Nielsen Hayden genealogy

Perkin Warbeck

Male Abt 1474 - 1499  (~ 25 years)


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  • Name Perkin Warbeck  [1, 2
    Born Abt 1474  [3
    Gender Male 
    Died 23 Nov 1499  Tyburn, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [3, 4
    Person ID I29909  Ancestry of PNH, TNH, and others
    Last Modified 8 Sep 2020 

    Father Jehan de Werbecque,   b. of Tournai, Belgium Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Mother Nicaise Farou 
    Family ID F17858  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Catherine Gordon,   d. Between 12 Oct 1537 and 5 Nov 1537 
    Married Abt 13 Jan 1496  [3, 5
    Last Modified 3 Sep 2020 
    Family ID F17851  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • He claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, one of the "Princes in the Tower", miraculously returned. He was actually Pierrechon de Werbecque, son of a municipal official of Tournai, a town then in France and now in Belgium. His story is told, somewhat sympathetically, in an eponymous play published in 1634 by the playwright John Ford; lines from it are quoted in The Dragon Waiting by another John Ford. In a further connection to science fiction, in 1830, Mary Shelley published a quasi-alternate-history novel, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck, the conceit of which is that the real Perkin Warbeck died in childhood and the "imposter" really was the returned prince.

      From the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

      Warbeck, Perkin [Pierrechon de Werbecque; alias Richard Plantagenet, duke of York] (c. 1474–1499), impostor and claimant to the English throne, was, according to the confession he made in 1497, born at Tournai in France, the son of John Osbek, comptroller of the town of Tournai, and Kataryn de Faro. His parents can be identified as Jehan de Werbecque and Nicaise Farou, members of Tournai's prosperous class of leading artisans, small merchants, and civic officials. Warbeck's early experiences were cosmopolitan. In 1484–7 he was in Antwerp, Bergen op Zoom, and Middelburg, completing his education by learning Flemish and working for merchants, probably in the cloth trade. In April–May 1487 he moved on to the Portuguese court in the company of Lady Margaret Beaumont, wife of the Anglo-Portuguese Jewish convert courtier and international trader Sir Edward Brampton. At Lisbon he took service with the royal councillor and explorer Pero Vaz de Cunha, then in 1488 with a Breton merchant, Pregent Meno. With Meno he sailed to Cork in December 1491 to sell silks. There he was prevailed upon by Yorkists, led by the former mayor John Atwater and the English exile John Taylor, to impersonate Richard, duke of York, second son of Edward IV, who had disappeared in 1483 together with his elder brother, Edward V.

      Warbeck's promoters, seeking patrons for their pretender, rapidly gained the support of the earl of Desmond; but it was Charles VIII, king of France (r. 1483–98), the man who had funded Taylor's trip to Ireland in the hope of distracting Henry VII from the defence of Brittany against French annexation, whose fleet brought Warbeck from Cork to Harfleur in March 1492, and so firmly onto the European stage. Charles's use for him ended when he made peace with Henry in November, but Warbeck and his adherents escaped to Mechelen. There he was welcomed by Margaret of York, dowager duchess of Burgundy, as her miraculously preserved nephew. Early in 1493, if trial evidence is to be believed, senior figures at the English court began to be drawn into plotting on Warbeck's behalf: John, Lord Fitzwalter, Sir Robert Clifford, William Worsley, dean of St Paul's, and even the chamberlain of the king's household, Sir William Stanley. Old loyalties to the house of York in general, and to young Duke Richard in particular, sustained the conspiracy across a wide geographical and social range. A long and earnest struggle of espionage and counter-espionage, propaganda and counter-propaganda began in the summer. Ireland was temporarily pacified, some plotters captured and others driven into sanctuary, and the invasion planned by the growing circle of exiles in the Netherlands failed to come to fruition. Yet Henry's attempt to force the Netherlanders to disown Warbeck by suspending English trade proved counter-productive, and Warbeck was sent on to Vienna to meet Maximilian, king of the Romans (r. 1493–1519), and secure his support.

      Maximilian was won over, and Warbeck accompanied him as an honoured guest on his return to the Low Countries in August 1494 for the ceremonial reception of his son Philip the Fair as ruler of the various Netherlandish principalities. At the turn of the year, however, the conspiracy suffered a blow as Clifford defected from Mechelen, taking Henry clear evidence of the treason of Stanley, Fitzwalter, and others. Arrests, trials, and executions followed. Yet Warbeck's partisans managed to co-ordinate renewed rebellion in Ireland with an attempted invasion of England, backed by Maximilian with ships and experienced soldiers. A landing at Deal on 3 July misfired: while Warbeck and most of his force were still on their ships, an advance party was overwhelmed by local levies, with 163 men captured and perhaps 150 killed. Warbeck's flotilla sailed on to Youghall and Waterford, joining Desmond in his siege of the city. The siege failed, but Warbeck soon found yet another patron in James IV of Scots. On 20 November he was welcomed to Stirling Castle.

      Not all Scots were convinced by Warbeck's claims, but James demonstrated his commitment to the pretender in a number of ways. On or about 13 January 1496 he married him to Lady Katherine Gordon, daughter of George, earl of Huntly, and a distant royal relative by marriage. Soon afterwards he provided Falkland Palace as a base for Warbeck's 1400 adherents, whom he was supporting at considerable expense, and began to plan an invasion of England. On 21 September James and Warbeck, who had promised him Berwick as reward for his help, crossed the border. Warbeck almost immediately withdrew, discouraged by the failure of his manifesto denouncing Henry's misgovernment to elicit any visible English support for his cause. James was left to demolish a few towers and follow the pretender home. His involvement with Warbeck soon threatened to cost him more than this frustration, as Henry prepared a huge army to invade Scotland.

      Suddenly events turned in Warbeck's favour. In May 1497 Henry's heavy taxation sparked rebellion in Cornwall. Disaffection soon spread to Somerset and beyond, and as the rebels prepared to march on London they apparently called on Warbeck to lead them. Henry's victory at Blackheath on 17 June drove the remnants of the rebel army back to Cornwall, but there they were able to welcome Warbeck, who had come from Scotland by way of Ireland to land at Whitesand Bay on 7 September. In Ireland he had found little support, thanks to Henry's pacification of the country under the government of the earl of Kildare. In Cornwall, by contrast, his force of 300 or so companions multiplied rapidly; by the time they laid siege to Exeter on 17 September they were reportedly 8000 strong. Yet the earl of Devon and his garrison bloodily rebuffed their attacks, and they withdrew to Taunton, arriving there on 19 September. There, as Henry's armies marched towards them, the rebels began to melt away until, in the early hours of 21 September, the pretender and his closest followers made their escape.

      John Taylor, one of Warbeck's first promoters, escaped to France, others to sanctuary in London. Warbeck and three companions took sanctuary at Beaulieu Abbey, Hampshire, but were recognized and surrendered on promise of pardon. Brought before Henry and his nobles at Taunton Castle on 5 October, Warbeck confessed his imposture. His wife, whom he had left in sanctuary at St Buryan, was entrusted to the care of Queen Elizabeth. Meanwhile Warbeck was repeatedly paraded through the city on Henry's return to London, and then accompanied the king on his progresses until 9 June 1498, when he escaped, perhaps with the king's connivance. He was soon found, in the Charterhouse at Sheen, twice displayed in the stocks atop a scaffold of empty wine barrels, and on 18 June locked up in shackles in the Tower of London for life. There, in the summer of 1499, he became entangled in his last plot, an attempt by sympathizers in London to free his fellow prisoner Edward, earl of Warwick, and himself, and to place one of them on the throne. Exactly what part he played in the conspiracy, and in its betrayal to the king on 3 August, is hard to establish, but Henry and his council resolved to punish all the principal participants. Warbeck was tried on 16 November in the White Hall of the Palace of Westminster together with Taylor and Atwater, who had been recovered from France and Ireland; all were condemned. On 23 November 1499, after one final confession that he was no Plantagenet, Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn. The king and queen treated his widow generously and she remarried three times in the following reign; she died late in 1537 and was buried in the church at Fyfield, Berkshire. Warbeck's career was portrayed, not unsympathetically, in John Ford's play Perkin Warbeck, published in 1634.

  • Sources 
    1. [S903] The Dictionary of Welsh Biography. National Library of Wales, 2007 and ongoing.

    2. [S4321] Historical Notices of Sir Matthew Cradock, Knt., of Swansea, in the Reigns of Henry VII. and VIII. by John Montgomery Traherne. Llandovery, Carmarthenshire: William Rees, 1840.

    3. [S76] The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004-ongoing.

    4. [S800] The Scots Peerage, Founded on Wood's Edition of Sir Robert Douglas's Peerage of Scotland, Containing an Historical and Genealogical Account of the Nobility of That Kingdom. Ed. James Balfour Paul. Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1904-1914., date only.

    5. [S800] The Scots Peerage, Founded on Wood's Edition of Sir Robert Douglas's Peerage of Scotland, Containing an Historical and Genealogical Account of the Nobility of That Kingdom. Ed. James Balfour Paul. Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1904-1914., month and year only.