Essay: How serious was the Yorkist threat to Henry VII?

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‘How serious was the Yorkist threat to Henry VII?’

Henry VII was the King of England between 1485 and 1509, and in that time faced many threats to his monarchy. The three main threats came from Lambert Simnel, Perkin Warbeck and the de la Pole family; especially Edmund de la Pole. However, we need to know how serious the threat to Henry kingship was and how close he came to losing the crown. In this essay I will discuss each pretender and rebellion and come to a conclusion on how serious the threat from the Yorkists to Henry VII really was.

The first notable threat to Henry was the Lovell conspiracy. Although a complete farce and fiasco, the Lovell conspiracy laid the foundations for future rebellions and pretenders. The conspiracy was planned in 1486 by Francis, Viscount Lovell and two important and powerful landowners in Worcestershire; Thomas and Humphrey Stafford. The motives for this planned attack are unclear, however we do know that Lovell was an important member of Richard III’s household and was a close friend, and therefore we assume he wanted to re-instate a Yorkist King onto the throne because he saw the Yorkists as rightful claimants to the throne. The plan was to seize the King as he travelled north through the midlands, kidnap and kill him. Unfortunately for Lovell and the Stafford brothers, the plan failed terribly. The Stafford brothers were caught and Humphrey was executed. All was not lost though, as Lovell escaped to the court of Margaret or Burgundy, who, over the years of Henry’s reign proves to be extremely helpful to the Yorkists, providing them with a safe haven, money and support for decades. In terms of how serious this threat was to Henry VII, this conspiracy was not very serious at all. It was very badly planned out, poorly executed and there is no evidence of support for it from either abroad or in England.

Late in the same year; 1486, a pretender called Lambert Simnel emerged as a claimant to the throne. The plot was mainly led by John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, using Lambert Simnel as a front, who would have been dropped once the plot had succeeded and they had overthrown Henry. The affair began when Lambert Simnel was chosen to play the Duke of Clarence’s son; Earl of Warwick by an Oxford Priest and known Yorkist; Richard Symonds. The conspirators moved to Ireland, where they gained Irish support for Simnel, this was probably because Richard, Duke of York had the lieutenant of Ireland before Henry’s reign. The most notorious was the Earl of Kildare. After gaining Irish support from several aristocracy, they moved onto the low counties, where again Margaret of Burgundy, who was Edwards IVs sister helped the Yorkists in trying to overthrown Henry by welcoming Simnel into her court and tutored him further into his ‘part’. At the same time, the Earl of Lincoln also joined Simnel in Burgundy. Already, this was looking like a serious threat to Henry, with very strong foreign support, mainly from Ireland and long term English and French enemy; Burgundy. In May 1487 Lincoln and Lovell returned to Ireland and Simnel was crowned King Edward VI (even though it was known that Edward was being kept in the tower of London). Margaret had provided them with 2,000 German mercenaries, another sign that this was a very serious threat to Henry, one which he may have not dealt with. The plot rapidly moved forward, and shortly after the coronation Lincoln and Lovell led their strong and numerous forces across the Irish Sea. Their army had doubled in size because of their Irish support and therefore 4,000 men faced Henry’s men at the Battle of Stoke in Nottinghamshire, on the 14 June. Lincoln had huge foreign support and backing from Ireland and Burgundy but also had hoped to gain further support from the north of England, which had largely remained loyal to Richard III. Nevertheless, the response they received was disappointing and the rebels, with 8,000 men faced Henry’s 12,000 in a field near East Stoke. As it turned out, Henry won the battle of Stoke; the Earl of Lincoln was killed in battle, with Viscount Lovell dying soon after. Lambert Simnel, whom the plot appeared to revolve around was kept in Henry’s court and led a comfortable life in the kitchens and later as the King’s falconer. Finally, Henry spent months travelling through areas which he thought did not support him, gained oaths of loyalty and punishing offenders. The Earl of Kildare was spared.

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Compared to the Lovell conspiracy, the Lambert Simnel plot was very serious to Henry’s monarchy; we can even say he became very close indeed to losing his life. The plan was very well planned; it is plain to see that the Yorkists learned from their mistakes from the Lovell conspiracy. Along with support from Ireland, Lincoln showed they had big support from abroad with the backing of Margaret of Burgundy, who greatly helped Simnel. Margaret proved to be a force to be reckoned with, as she gave the rebels military support and money. I believe this threat was very ...

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