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The Most Serious Threats Henry VII Faced during His Reign

Henry VII faced many threats during his reign, with the majority being at the beginning of it. The three main threats came from Lambert Simnel, Perkin Warbeck and the de la Pole family; especially Edmund de la Pole. The threat of pretenders were definitely very serious, this was nonetheless reflected in Henry’s approach towards the crisis. The seriousness of the threats to Henry VII will be assessed thoroughly.The first notable threat to Henry was the Lovell conspiracy. Although a complete farce and fiasco, the Lovell conspiracy laid the foundations for future rebellions and pretenders. The conspiracy was planned in 1486 by Francis, Viscount Lovell and two important and powerful landowners in Worcestershire; Thomas and Humphrey Stafford. The motives for this planned attack are unclear, however we do know that Lovell was an important member of Richard III’s household and was a close friend, and therefore we assume he wanted to reinstate a Yorkist King onto the throne because he saw the Yorkists as rightful claimants to the throne. The plan was to seize the King as he travelled north through the midlands, kidnap and kill him.

Unfortunately for Lovell and the Stafford brothers, the plan failed terribly. The Stafford brothers were caught and Humphrey was executed. All was not lost though, as Lovell escaped to the court of Margaret or Burgundy, who, over the years of Henry’s reign proves to be extremely helpful to the Yorkists, providing them with a safe haven, money and support for decades. In terms of how serious this threat was to Henry VII, this conspiracy was not very serious at all. It was very badly planned out, poorly executed and there is no evidence of support for it from either abroad or in England.Late in the same year; 1486, a pretender called Lambert Simnel emerged as a claimant to the throne. The plot was mainly led by John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, using Lambert Simnel as a front, who would have been dropped once the plot had succeeded and they had overthrown Henry. The affair began when Lambert Simnel was chosen to play the Duke of Clarence’s son; Earl of Warwick by an Oxford Priest and known Yorkist; Richard Symonds. The conspirators moved to Ireland, where they gained Irish support for Simnel, this was probably because Richard, Duke of York had the lieutenant of Ireland before Henry’s reign.

The most notorious was the Earl of Kildare. After gaining Irish support from several aristocracy, they moved onto the low countries, where again Margaret of Burgundy, who was Edwards IVs sister helped the Yorkists in trying to overthrow Henry by welcoming Simnel into her court and tutored him further into his ‘part’. At the same time, the Earl of Lincoln also joined Simnel in Burgundy. Already, this was looking like a serious threat to Henry, with very strong foreign support, mainly from Ireland and long term English and French enemy; Burgundy. In May 1487 Lincoln andLovell returned to Ireland and Simnel was crowned King Edward VI (even though it was known that Edward was being kept in the tower of London). Margaret had provided them with 2,000 German mercenaries, another sign that this was a very serious threat to Henry, one which he may have not dealt with.

The plot rapidly moved forward, and shortly after the coronation Lincoln and Lovell led their strong and numerous forces across the Irish Sea. Their army had doubled in size because of their Irish support and therefore 4,000 men faced Henry’s men at the Battle of Stoke in Nottinghamshire, on the 14 June. Lincoln had huge foreign support and backing from Ireland and Burgundy but also had hoped to gain further support from the north of England, which had largely remained loyal to Richard III. Nevertheless, the response they received was disappointing and the rebels, with 8,000 men faced Henry’s 12,000 in a field near East Stoke. As it turned out, Henry won the battle of Stoke; the Earl of Lincoln was killed in battle, with Viscount Lovell dying soon after. Lambert Simnel, whom the plot appeared to revolve around was kept in Henry’s court and led a comfortable life in the kitchens and later as the King’s falconer. Finally, Henry spent months travelling through areas which he thought did not support him, gained oaths of loyalty and punishing offenders.

The Earl of Kildare was spared.Compared to the Lovell conspiracy, the Lambert Simnel plot was very serious to Henry’s monarchy; we can even say he became very close indeed to losing his life. The plan was very well planned; it is plain to see that the Yorkists learned from their mistakes from the Lovell conspiracy. Along with support from Ireland, Lincoln showed they had big support from abroad with the backing of Margaret of Burgundy, who greatly helped Simnel. Margaret proved to be a force to be reckoned with, as she gave the rebels military support and money. I believe this threat was very serious to Henry VII as it came as far as a battle which Henry could have so easily lost and was so much more serious than the Lovell conspiracy. However, because Henry won the battle and defeated the rebels, it not only showed everybody he was a great leader and fighter, but also that he would be ruthless in dealing with rebellions, pretenders and traitors.The final threat, and probably most serious threat came from pretender ‘Perkin Warbeck’.

Perkin Warbeck was the son of a Tournai customs officer born in 1475 who became to impersonate the younger son of Edward IV – one of the ‘Princes in the Tower’. It is said that, he was taken Ireland he impersonated Richard, after he had gained a large Yorkist interest. However, Warbeck failed to get support from Irish lords, importantly the Earl of Kildare refused to help him (he had pleaded his loyalty to Henry after his involvement in the Lambert Simnel affair). After futile attempts to receive Irish support proved unsuccessful, Warbeck travelled to France in 1492, and King Charles VIII welcomed him as a prince. Using Warbeck as a bargaining tool, Charles signed the Treaty of Etaples in 1492, meaning Henry accepted France’s control ofBrittany and Charles expelled Warbeck from France, as the treaty stated neither could shelter rebels. Warbeck turned to Margaret of Burgundy, who yet again becomes involved in plots against Henry and she teaches him in the ways of the Yorkists. This already proves to be a very serious threat from the Yorkists as Warbeck has support yet again from Burgundy and foreign support is increased further when Emperor Maximilian welcomes Warbeck into his court and recognises him as King Richard IV of England, and offers him all the encouragement needed, short of money or military assistance.

Further evidence that this was a very serious and potentially damaging Yorkist threat to Henry is when Henry feels he has to act in England, as he is unable to reach Warbeck and therefore discovers conspirators among his own government. Most famously, Sir William Stanley – who had greatly helped Henry at the Battle of Bosworth was one of these and was executed. Henry had sent out a message to potential other conspirators that they would not tolerated and would be severely dealt with. Warbeck tried to land at Deal, Kent but the planned invasion comes to nothing. He flees to Ireland and gathers the help of the Earl of Desmond, but is driven out by Sir Edward Poynings, who is in control of an English army sent by Henry. Warbeck turns to Scotland and James IV, the year is 1495. He marries James’s cousin, Lady Catherine Gordon and James seems to be the one person of importance who believed that Warbeck was who he said he was. Clearly one of James’s motives for the invasion of northern England was the hatred for Scotland’s greatest enemy, and maybe he used Warbeck for an excuse to do so. Up until the summer of 1497 James tries to invade but is repelled by Henry’s strong forces. James eventually abandons the pretender. Unable to return to the Netherlands under the Magnus Intercursus Warbeck tired Ireland again, only to be refused support by the loyal Earl of Kildare.

In a final attempt to invade England Warbeck tried to exploit the angry feeling towards Henry in Cornwall, and although he received considerable help it was crushed by Henry’s forces in the south west. Warbeck was eventually captured but could not be tried for treason (as he was not English), Henry decided to treat him well until he was put in the tower for abusing this trust and finally, in 1499, Perkin Warbeck was beheaded for trying to escape the tower.Compared to the other two major conspiracies we can say that the Perkin Warbeck affair was a lot more serious, but in other ways we can say that it was not as much of a threat to Henry as the Lambert Simnel plot because Perkin Warbeck never actually got to a battle to decide. However, we have seen that Warbeck received a lot of help from abroad, especially from Burgundy and Scotland – which must have worried Henry.

With also the conspirators allegedly plotting against Henry the Perkin Warbeck affair seems a lot more serious and dangerous when we take a closer took as he had huge support both in England and abroad and Henry was forced to give up a lot to retrieve him, for example the Treaty of Etaples. However, as I have said Perkin Warbeck never got as far as a final battle for the throne whereas the Lovell conspiracy and Lambert Simnel did.In conclusion, after studying the main Yorkist threats to Henry VII I believe that the threat was considerably serious to Henry. I think that the Lambert Simnel plot was the most serious as he received huge foreign support, from Ireland and Burgundy. Also, it came all the way to a final battle which Henry may have lost, therefore losing the crown and his life, the same can be said with the Lovell conspiracy, if planned a little better Henry would have successfully been captured and most likely executed. Although Perkin Warbeck never got very far in terms of invasions and military action, he had the most backing and protection, again from Burgundy but this time also from Scotland and Emperor Maximilian. Furthermore, it showed Henry that his government and even his close friends could not be trusted, Sir William Stanley for example.

Combining the three most serious Yorkist threats I believe that the Yorkist threat was considerably serious to Henry as the plots had received support both in England and from abroad and Henry came very close to losing the throne and his life at the Battle of Stoke.

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