The Perfect Prince

Truth and Deception in Renaissance Europe

Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
In 1491, as Machiavelli advised popes and princes and Leonardo da Vinci astonished the art world, a young man boarded a ship in Portugal bound for Ireland. He would be greeted upon arrival as the rightful heir to the throne of England. The trouble was, England already had a king.

The most intriguing and ambitious pretender in history, this elegant young man was celebrated throughout Europe as the prince he claimed to be: Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the “Princes in the Tower” who were presumed to have been murdered almost a decade earlier. Handsome, well-mannered, and charismatic, he behaved like the perfect prince, and many believed he was one. The greatest European rulers of the age—among them the emperor Maximilian, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and Charles VIII of France—used him as a diplomatic pawn to their own advantage. As such, he tormented Henry VII for eight years, attempting to invade England three times. Eventually, defeated and captured, he admitted to being Perkin Warbeck, the son of a common boatman from Flanders. But was this really the truth?

Ann Wroe, a historian and storyteller of the first rank, delves into the secret corners of the late medieval world to explore both the elusive nature of identity and the human propensity for deception. In uncovering the mystery of Perkin Warbeck, Wroe illuminates not only a life but an entire world trembling on the verge of discovery.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter One

Into Adventure

The beginnings of his story, as he told it, lay deep in the turmoil of the recent history of England. For three decades, to the astonishment of foreigners, the crown had been wrestled back and forth between the Houses of Lancaster and York. Henry V, the glory of Lancaster and the...
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“Ann Wroe is the best thing to happen to British history since Stonehenge.”
—Bernard Cornwell

Praise for The Perfect Prince

“The world of history is all the better for having Ann Wroe in it. She is an explorer whose research takes her into the deep, hidden corners of human folly. She rescues the forgotten and illuminates the obscure. The Perfect Prince is the perfect biography: part mystery, part tragedy, and wholly absorbing.”
—Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire

“ entrancing and engrossing book, with a wealth of fascinating detail.”
—Allan Massie, Literary Review

“Extraordinary...[Wroe’s] knowledge is remarkable, and her sublime....[The Perfect Prince is] a master class in how biography, in the right hands, can breathe life into the darkest...pockets of the past.”
—Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian

“A magnificent evocation of medieval Europe...Ann Wroe has conjured up a whole world, exploring the medieval mind-set with fluent erudition....This is one of the best books I have read on the Middle Ages.”
—Lucy Moore, New Statesman

“Astonishingly detailed and moving.”
—Christina Hardyment, The Independent

Praise for Pontius Pilate

“A splendid biography...meticulous and eloquent. In the course of this account, the reader discovers in a new way that evil and good are often deeply and mysteriously complementary.”
—Karen Armstrong

“Sublime...For a long time this book will remain the definitive study of Pilate.”
—The Washington Post Book World

“Compelling, eloquent, and vivid...In a superb blend of scholarship and creativity, Wroe brings this elusive yet pivotal figure to life.”
—The Boston Globe

From the Hardcover edition.