How Serious Was The Threat Posed To Henry VII By Pretenders To The Throne
How Serious Was The Threat Posed To Henry VII By Pretenders To The Throne?
From the time Henry gained the throne in 1485, he was vulnerable to attacks and threats. It became clear that he would need to move decisively to suppress any potential problems, so that he might secure the throne both for himself and his future dynasty. Henry’s resolve was tested when he faced three pretenders to the throne. These were Lambert Simnel, Perkin Warbeck and the Earl of Suffolk. From 1486 to 1506 Henry had to cope with both the pretenders and any other problems he had. He had to initially deal with the complications he had after he had actually claimed the throne himself. This essay will show which threat was the most dangerous to Henry and how each threat had its own significance.
The first pretender was Lambert Simnel who portrayed himself as Richard, Duke of York, (son of King Edward IV) and later as Edward, Earl of Warwick (nephew of Edward IV). The Earl of Warwick had a genuine claim to the throne as the son of the Duke of Clarence who was King Edward IV’s brother. The Earl of Warwick had been put into the Tower of London and therefore Simon had to get around this. When Simnel was 10 he was taken under the wings of Roger Simon (Richard Symonds) as a student. Simon spread a rumor that Warwick had actually fled from the Tower and was now with him. He gained some support from Yorkists and he took Simnel to Ireland where there was still support for the Yorkist cause. He then presented him to the Earl of Kildare. Kildare was willing to support the story and invade England to overthrow Henry. On 24 May 1487 Simnel was as King Edward VI. He was about 10 years old. The Earl of Lincoln, formerly the designated successor of the late King Richard III, joined the conspiracy against Henry VII. He fled to Burgundy, where Warwick's aunt Margaret of Burgundy, kept her court. Lincoln claimed that he had taken part in young Warwick's supposed escape. Margaret collected 2,000 and shipped them to Ireland with Martin Scharz in charge. They arrived in Ireland on 5 May. King Henry was informed of this and began to gather troops. Simnel's army mainly Irish troops landed in Lancashire on 5 June 1487 and were joined by some English supporters. They clashed with the King's army on 16 June at the Battle of Stoke Field and were defeated. Simon avoided execution due to his priestly status but was imprisoned for life. King Henry took Simnel under his wings and gave him a job in the royal kitchen.
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The threat by Simnel wasn’t that strong although he did gain quite a bit of support. He attracted the attention of Margeret of Burgundy, who actually lied for him. He although gained the recognition of the Earl of Kildare who crowned him as King Edward VI. This doesn’t just show that he gained support easily but that people seemed to want Henry off of the throne. The threat also only lasted about 1 year which shows that Henry had dealt with him and moved on very quickly. The Battle of Stoke onlt lasted about 3 hours which says a lot. The batlle was won easily by Henry’s side due to a much bigger support and the lack of armour and equipment on the Simnel side. The whole threat wasn’t really a problem for Henry and therefore he could just carry on with his reign.
The second threat was fronted by Perkin Warbeck. He was an impostor, pretending to be Richard Duke of York who was the younger son of King Edward. In 1491, he landed in Ireland in the hope of gaining support just like Simnel had. He didn’t have the same luck as he had and was forced to return to mainland Europe. He had more luck here and this is where the threat really started. He was officially recognised as Richard Duke of York by Margaret of Burgundy, just like she had done with Simnel. Warbeck was also welcomed by many other monarchs and his reputuation was building. In 1493 he was recognised as Richard Duke of York, by Maximilian I. On 3 July 1495, Perkin attempted to land in England, his forces were not big enough and therefore he was forced to retreat to Ireland. There he found support from the Earl of Desmond and attempted to take over Waterford but this failed miserably. He then went to Scotland to try and find support there and he was in luck. There he was well received by James IV of Scotland, who had a reputation for getting under the noses of the English at every chance. He permitted Warbeck to marry his cousin, Lady Catherine Gordon.
In September 1496, Scotland launched an attack on England, but quickly retreated when it was clear that it was a total waste of time. Now wishing to be rid of Warbeck, James IV offloaded him and Perkin returned to Waterford in shame. He tried to take over the city again but his failed as well and he was forced to flee Ireland, chased by four English ships. In 1497, he landed in Cornwall. Warbeck found very little support to try and unsettle Henry and he was now starting to go downhillHe left Cornwall for London and attempted to challenge Henry militarily but he had no chance. He was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
The threat posed by Warbeck was stronger than Simnel’s but it still lacked an edge. He couldn’t gain the amount of support he needed to challenge Henry and therefore he didn’t have a chance when he reached London. Warbecks threat was different to Simnels in many ways. He tried to gain more support from abroad as well as from Scotalnd and Ireland. He probably caused more problems than Simnel to Henry because of his International threats. He had gained the support of the Maximillian I and Margeret of Burgundy as well as King James IV of Scotland. He was gaining the support of many Monarchs but they were losing patience with him and this affected him a lot. At the ned of the threat Henry had no problem in defeating Warbeck. Warbeck had gathered together a quick blend of troops and this was no match for Henry’s troops. It was almost an insult.
The third and final threat was that of the Earl of Suffolk (Edmund de la Pole) whose threat lasted from 1499-1506. His threat lasted from 1499 to 1506 ans was in my opinion the most dangerous threat to Henry. Following the death of his older brother at the Battle of Stoke, Suffolk became the leading Yorkist claimant to the throne. Henry spared his life and allowed him to succeed to his father's title of Duke of Suffolk in 1491. He was the total oppostite to his brother and he lacked pragmatism. A title was not enough for him, he wanted to be King of England and in his eyes nothing was going to stop him. In July 1499, Suffolk suddenly disappeared only to reappear at Guisnes near Calais. Henry feared that he would lead a foreign-backed invasion. At the very least, what Suffolk had done was an irritation to Henry as there was always the chance that the French might have used him to de-stabilise Henry’s position in England. Suffolk was persuaded by Henry to return to England and he remained outwardly loyal until 1501.
He left the Kingdom of England again in 1501 seeking the help of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. Henry knew that Suffolk was gaining support from strong people and therefore he paid Maximilian the sum of £10,000 to expel Suffolk. Supporters of the York family gathered around the Earl of Suffolk in Flanders in the knowledge that they were safe under the protection of Maximilian. Henry had no choice but to act decisively. Henry captured Suffolk when Archduke Phillips, who was attempting to claim the Spanish throne was blown to the English coast and he had Suffolk on board. Henry was forced to pay £138,000 to make Phillip release Suffolk. He himself escaped punishment until the reign of King Henry VIII of England, and was executed in 1513.
The thing that made Suffolks threat dangerous was the fact that Henry had to pay over £150,000 to get Suffolk. There was no other way Henry could stop Suffolk and therefore this was the only way Henry thought he could capture Suffolk. As well as the fact of money, Suffolk had many allies which he had made on his travels. Like Warbeck before him he had the support of Maximilian I and Archduke Phillip.
The three different pretenders had different ways of appoaching the attempt to claim the throne. Simnel approached the claim with no particluar strategy. It seems as if he was just doing this as they came along. He would adjust to the things that happened and therefore I don’t think that the threat was worthwhile. The threat by Warbeck was more planned out and he had much more support than Simnel. He gained the support of people like Margeret of Burgundy and this meant that he had power behind his threat. He also had other international backing through people like Maximilian I. The final pretender, The Earl of Suffolk, was in some ways similar to Warbecks threat. They both had Maximilian backing and this meant that they weren’t just beign supported domestically but internationally as well.
As well as the threat from the pretenders there were threats from other things as well. For example the Yorkshire Rebellion in 1489 and the Cornish Rebellion in 1497. The Yorkshire Rebellion was sparked by parliamentary tax and it was voted to pay for Henry VII’s aid to Brittany. Northern counties paid no tax because they helped Henry against the Scots and the Earl of Northumberland was murdered probably by the leader of the rebellion, Sir John Egremont. Henry didn’t receive any tax from the rebels and he couldn’t do anything about it. Henry was vulnerable because he couldn’t do much to stop the rebellion and he couldn’t make anyone do what he said. He was powerless. The Cornish Rebellion was triggered by demand for money to pay for the campaign to resist the invasion by James IV and Warbeck. The rebels marched to the edge of London where they were met by the King’s forces. 1000 rebels were though to have been killed and three main leaders were executed. It was probably a bigger threat than the Yorkshire rebellion because it headed straight for the capital. It was also going on at the same time as the Warbeck affair. These two rebellions didn’t really harm Henry’s reign and therefore he was still succeedign in his som to secure the throne for future generations.
In conclusion it is clear that Henry was dogged by numerous threats throughout his twenty-four year reign. The question is how serious these threats were. The main threat in my eyes was Perkin Warbeck. He seemed to have his claim more planned out and therefore I believe he had the best chance out of the three pretenders of claiming the throne. The most dangerous thing about Warbecks threat was the fact that he had support from abroad and domestically. If he just had domestic support he wouldn’t have had much of a chance. He had a mix of both and therefore he could use both to his advantage. I think that people like Maximilian would have threatened Henry and Henry would have been cautious. He would have been careful. I think that Henry was already insecure and this made him even more worried. This is the threat that I thought was more serious than the others.