It was only two years into the reign of Henry VII that the first pretender to the throne appeared on the “scene”, somewhat ironically trying to put himself off – or rather, being manipulated by others to do so – as the young Earl of Warwick, the son of George of Clarence, brother of Edward IV and Richard III, the original intention had been to pass him off as one of the princes in the Tower. The man behind the scheme was John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln and nephew of Richard, and seemingly named as heir to the throne when his own son had died at a young age, even if this was never announced publically. Involved in the plot was also Bishop Stillington, who as a result of this – when all was said and done – would be kept in house arrest for the remainder of his life.
de la Pole had originally made peace with the Tudor regime after the battle of Bosworth, but only two years later he orchestrated the rebellion which had Lambert Simnel as its figurehead. Most likely it was the intention of de la Pole to take the throne himself, had the rebellion succeded. It seems a clergyman named Symond introduced de la Pole to Simnel, who appears to have had some resemblance with the real son of Clarence, who was in fact imprisoned in the Tower, and who had also lost the right to inherit the throne through the attainder against his father.
When it comes to the boy Lambert Simnel, very little is known by his background. It seems that the earlier mentioned clergyman had trained him in some courtly manners, but allegedly he was the son of a baker, and contemporary sources does not, before the actual events, refer to him as Lambert, but John, and in the attainder later passed against de la Pole, Simnel is described as the son of an Oxford joiner and organmaker.
At the time Lambert Simnel was crowned as Edward VI in Dublin and put forward as the rightful heir to the throne of England, he was not much older than ten years old, and could obviously not be “credited” with being the initiator of the rebellion that followed, a fact that most likely proved significant for his later fate.
de la Pole won the backing of the Irish lord Gerald FitzGerald, who was eager to return to the state of relative Irish self-rule that had been the case under the Yorkist kings. He also managed to convince Margaret of Burgundy that he had been part in aiding her nephew Warwick´s escape from the Tower – later she would also happily identify Perkin Warbeck as another one of her nephews, young Richard who had been put in the Tower together with his brother Edward – and she contributed to de la Pole´s rebellion with 2 000 Flemish soldiers.
The result of the rebellion was the battle of Stoke Field – considered to be the very last battle of the Wars of the Roses – which took place on June 16, 1487. The rebels had arrived in Lancashire on June 4 after which they grew to number around 8 000 men.
After a couple a skirmishes and a clash with Lancastrian troops on the 10th at Bramham Moor, when the victory belonged to the Yorkists, they finally met the army of Henry VII on the 16th. The royal army far outnumbered the Yorkists, and was also led by two skilled commanders, the king´s uncle Jasper Tudor and John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford.
John de la Pole was killed in the battle, which the Yorkists lost, and the boy Lambert Simnel captured. It is sometimes claimed that Henry VII made the process short with the pretenders to his throne, but Lambert Simnel put that claim to shame, as the boy was pardoned, most likely just because he was a boy who and been manipulated by adults.
He was given a position as a spit-turner in the royal kitchens, and later went on to be promoted to the king´s falconer. Just as there is little known about the first 10 years of Lambert Simnel´s life, very little is known about his later in life. He seems to have gotten married, and may have been the father of Richard Simnel, canon of St Osyth´s Priory in Essex.
Lambert Simnel died around 1525, at the estimated age of 48 years.
The Tudor Age – James A. Williamson
The Tudors – G. J. Meyer
Pole, John de la – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography/Rosemary Horrox
Lambert Simnel and the battle of Stoke – Michael J. Bennett
The Princes in the Tower – Alison Weir