Biography: Perkin Warbeck. (Born around 1474- Died November 23, 1499).Son of John de Werbecque and Katherine de Faro. Married to Lady Catherine Gordon. Perkin Warbeck was one of the pretenders during the reign of Henry VII. He would proclaim himself Richard IV, also known as Richard Duke of York, in 1494.
Perkin Warbeck was born at Tournai in Picardy in 1474 to a poor burgess named John de Werbecque and his wife Katherine de Faro. Warbeck’s early life is difficult to determine because the statements that he used during his confession have been seen as unreliable. From what we can tell, he was taken to Antwerp where he worked several jobs as a servant. He was for a time with an Englishman John Strewe at Middleburg, and then accompanied Lady Brampton, the wife of an exiled partisan of the house of York, to Portugal. Warbeck was also employed by a Portuguese knight named Vacz de Cogna. In 1491, Warbeck was hired by a Breton silk merchant named Pierre Jean Meno and was brought to Cork, Ireland. It was here at Cork that Warbeck would dress up in silks to attract customers and the rumors began to spread that he was the illegitimate son of either George Duke of Clarence or Richard III.
We do not know who encouraged him to become a pretender of Richard Duke of York, but he eventually took on the role. He said that his “brother” Edward V was killed in the Tower and that he, as Richard Duke of York, was spared. He was supposedly smuggled to Europe by Yorkist sympathizers and he was sworn to secrecy. To a lot of people, Warbeck’s story was believable. One of his biggest supporters was Edward IV’s sister Margaret of Burgundy, who in 1492, recognized him as her nephew and the rightful heir to the throne. We are not sure why Margaret accepted Warbeck as her nephew, but she did and helped educate him.
Warbeck travelled through Europe gaining support and recognition, most importantly from Maximilian I the Holy Roman Emperor and Charles VII of France. Maximilian was the one who encouraged Warbeck to proclaim himself Richard IV in October 1494 and to invade England. On July 3, 1495, Warbeck raised his forces and tried to land in England. Henry VII was one step ahead of Warbeck and stopped the invasion, arresting English nobles who supported Warbeck, and forced Warbeck to flee to Ireland, the Netherlands and eventually Scotland. It was there that James IV of Scotland became one of Warbeck’s closest allies since he wanted an alliance between France and Scotland. In order to cement this newfound alliance, James IV allowed Warbeck to marry his cousin Lady Catherine Gordon, the daughter of the earl of Huntly in January 1496.
In September 1496, James IV and Warbeck invaded England, but it failed miserably; it was more like a border skirmish than an invasion. After this failed invasion, Warbeck lost the support of Emperor Maximilian and James IV. Warbeck landed in Cornwall, where the Cornish had rebelled against Henry VII over high taxes. In September 1497, Warbeck raised a local force and besieged Exeter and Taunton before he panicked about the news about Henry VII’s army and fled. Warbeck was finally captured at Beaulieu in Hampshire.
Warbeck’s wife Lady Catherine Gordon was made one of the ladies-in-waiting for Queen Elizabeth of York. In June 1498, Warbeck was forced to make two public appearances at Westminster and Cheapside, where he admitted that he was not Richard Duke of York and that Margaret of Burgundy was to blame for the entire scheme. Henry VII was kind to Warbeck at the beginning, allowing him to live at court, but Warbeck tried to escape and it landed him in the Tower of London, close to Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, son of the late George, Duke of Clarence. Warbeck and Warwick plotted to escape the Tower, but the plan was uncovered and both men were charged with treason. Perkin Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn on November 23, 1499.