Perkin Warbeck

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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 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.

Due to uncertainty as to whether Richard of Shrewsbury had died in the Tower of London (many historians claim he died there in 1483) or had survived, 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, putting a strain on Henry’s weak financial state.


Early life

Perkin Warbeck's personal history has been fraught with many unreliable and varying statements.[1] Although Warbeck claimed that he had royal English blood, a more accurate tale of his life surfaced when he was interrogated in 1497 under the eye of King Henry VII. This confession is considered by many historians to be possibly only partially true as King Henry almost definitely forced Warbeck to utter certain "truths" about himself. It was discovered that Warbeck was born to a man called John Osbeck (also known as Jehan de Werbecque).[2] Osbeck, who was married to Warbeck's mother Katherine de Faro, was Flemish and held the occupation of comptroller to the city of Tournai.[3] Warbeck's claims to his family ties are backed up by several municipal archives of Tournai which mention most of the people whom Warbeck declared he was related to.[4] He was taken to Antwerp by his mother at around age ten to learn Dutch. From here, he was undertaken by several masters around Antwerp and Middelburg before being employed by a local English merchant named John Strewe for a few months.[4] After his time in the Netherlands, Warbeck yearned to other countries and was hired by a Breton merchant.[3] This merchant eventually brought Warbeck to Cork, Ireland in 1491 when he was about seventeen, and it was here that he learnt to speak English.[3] Warbeck then claims that upon seeing him dressed in silk clothes, some of the citizens of Cork who were Yorkists demanded to "[do] him the honour as a member of the Royal House of York."[4] He said they did this because they were resolved in gaining revenge on the King of England and decided that he would claim to be the younger son of King Edward IV.[4] However, many historians believe that Warbeck lied about the story of how he came to be a pretender in order to cover his tracks and hopefully allow himself to escape the death penalty.[5]

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