A loyal supporter of RICHARD III during the last phase of the civil wars (1483-1487), Sir Robert Brackenbury had custody of the TOWER OF LONDON during the confinement there in 1483 of EDWARD V and his brother Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York.
The younger son of a minor GENTRY family from Durham, Brackenbury became treasurer of the duke of Gloucester's household in about 1476. Upon Gloucester's assumption of the throne as Richard III in July 1483, Brackenbury was given a lifetime appointment as constable of the Tower, a position of great trust, for it gave Brackenbury charge of important royal prisoners and of the royal mint. Although Brackenbury was a northerner, Richard made him a power in the key southern county of Kent, placing him in charge of all royal manors in the southeast and granting him the Kentish estates of Anthony WOODVILLE, Earl Rivers, and other defeated opponents (see RICHARD III, NORTHERN AFFINITY OF). In 1484, the king knighted Brackenbury, appointed him sheriff of Kent, and named him to the admiralty commission. Invested with numerous duties and offices, Brackenbury soon found it necessary to exercise many by deputy. By 1485, Brackenbury's annual income from royal service approached ÂŁ500, a substantial sum that made him one of the most heavily rewarded of Richard's servants.
According to the account of the deaths of EDWARD IV's sons in Sir Thomas More's HISTORY OF KING RICHARD III, Richard ordered Brackenbury to kill the princes, who were in his charge as Tower prisoners. Brackenbury refused, but did comply with Richard's subsequent order to temporarily deliver the keys of the Tower to Sir James TYRELL, another highly favored royal servant, who then murdered the boys with the aid of several accomplices. Whether or not Brackenbury was involved in or aware of the murder of the princes is now unclear. What is certain is that he served Richard III loyally throughout his reign, actively assisting in the suppression of BUCKINGHAM'S REBELLION in 1483 and dying with Richard at the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD in 1485.
Further Reading: Horrox, Rosemary, Richard III:A Study in Service (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); More, Sir Thomas, The History of King Richard III and Selections from the English and Latin Poems, edited by Richard S. Sylvester (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1976); Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).