Sir Edward Brampton and Perkin Warbeck

Peter Booker


Sir Edward Brampton (?1440, Lisbon – 1508, Lisbon)


Sir Edward Brampton gets in to this collection under false pretences, since he was not an Englishman making his way to Portugal, but a Portuguese who became a naturalized Englishman and who then returned to the country of his birth. If this story seems a little complicated, it is not nearly as complicated as Brampton´s life story.


Duarte Brandão was born in Lisbon around 1440, and he was apparently the son of a Jewish blacksmith. He maintained that his mother conceived him on the wrong side of the blanket and that his real father was Rui Barba, of a well known family of Leiria. Duarte was brought up in the Jewish faith. In around 1468 there was a brawl in which a man died and Duarte was apparently suspected of homicide. It was time for him to steal away to England. As soon as he arrived he had quickly to make up his mind. Jews had been expelled from England two hundred years before in the time of Edward I and Duarte had either to move on to a different country or to convert to Christianity.


He chose to become a Christian, and there was a recognized process for him to follow, one element of which was that he should live in the Domus Conversorum (the House of the Converts). The records of the Domus Conversorum show that he stayed in this home for baptized Jews for four years. There he was able to undergo the teaching of the Christian faith. He benefited from a daily allowance of a penny halfpenny, and according to the current convention the King, Edward IV 1461 – 1483, became his nominal godfather. Brandão changed his name and Duarte became Edward, which is the English version of this Portuguese name, and happily was also the name of his godfather the King. And Brandão became Brandon, and it later evolved into Brampton, a much more recognizably English construction.


This was a time of civil war, the Wars of the Roses, and it was easy for a young man of daring spirit to make his way. We find in 1472 that Edward Brampton jointly commands a sea force to resist the King´s enemies and rebels. In 1473 he was jointly in command of a squadron of four ships to blockade St Michael´s Mount where the Lancastrian Earl of Oxford was resisting. Oxford had to surrender to this little fleet in February 1474. Brampton must have distinguished himself because he soon received an independent command.


Brampton was endenizened by the king, the modern equivalent of becoming a naturalized Englishman, and the king gave him the landlordship of a number of houses in London. His rights were mentioned in an Act of Parliament in 1474 and he subsequently married Isabel Pecche (her name might be pronounced Peach or Peachy) a wealthy widow of Northamptonshire. He inherited her estates when she soon after died. Within six years of being on the run for murder in Lisbon, Brampton had managed to reinvent his character and make a name for himself in a new country. In the process he had ditched both his nationality and his Jewish religion.


When Edward IV invaded France in 1475, Brampton went along with him. The King was making the usual English claim to the throne of France, and his ally in this expedition was Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. In the jousts which usually accompanied this type of expedition, according to Brampton himself, he distinguished himself again to the extent that King Edward made him a grant of arms. The invasion achieved its apparent objective when King Louis treated for peace at Pecquigny and the English were able to withdraw from France with a French subsidy. Brampton met England´s ally, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who honoured him with rewards. Encouraged by this show of favour, Brampton set up his establishment in Bruges and began to trade, probably in wool and probably quite successfully. He would most likely trade English wool to southern Iberia and return to the Low Countries with Portuguese products such as dried fruits and wine. It is tempting to think that he would have traded in spices, but of course Vasco da Gama did not make his historic voyage to India in search of spices until 1497. The system of trading between the Low Countries and Iberia was well established through the activities of men such as Brampton, and when the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, and then forcibly converted in Portugal in 1497, the Low Countries became a natural magnet for them.


Brampton was about to find yet another new sponsor. After the Battle of Toro in 1476, D Afonso V came to France to seek help in his difficulties with Castile. Louis XI King of France (1461- 1483) brushed him off and D Afonso sought help in turn from the Duke of Burgundy. There was no help forthcoming. As luck would have it, on 5 January 1477 Duke Charles met his death in battle at Nancy. The penniless D Afonso was virtually a prisoner now of King Louis and when Brampton came forward to lend him money for his expenses and to defray the cost of his return to Portugal, he was welcomed by this unfortunate king. Having arranged and paid for Afonso´s return journey, Brampton of course returned with him.


D Afonso was so relieved at the change in fortune which was inspired by Brampton that he was encouraged to treat this Englishman with generosity. In 1479 Brampton was renaturalised as a Portuguese ( this process was confirmed by D João II in 1485 and by D Manuel in 1495). More, the grant of arms made to Brampton in England was confirmed by the King of Portugal. He was granted the Lordship of Noudar, the border castle near Barrancos. This castle had recently been captured by the Castilians, and so the grant was not entirely generous. Brampton, or as we should now call him Brandão, also asked for and was granted substantial trading privileges for business between Portugal and the Low Countries. Brandão was now in a good position to profit from his position.


As D Afonso V was coming to the end of his reign in a strange way – he abdicated his throne in favour of his son, and later took it back again – before he died in 1481, still only in his late 40s. For whatever reason, Brandão returned to England and in May 1480 was confirmed in the possessions of his late wife Isabel Pecche. Brandão/Brampton now engaged in large scale Peninsular trade and shipped large quantities of wool duty free through the Strait of Gibraltar. The records show that he was allowed to trade wool to the value of £700 duty free, which was an enormous concession. He also acted as royal agent in the payment of considerable amounts of money to Spanish merchants.


In 1482, he was appointed Captain, Keeper and Governor of the island of Guernsey, and after King Edward´s death in 1483, he undertook a naval command against Sir Edward Woodville, the late king´s brother-in-law. Attaching himself to Richard III, he received various appointments and grants and was knighted in 1484. For an ex-Portuguese adventurer and murder suspect, this was a truly signal honour. Later Brandão/Brampton would boast that he had been a Knight of the Garter, and his gravestone also bears this boast. His name however appears nowhere on any of the Order´s lists.


Brampton was awarded an annuity of £100 for twenty years, and another property in Northamptonshire, formerly owned by the Duchess of Somerset. He was not present at the Battle of Bosworth, and so did not suffer physically from the defeat of Richard III. As a confirmed Yorkist, he was subject to the Act of Resumption, in which confiscated Lancastrian property was restored to its former owners. Brandão/Brampton lost his Governorship of Guernsey and the properties in Northamptonshire which were restored to their former owners, or in the case of the estates of Isabel Pecche they were simply confiscated to reward the supporters of the victorious Henry VII. At any rate, it was safer for Brandão/Brampton to stay out of England.


He was in Portugal in 1485 and D João II (1481-1495) confirmed his naturalization, and agreed to exchange his Lordship of Noudar for that of Buarcos, near Figueira da Foz. Brandão/Brampton´s descendants held this lordship for some time. He was given other property (Tavarede in Beira and the comenda of S Veríssima of Lagares). He was appointed to the royal council, and as he was made administrator of chapels dedicated to the memory of D Afonso IV, there can have been no doubt of his Christianity. Retaining his business interests in Northern Europe, Brandão/Brampton now began to build some large houses in Lisbon.


At about this time Brandão/Brampton made a journey to the Netherlands and on his return in 1487, he brought with him a lad called Perkin Warbeck, who might at this time have been about 17 years old. Warbeck was employed either as a servant to Brandão/Brampton´s wife, or as a male model for men´s clothes, or possibly both. Brandão/Brampton of course had long and intimate knowledge of the court of Edward IV, and it is most likely that Perkin picked up enough information from Brandão/Brampton to bolster his claim to the throne of England on the basis that he was the son of the King.


Brandão/Brampton was in Portugal again in 1489 when an embassy from Henry VII arrived in Lisbon. He was able on behalf of the King to accommodate the ambassadors and looked after them and entertained them at his house. At any rate, these men were so impressed by his skills as host that they reported their good treatment to the King in England. He was so grateful that he issued under his privy seal a general pardon to Edward Brampton Knight alias of Portingal alias of London merchant alias gentleman alias godson to the most illustrious King Edward IV. His son in 1500 was knighted by the King at Winchester.


Brandão/Brampton died in Portugal on 11 November, 1508 and was buried in the chapel of Our Lady of Pleasures (Prazeres) in the Carmelite Convent in Lisbon. The inscription on his grave was typically magniloquent and mendacious: Here lies Duarte Brandão Knight of the Garter an Honour which he earned through his many and famous services to King Edward: who was of the Council of the Kings of Portugal, and died on the 11th day of November of 1508


The court poet Garcia de Resende wrote of Brandão, scarcely thinking of course that this man was a New Christian, of low birth, a bastard who was once forced to flee the country under suspicion of homicide:


vijmos duarte brandam

tam valente capitam,

e valer tanto na guerra

em ho Reino de Ingraterra

que honrou a geeraçam


Rendered into English rhyming verse, this epitaph looks like this:


We saw too that captain bold

Duarte Brandam, heart of gold:

So valorous a man in war,

Who our name to England bore

And honoured thus our native fold


Perkin Warbeck claimed to be the younger of the Princes in the Tower, Prince Richard of Shrewsbury (his place of birth) Duke of York. His claim to the throne of England was supported in Burgundy and in the Holy Roman Empire, and later by James IV of Scotland. He invaded England on three occasions, and in 1497 he ran away from his troops at Glastonbury and was ultimately apprehended at Beaulieu in Hampshire. Having been tortured he confessed to his part in a false claim to the throne.


When in 1499 he was accused of taking part in a plot to free his fellow prisoner the Earl of Warwick from the Tower, King Henry came to the end of his forbearance. Warwick (by all accounts a simpleton) was beheaded, and Warbeck was dragged through the streets of London on a hurdle and hanged at Tyburn.


If Brandão/Brampton was ever questioned by the investigators into the claims made by Perkin Warbeck, he would probably have evaded the issue with slippery skill. Who knows if his testimony was instrumental in sending Warbeck to the gallows?


But Brandão/Brampton himself seemed to bear a charmed existence. What a man, and what astonishing changes and reincarnations he underwent during his life. He made a true bridge between Portugal and England, and was equally honoured in both.