Celebrated Claimants from Perkin Warbeck to Arthur Orton
Author: Anonymous
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This book is intended much less to gratify a temporary curiosity than to fill an empty page in our literature. In our own and in other countries Claimants have been by no means rare. Wandering heirs to great possessions have not unfrequently concealed themselves for many years until their friends have forgotten them, and have suddenly and inopportunely reappeared to demand restitution of their rights; and unscrupulous rogues have very often advanced pretensions to titles and estates which did not appertain to them, in the hope that they would be able to deceive the rightful possessors and the legal tribunals. When such cases have occurred they have created more or less excitement in proportion to the magnitude of the claim, the audacity of the imposture, or the romance which has surrounded them. But the interest which they have aroused has been evanescent, and the only records which remain of the vast majority are buried in ponderous legal tomes, which are rarely seen, and are still more rarely read, by non-professional men. The compiler of the present collection has endeavoured to disinter the most noteworthy claims which have been made either to honours or property, at home or abroad, and, while he has passed over those which present few remarkable features, has spared no research to render his work as perfect as possible, and to supply a reliable history of those which are entitled to rank as causes celebres. The book must speak for itself. It is put forward in the hope that, while it may serve to amuse the hasty reader in a leisure hour, it may also be deemed worthy of a modest resting-place in the libraries of those who like to watch the march of events, and who have the prudent habit, when information is found, of preserving a note of it.






































Henry VI. was one of the most unpopular of our English monarchs. During his reign the nobles were awed by his austerity towards some members of their own high estate, and divided between the claims of Lancaster and York; and the peasantry, who cared little for the claims of the rival Roses, were maddened by the extortions and indignities to which they were subjected. The feebleness and corruption of the Government, and the disasters in France, combined with the murder of the Duke of Suffolk, added to the general discontent; and the result was, that in the year 1450 the country was ripe for revolution. In June of that year, and immediately after the death of Suffolk, a body of 20,000 of the men of Kent; assembled on Blackheath, under the leadership of a reputed Irishman, calling himself John Cade, but who is said in reality to have been an English physician named Aylmere. This person, whatever his real cognomen, assumed the name of Mortimer (with manifest allusion to the claims of the House of Mortimer to the succession), and forwarded two papers to the king, entitled "The Complaint of the Commons of Kent," and "The Requests of the Captain of the Great Assembly in Kent." Henry replied by despatching a small force against the rioters. Cade unhesitatingly gave battle to the royal troops, and having defeated them and killed their leader, Sir Humphrey Stafford, at Seven Oaks, advanced towards London. Still preserving an appearance of moderation, he forwarded to the court a plausible list of grievances, asserting that when these were redressed, and Lord Say, the treasurer, and Cromer, the sheriff of Kent, had been punished for their malversations, he and his men would lay down their arms. These demands were so reasonable that the king's troops, who were far from loyal, refused to fight against the insurgents; and Henry, finding his cause desperate, retired for safety to Kenilworth, Lord Scales with a thousand men remaining to defend the Tower. Hearing of the flight of his majesty, Cade advanced to Southwark, which he reached on the 1st of July, and, the citizens offering no resistance, he entered London two days afterwards. Strict orders had been given to his men to refrain from pillage, and on the same evening they were led back to Southwark. On the following day he returned, and having compelled the Lord Mayor and the people to sit at Guildhall, brought Say and Cromer before them, and these victims of the popular spite were condemned, after a sham trial, and were beheaded in Cheapside. This exhibition of personal ill-will on the part of their chief seemed the signal for the commencement of outrages by his followers. On the next day the unruly mob began to plunder, and the citizens, repenting of their disloyalty, joined with Lord Scales in resisting their re-entry. After a sturdy fight, the Londoners held the position, and the Kentishmen, discouraged by their reverse, began to scatter. Cade, not slow to perceive the danger which threatened him, fled towards Lewis, but was overtaken by Iden, the sheriff of Kent, who killed him in a garden in which he had taken shelter. A reward of 1000 marks followed this deed of bravery. Some of the insurgents were afterwards executed as traitors; but the majority even of the ringleaders escaped unpunished, for Henry's seat upon the throne was so unstable, that it was deemed better to win the people by a manifestation of clemency, rather than to provoke them by an exhibition of severity.


After the downfall of the Plantagenet dynasty, and the accession of Henry VII. to the English throne, the evident favour shown by the king to the Lancastrian party greatly provoked the adherents of the House of York, and led some of the malcontents to devise one of the most extraordinary impostures recorded in history.

An ambitious Oxford priest, named Richard Simon, had among his pupils a handsome youth, fifteen years of age, named Lambert Simnel. This lad, who was the son of a baker, and, according to Lord Bacon, was possessed of "very pregnant parts," was selected to disturb the usurper's government, by appearing as a pretender to his crown. At first it was the intention of the conspirators that he should personate Richard, duke of York, the second son of Edward IV., who was supposed to have escaped from the assassins of the Tower, and to be concealed somewhere in England. Accordingly, the monk Simon, who was the tool of higher persons, carefully instructed young Simnel in the role which he was to play, and in a short time had rendered him thoroughly proficient in his part. But just as the plot was ripe for execution a rumour spread abroad that Edward Plantagenet, earl of Warwick, and only male heir of the House of York, had effected his escape from the Tower, and the plan of the imposture was changed. Simnel was set to learn another lesson, and in a very brief time had acquired a vast amount of information respecting the private life of the royal family, and the adventures of the Earl of Warwick. When he was accounted thoroughly proficient, he was despatched to Ireland in the company of Simon—the expectation of the plotters being that the imposition would be less likely to be detected on the other side of the channel, and that the English settlers in Ireland, who were known to be attached to the Yorkist cause, would support his pretensions.

These anticipations were amply fulfilled. On his arrival in the island, Simnel at once presented himself to the Earl of Kildare, then viceroy, and claimed his protection as the unfortunate Warwick. The credulous nobleman listened to his story, and repeated it to others of the nobility, who in time diffused it throughout all ranks of society. Everywhere the escape of the Plantagenet was received with satisfaction, and at last the people of Dublin unanimously tendered their allegiance to the pretender, as the rightful heir to the throne. Their homage was of course accepted, and Simnel was solemnly crowned (May 24, 1487), with a crown taken from an effigy of the Virgin Mary, in Christ Church Cathedral. After the coronation, he was publicly proclaimed king, and, as Speed tells us, "was carried to the castle on tall men's shoulders, that he might be seen and known." With the exception of the Butlers of Ormond, a few of the prelates, and the inhabitants of Waterford, the whole island followed the example of the capital, and not a voice was raised in protest, or a sword drawn in favour of King Henry. Ireland was in revolt.

When news of these proceedings reached London, Henry summoned the peers and bishops, and devised measures for the punishment of his secret enemies and the maintenance of his authority. His first act was to proclaim a free pardon to all his former opponents; his next, to lead the real Earl of Warwick in procession from the Tower to St. Paul's, and thence to the palace of Shene, where the nobility and gentry had daily opportunities of meeting him and conversing with him. Suspecting, not without cause, that the Queen-Dowager was implicated in the conspiracy, Henry seized her lands and revenues, and shut her up in the Convent of Bermondsey. But he failed to reach the active agents; and although the English people were satisfied that the Earl of Warwick was still a prisoner, the Irish persisted in their revolt, and declared that the person who had been shown to the public at St. Paul's was a counterfeit. By the orders of the Government a strict watch was kept at the English ports, that fugitives, malcontents, or suspected persons might not pass over into Ireland or Flanders; and a thousand pounds reward was offered to any one who would present the State with the body of the sham Plantagenet.

Meanwhile John, earl of Lincoln, whom Richard had declared heir to the throne, and whom Henry had treated with favour, took the side of the pretender, and having established a correspondence with Sir Thomas Broughton of Lancashire, proceeded to the court of Margaret, dowager-duchess of Burgundy—a woman described by Lord Bacon as "possessing the spirit of a man and the malice of a woman," and whose great aim it was to see the sovereignty of England once more held by the house of which she was a member. She readily consented to abet the sham Earl of Warwick, and furnished Lincoln and Lord Lovel with a body of 2000 German veterans, commanded by an able officer named Martin Schwartz. The countenance given to the movement by persons of such high rank, and the accession of this military force, greatly raised the courage of Simnel's Irish adherents, and led them to conceive the project of invading England, where they believed the spirit of disaffection to be as general as it was in their own island.

The news of the intended invasion came early to the ears of King Henry, who promptly prepared to resist it. Having always felt or affected great devotion, after mustering his army, he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of our Lady of Walsingham, famous for miracles, and there offered up prayers for success and for the overthrow of his enemies. Being informed that Simnel and his gathering had landed at Foudrey, in Lancashire, the king advanced to Coventry to meet them. The rebels had anticipated that the disaffected provinces of the north would rise and join them, but in this they were disappointed; for the cautious northerners were not only convinced of Simnel's imposture, but were afraid of the king's strength, and were averse to league themselves with a horde of Irishmen and Germans. The Earl of Lincoln, therefore, who commanded the invading force, finding no hopes but in victory, determined to bring the matter to a speedy decision. The hostile armies met at Stoke, in Nottinghamshire, and after a hardly-contested day, the victory remained with the king. Lincoln, Broughton, and Schwartz perished on the field of battle, with four thousand of their followers. As Lord Lovel was never more heard of, it was supposed that he shared the same fate. Lambert Simnel, with his tutor the monk Simon, were taken prisoners. The latter, as an ecclesiastic, escaped the doom he merited, and, not being tried at law, was only committed to close custody for the rest of his life. As for Simnel, when he was questioned, he revealed his real parentage; and being deemed too contemptible to be an object either of apprehension or resentment, Henry pardoned him, and made him first a scullion in the royal kitchen, and afterwards promoted him to the lofty position of a falconer.


Although Lambert Simnel's enterprise had miscarried, Margaret, dowager-duchess of Burgundy, did not despair of seeing the crown of England wrested from the House of Lancaster, and determined at least to disturb King Henry's government if she could not subvert it. To this end she sedulously spread abroad a report that Richard, duke of York, the second son of Edward IV., had escaped the cruelty of his uncle Richard III., and had been set at liberty by the assassins who had been sent to despatch him. This rumour, although improbable, was eagerly received by the people, and they were consequently prepared to welcome the new pretender whenever he made his appearance.

After some search, the duchess found a stripling whom she thought had all the qualities requisite to personate the unfortunate prince. This youth is described as being "of visage beautiful, of countenance majestical, of wit subtile and crafty; in education pregnant, in languages skilful; a lad, in short, of a fine shape, bewitching behaviour, and very audacious." The name of this admirable prodigy was Peterkin, or Perkin Warbeck, and he was the son of John Warbeck, a renegade Jew of Tournay. Some writers, and among others Lord Bacon, suggest that he had certain grounds for his pretensions to royal descent, and hint that King Edward, in the course of his amorous adventures, had been intimate with Catherine de Faro, Warbeck's wife; and Bacon says "it was pretty extraordinary, or at least very suspicious, that so wanton a prince should become gossip in so mean a house." But be this as it may, the lad was both handsome and crafty, and was well suited for the part which he was destined to play.

Some years after his birth, the elder Warbeck returned to Tournay, carrying the child with him; but Perkin did not long remain in the paternal domicile, but by different accidents was carried from place to place, until his birth and fortunes became difficult to trace by the most diligent inquiry. No better tool could have been found for the ambitious Duchess of Burgundy; and when he was brought to her palace, she at once set herself to instruct him thoroughly with respect to the person whom he was to represent. She so often described to him the features, figures, and peculiarities of his deceased—or presumedly deceased—parents, Edward IV. and his queen, and informed him so minutely of all circumstances relating to the family history, that in a short time he was able to talk as familiarly of the court of his pretended father as the real Duke of York could have done. She took especial care to warn him against certain leading questions which might be put to him, and to render him perfect in his narration of the occurrences which took place while he was in sanctuary with the queen, and particularly to be consistent in repeating the story of his escape from his executioners. After he had learnt his lesson thoroughly, he was despatched under the care of Lady Brampton to Portugal, there to wait till the fitting time arrived for his presentation to the English people.

At length, when war between France and England was imminent, a proper opportunity seemed to present itself, and he was ordered to repair to Ireland, which still retained its old attachment to the House of York. He landed at Cork, and at once assuming the name of Richard Plantagenet, succeeded in attracting many partizans. The news of his presence in Ireland reached France; and Charles VIII., prompted by the Burgundian duchess, sent him an invitation to repair to Paris. The chance of recognition by the French king was too good to be idly cast away. He went, and was received with every possible mark of honour. Magnificent lodgings were provided for his reception; a handsome pension was settled upon him; and a strong guard was appointed to secure him against the emissaries of the English king. The French courtiers readily imitated their master, and paid the respect to Perkin which was due to the real Duke of York; and he, in turn, both by his deportment and personal qualities, well supported his claims to a royal pedigree. For a time nothing was talked of but the accomplishments, the misfortunes, and the adventures of the young Plantagenet; and the curiosity and credulity of England became thoroughly aroused by the strange tidings which continued to arrive from France. Sir George Nevill, Sir John Taylor, and many English gentlemen who entertained no love for the king, repaired to the French capital to satisfy themselves as to the pretensions of this young man; and so well had Warbeck's lesson been acquired, that he succeeded in convincing them of his identity, and in inducing them to pledge themselves to aid him in his attempt to recover his inheritance.

About this time, however, the breach between France and England was lessened, and when friendly relations were restored, Henry applied to have the impostor put into his hands. Charles, refusing to break faith with a youth who had come to Paris by his own solicitation, refused to give him up, and contented himself with ordering him to quit the kingdom. Warbeck thereupon in all haste repaired to the court of Margaret of Burgundy; but she at first astutely pretended ignorance of his person and ridiculed his claims, saying that she had been deceived by Simnel, and was resolved never again to be cajoled by another impostor. Perkin, who admitted that she had reason to be suspicious, nevertheless persisted that he was her nephew, the Duke of York. The duchess, feigning a desire to convict him of imposture before the whole of her attendants, put several questions to him which she knew he could readily answer, affected astonishment at his replies, and, at last, no longer able to control her feelings, "threw herself on his neck, and embraced him as her nephew, the true image of Edward, the sole heir of the Plantagenets, and the legitimate successor to the English throne." She immediately assigned to him an equipage suited to his supposed rank, appointed a guard of thirty halberdiers to wait upon him, and gave him the title of "The White Rose of England"—the symbol of the House of York.

When the news reached England, in the beginning of 1493, that the Duke of York was alive in Flanders, and had been acknowledged by the Duchess of Burgundy, many people credited the story; and men of the highest rank began to turn their eyes towards the new claimant. Lord Fitzwater, Sir Simon Mountfort, and Sir Thomas Thwaites, made little secret of their inclination towards him; Sir William Stanley, King Henry's chamberlain, who had been active in raising the usurper to the throne, was ready to adopt his cause whenever he set foot on English soil, and Sir Robert Clifford and William Barley openly gave their adhesion to the pretender, and went over to Flanders to concert measures with the duchess and the sham duke. After his arrival, Clifford wrote to his friends in England, that knowing the person of Richard, duke of York, perfectly well, he had no doubt that this young man was the prince himself, and that his story was compatible with the truth. Such positive intelligence from a person of Clifford's rank greatly strengthened the popular belief, and the whole English nation was seriously discomposed and gravely disaffected towards the king.

When Henry was informed of this new plot, he set himself cautiously but steadily and resolutely to foil it. His first object was to ascertain the reality of the death of the young prince, and to confirm the opinion which had always prevailed with regard to that event. Richard had engaged five persons to murder his nephews—viz., Sir James Tirrel, whom he made custodian of the Tower while his nefarious scheme was in course of execution, and who had seen the bodies of the princes after their assassination; Forrest, Dighton, and Slater, who perpetrated the crime; and the priest who buried the bodies. Tirrel and Dighton were still alive; but although their stories agreed, as the priest was dead, and as the bodies were supposed to have been removed by Richard's orders, and could not be found, it was impossible to prove conclusively that the young princes really had been put to death.

By means of his spies, Henry, after a time, succeeded in tracing the true pedigree of Warbeck, and immediately published it for the satisfaction of the nation. At the same time he remonstrated with the Archduke Philip on account of the protection which was afforded to the impostor, and demanded that "the theatrical king formed by the Duchess of Burgundy" should be given up to him. The ambassadors were received with all outward respect, but their request was refused, and they were sent home with the answer, that "the Duchess of Burgundy being absolute sovereign in the lands of her dowry, the archduke could not meddle with her affairs, or hinder her from doing what she thought fit." Henry in resentment cut off all intercourse with the Low Countries, banished the Flemings, and recalled his own subjects from these provinces. At the same time, Sir Robert Clifford having proved traitorous to Warbeck's cause, and having revealed the names of its supporters in England, the king pounced upon the leading conspirators. Almost at the same instant he arrested Fitzwater, Mountfort, and Thwaites, together with William D'Aubeney, Thomas Cressener, Robert Ratcliff, and Thomas Astwood. Lord Fitzwater was sent as a prisoner to Calais with some hopes of pardon; but being detected in an attempt to bribe his gaolers, he was beheaded. Sir Simon Mountfort, Robert Ratcliff, and William D'Aubeney were tried, condemned, and executed, and the others were pardoned.

Stanley, the chamberlain, was reserved for a more impressive fate. His domestic connection with the king and his former services seemed to render him safe against any punishment; but Henry, thoroughly aroused by his perfidy, determined to bring the full weight of his vengeance upon him. Clifford was directed to come privately to England, and cast himself at the foot of the throne, imploring pardon for his past offences, and offering to condone his folly by any services which should be required of him. Henry, accepting his penitence, informed him that the only reparation he could now make was by disclosing the names of his abettors; and the turncoat at once denounced Stanley, then present, as, his chief colleague. The chamberlain indignantly repudiated the accusation; and Henry, with well-feigned disbelief, begged Clifford to be careful in making his charges, for it was absolutely incredible "that a man, to whom he was in a great measure beholden for his crown, and even for his life; a man to whom, by every honour and favour, he had endeavoured to express his gratitude; whose brother, the Earl of Derby, was his own father-in-law; to whom he had even committed the trust of his person by creating him lord chamberlain; that this man, enjoying his full confidence and affection, not actuated by any motive of discontent or apprehension, should engage in a conspiracy against him." But Clifford persisted in his charges and statements. Stanley was placed under arrest, and was subsequently tried, condemned, and beheaded.

The fate of the unfortunate chamberlain, and the defection of Clifford, created the greatest consternation in the camp of Perkin Warbeck. The king's authority was greatly strengthened by the promptness and severity of his measures, and the pretender soon discovered that unless he were content to sink into obscurity, he must speedily make a bold move. Accordingly, having collected a band of outlaws, criminals, and adventurers, he set sail for England. Having received intelligence that Henry was at that time in the north, he cast anchor off the coast of Kent, and despatched some of his principal adherents to invite the gentlemen of Kent to join his standard. The southern landowners, who were staunchly loyal, invited him to come on shore and place himself at their head. But the wary impostor was not to be entrapped so easily. He declined to trust himself in the hands of the well-disciplined bands which expressed so much readiness to follow him to death or victory; and the Kentish troops, despairing of success in their stratagem, fell upon such of his retainers as had already landed, and took 150 of them prisoners. These were tried, sentenced, and executed by order of the king, who was determined to show no lenity to the rebels. Perkin being an eye-witness of the capture of his people, immediately weighed anchor, and returned to Flanders.

Hampered, however, by his horde of desperadoes, he could not again settle quietly down under the protecting wing of the Duchess Margaret. Work and food had to be found for his lawless followers; and in 1495 an attempt was made upon Ireland, which still retained its preference for the House of York. But the people of Ireland had learnt a salutary lesson at the battle of Stoke, and Perkin, meeting with little success, withdrew to Scotland. At this time there was a coolness between the Scottish and English courts, and King James gave him a favourable reception, being so completely deceived by his specious story, that he bestowed upon him in marriage the beautiful and virtuous Lady Catherine Gordon, the daughter of the Earl of Huntly, and his own kinswoman. Not content with this, the King of Scots, with Perkin in his company, invaded England, in the hope that the adherents of the York family would rise in favour of the pretender. In this expectation he was disappointed, and what at first seemed likely to prove a dangerous insurrection ended in a mere border raid.

For a time Warbeck remained in Scotland; but when King James discovered that his continued presence at his court completely prevented all hope of a lasting peace with England, he requested him to leave the country. The Flemings meanwhile had passed a law barring his retreat into the Low Countries. Therefore, after hiding for a time in the wilds of Ireland, he resolved to try the affections of the men of Cornwall. No sooner did he land at Bodmin, than the people crowded to his banners in such numbers, that the pretender, hopeful of success, took upon himself for the first time the title of Richard IV., king of England. Not to suffer the expectation of his followers to languish, he laid siege to Exeter; but the men of Exeter, having shut their gates in his face, waited with confidence for the coming of the king. Nor were they disappointed. The Lords D'Aubeney and Broke were despatched with a small body of troops to the relief of the city. The leading nobles offered their services as volunteers, and the king, at the head of a considerable army, prepared to follow his advanced guard. Perkin's followers, who numbered about 7000 men, would have stood by him; but the cowardly Fleming, despairing of success, secretly withdrew to the sanctuary of Beaulieu. The Cornish rebels accepted the king's clemency, and Lady Gordon, the wife of the pretender, fell into the hands of the royalists. To Henry's credit it must be mentioned that he did not visit the sins of the husband upon the poor deluded wife, but placed her in attendance upon the queen, and bestowed upon her a pension which she continued to enjoy throughout his reign, and even after his death.

It was a difficult matter to know how to deal with the impostor himself. It would have been easy to make the privileges of the church yield to reasons of state, and to take him by violence from the sanctuary; but at the same time it was wise to respect the rights of the clergy and the prejudices of the people. Therefore agents were appointed to treat with the counterfeit prince, and succeeded in inducing him, by promises that his life would be spared, to deliver himself up to King Henry. Once a captive, he was treated with derision rather than with extreme severity, and was led in a kind of mock triumph to London. As he passed along the road, and through the streets of the city, men of all grades assembled to see the impostor, and cast ridicule upon his fallen fortunes; and the farce was ended by the publication of a confession in which Warbeck narrated his real parentage, and the chief causes of his presumption to royal honours.

But although his life was spared, he was still detained in custody. After a time he escaped from prison, and fled to the Priory of Sheen, near Richmond, where he desired the prior, who was a favourite with the king, to petition for his life and a pardon. If Henry had listened to the advice of his counsellors he would have taken advantage of the opportunity to rid himself of this persistent disturber of his peace; but he was content to give orders that "the knave should be taken out and set in the stocks." Accordingly, on the 14th of June 1499, Warbeck was exposed on a scaffold, erected in the Palace Court, Westminster, as he was on the day following at the Cross on Cheapside, and at both these places he read a confession of his imposture. Notwithstanding this additional disgrace, no sooner was he again under lock and key, than his restless spirit induced him to concoct another plot for liberty and the crown. Insinuating himself into the intimacy of four servants of Sir John Digby, lieutenant of the Tower, by their means he succeeded in opening a correspondence with the Earl of Warwick, who was confined in the same prison. The unfortunate prince listened readily to his fatal proposals, and a new plan was laid. Henry was apprised of it, and was not sorry that the last of the Plantagenets had thus thrust himself into his hands. Warbeck and Warwick were brought to trial, condemned, and executed. Perkin Warbeck died very penitently on the gallows at Tyburn. "Such," says Bacon, "was the end of this little cockatrice of a king." The Earl of Warwick was beheaded on Tower Hill, on the 28th of November 1499.


King Sebastian of Portugal, who inherited the throne in 1557, seems, even from his infancy, to have exhibited a remarkable love of warlike exercises, and at an early age to have given promise of distinguishing himself as a warrior. At the time of his accession, Portugal had lost much of her old military prestige; the Moors had proved too strong for her diminished armies; the four strongholds of Arzilla, Alcazar-Sequer, Saphin, and Azamor, had been wrested from her; and Mazagan, Ceuta, and Tangier alone remained to her of all her African possessions. Consequently, the tutors of the boy-king were delighted to see his warlike instinct, and carefully instilled into his mind a hatred of the Paynim conquerors.

The lesson was well learnt, and from the moment King Sebastian reached his 14th year (the period of his majority), it was evident that all his thoughts centred on an expedition to Africa, to revive the former glories of his house, and to extend his empire even beyond its former limits. In 1574 he set out, not to conquer the land, but simply to view it, and with youthful audacity landed at Tangier, accompanied by only 1500 men. Finding no opposition to his progress, he organized a hunting expedition among the mountains, and actually put his project into execution. The Moors, by this time thoroughly incensed by his audacity, mustered a force and attacked his escort, but he succeeded in beating them off, and escaped in safety to his ships, and reached his kingdom unharmed.

This peculiar reconnaissance only strengthened his resolution to wrest his former possessions from the Moslems; and although Portugal was impoverished and weak, he resolved at once to enter on a crusade against Muley Moluc and the Moors. The protests of his ministers were unheeded; he laid new and exorbitant imposts on his people, caused mercenaries to be levied in Italy and the Low Countries, and reluctantly persuaded his uncle, Philip I. of Spain, to promise a contingent. His preparations being at last completed, and a regency established, he put to sea in June 1578. His armament consisted of 9000 Portuguese, 2000 Spaniards, 3000 Germans, and some 600 Italians—in all, about 15,000 men, with twelve pieces of artillery, embarked on fifty-five vessels.

On the 4th of August the opposing forces met. The Moorish monarch, who was stricken with a fatal disorder, was carried on a litter to the field, and died while struggling with his attendants, who refused to allow him to rush into the thick of the fight. The Portuguese were routed with great slaughter, notwithstanding the valour with which they were led by Don Sebastian. Two horses were killed under the Christian king; the steed on which he rode was exhausted, and the handful of followers who remained with him entreated him to surrender. Sebastian indignantly refused, and again dashed into the middle of the fray. From this moment his fate is uncertain. Some suppose that he was taken prisoner, and that his captors beginning to dispute among themselves as to the possession of so rich a prize, one of the Moorish officers slew him to prevent the rivalry ending in bloodshed. Another account, however, affirms that he was seen after the battle, alone and unattended, and apparently seeking some means of crossing the river. On the following day search was made for his body, Don Nuno Mascarcuhas, his personal attendant, having stated that he saw him put to death with his own eyes. At the spot which the Portuguese noble indicated, a body was found, which, though naked, Resende, a valet of Sebastian, recognised as that of his master. It was at once conveyed to the tent of Muley Hamet, the brother and successor of Muley Moluc, and was there identified by the captive Portuguese nobles. That their grief was sincere there could be no doubt; and the Moorish king having placed the royal remains in a handsome coffin, delivered them for a heavy ransom to the Spanish ambassador, by whom they were forwarded to Portugal, where they were buried with much pomp.

But although the nobles were well content to believe that Sebastian was dead, the mob were by no means equally satisfied that the story of his fate was true, and were prepared to receive any impostor with open arms. Indeed, in some parts of Portugal, Don Sebastian is supposed by the populace to be still alive, concealed like Roderick the Goth, or our own Arthur, in some hermit's cell, or in some enchanted castle, until the fitting time for his re-appearance arrives, when he will break the spell which binds him, and will restore the faded glory of the nation. During the incursions of Bonaparte, his appearance was anxiously expected, but he delayed the day of his coming. But if the real Sebastian remains silent, there have been numerous pretenders to his throne and his name.

In 1585 a man appeared who personated the dead king. He was a native of Alcazova, and a person of low birth and still lower morals. In his earlier days he had been admitted into the monastic society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, but had been expelled from the fraternity on account of his misconduct. Even in his later life, when, by pretended penitence, he succeeded in gaining re-admission, his vices were found so far to outweigh his virtues and his piety that it was necessary again to confide him to the tender mercies of a sacrilegious world. He fled to the hermitage of Albuquerque, and there devotees visited him. Widows and full-blooded donnas especially frequented his cell; and the results of his exercises were such that the Alcalde threatened to lay hands upon him. Once more he disappeared, but only to turn up again in the guise of Don Sebastian. Two of his accomplices who mixed among the people pointed out his resemblance to the lost monarch: the credulous crowd swallowed the story, and he soon had a respectable following. Orders from Lisbon, however, checked his prosperous career. He was arrested and escorted by 100 horsemen to the dungeons of the capital. There he was tried and condemned to death. The sentence was not, however, carried into effect; for the imposture was deemed too transparent to merit the infliction of the extreme penalty. The prisoner was carried to the galleys instead of the scaffold, and exhibited to visitors as a contemptible curiosity rather than as a dangerous criminal. So ended the first sham Sebastian.

In the same year another pretender appeared. This was Alvarez, the son of a stone-cutter, and a native of the Azores. So far from originating the imposture, it seems to have been thrust upon him. Like the youth of Alcazova, after being a monk, he had become a hermit, and thousands of the devout performed pilgrimages to his cell, which was situated on the sea-coast, about two miles from Ericeira. The frequency and severity of his penances gained him great celebrity, and at last it began to be rumoured abroad that the recluse was King Sebastian, who, by mortifying his own flesh, was atoning for the calamity he had brought upon his kingdom. At first he repudiated all claim to such distinction; but after a time his ambition seems to have been aroused; he ceased to protest against the homage of the ignorant, and consented to be treated as a king. Having made up his mind to the imposture, Alvares resolved to carry it out boldly. He appointed officers of his household, and despatched letters, sealed with the royal arms, throughout the kingdom, commanding his subjects to rally round his standard and aid him in restoring peace and prosperity to Portugal. The local peasantry, in answer to the summons, hastened to place themselves at his service, and were honoured by being allowed to kiss his royal hand. Cardinal Henrique, the regent, being informed of his proceedings, despatched an officer with a small force to arrest this new disturber of the public tranquillity; but on the approach of the troops Alvares and his followers took to the mountains. The cardinal's representative, unable to pursue them into their inaccessible fastnesses, left the alcalde of Torres Vedras at Ericeira with instructions to capture the impostor dead or alive, and himself set out for Lisbon. He had scarcely reached the plain when Alvares, at the head of 700 men, swooped down upon the town and took the alcalde and his soldiers prisoners. He next wrote to the cardinal regent, ordering him to quit the palace and the kingdom. He then set out for Torres Vedras, intending to release the criminals confined there, and with their assistance to seize Cintra, and afterwards to attack the capital. On the march he threw the unfortunate alcalde and the notary of Torres Vedras, who had been captured at the same time, over a high cliff into the sea, and executed another government official who had the misfortune to fall into his clutches. The corregedor Fonseca, who was not far off, hearing of these excesses, immediately started at the head of eighty horsemen to oppose the rebel progress. Wisely calculating that if he appeared with a larger force Alvares would again flee to the hills, he ordered some companies to repair in silence to a village in the rear, and aid him in case of need. He first encountered a picked band of 200 rebels, whom he easily routed; and then, being joined by his reinforcements, fell upon the main body, which his also dispersed. Alvares succeeded in escaping for a time, but at last he was taken and brought to Lisbon. Here, after being exposed to public infamy, he was hanged amid the jeers of the populace.

Nine years later, in 1594, another impostor appeared, this time in Spain, under the very eyes of King Philip, who had seized the Portuguese sovereignty. Again an ecclesiastic figured in the plot; but on this occasion he concealed himself behind the scenes, and pulled the strings which set the puppet-king in motion. Miguel dos Santos, an Augustinian monk, who had been chaplain to Sebastian, after his disappearance espoused the cause of Don Antonio, and conceived the scheme of placing his new patron on the Lusitanian throne, by exciting a revolution in favour of a stranger adventurer, who would run all the risks of the rebellion, and resign his ill-gotten honours when the real aspirant appeared. He found a suitable tool in Gabriel de Spinosa, a native of Toledo. This man resembled Sebastian, was naturally bold and unscrupulous, and was easily persuaded to undertake the task of personating the missing monarch. The monk, Dos Santos, who was confessor to the nunnery of Madrigal, introduced this person to one of the nuns, Donna Anna of Austria, a niece of King Philip, and informed her that he was the unfortunate King of Portugal. The lady, believing her father-confessor, loaded the pretender with valuable gifts; presented him with her jewels; and was so attracted by his appearance that it was said she was willing to break her vows for his sake, and to share his throne with him. Unfortunately for the conspirators, before the plot was ripe, Spinosa's indiscretion ruined it. Having repaired to Valladolid to sell some jewels, he formed a criminal acquaintance with a female of doubtful repute, who informed the authorities that he was possessed of a great number of gems which she believed to be stolen. He was arrested, and on his correspondence being searched, the whole scheme was discovered. The rack elicited a full confession, and Spinosa was hung and quartered. Miguel dos Santos shared the same fate; but the Donna Anna, in consideration of her birth, was spared and condemned to perpetual seclusion.

The list of pretenders to regal honours was not even yet complete. In 1598, a Portuguese noble was accosted in the streets of Padua by a tattered pilgrim, who addressed him by name, and asked if he knew him. The nobleman answered that he did not. "Alas! have twenty years so changed me," cried the stranger, "that you cannot recognise in me your missing king, Sebastian?" He then proceeded to pour his past history into the ears of the astonished hidalgo, narrating the chief events of the African battle, detailing the circumstances of his own escape, and mentioning the friends and events of his earlier life so fluently and correctly that his listener had no hesitation in accepting him as the true Sebastian. The news of the appearance of this pretender in Padua soon reached Portugal, and spread with unexampled rapidity throughout the country. Philip II. was gravely disturbed by the report, knowing that his own rule was unpopular, and that the people would be disposed to rally round any claimant who promised on his accession to the throne to relieve them from the heavy burdens under which they groaned. He therefore lost no time in forestalling any attempt to oust him from the Portuguese sovereignty; and despatched a courier to Venice, demanding the interference of the authorities. The governor of Venice, anxious to please the powerful ruler of the Spanish peninsula, issued an order for the immediate expulsion of "the man calling himself Don Sebastian;" but the "man" had no intention of being disposed of in this summary manner. Immediately on receipt of the order he proceeded to Venice, presented himself at court, and declared himself ready to prove his identity. The Spanish minister, acting upon his instructions, denounced him as an impostor, and as a criminal who had been guilty of heinous offences, and demanded his arrest. He was thrown into prison; but when the charges of the Spanish minister were investigated, they failed signally, and no crime could be proven against him. At the solicitation of Philip, however, he was kept under arrest, and was frequently submitted to examination by the authorities, with a view of entrapping him into some damaging admission. At first he answered readily, and astonished his questioners by his intimate knowledge of the inner life of the Portuguese court, not only mentioning the names of Sebastian's ministers and the ambassadors who had been accredited to Lisbon, but describing their appearance and peculiarities, and recounting the chief measures of his government, and the contents of the letters which had been written by the king. At length, after cheerfully submitting to be examined on twenty-eight separate occasions, he grew tired of being pestered by his questioners, and refused to answer further interrogatories, exclaiming, "My Lords, I am Sebastian, king of Portugal! If you doubt it, permit me to be seen by my subjects, many of whom will remember me. If you can prove that I am an impostor, I am willing to suffer death."

The Portuguese residents in Italy entertained no doubt that the pretender was their countryman and their monarch, and made most strenuous exertions to procure his release. One of their number, Dr. Sampajo, a man of considerable eminence, and of known probity, personally interceded with the governor of Venice on his behalf. He was told that the prisoner could only be released upon the most ample and satisfactory proof of his identity; and Sampajo, confident that he could procure the necessary evidence, set out forthwith for Portugal. After a brief stay in Lisbon, he returned with a mass of testimony corroborating the pretender's story; and, what was naturally considered of greater importance, with a list of the marks which were on the person of King Sebastian. The accused was stripped, and on his body marks were found similar to those which had been described to Dr. Sampajo. Still the authorities hesitated; and explained that in a matter of such importance, and where such weighty interests were involved, they could not act on the representations of a private individual; but if any of the European powers should demand the release of their prisoner it would be granted.

Nothing daunted by their failure, the believers in the claims of the so-called Sebastian endeavoured to enlist the sympathy of the foreign potentates on behalf of one of their own order who was unjustly incarcerated and deprived of his rights. In this they failed; but at last the government of Holland, which had no love for Philip, espoused the cause of his rival, and despatched an officer to Venice to see that justice was done. A day was appointed for the trial, and the prisoner being brought before the senate, presented his claims in writing. Witnesses came forward who swore that the person before them was indeed Sebastian, although he had changed greatly in the course of twenty years. Several scars, malformed teeth, moles, and other peculiarities which were known to be possessed by the king, were pointed out on the person of the pretender, and the evidence was decidedly favourable to his claims; when, on the fifth day of the investigation, a courier arrived from Spain, and presented a private message from King Philip. The proceedings were at once brought to a close; and, without further examination, the prisoner was liberated, and ordered to quit the Venetian territory in three days. He proceeded to Florence, where he was again arrested by command of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. The reason for this harsh treatment is not very clearly apparent, but it was probably instigated by the Spanish representative at the Florentine court; for no sooner did the news that he was in confinement reach Philip, than he demanded the delivery of the prisoner to his agents. The duke at first refused to comply with this request, but a threatened invasion of his dominions led him to reconsider his decision, and the unfortunate aspirant to the Portuguese sceptre was handed over to the Spanish officials. He was hurried to Naples, then an appanage of the Spanish crown, and was there offered his liberty if he would renounce his pretensions; but this he staunchly refused to do, saying, "I am Sebastian, king of Portugal, and have been visited by this severe punishment as a chastisement for my sins. I am content to die in the manner that pleases you best, but deny the truth I neither can nor will."

The Count de Lemnos, who had been the minister of Spain at Lisbon when Sebastian was on the throne, at that time was Viceroy of Naples, and naturally went to visit the pretended king in prison. After a brief interview, he unhesitatingly asserted that he had never seen the prisoner before; whereupon the pretended Sebastian exclaimed, "You say that you have no recollection of me, but I remember you very well. My uncle, Philip of Spain, twice sent you to my court, where I gave you such-and-such private interviews." Staggered by this intimate knowledge of his past life, De Lemnos hesitated for a minute or two, but at last ordered the gaoler to remove his prisoner, adding to his command the remark, "He is a rank impostor,"—a remark which called forth the stern rebuke, "No, Sir; I am no impostor, but the unfortunate King of Portugal, and you know it full well. A man of your station ought at all times to speak the truth or preserve silence!"

Whatever the real opinion of De Lemnos may have been, he behaved kindly to his prisoner, and treated him with no more harshness than was consistent with his safe-keeping. Unfortunately, the life of the ex-ambassador was short, and his successor had no sympathy for the soi-disant king. On the 1st of April 1602, he was taken from his prison and mounted upon an ass, and, with three trumpeters preceding him, was led through the streets, a herald proclaiming at intervals:—"His Most Catholic Majesty hath commanded that this man be led through the streets of Naples with marks of infamy, and that he shall afterwards be committed to serve in the galleys for life, for falsely pretending to be Don Sebastian, king of Portugal." He bore the ordeal firmly; and each time that the proclamation was made, added, in clear and sonorous tones, "And so I am!"

He was afterwards sent on board the galleys, and for a short time had to do the work of a galley slave; but as soon as the vessels were at sea he was released, his uniform was removed, and he was courteously treated. What ultimately became of him was never clearly ascertained, but it is certain that on more than one occasion he succeeded in confounding his opponents, and by his startling revelations of the past led many who would fain have disputed his identity to express their doubts as to the justice of his punishment. The probability is that he was a rogue, but he was a clever one. Rumour says he died in a Spanish fortress in 1606.


The reign of Catherine II. fills one of the darkest pages of Russian history. This lustful and ambitious empress waded to the throne through her husband's blood—bloodshed was necessary to establish her rule; infamous cruelties characterised her whole reign, and no princess ever succeeded in making herself more heartily detested by her subjects than the vicious daughter of Anhalt Zerbst. Plot after plot was concocted to oust her from her high estate; and impostor after impostor appeared claiming the imperial purple; but the empress held her own easily, and suppressed each successive rebellion without difficulty, until Pugatscheff appeared at the head of the Cossacks, and threatened to hurl her from her throne, and dismember the empire.

Jemeljan Pugatscheff Was the son of Jemailoff Pugatscheff, a Cossack of the Don, and was born near Simonskaga. His father was killed on the field of battle, and left him to the care of an indifferent mother, who deserted him and sought the embraces of a second husband. An uncle, pitying the lad's desolation, carried him to Poland, where he picked up the French, Italian, German, and Polish languages, and distinguished himself by his aptitude for learning. After a time he returned to Russia, and took up his abode among the Cossacks of the Ukraine, who, attracted alike by his bodily vigour and his mental accomplishments, elected him one of their chiefs. He was not, however, contented with the comparative quiet of Cossack life, and longed for some greater excitement than was afforded by an occasional raid against the neighbouring tribes. Accordingly, taking advantage of the law promulgated by Peter III.,—that any Russian might leave the country and enter the service of any power not at war with the empire,—he entered the army of the King of Prussia. On the conclusion of peace he obtained a command in the Russian army, and served for a considerable time. At last his regiment was relieved, and Pugatscheff was allowed to return home. On his return he found the Cossacks of the Ukraine gravely dissatisfied with the government and the empire. The viciousness of the court had been reported to them; they were oppressed both by the clergy and the judges, and they only wanted a leader to break out into open revolt. Pugatscheff saw the golden opportunity, and presented himself. But spies were numerous, the garrisons were strong, and it was necessary to proceed with caution. In order the better to conceal his designs, he entered the service of a Cossack named Koshenikof, and after a short time succeeded in gaining the adhesion of his master to his cause. The friends and kinsmen of Koshenikof were one by one, under oath of secrecy, informed of the plot, and by degrees the rebellious scheme was perfected. Pugatscheff was elected chief; and as he bore a strong resemblance to the murdered emperor, it was resolved that he should present himself to the people as Peter III. Accordingly, rumours were assiduously circulated that the emperor was still alive; that a soldier had been killed in his stead; and that although he was in hiding, he would shortly appear, and would avenge himself upon his enemies. Thousands listened and believed, and only waited for the first sign of success to join the movement. But the government was on the alert. Pugatscheff and his master were suspected and denounced; and while the latter was arrested, the former with difficulty escaped. In a few days, however, he succeeded in surrounding himself with 500 adherents, and marched at their head to the town of Jaizkoi, which he summoned to surrender. The answer was sent by 5000 Cossacks who had orders to take him prisoner. Strong in his faith in his fellow-countrymen, Pugatscheff advanced towards this formidable force, and caused one of his officers to present them with a manifesto explaining his claims, and his reasons for taking up arms. The general in command seized the document, but the men, who had no great love for the empress, insisted that it should be read. Their request was refused, and 500 of them at once deserted their standards and joined the ranks of the rebel chief. Alarmed by this defection, the Russian general withdrew to the citadel, while Pugatscheff encamped about a league off, hoping that further desertions would follow, and that the place would fall into his hands. In this he was disappointed; for his fellow-countrymen, although disloyal at heart, did not wish to commit themselves to a desperate undertaking which might involve them in ruin, and were disposed to wait until some success had attended the insurrection. The 500 who had precipitately chosen the rebellion had induced about a dozen of their officers to join them; but these men, suddenly repenting, refused to break their oath of allegiance, and were at once hanged from the neighbouring trees. Finding further persuasion fruitless, Pugatscheff wisely refrained from any attempt to reduce the fortress, and marched his band towards Orenburg. On the way he secured large accessions to his force, and in a few days found himself at the head of 1500 men. With this army he attacked the fortified town of Iletzka, which offered no resistance—the garrison passing over to him. The commandant consented to share in the enterprise with his followers, but Pugatscheff wanted no commandants or men of intelligence who might interfere with his schemes, and gave orders for his immediate execution. The cannon captured at Iletzka were then pointed against Casypnaja, which yielded after a brief struggle. Thus fortress after fortress fell into the hands of the reputed emperor, who gladly received the common soldiery, but mercilessly slew their leaders.

By this time the news had spread abroad throughout Southern Russia that Peter III. was not dead, but was in arms for the recovery of his throne and for the redress of the grievances under which his people were suffering. Crowds of Cossacks heard the intelligence with joy, and hastened to cast in their lot with the army of Pugatscheff. Talischova, a powerful fortress, defended by 1000 regular troops, fell before his assault; and the false Peter soon found himself possessed of numerous strongholds, a formidable train of artillery, and a fighting force of 5000 men. Considering himself strong enough to attempt the reduction of Orenburg, the capital of the southern provinces, he marched against it. Here, however, he encountered a stubborn resistance, and attack after attack was repulsed with heavy loss. These repeated failures did not discourage the pretender or his adherents. The Cossacks continued to flock to his banners, and when General Carr, who had been despatched from Moscow to suppress the revolt, arrived in the neighbourhood of Orenburg, he found the rebel chief at the head of 16,000 soldiers. An advanced guard, which was sent to harass his movements, fell into the hands of Pugatscheff, who nearly exterminated it, and straightway hanged the officers who were made captive, according to his usual custom. Emboldened by his success, he attacked the main body, and ignominiously defeated it in the open field; and Carr, panic-struck, fled to the capital, leaving General Freyman, if possible, to oppose the advance of the revolutionists. The result of this decisive victory was soon apparent. Province after province declared in favour of the pretender, chief after chief placed his sword at his service, and Pugatscheff began to play the emperor in earnest. He conferred titles upon his most distinguished officers, granted sealed commissions, and constructed foundries and powder manufactories in various places.

Catherine, by this time thoroughly alarmed, despatched another army to the Ukraine under General Bibikoff, an experienced and resolute officer. He arrived at Casan in February 1774, and issued a manifesto, exposing Pugatscheff's imposture, and calling upon the rebels to lay down their arms. Pugatscheff replied by another manifesto, declaring himself the Czar, Peter III., and threatening vengeance against all who resisted his just claims. He also caused coin to be impressed with his effigy, and the inscription "Redivivus et Ultor." In the meantime he continued to lay siege to Orenburg and Ufa. But Bibikoff was not a man to remain inactive, and lost no time in attacking him. Again and again he was defeated, the siege of the two strongholds was raised, and on more than one occasion his army was dispersed, and he was left at the head of only a few hundred followers. But, if the Cossack hordes could be easily dissipated, they could rally with equal ease; and on several occasions, when the rebellion seemed to be completely crushed, it suddenly burst out afresh, and Pugatscheff, who was supposed to be hiding like a hunted criminal, appeared at the head of a larger force than ever. Thus at one time scarcely 100 men followed him to a retreat in the Ural Mountains: in a few days he was at the head of 20,000 men, and took Casan by storm, with the exception of the citadel, which resisted his most determined attacks. Here he perpetrated the greatest atrocities, until the imperial troops arrived and wrested the town from his grasp, seizing his artillery and his ammunition. For a time his position appeared desperate, and he fled across the Volga, but only to re-appear again at the head of an enormous force, and, as a conqueror, fortress after fortress yielding at his summons. At length a Russian army under Colonel Michelsohn overtook him and gave him battle. Pugatscheff held a strong position, had 24 pieces of artillery and 20,000 men, but his raw levies were no match for the regular troops. His position was turned, and a panic seized his followers, who deserted their guns and their baggage, and fled precipitately, leaving 2000 dead and 6000 prisoners behind them. Pugatscheff himself made for the Volga, closely pursued by the Russian cavalry, who cut down the half of his escort before they could embark. With sixty men he succeeded in escaping into the desert, and at last it was evident that his game was played out. The only three outlets were soon closed by separate detachments of the imperial troops, and the fugitives were thus confined in an arid waste without shelter, without provisions, and without water. The situation was so hopeless that each man only thought of saving himself, and Pugatscheff's companions were not slow to perceive that their sole chance of life lay in sacrificing their leader. Accordingly, they fell upon him while he was ravenously devouring a piece of horseflesh—the only food which he could command—and, having bound him, handed him over to his enemies. As Moscow had shown some sympathy for him, he was carried in chains to that city, and was there condemned to death. Several of his principal adherents likewise suffered punishment at the same time.

On the 23d of January 1775, Pugatscheff and his followers were led to the place of execution, where a large scaffold had been erected. Some had their tongues cut out, the noses of others were cut off, eighteen were knouted and sent to Siberia, and the chief was decapitated—his body being afterwards cut in pieces and exposed in different parts of the town. He met his fate with the utmost fortitude.


On the death of Feodor, son of Ivan the Terrible, the Russian throne was occupied by Boris Godunoff, who had contrived to procure the murder of Dimitri, or Demetrius, the younger brother of Feodor. For a time he governed well; but the crafty nobles beginning to plot against him, he had recourse to measures of extreme cruelty and severity, so that even the affections of the common people were alienated from him, and universal confusion ensued. Advantage was taken of this state of affairs by a monk named Otrefief, who bore an almost miraculous likeness to the murdered Dimitri, to assume the name of the royal heir. At first he proceeded cautiously, and, retiring to Poland, by degrees made public the marvellous tale of his wrongs and of his escape from his assassins. Many of the leading nobles listened to his recitals and believed them. In order to render his campaign more certain, the pretender set himself to learn the Polish language, and acquired it with remarkable rapidity. Nor did he rest here. He represented to the Poles that he was disposed to embrace the Catholic faith; and by assuring the Pope that if he regained the throne of his ancestors, his first care should be to recall his subjects to their obedience to Rome, he succeeded in securing the patronage and the blessing of the Pontiff. Sendomir, a wealthy boyard, not only espoused his cause, and gave him pecuniary help, but promised him his daughter Marina in marriage whenever he became the Czar of Muscovy. Marina herself was no less eager for the union, and through Sendomir's influence the support of the King of Poland was obtained.

News of the imposture soon reached Moscow, and Boris instantly denounced Dimitri as an impostor, and sent emissaries to endeavour to secure his arrest. In this, however, they were unsuccessful; and the false Dimitri not only succeeded in raising a considerable force in Poland, but also in convincing the great mass of the Russian population that he really was the son of Ivan. In 1604 he appeared on the Russian frontier at the head of a small but efficient force, and overthrew the army which Boris had sent against him. His success was supposed by the ignorant peasantry to be entirely due to the interposition of Providence, which was working on the side of the injured prince, and Dimitri was careful to foster the delusion that his cause was specially favoured by heaven. He treated his prisoners with the greatest humanity, and ordered his followers to refrain from excesses, and to cultivate the goodwill of the people. The result was that his ranks rapidly increased, while those of the czar diminished. Even foreign governments began to view the offender with favour; and at last Boris, devoured by remorse for the crimes which he had committed, and by chagrin at the evil fate which had fallen upon him, lost his reason and poisoned himself.

The chief nobles assembled when the death of the czar was made known, and proclaimed his son Feodor emperor in his stead; but the lad's reign was very brief. The greater part of the army and the people declared in favour of Dimitri, and the citizens of Moscow having invited him to assume the reins of power, Dimitri made a triumphal entry into the capital, and was crowned with great pomp. At first he ruled prudently, and, had he continued as he began, might have retained his strangely acquired throne. But after a time he gave himself up to the gratification of his own wild passions, and lost the popularity which he really had succeeded in gaining. He disgusted the Russians by appointing numerous Poles, who had swelled his train, to the highest posts in the empire, to the exclusion of meritorious officers, who not only deserved well of their country, but also had claims upon himself for services which they had rendered. These Polish officers misconducted themselves sadly, and the people murmured sore. The czar, too, made no secret of his attachment to the Catholic faith; and while by so doing he irritated the clergy, he provoked the boyards by his haughty patronage, and disgusted the common people by his cruelty and lewdness. At last the murmurs grew so loud and threatening, that some means had to be devised to quiet the popular discontent, and Dimitri had recourse to a strange stratagem. The widow of Ivan, who had long before been immured in a convent by the orders of Boris, and had been kept there by his successor, was released from her confinement, and was induced publicly to acknowledge Dimitri as her son. The widowed empress knew full well that her life depended upon her obedience; but notwithstanding her outward consent to the fraud, the people were not satisfied, and demanded proofs of Dimitri's birth, which were not forthcoming. Discontent continued to spread, and at length the popular fury could no longer be restrained. According to his promise, the sham czar married Marina, the daughter of the Polish boyard. The very fact that she was a Pole made her distasteful to the Russians; but that fact was rendered still more offensive by the manner of her entrance into the capital, and the treatment which the Muscovites received at the bridal ceremony. The bride was surrounded by a large retinue of armed Poles, who marched through the streets of Moscow with the mien of conquerors; the Russian nobles were excluded from all participation in the festivities; and the common people were treated by their emperor with haughty insolence, and held up to the scorn of his foreign guests. A report also became rife that a timber fort, which Dimitri had erected opposite the gates of the city, had been constructed solely for the purpose of giving the bloodthirsty Marina a martial spectacle, and that, sheltered behind its wooden walls, the Polish troops and the czar's bodyguard would throw firebrands and missiles among the crowds of spectators below. This idle rumour was carefully circulated; the clergy, who had long been disaffected, went from house to house denouncing the czar as a heretic, and calling an their countrymen to rise against the insolent traducer of their religion; and the secret of his birth and imposition was everywhere proclaimed. The people burst into open revolt, and, headed by the native prince Schnisky, rushed to storm the imperial palace. The Polish troops broke their ranks and fled, and were massacred in the streets. Dimitri himself sought to escape by a private avenue in the confusion; but watchful enemies were lying in wait for him. He was overtaken and killed, and his body was exposed for three days in front of the palace, so that the mob might wreak their vengeance upon his inanimate clay. Marina and her father were captured, and after being detained for a little time were set at liberty.

By the death of the impostor, the throne was left vacant, and the privilege of electing a new czar reverted to the people. Schnisky, who had headed the revolt, made good use of his opportunity and popularity, and while the people were exulting over their success, contrived to secure the empire for himself. But when the heat of triumph died away, the nobles were chagrined because they had elevated one of their own number to rule over them, and the reaction against the new czar was as strong and as rapid as the extraordinary movement in his favour had been. The Muscovite nobles were determined to oust him from his newly-found dignities, and for this purpose adopted the strange expedient of reviving the dead Dimitri. It mattered little to them that the breathless carcase of the impostor had been seen by thousands. They presumed upon the gullibility of their countrymen, and, asserting that Dimitri had escaped and was prepared to come forward to claim his throne, endeavoured to stir up an insurrection. The cheat, however, was not popular, and the sham czar of the nobles never appeared.

But although the nobles failed in their attempt to foist another Dimitri upon their fellow-countrymen, the Poles, who were interested for their countrywoman Marina, were not discouraged from trying the same ruse. They produced a flesh-and-blood candidate for the Russian sceptre. This person was a Polish schoolmaster, who bore a striking likeness to the real Dimitri, and who was sufficiently intelligent to play his part creditably. To give a greater semblance of truth to their imposture, they succeeded in persuading Marina to abet them; and not only did she openly assert that the new Dimitri was her husband, but she embraced him publicly, and actually lived with him as his wife.

At the time that this impostor appeared, Sigismund declared war against Russia, and his marshal Tolkiewski succeeded in inflicting a terrible defeat on Schnisky. Moscow yielded before the victorious Poles; and in despair Schnisky renounced the crown and retired into a monastery. But no sooner was the diadem vacant than a host of false Dimitris appeared to claim it, and the chief power was tossed from one party to another during a weary interregnum. At last, in 1609, Sigismund, who had remained at Smolensko while his marshal advanced upon Moscow, proclaimed his own son Vladislaf to the vacant sovereignty, and the pretended Dimitri sank into obscurity. Others, however, arose; and although some of them perished on the scaffold, it was not until 1616 that Russia was freed from the last of the disturbing impostors who attempted to personate princes of the race of Ivan the Terrible.


In the year 1640, there lived in Constantinople one Giovanni Jacobo Cesii, a Persian merchant of high repute throughout the Levant. This man, who was descended from a noble Roman family, was on most intimate terms with Jumbel Agha, the Sultan's chief eunuch, who sometimes gave him strange commissions. Among other instructions which the merchant received from the chief of the imperial harem, was an order to procure privately the prettiest girl he could find in the slave marts of Stamboul, where at this time pretty girls were by no means rare. Jumbel Agha intended this damsel as an adornment for his own household, and a personal companion for himself, and particularly specified that to her beauty she should add modesty and virginity. Cesii executed his orders to the best of his ability, and procured for the bloated and lascivious Agha a Russian girl called Sciabas, as fair as a houri, and apparently as timid as a fawn. Unfortunately, notwithstanding her innocent demeanour, it only too soon became apparent that her virtue was not unimpeachable, and that ere long she would add yet another member to the household of her new master. Jumbel Agha, who was at first wroth with his pretty plaything, after the heat of his passion had passed, consented to forgive her if she would divulge the name of the father of her expected offspring; but the fair one, although frail, was firm, and despising alike threats and cajoleries, declined to give any hint as to its paternity. Thereupon her master handed her over to his major-domo to be re-sold for the best price she would fetch; but before she could be disposed of she was brought to bed of a goodly boy.

Some time after the child was born, the Agha, moved either by curiosity or compassion, expressed a strong desire to see it, and when it was brought into his presence, was so captivated by its appearance, that he loaded it with gifts, and gave orders that it should be sumptuously apparelled, and should remain with its mother in the house of the major-domo until he had decided as to its future fate. Just about this time the Grand Sultana had presented her Lord Ibrahim with a baby boy; and proving extremely weak after her delivery, it was found necessary to procure a wet-nurse for the heir to the sword and dominions of Othman. No better opportunity could have offered for Jumbel Agha. He at once introduced his disgraced slave and her "pretty by-blow" to his imperial mistress, who accepted the services of the mother without hesitation. For two years mother and child had their home in the grizzled old palace on Seraglio Point, until at last the Sultan began to display such a decided preference for the nurse's boy, that the jealousy of the Sultana was aroused, and she banished the offenders from her sight. Her anger was also excited against the unfortunate Agha, who had been the means of introducing them into the harem, and she set herself to plot his ruin. Her dusky servitor was, however, sufficiently shrewd to perceive his danger, and begged Ibrahim's permission to resign his office, in order to undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca. At first his request was refused; for Jumbel Agha was a favourite slave, and whoever obtains leave to go the holy pilgrimage is ipso facto made free. But the chief eunuch having agreed to go as a slave, and to return to his post when he had performed his devotions, Ibrahim permitted him to set out.

A little fleet of eight vessels was ready to sail for Alexandria, and one of these was appropriated to Jumbel Agha and his household, amongst whom was his beautiful slave and her little son. After drifting about for some time in the inconstant breezes off the Syrian coast, they fell in with six galleys, which they at first supposed to be friendly ships of the Turkish fleet, but which ultimately proved Maltese cruisers, and showed fight. The Agha made a valiant resistance, and fell in the struggle, as did also Sciabas, the fair Russian—the cause of his journey and his misfortunes. The baby, however, was preserved alive; and when the Maltese boarded their prize, they were attracted by the gorgeously dressed child, and inquired to whom it belonged. The answer, given either in fear or in the hope of obtaining better treatment, was that he was the son of Sultan Ibrahim, and was on his way to Mecca, under the charge of the chief eunuch, to be circumcised. The captors, greatly exhilarated by the intelligence, at once made all sail for Malta, and there the glorious news was accepted without question. For a time the knights were so elated that they seriously began to consult together as to the possibility of exchanging the supposed Ottoman prince for the Island of Rhodes, which had slipped from their enfeebled grasp. The Grand Master of the Order and the Grand Croci had no doubt as to the genuineness of their captive, and wrote letters to Constantinople informing the Sultan where he might find his heir and his chief spouse, if he chose to comply with the Frankish conditions. It is true that Sciabas was dead, but the worthy knights had recourse to subterfuge in dealing with the infidel, and had dressed up another slave to represent her. Portraits also were taken of the reputed mother and child, and were sent with descriptive letters to the European courts. The French and Italians eagerly purchased these representations of the beloved of the Grand Turk; but that mysterious being himself preserved an ominous silence. Even the knights of Malta, who hated him as a Mohammedan, nevertheless supposed that the Ottoman ruler was human, and when he made no effort to recover his lost ones, began to have some doubt as to the identity of the child of whom they made so much. In their dilemma they despatched a secret messenger to Constantinople, who contrived to ingratiate himself at the seraglio, and lost no opportunity of inquiring whether any of the imperial children were missing, and whether it were true that the Sultana had been captured by the Maltese some years before. Of course his researches were fruitless, and in 1650 he wrote to his employers assuring them that they had all the while been on a false scent. It was deemed best to let the imposture die slowly. Little by little the knights forbore to boast of their illustrious hostage; by degrees they lessened the ceremonials with which he had been treated, and at last neglected him altogether. He was made a Dominican friar; and the only mark of his supposed estate was the name Padre Ottomano, which was conferred upon him more in scorn than reverence, and which he continued to bear till the day of his death.


In the miscellaneous writings of John Evelyn, the diary-writer, there is an account of this extraordinary impostor, whose narration of his own adventures outshines that of Munchausen, and whose experiences, according to his own showing, were more remarkable than those of Gulliver. In 1668 this marvellous personage published a book entitled the "History of Mohammed Bey; or, John Michel de Cigala, Prince of the Imperial Blood of the Ottomans." This work he dedicated to the French king, who was disposed to favour his pretensions.

In this remarkable book the pretender sums up the antiquity of the family of Cigala, entitling it to most of the crowns of Europe, and makes himself out to be the descendant of Scipio, son of the famous Viscount de Cigala, who was taken prisoner by the Turks in 1651. He pretends that Scipio, after his capture, was persuaded to renounce Christianity, and, having become a renegade, was advanced to various high offices at the Porte by Sultan Solyman the Magnificent. Under the name of Sinam Pasha, he asserts that his father became first general of the Janizaries, then seraskier, or commander-in-chief of the whole Turkish forces, and was finally created Grand Vizier of the empire. He also maintains that various illustrious ladies were bestowed as wives upon the new favourite; and among others the daughter of Sultan Achonet, who gave himself birth. According to his own story he was educated by the Moslem muftis in all the lore of the Koran, and by a series of strange accidents was advanced to the governorship of Palestine. Here, in consequence of a marvellous dream, he was converted, and was turned from his original purpose of despoiling the Holy Sepulchre of its beautiful silver lamps and other treasures. His Christianity was not, however, of that perfervid kind which demands an open avowal; and, continuing to outward appearance a Mussulman, he was promoted to the governorship of Cyprus and the islands. In this post he used his power for the benefit of the distressed Christians—redressing their wrongs, and delivering such of them as had fallen into slavery. From Cyprus, after two years made brilliant by notable exploits (which no man ever heard of but himself), he was constituted Viceroy of Babylon, Caramania, Magnesia, and other ample territories. At Iconium another miracle was performed for his benefit; and thus specially favoured of heaven, he determined openly to declare his conversion. At this important crisis, however, his father-confessor died, and all his good resolutions seem to have been abandoned. He repaired to Constantinople once more (still preserving the outward semblance of a true believer, and ever obedient to the muezzin's call), and was created Viceroy of Trebizonde and Generalissimo of the Black Sea. Before setting out for his new home on the shores of the Euxine, he had despatched a confidant named Chamonsi to Trebizonde in charge of all his jewels and valuables, and his intention was to seize the first opportunity of throwing off the yoke of the Grand Signior, and declaring himself a Christian. But Chamonsi proved faithless; and instead of repairing to the place of tryst, plotted with the Governor of Moldavia to seize his master. Mohammed Bey fell into the trap which they had prepared for him, but succeeded in making his escape, although grievously wounded, after a wonderful fight, in which he killed all his opponents. In his flight he met a shepherd who exchanged clothes with him, and in disguise and barefoot he contrived to reach the head-quarters of the Cossacks, who were at the time in arms against Russia.

In the Cossack camp there were three soldiers whom the quondam Ottoman general had released from captivity, and they, at once penetrating the flimsy disguise of the stranger, revealed him to their own commander in his true character. At first he was well treated by the Cossack chief, who was anxious that the honour of his baptism should appertain to the Eastern Greek Church; but our prince, designing from the beginning to make his solemn profession at Rome, and to receive that sacrament from the Pope's own hands, was neglected upon making his resolve known. He, therefore, stole away from the Cossacks, and, guided by a Jew, succeeded in reaching Poland, where the queen, hearing the report of his approach, and knowing his high rank, received him with infinite respect and at last persuaded him to condescend to be baptized at Warsaw by the archbishop, she herself standing sponsor at the font, and bestowing upon him the name of John.

After his baptism and subsequent confirmation, this somewhat singular Christian set out on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Loretto, and afterwards proceeded to Rome, where he was received with open arms by Alexander VII. On his return journey through Germany he found that the emperor was at war with the Turks; and, without hesitation, espoused the Christian cause against the circumcised heathen, slaying the Turkish general with his own hand, and performing other stupendous exploits, of which he gives a detailed narration.

As a reward for his services the German emperor created him "Captain Guardian" of his artillery, and would have loaded him with further honours, but a roving spirit was upon him, and he started for Sicily to visit his noble friends who were resident in that island. On his route he was everywhere received with the utmost respect by the Princes of Germany and Italy; and when he arrived in Sicily, not only did Don Pedro d'Arragon house him in his own palace, but the whole city of Messina turned out to meet him, acknowledging his high position as a member of the noble house of Cigala, from which it seems the island had received many great benefits. Leaving Sicily he next came to Rome, into which he made a public entry, and was warmly received by Clement IX., before whom, in bravado, he drew and flourished his dreadful scimitar in token of his defiance of the enemies of the Church. At last, after touching at Venice and Turin, he arrived in Paris, where he was received by the king according to his high quality, and where he published the extraordinary narrative from which we have taken the above statements, and which honest John Evelyn, who was roused by his appearance in England, sets himself to disprove.

Right willingly does Evelyn devote himself to the task of stripping the borrowed feathers from this fine jackdaw. After inaugurating his work by quoting the Horatian sneer, "Spectatum admissi risum teneatis, amici?" he at once plunges in medias res, and not mincing his language, says:—"This impudent vagabond is a native of Wallachia, born of Christian parents in the city of Trogovisti;" and throughout his exposure employs phrases which are decidedly more forcible than polite. From Evelyn's revelation it appears that the family of the pretended Cigala were at one time well-to-do, and ranked high in the esteem of Prince Mathias of Moldavia, but that this youth was a black sheep in the flock from the very beginning. After the death of his father he had a fair chance of distinguishing himself, for the Moldavian prince took him into his service, and sent him to join his minister at Constantinople. Here he might have risen to some eminence; but he was too closely watched to render his life agreeable, and after a brief sojourn in the Turkish capital returned to his native land. Here he became intimately acquainted with a married priest of the Greek Church, and made love to his wife; but the woman, the better to conceal the familiarity which existed between herself and the young courtier, led her husband to believe that he had an affection for her daughter, of which she approved. The simple ecclesiastic credited the story; until it became apparent that the stranger's practical fondness extended to the mother as well as the daughter, and that he had taken advantage of the hospitality which was extended to him to debauch all the priest's womankind. A complaint was laid before Prince Mathias, who would have executed him if he had not fled to the shores of the Golden Horn. He remained in Constantinople until the death of the Moldavian ruler, when he impudently returned to Wallachia, thinking that his former misdemeanours had been forgotten, and hoping to be advanced to some prominent post during the general disarrangement of affairs. His identity was, however, discovered; his old crimes were brought against him; and he only escaped the executioner's sword by flight. For the third time Constantinople became his home, and on this occasion he embraced the Moslem faith, hoping to secure his advancement thereby. The Turks, however, viewed the renegade with suspicion, and treated him with neglect. Therefore, driven by starvation, he ranged from place to place about Christendom, and in countries where he was utterly unknown concocted and published the specious story of his being so nearly related to the Sultan, and succeeded in deceiving many. Of his ultimate fate nothing is known.


In the beginning of the year 1748, a small French merchantman, which was bound from Rochelle to Martinique, was so closely chased by the British cruisers that the captain and crew were compelled to take to their boat. By so doing they avoided the fate of the ship and cargo, which fell a prey to the pursuers, and succeeded in effecting a safe landing at Martinique. In their company was a solitary passenger—a youth of eighteen or nineteen summers, whose dignified deportment and finely-cut features betokened him of aristocratic lineage. His name, as given by himself, was the Count de Tarnaud, and his father, according to his own showing, was a field-marshal in the French service; but the deference with which he was treated by his shipmates seemed to suggest that his descent was even more illustrious, and his dignity loftier than that to which he laid claim. He was unattended, save by a sailor lad to whom he had become attached after his embarkation. This youth, called Rhodez, treated him with the utmost deference, and, while on an intermediate footing between friendship and servitude, was careful never to display the slightest familiarity.

This strangely assorted couple had no sooner landed upon the island than the pseudo De Tarnaud asked to be directed to the house of one of the leading inhabitants, and was referred to Duval Ferrol, an officer, whose residence was situated near the spot at which he had come on shore. This gentleman, attracted by the appearance of the youth, and sympathising with his misfortunes, at once offered him a home, and De Tarnaud and Rhodez took up their abode at the maison Ferrol. The hospitable advances of its proprietor were received by his new guest in a kindly spirit, yet more as due than gratuitous; and this air of superiority, combined with the extreme deference of Rhodez, aroused curiosity. The captain of the vessel which had brought the distinguished guest was questioned as to his real name, but professed himself unable to give any information beyond stating that the youth had been brought to him at Rochelle by a merchant, who had privately recommended him to treat him with great attention, as he was a person of distinction.

Ample scope was, therefore, left for the curiosity and credulity of the inhabitants of Martinique, who at this time were closely blockaded by the English, and were sadly in want of some excitement to relieve the monotony of their lives. Every rumour respecting the stranger was eagerly caught up and assiduously disseminated by a thousand gossips, and, as statement after statement and canard after canard got abroad, he rose higher and higher in popular repute. No one doubted that he was at least a prince; and why he had elected to come to Martinique at such an inconvenient season nobody stopped to inquire.

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