Battle of Stoke Field
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|Battle of Stoke Field|
|Part of the Wars of the Roses|
|House of York||House of Lancaster (Tudor)|
|Commanders and leaders|
|John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln†
Colonel Martin Schwartz†
|Henry VII of England
John de Vere, Earl of Oxford
Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Stoke Field (16 June 1487) may be considered the last battle of the Wars of the Roses, since it was the last engagement in which a Lancastrian king faced an army of Yorkist supporters, under the pretender Lambert Simnel. (Many historians, however, consider the Battle of Bosworth, two years previously, as the last real battle in the Wars of the Roses.) Despite being the final major conflict between York and Lancaster (Tudor), it was one of the costliest in terms of life, as there was a mutual agreement that there would be a policy of no quarter for those left standing.
(Later in Henry's reign another pretender to the throne emerged, in the person of Perkin Warbeck; however, this time the matter was resolved without recourse to arms.)
Henry VII of England held the throne for the House of Lancaster (House of Tudor), and had tried to gain the acceptance of the Yorkist faction by his marriage to their heiress, Elizabeth of York, but his hold on power was not entirely secure.
An impostor claiming to be Edward, whose name was Lambert Simnel, although it is difficult to say if that was his real name, came to the attention of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. Lincoln, although apparently reconciled with the Tudor king, himself had a claim on the throne; moreover, the last Plantagenet, Richard III of England, had named Lincoln, his nephew, as the royal heir. Although he probably had no doubt about Simnel's true identity, Lincoln saw an opportunity for revenge and reparation.
Lincoln fled the English court on 19 March 1487 and went to the court of Mechelen (Malines) and his aunt, Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy. Margaret provided financial and military support in the form of 2000 German mercenaries, under the commander, Martin Schwartz. Lincoln was joined by a number of rebel English Lords at Mechelen, in particular Richard III's loyal supporter, Lord Lovell, Sir Richard Harleston, the former governor of Jersey and Thomas David, a captain of the English garrison at Calais.
The Yorkist rebellion
The Yorkist fleet set sail and arrived in Dublin on 4 May 1487. With the help of Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare and his brother Thomas FitzGerald of Laccagh, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Lincoln recruited 4,500 Irish mercenaries, mostly Kerns, lightly armoured but highly mobile infantry.
With the support of the Irish nobility and clergy, Lincoln had the pretender Lambert Simnel crowned "King Edward VI" in Dublin on 24 May 1487. Although a Parliament was called for the new "King", Lincoln had no intention of remaining in Dublin and instead packed up the army and Simnel and set sail for north Lancashire.
On landing on 4 June 1487, Lincoln was joined by a number of the local gentry led by Sir Thomas Broughton. In a series of forced marches, the Yorkist army, now numbering some 8,000 men, covered over 200 miles in five days. On the night of 10 June, at Bramham Moor, outside Tadcaster, Lovell led 2,000 men on a night attack against 400 Lancastrians, led by Lord Clifford. The result was an overwhelming Yorkist victory.
Lincoln then outmanoeuvered King Henry's northern army, under the command of the Earl of Northumberland by ordering a force under John, Lord Scrope to mount a diversionary attack on Bootham Bar, York, on 12 June. Lord Scrope then withdrew northwards, taking Northumberland's army with him.
Lincoln and the main army continued southwards. Outside Doncaster, Lincoln encountered Lancastrian cavalry under Lord Scales. There followed three days of skirmishing through Sherwood Forest. Lincoln forced Scales back to Nottingham. However, the fighting had slowed down the Yorkist advance sufficiently to allow King Henry to receive substantial reinforcements under the command of Lord Strange, on arriving at Nottingham on 14 June.
On 15 June, King Henry began moving north east toward Newark after receiving news that Lincoln had crossed the Trent. Around nine in the morning of 16 June, King Henry's forward troops, commanded by the Earl of Oxford, encountered the Yorkist army assembled in a single block, on a brow of a hill surrounded on three sides by the River Trent at the village of East Stoke.
In an unusual military manoeuvre, the Yorkists surrendered the high ground by immediately going on to the attack. The battle was bitterly contested for over three hours, but eventually, the lack of body armour on the Irish troops meant that they were cut down in increasing numbers.
Unable to retreat, the German and Swiss mercenaries fought it out. All of the Yorkist commanders: Lincoln, Fitzgerald, Broughton, and Schwartz, fell fighting. Only Lord Lovell escaped and, according to legend, died hidden in a secret room at his house. Simnel was captured, but was pardoned by Henry in a gesture of clemency which did his reputation no harm. Henry realised that Simnel was merely a puppet for the leading Yorkists. The Irish nobles who had supported Simnel were also pardoned, as Henry believed he needed their support to govern Ireland effectively.
- Bennett, M.J. (1987) Lambert Simnel and the Battle of Stoke, Stroud : Sutton, ISBN 0-86299-334-2
- Mackie, J.D.  (1994) The earlier Tudors: 1485-1558, Oxford history of England 7, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-285292-2, pp. 73–75
- Roberts, D.E. (1987) The Battle of Stoke Field 1487, Newark and Sherwood D.C.
- Beeston, D (1987) A Strange Accident of State : Henry VII and the Lambert Simnel Conspiracy, Self-Published.