One of the things that’s often puzzled me is the claim that Henry VII did away with loads and loads of documents from the reign of Richard III. You come across stuff like ‘it’s documented fact that documents were destroyed…’ without anyone ever actually linking to either the document or the fact. The one document that was disappeared, the disappearance of which is documented fact, is Titulus Regius. We know all copies were destroyed (except the odd one that survived) because we know there was an order for it to be destroyed. Even if one of those hidden/forgotten/mislaid copies hadn’t emerged we’d know the document once existed because it’s destruction is mandated. And there was good reason for it to be destroyed, at least from Henry VII’s point of view. TR rendered his Queen illegitimate. Removing that libel, destroying all copies of a document that promulgated that libel would, under those circumstances, be at the top of any sensible King’s to do list.
So why does the (known and documented) disappearance of Document A (Titulus Regius) lead people to the belief that Documents B through Z were also destroyed? People will claim all kinds of things happened that we have no record of. When asked for a source, we are told ‘Oh, the documentary evidence of that was destroyed by Henry VII’, which might seem convenient and helpful but is, in effect, a waste of breath. There’s only one way of deducing the one time existence of a document we no longer have, and that’s through finding traces of its ghost. Like TR. It’s ghost is right there in the order for all copies of it to be destroyed. As a counter-example, the (supposed) record of Hastings’ trial, which we are repeatedly assured once existed but now does not, has left no ghost. Another set of documents that have disappeared, most likely deliberately destroyed, is the record of Henry VI’s Readeption parliament. We know one took place. We know such things were meticulously recorded. We even know a tiny bit about it. (Who was and wasn’t attainted, for example. Who was and wasn’t restored to their titles, for another example.) So, by the existence of its ghost(s), we know there was once a record of that parliament. Given the events of 1471, we can assume that record was destroyed.
Sometimes we are told that there ‘must have been’ some obscure and complicated reason for destroying TR, beyond the libel against the Queen. (Occam’s razor really is the way to go with this one.) It’s often something to do with the disappeared (most likely deceased) Princes. Some conspiracy to do with Henry VII’s claim to or hold on the throne often comes up, rather than the much more sensible, and likely, explanation: No King who wants his Queen to like him is going to allow a document that declares her illegitimate to be allowed to float around the kingdom. What Richard III didn’t consider libellous became so in the reign of Henry VII. The destruction of TR, from this perspective, is completely understandable. Just as the destruction of the record of the Readeption parliament, from Edward IV’s perspective, is completely understandable.
The leap from ‘TR was destroyed’ to ‘that must mean loads of other documents were destroyed’ is huge and unsustainable. Unless and until we find the ghosts of (say) the record of Hastings’ trial, we have to work from a point where no such trial took place. We know so very little about the events of that day but nowhere (so far) have we found even the tiniest, most obscure reference to a trial. We can’t possibly claim a trial took place using the destruction of TR as proof. ‘Well, TR was destroyed, so the record of Hastings’ trial must have been as well’ ignores one important point:
We knew TR existed before anyone ever clapped eyes on it because we know there was an order for its destruction.
So, until we find some ghostly trace of the documents Henry VII is said to have disappeared, or until we find a source that talks about the destruction of documents other than TR, we can’t sensibly conclude Henry VII ordered the wholesale destruction of documents, however embarrassing they might have been to him or however useful they might be in exonerating Richard III.