Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1499, died Perkin Warbeck.

Warbeck was a pretender to the throne, who claimed to be the younger of the 'Princes in the Tower', and therefore the true king of England. He was supported by the king of Scots, and was crowned King of Ireland, but his antecedents were proved false and he was hanged for treason.

Perkin Warbeck was born about 1474, the son of John Warbeck, an English official in Flanders. He spent his youth in the service of several employers, and when in Ireland in 1491, for a jape, while his employer was absent, dressed in his master's silk clothes and mingled with the local gentry, claiming to be of royal descent. At that time, Henry VII was on the throne of England, having taken the crown from Richard III, seven years earlier, but he had many enemies in Ireland, who supported the Yorkist claim to the throne.

The Yorkist party persuaded Warbeck to impersonate Richard, the young duke of York, who was presumed murdered with his brother King Edward V in 1483, in the Tower of London. Seduced by the attention he had received, Warbeck went to the Europe, hoping to gather an army for an invasion of England. In the Netherlands, he was coached on his impostor's role, by Margaret of Burgundy, exiled sister of Edward IV, and he received support from France, Austria and King James IV of Scotland.

In 1495, funded by Margaret of Burgundy, Warbeck attempted a landing in England, but he had insufficient forces and was forced to retreat to Ireland, where he found support from the Earl of Desmond, who had him crowned ‘King of Ireland’, in a private but ostentatious ceremony. He then travelled to Scotland and was welcomed by James IV of Scots, who married him off to his cousin, Lady Catherine Gordon. In 1496, James and Warbeck launched an attack on England, but were quickly repulsed, and the two quarrelled. Warbeck had to retreat to Ireland, to escape James’ anger.

In 1497, Warbeck landed in Cornwall, hoping to take advantage of the Cornish people's resentment at their treatment by Henry VII. He attracted 6,000 men, but when Henry sent a massive army to challenge him, fled before battle could be joined, and was captured at Beaulieu and taken to the Tower of London.  In prison, he confessed that his story was a complete lie, and was hanged as a traitor at Tyburn.

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