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Perkin Warbeck

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Perkin Warbeck

Perkin Warbeck (c. 1474 - November 23 1499) was a pretender to the English throne during the reign of King Henry VII of England. He was an impostor, a Fleming born in Tournai in about 1474. He pretended to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger son of King Edward IV of England. The real Richard was almost certainly dead by this time, murdered in the Tower of London. Warbeck was first heard of in the court of Burgundy in 1490, pretending to the English throne.

He landed in Ireland in 1491, hoping to gain support there as Lambert Simnel had 4 years before, but found little, and was forced to retreat to the European mainland, where his fortunes improved. He was first received by Charles VIII of France, and was officially recognised as Richard, Duke of York by Margaret of Burgundy, who was Edward IV's sister and the widow of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Whether she knew he was a fraud or not is in question. He was also welcomed by various other Monarchs, and received an official invitation to the funeral of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor.

On July 3 1495, Perkin attempted a landing in England, funded by Margaret of Burgundy. However, he only had a small force, and was forced to retreat to Ireland almost immediately. There, he found support from the Earl of Desmond, and laid siege to Waterford. However, again he met resistance, and fled to Scotland. There he was well received by James IV of Scotland, who among other things permitted him to marry his cousin, Lady Catherine Gordon.

In September 1496, the Scots launched an attack on England, but they quickly retreated when support from Northumberland failed to materialise. The only real result of this action was a raise in English war taxes, possibly the action which caused the Cornish Rebellion the following year. King James now wished to be rid of him, and so Perkin returned to Waterford in shame, attempting a siege of Waterford again. This time, his siege lasted just 11 days, and he was forced to flee from Ireland, chased by 4 English ships. According to some sources, he had by this point only 120 men on 2 ships.

He landed in Cornwall in 1497, hoping to capitalise on the resentment within the Cornish people after the Cornish Rebellion only three months earlier. However, the rebels had been defeated, and Perkin found there was little to no support for further risings against King Henry. Consequently, continuing on towards London, he made a very feeble military challenge to Henry in 1498 but fled from King Henry's army a few days before battle would have occurred. He was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London. In the company of Edward, Earl of Warwick, a genuine claimant imprisoned there by King Henry, he purportedly attempted escape in 1499, was captured and hanged as a traitor at Tyburn.

Perkin reportedly resembled Edward IV in appearance. This has led to the unconfirmed speculation that Perkin could have been Edward's illegitimate son.

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