Sorry, Frederick Forsyth and John Stonehouse, but Henry VII did it first

I expect you all know the basic premise of Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal (published in 1971). A mysterious and ruthless assassin obtains a birth certificate and passport in the name of someone who died as a child, before setting out to kill de Gaulle.

In 1974, John Stonehouse followed this method by “borrowing” the identities of two dead Walsall constituents to continue his existence after apparently drowning in Miami.

Historically speaking, this may not have been completely original. Henry VII must have been very disturbed when, in Burgundy in 1490, a youth, speaking excellent English, emerged, eventually claiming to be Richard of Shrewsbury, who Henry claimed to have been dead, whilst not providing any details. Eventually, Henry claimed that the youth was one “Perkin Warbeck/ Warbecque” or “Piers Osbeck”, a missing boatman’s son from Tournoi. Following his capture in 1497, he was, as Wroe narrates, tortured into confessing this identity, writing to his Portuguese “mother”, whose name also varies, although this could be attributable to translation difficulties.

There was no sign of the original boatman but had he ever existed? Had he died or escaped elsewhere, leaving his identity to be exploited? We can at least take one step to confirm or eliminate a possibility.

By super blue

Grandson of a Town player.


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