What “Perkin” (actually) said
Most of us are familiar with the story of “Perkin Warbeck” and the letters he wrote back to the Low Countries. Depending on his identity, his parents hailed from there if he was an impostor or his aunt was Dowager Duchess of Burgundy if he was Richard of Shrewsbury, the former Duke of York and hitherto illegitimate son of Edward IV. In the decade leading up to his execution in autumn 1499, he had travelled widely, married Lady Katherine Gordon (James IV’s cousin), issued a proclamation of his rights and written various other letters. It seems to be a mantra of the Cairo dwellers, or have they reached Alexandria yet, that this proclamation refers to his kidnap and his brother’s (the erstwhile Edward V) death at the hands of “a certain lord”, an uncle who it later names as Richard III.
The most obvious question mark over this document is that later identification. Even if you assume that it was written whilst he was an untortured free man, you assume that he wasn’t portraying his brother Edward as dead for some complex reason or other (by-passing or protecting him) and you forget that Edward IV’s sons had many uncles, by birth or marriage, including Buckingham and St. Leger , alive in summer 1483, in which language was it written? Latin, which is quite likely, has separate words (patruus and avunculus respectively) for paternal and maternal uncles, which would help here. In Cairo, however, they assure us that the document is not in Latin and that “Perkin”‘s own hand names Richard III, “proving” that it is bad news for Richard whether “Perkin” is Shrewsbury or not.
Well, here is the proclamation, transcribed by Sir Robert Cotton:
You will note that “Perkin”‘s own words are clearly separate whilst his letter to Isabel of Castile is indeed in Latin. You will also note that John Speed, in his 1610 “Historie of Great Britain” compiled a century after Tyburn 1499, has appended an imaginary speech to James IV and the specific accusation of Richard III appears only in this later addition. You will also note that Bacon has appended even more. You will remember that this is the same John Speed (c.1552-1629) who confused Leicester’s Greyfriars with the Blackfriars, gaining the sobriquet “the Colourblind Cartographer”:
Speed and Bacon were, of course, writing for an early Stuart interest.
In other words, nowhere does “Perkin” name the “certain lord” who features in his convenient tale. QED.