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"Perkin Warbeck"
"Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York"
Perkin Warbeck.jpg
Born unknown
Died 23 November 1499
Tyburn, Middlesex
Throne(s) claimed England
Pretend from 1490
Monarchy abolished 1485, Battle of Bosworth Field
Last monarch Richard III of England
Connection with claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York, son of Edward IV of England
Royal House in the name of the House of York
Father allegedly Edward IV of England
Mother allegedly Elizabeth Woodville

Perkin Warbeck (circa 1474 – 23 November 1499) was a pretender to the English throne during the reign of King Henry VII of England. Traditional belief claims that he was an imposter, pretending to be Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York, the younger son of King Edward IV of England, but was in fact a Fleming born in Tournai around 1474. The "Perkin Warbeck" of the traditional tale was claimed to be the son of a French official, John de Werbecque and Katherine de Faro.

As Richard of Shrewsbury's fate in the Tower of London was not known for sure (although most historians believe he died in 1483), Warbeck's claim gathered some followers, whether due to real belief in his identity or because of desire to overthrow Henry and reclaim the throne. Most historical accounts mention that Warbeck cost Henry VII over £13,000 (equivalent to £6.4 Million in 2007 values)[citation needed] , putting a strain on Henry’s weak financial state.


Claim to the English throne

Warbeck first claimed the English throne at the court of Burgundy in 1490. In 1491, he landed in Ireland in the hope of gaining support for his claim as Lambert Simnel had four years previously. However, little was found and he was forced to return to the European mainland. There his fortunes improved. He was first received by Charles VIII of France (who later signed the Treaty of Etaples, agreeing not to shelter rebels, therefore being obliged to expel Warbeck) and was officially recognised as Richard of Shrewsbury by Margaret of Burgundy, who was Edward IV's sister and the widow of Charles I, Duke of Burgundy. It is not known whether or not she knew he was a fraud, but she tutored him in the ways of the Yorkist court. Henry complained to Archduke Philip, who had assumed control of Burgundy in 1493, about the harboring of Warbeck, but the Archduke ignored him. So Henry imposed trade embargo on Burgundy, cutting off their important trade links with England. Warbeck was also welcomed by various other monarchs; in 1493, he attended the funeral of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna, where he was recognised as King Richard IV of England, at the invitation of Frederick III's son Maximilian I.[1] Warbeck also promised that if he died before becoming king, his "claim" would fall to Maximilian.

First landing in England

On 3 July 1495, funded by Margaret of Burgundy, Warbeck landed at Deal in Kent, hoping for a show of popular support. Despite Henry not having unanimous authority over England[citation needed], Warbeck's small army was routed and 150 of the pretender’s troops were killed without Warbeck even disembarking. He was forced to retreat almost immediately, this time to Ireland. There he found support from the Earl of Desmond and laid siege to Waterford, but, meeting resistance, he fled to Scotland. He was well received by James IV of Scotland, who would always spring at a chance to annoy England, and permitted to marry James's own cousin, Lady Catherine Gordon (daughter of George Gordon, the 2nd Earl of Huntly, and his wife, Princess Annabella, the daughter of King James I of Scotland and Joan Beaufort).

In September 1496, Scotland launched an attack on England, but quickly retreated when support from Northumberland failed to materialise. Now wishing to be rid of Warbeck, James IV signed the treaty of Ayton which had Warbeck expelled and so he returned to Waterford in shame. Once again he attempted to lay siege to the city, but this time his effort lasted only eleven days before he was forced to flee Ireland, chased by four English ships. According to some sources, by this time he was left with only 120 men on two ships.

Second landing in Cornwall

On 7 September 1497, Warbeck landed at Whitesand Bay, near Land's End, in Cornwall hoping to capitalise on the Cornish people's resentment in the aftermath of their uprising only three months earlier. Warbeck proclaimed that he would put a stop to extortionate taxes levied to help fight a war against Scotland and was warmly welcomed. He was declared "Richard IV" on Bodmin Moor and his Cornish army some 6000 strong entered Exeter[2] before advancing on Taunton.[3] Henry VII sent his chief general, Giles, Lord Daubeney, to attack the Cornish and when Warbeck heard that the King's scouts were at Glastonbury he panicked and deserted his army. Warbeck was captured at Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire where he surrendered. Henry VII reached Taunton on 4 October 1497, where he received the surrender of the remaining Cornish army. The ringleaders were executed and others fined. Warbeck was imprisoned, first at Taunton, then at the Tower of London, where he was "paraded through the streets on horseback amid much hooting and derision of the citizens".[4]

Imprisonment and death

Warbeck was held in the Tower alongside a genuine claimant to the throne, Edward, Earl of Warwick, and it was alleged that the two tried to escape in 1499. Captured once again, on 23 November 1499, Warbeck was drawn on a hurdle from the Tower to Tyburn, London, where he read out a "confession" and was hanged.


Perkin reportedly resembled Edward IV in appearance, which has led to speculation that he might have been Edward's illegitimate son, or at least some genuine connection with the York family. Some historians have even gone as far as to claim that Warbeck was actually Richard, Duke of York, although this is not the consensus.

Warbeck in popular culture

Warbeck's story subsequently attracted writers—most notably by the dramatist John Ford, who dramatized the story in his play Perkin Warbeck, first performed in the 1630s.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, best known as the author of Frankenstein, wrote a "romance" on the subject of Warbeck, titled The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck. It was published in London in 1830.

Warbeck is the central character in They Have Their Dreams, a historical novel by Philip Lindsay and in Ruling Ambition, by Robert Hume.

Channel 4 and RDF Media produced a drama about Perkin Warbeck for British television in 2005, Princes in the Tower. It was directed by Justin Hardy and starred Mark Umbers as Warbeck.

The American Shakespeare Center (ASC) in Staunton, Virginia, USA has produced a comedy entitled The Brats of Clarence, written specifically for the ASC 'Blackfriars' stage by Paul Menzer. The play tracks the progress of Perkin Warbeck from the Scottish court towards London to claim his birthright as heir to the throne.

Warbeck and his wife are characters in the novel The Crimson Crown by Edith Layton (1990). Lucas Lovat, a spy in the Court of Henry VII, is the main character, and a subplot of the novel is his indecision as to whether Warbeck is, or is not, Prince Richard.

Oxford-educated comedians Stewart Lee and Richard Herring both make references to Warbeck, and fellow pretender Lambert Simnel in much of their work, both together as Lee And Herring and individually. In their fondness for naming a number of their fictitious characters after real people, Simnel & Warbeck's names have appeared sporadically throughout their material over the years.

The story of Perkin Warbeck is retold through the eyes of Grace Plantagenet in The King's Grace, by Anne Easter Smith (2009). Grace, an illegitimate daughter of Edward IV, attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding the man who claims to be her half-brother, Richard, Duke of York.

Perkin Warbeck and his wife, Lady Catherine Gordon, are explored from the viewpoint of Elizabeth of York, sister to the princes in the Tower, and queen to Henry VII in Sandra Worth's award-winning novel The King’s Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen (Penguin Group, 2008)[1]. The novel is the recipient of the Best Historical Biography of the Year Award from the reviewers at the Romantic Times [2].

In Philippa Gregory's 2009 novel The White Queen, the young Duke of York is sent into hiding in Tournai, Belgium by his mother, Elizabeth Woodville, while a changeling is sent to the Tower. While in hiding, the Duke takes on the assumed name Perkin, returning as an eleven year old later in the novel, ready to reclaim his birthright.

See also


  1. ^ Wroe, pp. 148-151.
  2. ^ Cornwall timeline 1497
  3. ^ Philip Payton - (1996) Cornwall, Fowey: Alexander Associates
  4. ^ Channel 4 - Perkin Warbeck


  • Wroe, Ann. Perkin: A Story of Deception. Vintage: 2004 (ISBN 0-09-944996-X).
  • Guy, John. "Tudor England" p52 et seq.
  • Ashley, Mike (2002). British Kings & Queens. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-1104-3.  pgs 231 & 232

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PERKIN WARBECK (c. 1474-1499), pretender to the throne of England, was the son of Jehan de Werbecque, a poor burgess of Tournay in Flanders and of his wife Katherine de Faro. The exact date of his birth is unknown, but as he represented himself as having been nine years old in 1483, it must have taken place in, or close on, 1474. His confession made at the end of his life was an account of his early years which is to some extent supported by other testimony. The names of his father and other relations whom he mentions have been found in the municipal records of Tournay, and the official description of them agrees with his statements. According to this version, which may be accepted as substantially true, he was brought up at Antwerp by a cousin Jehan Stienbecks, and served a succession of employers as a boy servant. He was for a time with an Englishman John Strewe at Middleburg, and then accompanied Lady Brampton, the wife of an exiled partisan of the house of York, to Portugal. He was for a year employed by a Portuguese knight whom he described as having only one eye, and whom he names Vacz de Cogna (Vaz da Cunha ?). In 1491 he was at Cork as the servant of a Breton silk merchant Pregent (Pierre Jean) Meno. Ireland was strongly attached to the house of York, and was full of intrigue against King Henry VII. Perkin says that the people seeing him dressed in the silks of his master took him for a person of distinction, and insisted that he must be either the son of George, duke of Clarence, or a bastard of Richard III. He was more or less encouraged by the earls of Desmond and Kildare. The facts are ill recorded, but it is safe to presume that intriguers who wished to disturb the government of Henry VII. took advantage of a popular delusion, and made use of the lad as a tool. At this time he spoke English badly. By 1492 he had become sufficiently notorious to attract the attention of King Henry's government and of foreign sovereigns. He was in that year summoned to Flanders by Margaret, the widowed duchess of Burgundy, and sister of Edward IV., who was the main support of the Yorkist exiles, and who was the enemy of Henry VII. for family reasons and for personal reasons also, for she wished to extort from him the payment of the balance of her dowry. She found the impostor useful as a means of injuring the king of England. Several European sovereigns were moved to help him by the same kind of reason. The suppositions that he was the son of Clarence or of Richard III. were discarded in favour of the more useful hypothesis that he was Richard, dike of York, the younger of the two sons of Edward IV., murdered in the Tower. Charles VIII., king of France, the counsellors of the youthful duke of Burgundy, the duke's father Maximilian, king of the Romans, and James IV. of Scotland, none of whom can have been really deceived, took up his cause more or less actively. He was entertained in France, and was taken by Maximilian to attend the funeral of the emperor Frederick III. in 1493. At Vienna he was treated as the lawful king of England. He was naturally the cause of considerable anxiety to the English government, which was well acquainted with his real history, and made attempts to get him seized. His protectors entered into negotiations which in fact turned on the question whether more was to be gained by supporting him, or by giving him up. An appeal to Isabella, queen of Castile, met with no response. In July 1495 he was provided with a few ships and men by Maximilian, now emperor, and he appeared on the coast of Kent. No movement in his favour took place. A few of his followers who landed were cut off, and he went on to Ireland to join the earl of Desmond in Munster. After an unsuccessful attack on Waterford in August, he fled to Scotland. Here King James IV. showed him favour, and arranged a marriage for him with Catherine Gordon, daughter of the earl of Huntly. He was helped to make a short inroad into Northumberland, but the intervention of the Spanish government brought about a peace between England and Scotland. In 1497 Perkin was sent on his travels again with there was no declaration. (See Ariga, La Guerre s inoa onaise Paris, 18 6 The delivery of an ?? > 9) y ultimatum specifying those terms, the compliance with which is demanded within a specified time, is practically a conditional declaration of war which becomes absolute in case of non-compliance. Thus the note communicated by the United States to Spain on 20th April 1898 demanded the "immediate withdrawal of all the land and sea forces from Cuba," and gave Spain three days to accept these terms. On the evening of 22nd April the United States seized several Spanish vessels, and hostilities were thus opened. In the case of the Transvaal War, the declaration also took the form of an ultimatum. A special Hague convention adopted at the Conference of 1907 now provides that hostilities "must not commence without previous and explicit warning in the form of a reasoned declaration of war or of an ultimatum with conditional declaration of war." It also provides that the existence of a state of war must be notified to the neutral powers and shall not take effect in regard to them until after the receipt of the notification which may be given by telegraph. Most of the good effect of the provision, however, is negatived by the qualification that neutral powers cannot rely on the absence of notification if it is clearly established that they were in fact aware of the existence of a state of war.

Too much confidence must not be placed in regulations concerning the conduct of war. Military necessity, the heat of action, the violence of the feelings which come into la will always at times defeat the most skilfully- law of war. play y y combined rules diplomacy can devise. Still, such rules are a sign of conditions of public opinion which serve as a restraint upon the commission of barbarities among civilized peoples. The European operations in China consequent on the "Boxer" rising showed how distance from European criticism tends to loosen that restraint. On the other hand, it was significant that both the United States and Spain, who were not parties to the Declaration of Paris, found themselves, in a war confined to them, under the necessity of observing provisions which the majority of civilized states have agreed to respect. (T. BA.)

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