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The Lambert Simnel Rebellion of 1487

Lambert SImnel was a pretender to the English throne. He was crowned in Ireland as Edward VI. What did Henry VII do about him?

Lambert Simnel, pretender to the English throne, leader of a rebellion in 1487 and not the royal figures he claimed to be.

Lambert Simnel, pretender to the English throne, leader of a rebellion in 1487 and not the royal figures he claimed to be.

Richard III and the Princes in the Tower

The story of the Princes in the Tower has become legend. Many people believe that the dastardly King Richard III (1452-1485) had his nephews—12-year-old Edward and 10-year-old Richard—murdered so that he could reign unchallenged after the death of his brother and the princes’ father King Edward IV (1442-1483).

King Edward V was a ruler in name only from the 9th April 1483; Uncle Richard was entrusted with Edward and Richard’s care but he utilised the long-standing story that Edward IV had married Eleanor Talbot before he and Elizabeth Woodville met and married. If so, and he had no proof, Edward IV and Elizabeth's children were illegitimate and ineligible for the throne.

Richard postponed Edward's coronation and moved the brothers into the Tower of London, then still a palace and a prison. Their maternal uncle and strongest ally Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers was executed on Richard’s orders. Richard held his coronation on the 6th July 1483 after the unexplained disappearance of his nephews on the night of 25th/26th June 1483.

Delaroche's depiction of the Princes in the Tower.

Delaroche's depiction of the Princes in the Tower.

The Battle of Bosworth Field Begins the Tudor Era

The new king arranged for 8-year-old Edward, Earl of Warwick, the only son of his executed brother George, Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville to be installed at Sheriff Hutton Castle in Yorkshire and prepared for an important role.

Richard III’s reign was short-lived. On the 22nd August 1485 Lancastrian Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond was the victor at the Battle of Bosworth Field and he was proclaimed King Henry VII. Richard III was slain. Henry solidified his claim to the throne by marrying Princess Elizabeth of York, a sister of the missing princes.

The absence of the princes’ bodies led to theories that Edward and Richard, or perhaps only one of them, had somehow survived.

King Edward IV. Lambert Simnel resembled him according to clergyman Richard Symonds.

King Edward IV. Lambert Simnel resembled him according to clergyman Richard Symonds.

Lambert Simnel's Resemblance to King Edward IV

The story of a 10-year-old boy named Lambert Simnel (Symnell) and his link to the throne of England begins with a conniving clergyman in Oxford named Richard Symonds. He discerned a likeness between Lambert, the son of a local tradesman, and the late King Edward IV. He decided to exploit the opportunity and set to work schooling Lambert so that he could take on one of the lost princes’ identities in a spectacular return.

Approximately one year after Lambert Simnel and Richard Symonds met one another Edward, Earl of Warwick was inaccurately reported dead. Edward had been imprisoned in the Tower of London since Henry VII’s arrival on the throne because he was the strongest York claimant to England's throne.

The Earl of Warwick was very much alive and he had not, as other murmurings suggested, escaped from his incarceration.

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The real Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick.

The real Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick.

King Edward VI

Richard Symonds and Lambert Simnel made haste to Dublin where on the 24th May 1487 Simnel was proclaimed King Edward VI under the guise of escapee Edward, Earl of Warwick, not one of the princes in the tower as he’d been preparing for.

In response to this act of treason, Henry VII displayed the real Edward, Earl of Warwick to the people of London. However, declaring that Lambert Simnel was an imposter did not solve the problem. The imposter was believed by many to be the real Edward or at least allowed to persist in the lie.

On 4th June 1487, Lambert Simnel or King Edward VI arrived on the Lancashire shore with around 2000 mercenaries provided by Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy (1446-1503). Margaret was married to Charles the Bold and was the sister of Edward IV and Richard III.

She made no secret of her opposition to the usurping Tudors. Her brother John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln had initially shown loyalty to Henry VII but presumably, Margaret convinced him to switch his allegiance so that a “York” figure could reclaim the throne of England.

The unassuming site of the Battle of Stoke Field.

The unassuming site of the Battle of Stoke Field.

The Battle of Stoke Field

At the ensuing Battle of Stoke Field, the Earl of Lincoln lost his life and Lambert Simnel and Richard Symonds were incarcerated. Their cohorts Gerald Fitzgerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, and Viscount Lovell, Richard III’s former chamberlain, managed to flee. Fitzgerald was pardoned but Lovell was never heard of again. In 1708 a secret room and a male skeleton were uncovered in his home Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire. The bones were presumed to belong to the 15th-century Viscount Lovell.

Henry VII did not release Symonds. He realised that the child Lambert Simnel was being used to achieve Symonds’ goals. The king was verbally dismissive about the threat that Lambert posed to his hold on power but in the spirit of keeping your friends close and your potential enemies closer he gave him a job in the royal kitchens. Lambert worked in the palace kitchens until his death in either 1534 or 1535 in Henry VIII's reign.

The real Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick was executed in 1499 for allegedly trying to escape captivity. He was 22 years old.

In the 17th-century building work was carried out at the Tower of London and 2 bodies were found. King Charles II believed that they were probably the hidden remains of Edward and Richard and he gave them a suitable reinternment. The whole truth about their demise remains a mystery.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Joanne Hayle

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