Perkin Warbeck

Fraud

Born: c. 1474
Died: 23 November 1499
Birthplace: Tournai, Belgium
Best known as: Royal pretender during the reign of England's Henry VII
Perkin Warbeck was hanged in 1499 for plotting to overthrow King Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty in England. Beginning in Ireland in 1491, Warbeck pretended to be Richard, Duke of York, the youngest son of King Edward IV. His story was somewhat plausible, as there was still some uncertainty as to the fate of Richard and his brother, the boy king Edward V. Imprisoned in the Tower of London after their father's death, the boys were generally believed to have been murdered in 1483 by order of King Richard III. In the absence of proof, however, some believed that young Richard had somehow escaped. Warbeck managed to gather support in Europe for his claim to the throne, notably from Charles VIII of France, Margaret of Burgundy and James IV of Scotland, all of whom had their own reasons for hoping to humiliate Henry VII. Warbeck attempted to invade England in 1495, but failed miserably. In 1497 he had a bit more success but was captured by Henry in Beaulieu. After six years of pretending to be the Duke of York, Warbeck confessed that he was actually the son of Katherine de Faro and John Warbeck, a minor official in Tournai. Warbeck was confined at court, but when he tried to escape he was imprisoned in the Tower (1498). Indefatigable to the last, he conspired with the Earl of Warwick, a fellow prisoner with a legitimate claim to the throne, to overthrow Henry. The king's council discovered the plot in November 1499 and both men were convicted of treason and condemned to death.
Extra credit: Frankenstein author Mary Shelley wrote a fictional account of Warbeck's adventures, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck, A Romance (1830).

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