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The Perfect Prince: The Mystery of Perkin Warbeck and His Quest for the Throne of England
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The Perfect Prince: The Mystery of Perkin Warbeck and His Quest for the Throne of England

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  282 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Set in the fascinating years of the Renaissance, "The Perfect Prince" follows one of the strangest pretenders of all time, with a most unexpected conclusion.
Hardcover, 610 pages
Published October 21st 2003 by Random House (first published 2003)
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Jerry Jr.
Feb 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was shocked the first time I found negative online reviews of this book. For all Wroe's rich command of detail, I thought the basic story "The Perfect Prince" told was compelling, the thinking and behavior of all the different historical figures well-explained, and the writing lyrical and moving (the passage about Perkin's passage into the afterlife at the end sent chills down my spine). And as many complaints as I have read about the book's digressions, I found them to be the best part. For i ...more
Probably the best historical biography I've ever read, bar none, and the fact that it's about a figure as shadowy and mysterious as Perkin Warbeck/Richard, Duke of York only makes it more impressive. The book really brings the medieval world to life through Wroe's wonderful writing - she doesn't just write about what people did, what they ate, what they wore, but how they would have thought and felt. She never comes down to a side as to whether 'Perkin' really was the son of Edward IV or a boatm ...more
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It does help if you have a grounding in Tudor history before you read this book. Keep in mind, as other reviews have pointed out, it is not a linear narrative. It isn't really a biography, more like a close look at a time and the mystery that occured there. Wroe does not chose a side for her mystery. She, in fact, seems, to be doing her best just to present the mystery. She is far more interested in how Warbeck influenced by simply being those in power. Well wroth a read.

A fairly average read which was interesting in parts but struck me as somewhat fanciful in others. It's also not the most concise biography you will ever read, with the known facts about Perkin Warbeck seemingly taking up little space compared to the endless background information and author speculation.
Abigail Hartman
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book was so clearly well researched, its prose so fluid and at times subtle and clever, that I feel guilty not having enjoyed it. I did for the first few chapters. I was fascinated by the way the author reconstructs the world around the central character and plot, like an artist recovering an old painting; the attention to details was brilliant, and the narrative draws out suggestions from the sources in a unique, thought-provoking way. For the first hundred or two hundred pages I was tenta ...more
Feb 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
High 5. This work is an excellent piece of historical research and detection, where the author unlocks many of the mysteries surrounding the emergence of the pretender to the throne, Perkin Warbeck. Wroe reveals that less than a week after placing his youngest nephew in the Tower in June 1483, Richard had their bloodline declared invalid due to the illegitimacy of their parents’ marriage. It was claimed that their father Edward IV had been contracted to marry another noblewoman before choosing a ...more
Another feigned lad. Così, con un tono che mi piace immaginare stanco, Enrico VII parlava del nuovo pretendente che, dieci anni dopo Lambert Simnel, era sbarcato in Inghilterra per riprendersi il trono. Nel 1497 erano passati dodici anni da Bosworth Field.
Simnel, che si fingeva Edward of Warwick (figlio del duca di Clarence che era in realtà tenuto sotto chiave nella Torre di Londra) venne sconfitto e potè apprezzare la magnanimità del re che, invece di giustiziarlo, lo spedì nelle cucine reali.
Dec 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For people interested in the beginning of the Tudor dynasty in England (or interested in the demise of the Plantagenents), this is a very interesting book and not something that is generally mentioned in history books concerning those times.

No one knows what happened to the Princes in the Tower. When King Edward IV died, he had 2 young sons who were lodged in the Tower by their uncle who became Richard III. At the time, the Tower was not primarily a prison but one of the Royal residences, so the
Kate Millin
I found this book quite dense and difficult to read for long periods (although some of that might have been the fact that I was unwell). The information about Perkin was interesting, but I felt there was a lot of padding about other things that were happening, or possibly happening that were not needed and which made following the main thread about Perking himself difficult to follow. The author also makes no conclusions about the truth of Perkins claims, but does seem quite balanced in her appr ...more
Jamie Adair
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Perfect Prince is the story of Perkin Warbeck

Wroe brings out many intriguing details, such as, did you know that Warbeck and his wife lived in Henry VII's household after he was captured. This seems odd given he was a supposed traitor. Why not the tower or the scaffold?

Wroe's writing in some places is positively lyrical. She describes

While I realize many people hated this book, I still recommend it for anyone interested in Henry VII's reign or interested in, perhaps, Margaret of Burgundy.

May 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very well-written book about a little-know part of British history. The standard (official) history says that Richard III had the two princes killed in the tower of London, and that the wars of the Roses left the Tudors firmly on the throne of England with no major dynastic concerns. This book shows that not only did Henry VII (Tudor) have several major rebellions and intrigues, but that it is possible that one of the two princes didn't die in the Tower (thus leaving alive the "rightful" heir ...more
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book came highly recommended by members of the Richard III Society, American Branch (of which I am a member). Yes, Ms. Wroe goes into great detail and at times seems to be going off on a tangent, but then she pulls everything back into a cohesive whole. It is also extremely readable, often more like reading a novel than a scholarly biography.

As someone who has long been interested in the people and events involved in the era known as The Wars of the Roses, and in all things concerning Rich
May 10, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When this book finally ended, I found myself confused about why it had dragged so horribly on through six months of reading. The topic is undeniably fascinating--on par with Russia's "lost" Romanovs, this book tells the story of England's lost royalty, Princes Edward and Richard. Despite the extremely interesting topic of a returning prince (or is he?), the book was, quite plainly, dull. It took me half a year to get through and it was only by forcing myself that I did finally finish it. The wri ...more
Christopher Roth
Brilliantly researched and argued. It has me convinced that the balance of evidence indicates strongly that "Perkin Warbeck" was the rightful Richard IV. Why is this a minority opinion among historians? It's amazing that the Tudor so successfully bullied historians like Sir Thomas More and others into getting behind the "Warbeck" version of events that that prejudice still lingers. Come on, people! Just look at the evidence, and I promise no one will behead you. The Tudors took power utterly ill ...more
Elizabeth Ashworth
This book has given me so much to think about. It seems that the old stories of the 'pretenders to the throne' that I was taught at school may be too simplistic and possibly not even true. This book is beautifully written and immaculately researched and it has made me believe that 'Perkin Warbeck' was a convenient name given by Henry VII to a young man who could actually have been Richard, Duke of York.

This is a reference book which I will return to again and again. It's one that I enjoyed read
Aug 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: greathistory
Wow. One of the best histories I have ever read. Period. It's largely speculative in nature, due to the lack of documentary evidence of late 15th century royal intrigue, but the author has such a detailed understanding of the period and the places and the people involved, and she is such a skilled writer, that it is both a wonderful story and a great mystery. Loved it.
Apr 18, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved it, although I'm not sure it is history as much as channeling.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Holy crap!! This is a well written book & very well researched. I can only imagine the time it took to get this book together. That said, the book is over 500 pages + 55 pages (roughly) of notes. There is just SO MUCH going on in this book - comments on the papacy, other courts. Look, here's what I want to know: How did other courts react to Perkin Warbeck (aka Richard Plantagenet)? How did he keep getting away from Henry VII? Was Perkin ACTUALLY Richard? Did the two princes REALLY die in th ...more
Donie Nelson
May 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My taste is eclectic and I became obsessed with "the princes in the tower", Edward & Richard, sons of Edward IV of England and nephews to Richard III. This book is a carefully researched historical account of a young man who claimed to be Prince Richard, the younger of the two princes in the tower. The author makes no conclusions, but allows the reader to decide. It is well-written and engrossing, despite the plethora of dates, places, and other facts. The accepted opinion is to blame Richar ...more
Mar 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like history or biography
This book was quite good although it was long and quite detailed. It is about a man who said that he was one of the princes in the tower whom Richard III imprisoned and (most likely) had killed. He appeared on the scene about 10 years after Richard III was killed at the the Battle of Bosworth and tried to overthrow Henry VII and become King of England.

In the Middles Ages and the Renaissance, people believed that one's station in life was natural. Not just that one was born to it but also that yo
Fallon Burner
Oct 21, 2014 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plantagenets, tudors
I like the writing style a lot! Ann Wroe is a storyteller, first and foremost; she delivers the facts in a very poetic yet pertinent way. This way of presenting the story I feel is so much more accessible than your average history book, as it illustrates the details in a way that really puts the reader there in the shoes of the character.

There is so much more to this book than an account of this mystery man's life or the chronicle of events as they played out. This reads as a plump account of th
Sarah -
I so badly wanted to love this book. The princes are far too fascinating to ever be considered a boring subject.

Unfortunately Wroe is simply not a great writer. Far too many suppositions, presuming what these people might have been thinking 500 years ago. I will say that when she is sticking to facts, I take far less issue with her writing. But when she meanders around and goes off the deep end for a few lines, no thank you.

You can't help but feel bad for this young man, whoever he might have be
May 29, 2014 marked it as wish-list  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: B the BookAddict
Description: The story of Perkin Warbeck is one of the most compelling mysteries of English history. A young man suddenly emerged claiming to be Richard of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower. As such, he tormented Henry VII for eight years. He tried three times to invade England and behaved like a prince. Officially, however, he was proclaimed to be Perkin Warbeck, the son of a Flemish boatman. A diplomatic pawn, he was used by the greatest European rulers of the age for their own pur ...more
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its dense and sluggish at times, but ultimately what you have is a story about a man no one really knows, and how he is molded and shaped by people and events outside of himself; so much so that his own identity and sense of self seem to disappear (assuming they were there to begin with). It's incredibly sad, but its a pretty riveting story nonetheless. The author goes to great lengths to show not only who this man may (or may not) have been, but also the world he, and all the monarchs and ordin ...more
If only every historical biography was like this! This is probably the best I've ever read, bar none, and the fact that it's about a figure as shadowy and mysterious as Perkin Warbeck/Richard, Duke of York only makes it more impressive.

The book really brings the medieval world to life through Wroe's wonderful writing - she doesn't just write about what people did, what they ate, what they wore, but how they would have thought and felt. It's about the medieval mind and mood, as much as it is abou
Stephen McQuiggan
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of a wanderer feted by Emperors and Kings as a long lost Duke; but was he merely a boatman's son, or something else entirely? The amount of research - a lot of it just to add colour - is quite staggering. It's a sad tale - Perkin becomes a pawn for medieval superpowers, and his escape from the Tower engineered as a convenient excuse to put him to death. The book, inevitably, leaves many questions unanswered - What became of Perkin's son? Did Maximilian really believe in him? Did Henry? ...more
Heyrebekah Alm
I thought the topic of this book was fascinating--sort of a royal version of The Return of Martin Guerre which I read a few months ago. A boatman's son convinces a great many people that he is truly one of the lost princes in the tower and leads a revolt against Henry VII. Did anyone really believe him, or were they just using him for their own agendas? It was interesting to learn more about Henry VII, as he is always rather overshadowed by his son in my impressions of Tudor England. The writing ...more
Margaret Sankey
Mar 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wroe takes on one of the great mysteries of late medieval England--not who was Perkin Warbeck (we know that part), but HOW was an impostor able to pass himself off as one of the Princes in the Tower? By illuminating the later 15th century world-- the nobles who wanted something non-Tudor to rally around, the psychological mechanics of deception, learned habits of the nobility made possible by Renaissance social mobility, clever ways of presenting himself, early modern failings of portraiture as ...more
Sara G
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Fantastic, meticulously researched, fairly even handed biography of the supposed Richard of York (Perkin Warbeck?) during Henry VII's reign. I struggle with what to call him, myself - it boggles the mind. This book is LONG, and the author goes off on tangents about life, kingship, and foreign affairs of that time period, so I do not recommend this unless you want to be immersed in the late 15th century for about 500 pages. However, if you're like me and completely fascinated by the era, you'll l ...more
Nov 01, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Wroe follows the stories and facts related to Perkin Warbeck (name of the day!), who claimed to be one of the lost (and presumably murdered) sons of Edward IV.

Henry VII had him "questioned" and it eventually came out that he was actually a common Belgian. The nerve.

What's fascinating is just how far he made it in the ruse, and some historians argue that he half-believed he had royal blood himself.
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Ann Wroe is a journalist and author - working as Briefings and Obituaries editor of The Economist. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Royal Society of Literature and the English Association.
More about Ann Wroe...