When Edward IV died, in 1483, his two surviving sons, Edward and Richard, then aged 12 and 9, were lodged in the Tower of London, under the protection of their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
- The eldest boy, Edward, was King Edward V (although he was never crowned)
- After the legitimacy of his father’s marriage was rendered invalid, his claim to the throne was overturned and his uncle Richard claimed the crown and was declared King Richard III.
The two princes were seen less and less, and rumours spread that someone, possibly King Richard, had had them murdered. However, other rumours said that one, or both, princes had managed to escape and had been spirited away to Europe, quite possibly to the court of their aunt, Margaret of Burgundy.
- Richard III was only king for two years
- He was defeated and killed at the Battle of Bosworth, August 22nd 1485, by the forces of Henry Tudor
- Henry Tudor thence became King Henry VII
- Henry was the last king of England to win his throne on the field of battle
- He cemented his claim by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and niece of Richard III
- They were third cousins
- Both were great-great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt
- Henry was successful in restoring the power and stability of the English monarchy after the political upheavals of the civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses.
- He founded the Tudor dynasty and, after a reign of nearly 24 years, was peacefully succeeded by his son, Henry VIII
Despite being crowned king, Henry VII was haunted by the threat of the princes’ return. While their family line was declared illegitimate, they were no threat but when Henry married Elizabeth of York, he had to declare the line legitimate – and the princes once again became a spectre upon his reign.
- To this day, the fate of “the Princes in the Tower” remains both a mystery and a highly contentious piece of English history.
- Henry VII, in the eyes of most people, remains a villian !
Silver Groat of Lambert Simnal, King of Ireland, c. 1487
- Good Very Fine (gVF)
Lambert Simnal declared King of Ireland
In 1487, Yorkists led by Lincoln rebelled in support of Lambert Simnel, a boy who was claimed to be the Earl of Warwick, son of Edward IV’s brother Clarence (who had last been seen as a prisoner in the Tower).
The rebellion began in Ireland, where the traditionally Yorkist nobility, headed by the powerful Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, proclaimed Simnel King and provided troops for his invasion of England.
- The rebellion was defeated at the Battle of Stoke.
- Henry showed remarkable clemency to the surviving rebels:
- he pardoned Kildare and the other Irish nobles
- and he made the boy, Simnel, a servant in the royal kitchen
Who was Lambert Simnal?
Simnel was born around 1477. His real name is not known – contemporary records call him John, not Lambert, and even his surname is suspect.
- Different sources have different claims of his parentage
- Some say he was a baker, whereas others say a tradesman or an organ builder
- Most definitely, he was of humble origin
At the age of about ten, he was taken as a pupil by an Oxford-trained priest named Richard Simon (or Richard Symonds / Richard Simons / William Symonds) who apparently decided to become a kingmaker.
- He tutored the boy in courtly manners and contemporaries described the boy as handsome
- He was taught the necessary etiquette and was well educated by Simon
- One contemporary described him as “a boy so learned, that, had he ruled, he would have as a learned man.”
- Most importantly, he bore a striking resemblance of the sons of Edward IV
- a.k.a. The Princes in The Tower
Who was Gerald Mór FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare?
Gerald FitzGerald was appointed Lord Deputy in 1477, but was replaced by Lord Grey of Codnor on the supposition that an Englishman could do the job better. The Lords of the Pale set up a breakaway Parliament in protest, and Edward IV was forced to re-install FitzGerald.
- He inherited the title of Earl of Kildare in 1478.
FitzGerald managed to keep his position after the York dynasty in England was toppled and Henry VII became king, but Fitzgerald blatantly disobeyed King Henry on several occasions; he supported the pretender to the throne of England and the Lordship of Ireland, Lambert Simnel.
However, Henry needed Fitzgerald to rule in Ireland, and at the same time could not control him. Simnel’s attempt to seize the throne ended in disaster at the Battle of Stoke and many of his supporters, including Kildare’s brother Thomas, were killed there.
Henry, now secure on his throne, could afford to be merciful and pardoned both Simnel and Kildare. The Earl of Kildare presided over Ireland during a period of near independence from English rule between 1477 and 1494.
- His power was so great that he was called “the uncrowned King of Ireland”.
Kildare was shrewd enough not to commit himself to the cause of the later pretender Perkin Warbeck, despite Henry’s caustic comment that the Irish nobility would “crown an ape” to secure power for themselves.
Who was Perkin Warbeck?
Margaret of Burgundy, who was the sister of Richard III, viewed Henry as a usurper and supported plans to have him overthrown. When news of the possibility that Richard, her youngest nephew, was still alive, the chance of restoring the Yorkists to the throne would have suited her purposes admirably. We’ll never know if she truly believed that Warbeck was her nephew, or if he was simply a convenient means of removing the Lancastrian Tudors from the throne, but Margaret supported the claim.This support drew further support from other European nobles, who recognised Warbeck’s claim to be the Duke of York, and in July 1495, with funds supplied by Margaret and Maximillian I, King of the Romans, a small, motley band of vagabonds landed at Deal, in Kent.
- The locals attacked and killed at least 150 of the invaders and captured maybe 80 prisoners
- Warbeck, who feared a trap and had not yet disembarked from his vessel, sailed away and headed for Ireland.
With support from Maurice FitzGerald, Earl of Desmond, he laid siege to Waterford but was repulsed and departed next for Scotland, where King James IV received him favourably, and Warbeck was married to Lady Catherine Gordon, a distant cousin of James’s.
- Plans were made for an invasion of England from the north but it amounted to little more than just another border raid that lasted a mere four days, and the little army of 1,400 withdrew back into Scotland.
James supplied Warbeck with a ship and a crew and he sailed once more for Waterford, Ireland, but was chased away by four ships manned by the Irish. Warbeck then sailed for Cornwall, where the people were already involved in a rebellion against the crown, due to what they saw as excessive taxation imposed by Henry VII to fund his war with Scotland.
- He landed at Whitesand Bay, west of Plymouth, with two ships and about 120 followers, on September 7th1497, and at the head of a hastily recruited army of about 6,000 men, Warbeck marched towards Exeter
- At Bodmin, he was declared King Richard IV of England, but his rag-tag host were repelled from the walls of Exeter and turned instead for Taunton.
- When Warbeck heard that an army was waiting at Glastonbury, a mere twenty miles away, he and his captains slipped away at midnight on September 21st, leaving the army without leaders, and then Warbeck himself abandoned his officers and ran for sanctuary at Beaulieu Abbey, in Hampshire.
- Here, he surrendered to the King and was brought before Henry VII at Taunton, where he confessed to being Piers Osbeck of Flanders (although it is possible that this confession was coerced), and then taken next to Exeter and from there to London, where he was paraded through the streets.
- On June 8th 1498, Warbeck escaped but only made it as far as Sheen, near Richmond, where the Prior granted him sanctuary and would not deliver him to the King until he received assurances that he would not be harmed.
- Warbeck was made to spend two days in the stocks, as a punishment, at Westminster and Cheapside, and was made to read out a confession as to his real identity, before he was returned to the Tower.
- However, his position was no longer safe, as it is thought that King Ferdinand II of Spain would not sanction the marriage of his daughter, Catherine of Aragon, to Henry VII’s son and heir, Arthur, whilst ‘one doubtful drop of Royal blood’ remained and urged Henry to remove all threats, and when a plot to capture the Tower of London was discovered, as part of a plot to release Edward, Earl of Warwick, (whom Lambert Simnel had claimed to be), and place him on the throne, Warbeck and Warwick were both charged with treason.
- There is no record of the trial, but on November 23rd 1499, a guilty Perkin Warbeck was taken on a hurdle from the Tower to Tyburn, where he was hanged and quartered.
- Five days later, on November 28th, Edward, Earl of Warwick, was taken to Tower Hill and beheaded – he was twenty-four years old, had been imprisoned since he was only ten, and was deemed to be utterly unworldly and insensible to the plotting carried on in his name.