A remote church in the middle of Devon is believed to hold clues to solve a 500-year-old royal murder mystery.
The discovery of secret symbols at the church in Coldridge, deep in the countryside between Crediton and Okehampton, has been likened to The Da Vinci Code thriller.
Historians now suspect the hidden messages show that the deposed King Edward V, thought to have been murdered as a child in the Tower of London, in fact lived out his life under a false name in the Devon village.
Read more: Dartmoor village named one of the coolest places to move to in 2022
For more than five centuries, it has been thought that King Richard III had his nephews murdered to clear his path to the throne. But the new theory would sensationally alter accepted history and clear the monarch’s name
The two boys, aged nine and 11, were the only surviving sons of King Edward IV, who died suddenly in 1483.
The older brother Edward of York, who was next in line to be king, and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury, were sent to the Tower of London.
They disappeared after being declared illegitimate by their uncle, who became King Richard III.
The tale of the princes in the tower has passed into history, although there was never any firm proof of their deaths.
Now questions are being asked about what really happened, following the analysis of carvings in the church of St Matthew at Coldridge, and an effigy of a man who was known as John Evans.
The figure of Evans looks towards a stained glass window depicting Edward V, and experts say that the evidence now points to them being the same person, according to a report in The Telegraph.
The new information has been uncovered by the Missing Princes Project, led by Philippa Langley who helped find the bones of Richard III in 2012 under a car park in Leicester.
Lead researcher John Dike said: “With all the secret symbols and clues, it sounds somewhat like The Da Vinci Code.
“But the discoveries inside this church in the middle of nowhere are extraordinary.
“The evidence suggests that Edward was sent to live out his days on his half-brother’s land as long as he kept quiet, as part of a deal reached between his mother and Richard III, and later with Henry Tudor.
“Once you take all the clues together, it does appear that the story of the princes in the Tower may need to be rewritten.”
Do you believe the discovery changes history? Sign in and join the conversations in the comments below
The new theory suggests Edward’s mother Elizabeth Woodville made a secret pact with Richard III to save her sons’ lives.
She met the king at Westminster then wrote to her eldest son Thomas Grey, telling him to return from foreign exile.
Then the king sent a man to Coldridge in Devon, where Grey owned land. John Evans then arrived in the village to become Lord of the Manor, and was put in charge of the local deer park.
Evans built a memorial chapel at the village church in 1511, where the clues to his real identity have been found.
A stained glass window shows Edward V with a crown and a robe, with pictures of 41 deer – representing his age at the time.
Mr Dike added: “Why is a royal portrait of Edward V in this rural church in the middle of nowhere?
“It simply doesn’t belong here. Evans appears to be sending a message.”
On Evans’ empty tomb, his name is spelled wrongly as EVAS.
Researchers suggest the EV stands for “Edward V” and AS refers to “asa” – the Latin word for “in sanctuary”.
Ms Langley said: “A number of the specialist police investigators working within the Missing Princes Project have told us to always investigate when a coincidence occurs – and here, intriguingly, there are quite a number of them.”
The Missing Princes Project hopes to discover what really happened to Edward’s younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury, who was previously believed to have been murdered at the age of nine in the Tower of London.
The findings shed new light on the accepted version of history that Richard III was responsible for the deaths.
He died two years after his coronation at the Battle of Bosworth Field, which signalled the end of the War of the Roses and was won by Henry Tudor who became Henry VII.
You can stay up to date on the top news and events near you with DevonLive’s FREE newsletters – enter your email address at the top of the page or go here
What locals really think of living in Devon’s ‘worst places’
Joss Stone baffles viewers with ‘bizarre’ cooking