Tower, Edward and his brother Dickon had disappeared, Richard  III had claimed the throne, and Elysabeth’s nephew, Henry Tudor, was making plans to invade England from his exile in France. More than anything, Elysabeth defies the bounds of blood and loyalty to make her own decisions for her godson’s survival in a hostile medieval world where women had little authority.

Westminster, a key location

As part of my research for my novel, I visited Westminster for three crucial locations: the Abbot’s House (“Cheyneygates”), Westminster Abbey, and Westminster Hall. I was fortunate to meet with the Abbey’s Almoner, who kindly took me “behind the scenes” into the Jerusalem Chamber and other locations where Elizabeth Woodville sought sanctuary and Elysabeth St.John Scrope joined the queen as she gave birth to Edward V.  As godmother to the young prince—which in medieval times was equivalent to a blood relative—Elysabeth was responsible for his spiritual wellbeing and would have played a crucial role in his early years.

Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

The power of the birthing girdle

One of the areas of historic research that fascinates me is that of medicines and curatives, many of which were based on superstitions and religious beliefs. While I was interpreting what Elizabeth Woodville’s confinement in sanctuary must have been like, I came across the medieval references to a “birthing girdle” and its protective powers. Because they were so fragile (fine parchment or linen; see above image) there is only one on record in England, in the Wellcome Library in London. According to tradition, “ the day that you look upon the roll or carry it with you, no wicked spirit will have power over you, and it offers protections from all kinds of sudden death, adding that if a woman ‘in travell’ (labour) lays the image of this cross on her womb, she will be safely delivered without peril and the child will have ‘cristendome’ (be baptised) and the mother receive ‘purification’.” Without baptism or purification, the child and mother would suffer endlessly in Purgatory. I used this research to inform the birthing scene in The Godmother’s Secret.

It’s been both a challenge and incredibly rewarding researching and writing this novel. Of course, wading into the biggest controversy in English history is bound to raise some eyebrows. Did Richard III kill the princes? Was Margaret Beaufort to blame? Why did the Duke of Buckingham suddenly rebel after the princes disappeared? Or was the whole murder accusation Tudor propaganda? Thanks so much for having me, and I hope readers enjoy the way I’ve presented the story of the Princes in the Tower.

The Godmother’s Secret

If you knew the fate of the Princes in the Tower, would you tell? Or forever keep the secret?

May 1483: The Tower of London. When King Edward IV dies and Lady Elysabeth Scrope delivers her young godson, Edward V, into the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation, she is engulfed in political turmoil. Within months, the prince and his brother have disappeared, Richard III is declared king, and Elysabeth’s sister Margaret Beaufort conspires with her son Henry Tudor to invade England and claim the throne.

Desperate to protect her godson, Elysabeth battles the intrigue, betrayal, and power of the last medieval court, defying her Yorkist husband and her Lancastrian sister under her godmother’s sacred oath to keep Prince Edward safe. Bound by blood and rent by honour, Elysabeth is torn between King Richard and Margaret Beaufort, knowing that if her loyalty is questioned, she is in peril of losing everything—including her life.

Were the princes murdered by their uncle, Richard III? Did Margaret Beaufort mastermind their disappearance to usher in the Tudor dynasty? Or did the young boys vanish for their own safety? Of anyone at the royal court, Elysabeth has the most to lose–and the most to gain–by keeping secret the fate of the Princes in the Tower.

Inspired by England’s most enduring historical mystery, Elizabeth St.John blends her family history with known facts and centuries of speculation to create an intriguing story about what happened to the Princes in the Tower.

To buy the book:

Available on Kindle Unlimited

Universal Link:

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:

Amazon CA:

Amazon AU:

About the author:

Elizabeth St.John’s critically acclaimed novels tell the true stories of her ancestors: extraordinary women whose kinship and friendship with historical figures such as Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII, and the Stuart kings and queens bring a unique perspective to Medieval, Tudor and Stuart England.

Inspired by family archives and residences from Lydiard Park to the Tower of London, Elizabeth spends much of her time exploring ancestral portraits, diaries, and lost gardens. And encountering the occasional ghost. But that’s another story.

Social Media Links:






Book Bub:

Amazon Author Page:


My review of The Godmother’s Secret:

An exquisitely written, ingenious twist on an age-old mystery . . . what really happened to the princes in the tower? Author Elizabeth St.John has drawn on her considerable storytelling gifts and the inspiration of her ancestors to create this stunning tale of one woman’s quest to protect her godson, Prince Edward V, when he is swept up in medieval England’s royal—and bloodypower struggles.  

The story is told from the perspective of the author’s ancestress, Elysabeth Scrope. Lady Scrope is a heroine for the ages: fierce, tender, ingenious, brave—and saddled with a difficult, brilliant, and scheming sister, Margaret Beaufort. From the opening pages, when Elysabeth attends the birth of Prince Edward V, I was completely absorbed by her story. 

Anyone familiar with the tale of the princes in the towers knows that Richard III, their uncle, is often painted the villain. But did he truly arrange the demise of Prince Edward and his younger brother? After all, there were others who would benefit from their convenient disappearance, chief among them Elysabeth’s sister Margaret, whose ambition to get her exiled son Henry Tudor on the throne consumed her. 

The bones of two children were found in the tower of London hundreds of years after the princes’ deaths—but their true identity was never determined. Now, The Godmother’s Secret offers us a tantalizing new theory as to the fate of the brothers…all wrapped up in an exhilarating, immensely satisfying read. 


  1. Cathie Dunn says:

    Thank you for hosting Elizabeth St.John today, Amy, and with such a lovely review. Much appreciated. x

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      My pleasure, Cathie!

  2. Elizabeth St.John says:

    Amy, thanks so much for sharing The Godmother’s Secret – and being there on my challenging journey to see it to the very end. You’re the best writing buddy!

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      I wouldn’t have missed that journey for the world! A true pleasure.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.