(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 impostor
, 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.
Since the exact circumstances of Richard of Shrewsbury's death have not been established beyond complete proof of doubt (although most historians believe he did indeed die in 1483), Warbeck's claim gathered some followers whether due to actual belief in his bloodline, or because of the desire to overthrow Henry and reclaim the throne. However, most historical accounts have frequently mentioned that Warbeck cost Henry VII over £13,000, putting a strain on Henry’s weak financial state.
Claim to the 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 expelling 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 way of Yorkist court. Henry complained to Archduke Philip, who had assumed control of Burgundy in 1493, about the harboring of Warbeck, but he 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
, where he was recognised as King Richard IV of England, at the invitation of his son Maximilian I
.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
, Perkin landed at Deal
, hoping for a show of popular support. Despite Henry not having unanimous authority over England, 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
. There he was well received by James IV of Scotland
, who would always spring at a chance to annoy England and permitted him to marry his cousin, Lady Catherine Gordon.
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 Perkin, James IV signed the treaty of Ayton which had Perkin 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 one hundred and twenty 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 in Cornwall
. He was declared ‘Richard IV’ on Bodmin Moor
and his Cornish army some 6000 strong entered Exeter
before advancing on Taunton
. 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
where he surrendered. Henry VII reached Taunton on 4 October 1497 where he received the surrender of the remaining Cornish army where the ringleaders were executed and others fined. 'Richard’ 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’.
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 it was he with whom he 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. He is said to have been badly beaten about the face before his execution to hide his resemblance to the York family.
Perkin reportedly resembled Edward IV in appearance, which has led to speculation that he might have been Edward's illegitimate son. 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.
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.
- 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