A young man of twenty-three lands in Cornwall in 1497, claiming to be the son of Edward IV. He is the child of a French merchant. In 1487, the Irish peerage solemnly crowns a lowly organmaker. A miller posing as a margrave manages to alarm the Brandenburg nobility and even Emperor Charles IV. Such figures and their power ploys mingle with tales of fake religious hermits and phony crusaders returned from the Middle East.
An academic “Six Degrees of Martin Guerre”, this study draws on a wealth of source material to survey the more than thirty principal instances of imposture for political ends during the Middle Ages, moving from repeated elements in these episodes to the general characteristics of the act and its perpetrators. The author discusses the essential parts played by a credulous populace and a society with few sure means of identification. With anecdote and interpretation, Lecuppre depicts an age awakening from superstition to reason while contending with a rampant duplicity seeking to subvert the growing monarchic order.