Perkin Warbeck: Whether my hero was or was not an impostor, he was believed to be the true man by his contemporaries
Paper given at the Australasian Convention of the Richard III Society (2007)
The young man, called by Henry VII’s spin doctors, “Perkin Warbeck”, has been surrounded by controversy ever since he first appeared on the world stage. He claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger son of Edward IV, and thus would have been the brother of Henry’s Queen Elizabeth. As Perkin Warbeck he is often regarded by historians as a footnote of little consequence to the glorious Tudor reign, and this is certainly the image that the Tudors liked to create. As we shall see, whatever Henry’s efforts at portraying the affair, this young man had him seriously worried and was widely accepted as Richard of York.
As we know according to Tudor history Richard III was that evil monster who killed his poor innocent nephews. Therefore anyone claiming to be one of these nephews had to be an impostor, and a rather stupid one at that. However, there is no proof that they were indeed murdered by their uncle, or anyone else for that matter, and once we acknowledge this, we can have a more unbiased look at this young man’s identity.
When Henry came to the throne he had the Titulus Regius, stating that Edward IV’s children were illegitimate, revoked, in order to have an added claim to the throne through his wife. This would have left her two brothers, if they were alive, with a better claim than Henry. So when first a young man appeared saying he was Edward IV’s elder son Edward and later another young man claimed to be Richard, they were seen as the great hope of the Yorkist cause.
I think that there is a very good chance that this young man was indeed who he claimed to be: Richard of York.