The Tudor Society

23 November – The pretender Perkin Warbeck

Note: I say that Margaret of York was the Princes' sister, when actually she was their aunt. Sorry!

On this day in Tudor history, 23rd November 1499, in the reign of King Henry VII, pretender Perkin Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn after allegedly plotting to help another claimant, Edward, Earl of Warwick, escape from the Tower of London.

Perkin Warbeck had claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower, and had even been proclaimed King Richard IV, but his rebellion and claim failed.

In today's talk, I give Perkin Warbeck's background, and explain how he ended up trying to claim the throne of England, and what happened.

Also on this day in history:

  • 1503 – Death of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy (Margaret of York), daughter of Richard, 3rd Duke of York, and sister of Edward IV and Richard III. She died at Mechelen in the Low Countries. Margaret was buried in the house of the Recollects, or the Observant Franciscans.
  • 1558 - The new queen, Elizabeth I, left Hatfield and processed to London. The procession consisted of over a thousand people, and as it travelled through the counties of Hertfordshire and Middlesex, Elizabeth was cheered by crowds of people lining the streets.
  • 1583 – Death of Richard Whalley, member of Parliament and administrator, at the age of eighty-four. He was buried at Screveton church in Nottinghamshire. Whalley served Edward Seymour, Protector Somerset, and so was imprisoned after Somerset's fall. He was released after Mary I's accession.
  • 1585 – Death of Thomas Tallis, musician and composer at his home in Greenwich. He was buried in St Alfege's Church, Greenwich, in the chancel. Tallis is known as one of England's greatest early composers, and his works include Gaude gloriosa Dei mater, Puer natus est nobis, Audivi vocem, In pace in idipsum, Videte miraculum, Loquebantur variis linguis and In ieiunio et fletu.
  • 1598 – Execution of Edward Squire, scrivener and sailor. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn for treason after being accused of plotting in Seville to poison Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex.


On this day in Tudor history, 23rd November 1499, in the reign of King Henry VII, pretender Perkin Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn.
Warbeck had claimed to be the younger of the Princes in the Tower - Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York - and had challenged King Henry VII's claim to the throne by raising a rebellion. Let me tell you more about Warbeck and what happened.

According to a confession he made in 1497, Perkin Warbeck was born in Tournay into a prosperous family of the artisan/merchant class. He spent time in Flanders and the Portuguese court before moving to Cork in Ireland, where he sold silks. There, he met Yorkists, including John Atwood, who persuaded him to impersonate Richard, Duke of York, who, with his brother King Edward V, was one of the Princes in the Tower who disappeared in 1483.

Warbeck and the Yorkists gained the support of the Earl of Desmond and King Charles VIII of France, who helped Warbeck sail to Harfleur in 1492. After the French king made an alliance with King Henry VII, Warbeck and his supporters moved on to Mechelen where they met with the Princes in the Tower’s sister, Margaret of York, at that time Dowager Duchess of Burgundy. She appeared to accept Warbeck as her brother. Following failed attempts by Henry VII to get the Netherlands to disown the claimant, Warbeck moved to Vienna and there gained the support of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian. Back in England, men like Lord Fitzwater, Sir Simon Montfort, Sir Thomas Thwaites, Sir William Stanley and Sir Robert Clifford were supportive of Warbeck’s claim. They ended up being arrested, tried and condemned to death in early 1495.

On 3rd July 1495, Warbeck landed at Deal in Kent with men and ships. Around 150 of his men were killed and over 160 captured by Henry VII's troops at the Battle of Deal. Warbeck had stayed on his ship and so was able to sail on to Ireland where he and his remaining troops launched a siege of Waterford, which also failed. However, Warbeck moved on to Scotland where he was welcomed by King James IV on 20th November 1495.
In January 1496, in a marriage organised by the Scots king, Warbeck married Lady Katherine Gordon, daughter of the Earl of Huntly and Falkland Palace was also made available to Warbeck and his men so that they could organise an invasion of England. The Scots king and Warbeck made a failed invasion on 21st September 1496, withdrawing before anything happened.

In the meantime, Henry VII was becoming unpopular in Cornwall after he attempted to introduce new legislation regarding tin-mining into the Cornish Stannary Parliament, and then, following opposition, suspended the Stannary Court. He also levied heavy taxes for his campaign against Scotland and Warbeck. This was too much for the Cornish people and rebels led by Michael an Gof, a blacksmith, and Thomas Flamank, a lawyer, decided to march to London to air their grievances and call for the execution of Archbishop Morton, the King's Lord Chancellor. The Cornish rebels were defeated by Henry VII’s force at the Battle of Blackheath in June 1497 but those rebels left welcomed Warbeck when he landed at Whitesand Bay, near Land’s End in Cornwall, on 7th September 1497. Warbeck raised a rebellion after he was declared King Richard IV on Bodmin. However, their siege of Exeter failed after they were rebuffed by Henry VII’s forces and on 21st September Warbeck and some of his followers fled, Warbeck to sanctuary at Bewley Abbey in Hampshire. There, Warbeck and three of his followers ended up surrendering after being promised a pardon. On 5th October 1497, Warbeck confessed to being an imposter in the presence of the king at Taunton Castle. He was paraded through the city of London.

In June 1498, while accompanying the king on progress, he escaped, but was quickly found and imprisoned in the Tower of London. In 1499, he is alleged to have plotted an escape with Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, son of George, Duke of Clarence, who was also in the Tower. The plot was uncovered and on 23rd November 1499, Warbeck was drawn on a hurdle to Tyburn where he was hanged along with John Atwater. An account in Raphael Holinshed’s chronicle states:

“And on the three and twentieth day of the same month, Perkin and John Atwater were drawn to Tyburn, where Perkin, standing on a little scaffold, read his confession, as before he had done in Cheapside, taking it on his death to be true. And so he and John Atwater asked the king forgiveness and died patiently.”

The Earl of Warwick was executed by beheading on 29th (some say 28th) November on Tower Hill.

There are 3 comments Go To Comment

  1. R

    I believe he was more credible than Henry Vii let us know by this contrived confession and he was certainly a real danger, even if he wasn’t the real ex Prince Richard of England the former Duke of York, because he landed hither and dither and invaded three times with a Cornish invasion, a rebellion and the Scots and he was a nuisance because he was recognised on the Continent. Spain certainly worried about him and the Ambassadors only ever called him Duke of York. Warbeck was beaten up and was made look unrecognised and after his capture after his escape, he was again beaten and of course, his execution ended his notorious adventures. His real identity has been disputed ever since.

  2. R

    Point of information
    Margaret of York, Dowager Duchess of Burgundy was the Princes’ Aunt, the sister of their father and of Richard III

    1. C - Post Author

      Yes, if you look at the first sentence of the post, it says “Note: I say that Margaret of York was the Princes’ sister, when actually she was their aunt. Sorry!” 😉

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23 November – The pretender Perkin Warbeck