Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Considered the last major battle of the WARS OFTHE ROSES, the Battle of Stoke, fought on 16 June 1487, ended the first significant attempt to overthrow HENRY VII and restore the house of YORK.
The failure of the 1486 LOVELL-STAFFORD UPRISING resulted in large part from the lack of a Yorkist candidate for the throne to rally support. This deficiency was remedied in 1487, when a priest named Richard (or William) Simonds arrived in IRELAND with a boy Simonds claimed was Edward PLANTAGENET, earl of Warwick, the nephew of EDWARD IV. Although the child was in reality Lambert SIMNEL, the son of an Oxford tradesman, he was apparently attractive and intelligent and well coached by Simonds to play the part of a Yorkist prince. Gerald FITZGERALD, earl of Kildare, the Irish lord deputy, immediately accepted Simnel as Warwick, not, probably, out of genuine belief, but in the hope that a Yorkist regime restored with Irish assistance would grant Ireland greater autonomy. Having won a base in Ireland, the Simnel imposture gained further support in BUR GUNDY, where Duchess MARGARET OF YORK, the real Warwick's aunt, and such prominent Yorkist exiles as Francis LOVELL, Lord Lovell, and John de la POLE, earl of Lincoln, another nephew of Edward IV, joined the movement. Lincoln and Lovell came to Dublin for the 24 May coronation of Simnel as "Edward VI," bringing with them men and money supplied by Margaret. Although the ultimate intent of the Yorkist leaders was probably to enthrone Lincoln, they were willing to use Simnel as a figurehead to generate support for a Yorkist restoration.

In LONDON, Henry VII took the real Warwick from the TOWER OF LONDON and paraded him through the streets. On 4 June 1487, the Yorkists landed on the Lancashire coast. As the rebels crossed Yorkshire, they gathered significant gentry support and enlarged their numbers to almost 9,000 men, although the city of York denied them entry and such prominent northern lords as Henry PERCY, earl of Northumberland, and Thomas STANLEY, earl of Derby, mobilized for the king. On the morning of 16 June, the Yorkist army, which comprised strong contingents of German and Irish MERCENARIES as well as the English forces picked up on the march, formed a line of battle on a hill southwest of the Nottinghamshire village of East Stoke. The king and his commanders were unaware of how close the rebel forces were, and they advanced in columns, unprepared for battle. John de VERE, earl of Oxford, commander of the royal vanguard, was the first to encounter the Yorkists. To stay in the open awaiting the king and the rest of the army was to invite destruction; to retreat was to risk disintegration through panic and low morale. Oxford therefore decided to attack the larger force, sending messengers to advise Henry to advance with all speed.

At about 9 A.M., Oxford's ARCHERS opened the battle, doing particular execution among the lightly armored Irish, who then charged downhill taking the rest of the Yorkist army with them. Although Oxford's men were experienced fighters, they were hard-pressed by the larger Yorkist force, and only the timely arrival of the rest of the royal army under the king and his uncle, Jasper TUDOR, earl of Bedford, saved Oxford from defeat. Unable to stand against fresh troops, the Yorkist line broke, and many rebels were killed as they fled down a steep ravine. Lincoln died on the field, as did Lovell, although his body was never found. Simnel was captured, pardoned, and set to work in the royal kitchens. Henry VII had survived the first Yorkist attempt on his throne.

Further Reading: Bennett, Michael J., Lambert Simnel and the Battle of Stoke (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987).

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