David Bruce: John Ford’s PERKIN WARBECK: A Retelling — Act 2, Scene 1

— 2.1 —

The Countess of Crawford, Lady Katherine, Jane Douglas, and some other ladies were gathered in a balcony overlookingKing James IV of Scotland’s presencechamber in his palace in Edinburgh.

The Countess of Crawford’s husband was the Earl of Crawford, the man who had summoned the Earl of Huntley to the King’s presence.

The Earl of Huntley and the Earl of Crawford had seemed skeptical that Perkin Warbeck was the real Duke of York. These ladies’ conversation would make it clear that they were also skeptical.

The Countess of Crawford said, “Come, ladies, here’s a solemn preparation for the reception of this English prince. Our King of Scotland intends to show him more than ordinary grace. It would be a pity now if the English prince should prove to be a counterfeit.”

“Bless the young man,” Lady Katherine said. “If he should prove to be a counterfeit, our nation would be laughed at throughout Christendom for being innocent, naive souls! My father has a weak stomach — a disinclination — for the business, madam, were it not that the King must not be crossed and thwarted.”

Lady Katherine’s father, the Earl of Huntley, wanted no part of Perkin Warbeck.

The Countess of Crawford now ironically praised Perkin Warbeck’s followers for hiding their identities as princes under the cover of being members of the working class.

She said, “The English prince, Perkin Warbeck,brings a goodly troop, they say, of gallants with him. But they are very modest people, for they strive not to spread abroad their names too much; their godfathers may be beholden to them, but their fathers scarcely owe them thanks.”

She, being cynical, meant this: While in “hiding,” Perkin Warbeck’s followers had taken different names from their fathers, pleasing their godfathers because they could deny being associated with them but displeasing their fathers because they had denied their fathers’ names.

The Countess of Crawford added, “They are disguised princes, brought up, it seems, to work in honest trades, but it doesn’t matter: They will break forth in season.”

She meant that they would reveal their “true” princely natures at the right time. Or she meant that their true identities as non-princes would be revealed at the right time.

Jane Douglas said, “If they do not break forth, they will break out, for most of them are broken — bankrupt — according to reports.”

She may have meant that they would break out in rebellion. Being bankrupt, they had much to gain and little to lose. Or she may have meant that, being bankrupt, they would break out of debtors’ prison.

A flourishof trumpets sounded.

Jane Douglassaid, “The King is arriving.”

“Let us observe them and be silent,” Lady Katherine said.

King James IV of Scotland, the Earl of Huntley, the Earl of Crawford, Lord Dalyell, and other noblemen entered the presence chamber.

King James IV said, “The right of Kings, my lords, extends not only to the safe conservation of their own crowns and subjects, but also to the aid of such allied sovereigns as change of time and state has often hurled down from full-of-care crowns to undergo an exercise of endurance in both kinds of fortunes: good and bad.

“So the English King Richard I, surnamed Coeur-de-Lion, and so Robert Bruce, our royal ancestor,forced by the trial of the wrongs they felt, both sought and found supplies and reinforcements from foreign Kings to help repossess what was their own.”

Richard I the Lionheart (1157-1199) reigned as King of England from 1189 to 1199. In the 1180s, King Richard I sought help from King Philip II (known also as Philip Augustus) of France in defending the Duchy of Aquitaine, which Richard had ruled since 1172.

Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) reigned as King of Scotland from 1306 to 1329. In 1295 King Robert I sought and received refuge from King Edward I of England.

King James IV continued, “Then don’t grudge, lords, to help a much distressed prince: Perkin Warbeck.

“King Charles VIII of France and Maximilian of Bohemia both have ratified his credit and authenticity by their letters. Shall we, then, be distrustful? No. Compassion is one rich jewel that shines in our crown, and we will continue to have it shine there.”

“Do as you will, sir,” the Earl of Huntley said.

“The young Duke is at hand,” King James IV said. “Dalyell, from us first greet him, and conduct him here. Then the Earl of Crawford shall meet him next, and the Earl of Huntley shall meet him last of all.

“Present him to our arms.”

Lord Dalyellexited to carry out his orders.

King James IV ordered, “Let sprightly music sound while majesty encounters majesty.”

Music played.

Lord Dalyell returned with Perkin Warbeck, followed at a distance by Frion, Heron, Skelton, Astley, and John a-Water.

The Earl of Crawford advanced and received Perkin Warbeck at the door, and then the Earl of Huntley saluted Perkin Warbeck and presented him to King James IV. The Scottish King and Perkin Warbeck embraced. The Scottish noblemen slightly saluted Perkin Warbeck’s followers.

Perkin Warbeck said, “Most high, most mighty King! That now there stands before your eyes, in presence of your peers, a subject — myself — of the rarest kind of pity that has in any age touched noble hearts, the widely known story of a prince’s ruin has made too apparent. Europe knows, and all the western world knows, what persecution has raged in malice against us” — he was using the royal plural — “the sole heir to the great throne of the old Plantagenets.”

The first Plantagenet King was King Henry II (1154-1189). From 1154 until 1485, when King Richard III died, all English Kings were Plantagenets. The Lancaster family and the York family were Plantagenets.

King Henry VII was the first Tudor King. His father was Edmund Tudor, and so King Henry VII was a member of the House of Tudor. However, through the female line he could trace his ancestry back to King Edward III of the House of Plantagenet. His mother was Lady Margaret Beaufort, a great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who was the fourth son of King Edward III.

If Perkin Warbeck’s claim to be the Duke of York, King Edward IV’s son, had been true, he would have a stronger claim to the throne of England than King Henry VII. Perkin Warbeck, however, was wrong when he claimed to be “the sole heir to the great throne of the old Plantagenets.” One son of the Earl of Clarence, brother to King Edward IV and King Richard III, still lived: the Earl of Warwick.

Perkin Warbeck introduced his story, in which he would explain why he — the “Duke of York” — was still alive and where he had been for the past fourteen years:

“How from our nursery we have been hurried to the sanctuary, from the sanctuary forced to the prison, from the prison dragged by cruel hands to the tormentor’s fury, is registered already in the book of all men’s tongues, whose true telling draws compassion, melted into weeping eyes and bleeding souls, but our misfortunes since have ranged a larger journey through foreign lands, protected in our innocence by Heaven.”

Perkin Warbeck first explained why he was still alive. This was necessary since most people thought that King Edward V and the Duke of York (whom Perkin Warbeck was pretending to be) had been murdered in the Tower of London by the order of the future King Richard III:

“King Edward V, our brother, in his tragedy quenched his murderers’ hot thirst of blood, whose contract to commit murder paid them their wages of despair and horror. The softness of my childhood smiled upon the roughness of their task, and robbed them farther of hearts to dare or hands to execute. Great King, they spared my life; the butchers spared it. They reported to the tyrant, my unnatural and inhuman uncle, King Richard III, an oath concerning my ‘death.’”

He meant that the murderers told King Richard III a partial truth — they had killed the young King Edward V — but then they had lied and said that they had also killed the young Duke of York. However, the real truth (as far as historians know) is that murderers killed both boys, probably in 1483, when they disappeared. King Edward V was then twelve years old, and the Duke of York was nine years old.

Perkin Warbeck next explained where he had been raised after his life was “spared”:

“I was conveyed with secrecy and speed to Tournai, where I was fostered by a common family, and taught to forget myself and not reveal my true identity.”

Perkin Warbeck finally explained why he had chosen to reveal his “true” identity recently:

“But as I grew in years, I grew in sense both of fear and of disdain. I was in fear of the tyrant Richard III whose power swayed the throne then: I was afraid that he would again attempt to kill me.

“But when disdain of living so unknown, in such a servile and abject lowness, prompted me to thoughts of recollecting who I was, I shook off my bondage, and made haste to let my aunt of Burgundy acknowledge me as her kinsman, heir to England’s crown, which was snatched by Henry from Richard III’s head — a thing scarcely known in the world.”

Perkin Warbeck declined to refer to King Henry VII as King, preferring to call him simply “Henry.”

King James IV said, “My lord, it is not consistent with your counsel and purpose now to fly upon and use invective. If you can provide convincing evidence of what you have discoursed in every circumstance, we will not delay by meditating on ouranswer, but instead be ready to help you in your cause.”

Perkin Warbeck replied, “You are a wise and just King, by the powers above reserved and set apart, beyond all other aids, to plant me in my own inheritance, to marry these two kingdoms as allies in a love never to be divorced while time is time.

“As for the manner, first of my escape, of my transportation elsewhere next, of my life since then, the means and persons who were instruments of my escape, great sir, it is fit I pass all this over in silence, reserving the relation to the secrecyof your own princely ear, since it concerns some great ones yet living, and others dead, whose descendants might be questioned. In return for your bounty, your royal munificence to him who seeks it, we vow hereafter to conduct ourself as if we were your own and natural brother, omitting no occasion in our person to express a gratitude beyond precedent.”

King James IV said, “He who can utter the language of a King must be more than just a subject, and such language is thine. Take this for your answer: Be whatever thou are, thou never shall repent that thou have put thy cause and person into my protection. Cousin of York, thus once more we embrace thee. Welcome to James of Scotland!”

Kings called other Kings “cousin.” This did not necessarily imply a biological relationship.

King James IV continued, “Asfor thy safety, know that such people as do not love thee shall never wrong thee.

“Come, we will taste a while our court-delights, pleasantly daydream away past afflictions, and then proceed to high adventures of honor on the battlefield.

“On, lead on!

“Both thou and thine are ours, and we will guard all of you.

“Lead on!”

Everyone exited except the ladies on the balcony.

The Countess of Crawford said, “I have not seen a gentleman of braver appearance or better carriage. His bad fortune in life so far does not dismay him.”

She then said to Lady Katherine, “Madam, you’re very emotional.”

“Beshrew me, but his words have touched me deeply, as if his cause concerned me,” Lady Katherine said. “I would pity him if he would prove to be someone other than he seems to be.”

She meant that she would pity Perkin Warbeck if he turned out to be a fraud.

The Earl of Crawford returned and said, “Ladies, the King commands your presence immediately for the reception of the Duke of York.”

“The Duke of York must then be entertained and the King obeyed,” Lady Katherine said. “It is our duty.”

“We will all attend on him,” the Countess of Crawford said.

All went to the reception for Perkin Warbeck.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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