Henry VII - Rebellions and Pretenders


The reign of Henry VII, 1487-1509: Political power and control

Pretenders, claimants and rebellions

Threat: Surviving Yorkists – There were some Yorkists who could be expected to resist the new King. John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, was the appointed heir to Richard III after Richard’s son, Edward, Prince of Wales, died.

The Lovell Rebellion, 1486

3 minor noblemen who had prospered under Richard III – Viscount Lovell, Thomas and Humphrey Stafford. All 3 fought for Richard in 1485, but fled into Sanctuary until 1486 where they broke out to lead insurrections.  Rebellion totally failed – Lovell was crushed by Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford. He fled to Flanders.  Staffords arrested. Humphrey executed. Thomas pardoned and spared.

Vital lessons learned:

1.       Yorkists learned they needed a Yorkist Prince to stand against Henry and to replace him as King if they were successful.

2.        Henry VII changed rules of Sanctuary, making it impossible to plead Sanctuary in Treason cases.

3.       Henry knew he was vulnerable internationally. He feared that other countries eg: France HRE, Spain, Scotland etc. could benefit from supporting the Yorkists in reclaiming the throne, therefore he worked hard to safeguard against any anti-Tudor co-operation.

4.       Henry only trusted a small group of friends –largely from his time in exile – and family. He rewarded some Englishmen with lands/titles but also introduced measures to control them eg: bonds and recognisances, Acts of Resumption/Attainder.

The Challenge from Lambert Simnel, 1486-7. (Pretending to be the Earl of Warwick)

The Lovell Rebellion taught Yorkists they needed a prince to replace Henry VII. Problem was there weren’t any. Edward, Earl of Warwick was technically the heir to the throne – as the Princes in the Tower were missing, presumed dead – and he was confined in the Tower of London, under Henry’s control. Their solution was to train 2 imposters.

Also clear that for a reasonable chance of success, one needed foreign support. During 1487, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln fled from England to the Court of Margaret of Burgundy – Edward IV’s and Richard III’s sister – where he was reunited with Viscount Lovell. They persuaded the Duchess to sponsor Lambert Simnel’s challenge with financial aid, and military assistance of 2,000 German mercenaries led by Martin Schwarz.

Lincoln, Lovell and Simnel also sought assistance in Ireland. On May 5th, the Yorkist army arrived in Dublin and Irish Lords, most notably Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, declared for Simnel.

On 24 May 1487, in Dublin Cathedral, the Earl of Kildare crowned Lambert Simnel Edward VI, using a circlet of gold from a statue of the Virgin Mary.

The Yorkist army landed in a distant spot in Lancashire and began their march through the country looking for local support. Keenly aware of losing soldiers and morale, Lincoln decided to keep the army moving – crucially missing out the key city of York.

Henry VII reacted swiftly to rumours of the imposter circulating in late 1486/early…