In writing this, I have to own up that my copy of the book is signed by Ann Wroe in person. Our discussion confirmed that she retains an open mind on the youth’s identity, uncommon as that may be in writers on the period, but there are three possibilities:
1) He was the middle son of Edward IV, formerly the Duke of York in suo jure and Norfolk in jure uxoris.
2) He was a conscious impostor.
3) He was a fantasist – a random youth who believed himself to be the ex-Prince.
Now we all have to be careful about jumping to conclusions here. All suggestions of a “confession” or letters to “relatives” that can surely only be viewed through the prism of “Tudor” propaganda, especially as such could be composed without contradiction after his execution. Look at Tyrrell’s “confession”, which post-dates not merely his own death but that of Henry VII – thanks to Susan Leas (“As the King gave out”).
So what of the youth’s legal status in each case?
1) Henry’s repeal of Richard’s Titulus Regius would have made the ex-Prince legitimate, notwithstanding his father’s bigamy. His long campaign was surely to be King in his own right, implying that the former Edward V was either dead or uninterested and Richard of Shrewsbury would be the rightful King, to whom Henry should surrender.
2) The youth, whether literally a boatman’s son from Tournai, was almost certainly a foreign citizen and therefore owed Henry no fealty. There was some debate about this at William Joyce’s trial in that he claimed to be a British subject, so it mattered not that he wasn’t. However, the personage that the youth impersonated was not a subject.
3) The youth was a commoner who thought himself to be Richard of Shrewsbury and may well have been insane. “Tudor” “justice” had little interest in this – we see Edward of Warwick executed in the same week, Elizabeth Barton (1534) and Viscountess Rochford (1542), all of whom were deluded to some degree – and insanity was evidently not viewed as a defence.