The story of Perkin Warbeck is one of the most compelling mysteries of English history. A young man suddenly appeared claiming to be Richard of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower. As such, he tormented Henry VII for eight years. He emerged in Ireland in 1491, to be honoured and protected by the courts of France, Burgundy, the Empire and Scotland.
He tried three times to invade England, sometimes eluding capture only by the skin of his teeth. He behaved like a prince, and some believed he was one. Officially, however, he was proclaimed to be Perkin Warbeck, the son of a Flemish boatman - and at the end, in custody, he apparently admitted as much.
A diplomatic pawn, and also the most keenly sought diplomatic prize in Europe, he was used by the greatest European rulers of the age - the emperor Maximilian, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Charles VIII of France - for their own purposes. All who dealt with him gave him the identity they wished him to have: either the Duke of York or a jumped-up lad from Flanders. It is possible that he was neither. It is also possible that, by the end, even he did not know who he really was.
Ann Wroe's first purpose in 'Perkin' is to tell again a marvellous tale that is on the brink of being forgotten. Her second is to dissect, and call into question, the official cover story. In doing so she delves into the secret corners of European history, employs a vast range of sources, and produces a portrait of the late fifteenth century that is breathtaking in its detail.