Stowe, Baker, Speed, Biondi, Hollingshed, Bacon. Some late writers, particularly Mr. Carte, have doubted whether Perkin were an impostor, and have even asserted him to be the true Plantagenet. But to refute this opinion, we need only reflect on the following particulars: (1) Though the circumstances of the wars between the two roses be in general involved in great obscurity, yet is there a most luminous ray thrown on all the transactions, during the usurpation of Richard, and the murder of the two young princes, by the narrative of Sir Thomas More, whose singular magnanimity, probity, and judgment, make him an evidence beyond all exception! No historian, either of ancient or modern times, can possibly have more weight: He may also be justly esteemed a contemporary with regard to the murder of the two princes: For though he was but five years of age when that event happened, he lived and was educated among the chief actors during the period of Richard: And it is plain, from his narrative itself, which is often extremely circumstantial, that he had the particulars from the eye-witnesses themselves: His authority, therefore, is irresistible; and sufficient to overbalance a hundred little doubts and scruples and objections. For in reality, his narrative is liable to no solid objection, nor is there any mistake detected in it. He says indeed, that the protector's partizans, particularly Dr. Shaw, spread abroad rumours of Edward IV.'s precontract with Elizabeth Lucy; whereas it now appears from record, that the parliament afterwards declared the king's children illegitimate, on pretence of his pre-contract with lady Eleanor Talbot. But it must be remarked, that neither of these pre-contracts was ever so much as attempted to be proved: And why might not the protector's flatterers and partizans have made use sometimes of one false rumour, sometimes of another? Sir Thomas More mentions the one rumour as well as the other, and treats them both lightly, as they deserved. It is also thought incredible by Mr. Carte, that Dr. Shaw should have been encouraged by Richard to calumniate openly his mother, the dutchess of York, with whom that prince lived in good terms. But if there be any difficulty in this supposition, we need only suppose, that Dr. Shaw might have concerted in general his sermon with the protector or his ministers, and yet have chosen himself the particular topics, and chosen them very foolishly. This appears indeed to have been the case by the disgrace, into which he fell afterwards, and by the protector's neglect of him. (2) If Sir Thomas's quality of contemporary be disputed with regard to the duke of Glocester's protectorate, it cannot possibly be disputed with regard to Perkin's imposture: He was then a man, and had a full opportunity of knowing and examining and judging of the truth. In asserting that the duke of York was murdered by his uncle, he certainly asserts, in the most express terms, that Perkin, who personated him, was an impostor. (3) There is another great genius who has carefully treated this point of history; so great a genius as to be esteemed with justice one of the chief ornaments of the nation, and indeed one of the most sublime writers that any age or nation has produced. It is lord Bacon I mean, who has related at full length, and without the least doubt or hesitation, all the impostures of Perkin Warbeck. If it be objected, that lord Bacon was no contemporary, and that we have the same materials, as he, upon which to form our judgment; it must be remarked, that lord Bacon plainly composed his elaborate and exact history from many records and papers which are now lost, and that consequently, he is always to be cited as an original historian. It were very strange, if Mr. Carte's opinion were just, that, among all the papers, which lord Bacon perused, he never found any reason to suspect Perkin to be the true Plantagenet. There was at that time no interest in defaming Richard III. Bacon besides is a very unbiassed historian, nowise partial to Henry: We know the detail of that prince's oppressive government from him alone. It may only be thought, that, in summing up his character, he has laid the colours of blame more faintly than the very facts, he mentions, seem to require. Let me remark in passing, as a singularity, how much English history has been beholden to four great men, who have possessed the highest dignity in the law, More, Bacon, Clarendon, and Whitlocke. (4) But if contemporary evidence be so much sought after, there may in this case be produced the strongest and most undeniable in the world. The queen-dowager, her son the marquis of Dorset, a man of excellent understanding, Sir Edward Woodville, her brother, Sir Thomas St. Leger, who had married the king's sister, Sir John Bourchier, Sir Robert Willoughby, Sir Giles Daubeney, Sir Thomas Arundel, the Courtneys, the Cheyneys, the Talbots, the Stanleys, and in a word, all the partizans of the house of York, that is, the men of chief dignity in the nation; all these great persons were so assured of the murder of the two princes, that they applied to the earl of Richmond, the mortal enemy of their party and family; they projected to set him on the throne, which must have been utter ruin to them, if the princes were alive; and they stipulated to marry him to the princess Elizabeth, as heir to the crown, who in that case was no heir at all. Had each of those persons written the memoirs of his own times, would he not have said, that Richard murdered his nephews? Or would their pen be a better declaration, than their actions, of their real sentiments? (5) But we have another contemporary authority still better than even these great persons, so much interested to know the truth: It is that of Richard himself: He projected to marry his niece, a very unusual alliance in England, in order to unite her title with his own. He knew therefore her title to be good: For as to the declaration of her illegitimacy, as it went upon no proof, or even pretence of proof, it was always regarded with the utmost contempt by the nation, and was considered as one of those parliamentary transactions, so frequent in that period, which were scandalous in themselves, and had no manner of authority. It was even so much despised as not to be reversed by parliament, after Henry and Elizabeth were on the throne. (6) We have also, as contemporary evidence, the universal established opinion of the age, both abroad and at home. This point was regarded as so uncontroverted, that when Richard notified his accession to the court of France, that court was struck with horror at his abominable parricide, in murdering both his nephews, as Philip de Comines tells us; and this sentiment went to such an unusual height, that, as we learn from the same author, the court would not make the least reply to him. (7) The same reasons, which convinced that age of the parricide, still subsist, and ought to carry the most undoubted evidence to us; namely, the very circumstance of the sudden disappearance of the princes from the Tower, and their appearance no where else. Every one said, they have not escaped from their uncle, for he makes no search after them: He has not conveyed them elsewhere: For it is his business to declare so, in order to remove the imputation of murder from himself. He never would needlessly subject himself to the infamy and danger of being esteemed a parricide, without acquiring the security attending that crime. They were in his custody: He is answerable for them: lf he gives no account of them, as he has a plain interest in their death, he must, by every rule of common sense, be regarded as the murderer. His flagrant usurpation, as well as his other treacherous and cruel actions, makes no better be expected from him. He could not say with Cain, that he was not his nephew's keeper. This reasoning, which was irrefragable at the very first, became every day stronger, from Richard's continued silence, and the general and total ignorance of the place of these princes' abode. Richard's reign lasted about two years beyond this period; and surely, he could not have found a better expedient for disappointing the earl of Richmond's projects, as well as justifying his own character, than the producing of his nephews. (8) If it were necessary, amidst this blaze of evidence, to produce proofs, which, in any other case, would have been regarded as considerable, and would have carried great validity with them, I might mention Dighton and Tyrrel's account of the murder. This last gentleman especially was not likely to subject himself to the reproach of so great a crime, by an imposture, which, it appears, did not acquire him the favour of Henry. (9) The duke of York, being a boy of nine years of age, could not have made his escape without the assistance of some elder persons. Would it not have been their chief concern instantly to convey intelligence of so great an event to his mother, the queen-dowager, to his aunt, the dutchess of Burgundy, and to the other friends of the family? The dutchess protected Simnel; a project, which, had it been successful, must have ended in the crowning of Warwic, and the exclusion of the duke of York! This, among many other proofs, evinces that she was ignorant of the escape of that prince, which is impossible, had it been real. (10) The total silence with regard to the persons who aided him in his escape, as also with regard to the place of his abode during more than eight years, is a sufficient proof of the imposture. (11) Perkin's own account of his escape is incredible and absurd. He said, that murderers were employed by his uncle to kill him and his brother: They perpetrated the crime against his brother; but took compassion on him, and allowed him to escape. This account is contained in all the historians of that age. (12) Perkin himself made a full confession of his imposture no less than three times; once when he surrendered himself prisoner, a second time when he was set in the stocks at Cheapside and Westminster, and a third time, which carries undoubted evidence, at the foot of the gibbet, on which he was hanged. Not the least surmise that the confession had ever been procured by torture: And surely, the last time he had nothing farther to fear. (13) Had not Henry been assured, that Perkin was a ridiculous impostor, disavowed by the whole nation, he never would have allowed him to live an hour after he came into his power; much less, would he have twice pardoned him. His treatment of the innocent earl of Warwic, who in reality had no title to the crown, is a sufficient confirmation of this reasoning. (14) We know with certainty whence the whole imposture came, namely, from the intrigues of the dutchess of Burgundy: She had before acknowledged and supported Lambert Simnel, an avowed impostor. It is remarkable, that Mr. Carte, in order to preserve the weight of the dutchess's testimony in favour of Perkin, suppresses entirely this material fact: A strong effect of party prejudices, and this author's desire of blackening Henry VII. whose hereditary title to the crown was defective. (15) There never was, at that time, any evidence or shadow of evidence produced, of Perkin's identity with Richard Plantagenet. Richard had disappeared when near nine years of age, and Perkin did not appear till he was a man. Could any one, from his aspect, pretend then to be sure of the identity? He had got some stories concerning Richard's childhood, and the court of England: But all that it was necessary for a boy of nine to remark or remember was easily suggested to him by the dutchess of Burgundy, or Frion, Henry's secretary, or by any body that had ever lived at court. It is true, many persons of note were at first deceived; but the discontents against Henry's government, and the general enthusiasm for the house of York, account sufficiently for this temporary delusion. Every body's eyes were opened long before Perkin's death. (16) The circumstance of finding the two dead bodies in the reign of Charles II. is not surely indifferent. They were found in the very place, which More, Bacon, and other ancient authors had assigned as the place of interment of the young princes: The bones corresponded by their size to the age of the princes: The secret and irregular place of their interment, not being in holy ground, proves that the boys had been secretly murdered: And in the Tower, no boys, but those who are very nearly related to the crown, can be exposed to a violent death: If we compare all these circumstances we shall find, that the inference is just and strong, that they were the bodies of Edward the Vth and his brother, the very inference that was drawn at the time of the discovery.
Since the publication of this History, Mr. Walpole has published his Historic Doubts concerning Richard III. Nothing can be a stronger proof how ingenious and agreeable that gentleman's pen is, than his being able to make an inquiry concerning a remote point of English history, an object of general conversation. The foregoing note has been enlarged on account of that performance.