Pretenders is the name given to those persons who, after the strange disappearance of John Uskglass left the throne of Northern England vacant, attempted to pass themselves off as the returned King.
First and most striking of these was Jack Pharaoh. He was in reality the child of two vagabond street-magicians. A nobleman, the Earl of Hexham, saw the boy by chance at a fair, and was much struck by his resemblance to the absent King. (It is unfortunately possible that Pharaoh was in some way connected to Uskglass since, though he never married, the King was not noted for continency.) Instantly conceiving the great benefit to himself of having a puppet monarch on the throne, Hexham bought Pharaoh from his parents for seven shillings, spirited the child away to some secret place where he had him trained up in courtly behaviour and kingly arts, until at last producing him, in 1486, as the returned Uskglass. Pharaoh was able to perform simple magic, which gave colour to the claim; and fairies in the pay of Hexham did more in his presence which they quickly attributed to him. The imposture thus had some success at first - many northern noblemen attended the coronation ceremony in Durham cathedral and accepted Pharaoh as their liege lord - but in the end it failed. Pharaoh quarrelled with his patron the Earl and finally had him murdered, whereupon Hexham's four sons vengefully joined forces with King Henry VII of Southern England to defeat the usurper at the Battle of Worksop in 1493. Pharaoh was executed some six years later.
Subsequent pretenders, "more or less successful" according to our author, were Piers Blackmore and Davey Sanschaussures. The last significant pretender however was the romantically-named Summer King. His true identity is not known, but he is believed to have been a monk from one of the great northern abbeys dissolved at the command of King Henry VIII shortly before the nameless pretender appeared in 1536. He had no backing among the great northern lords and his following was only among the common people, whom he instructed rather whimsically to revere nature and respect wild animals. He had no stated aims, no strategy and no plan of campaign and thus was easily disposed of when the impatient Henry sent an army north to restore order. Some of his followers who tried to defend him were killed and the rest dispersed. The so-called King may have been among the dead left at the scene of conflict near Pontefract.