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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

16 June 1487: The Battle of Stoke occurred on this day. In May 1487, the 10 year old Lambert Simnel, an impostor posing as Edward Earl of Warwick, was crowned Edward VI of England in Christ Church Dublin by a group of disaffected Yorkists. They were led by the Earl of Lincoln, Viscount Lovell and Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare. An invasion of England from Dublin was then planned. Margaret Duchess of Burgundy, Edward IV's sister, had supplied money and some 2,000 German mercenaries under the command of Martin Swartz. The rest of the army consisted of about 4,000 Irish under Sir Thomas Fitzgerald and perhaps 2,000 English retainers.

After landing in northern England they made their way inland to raise support for the Yorkist Cause. King Henry VII of England and his Army of some 10 to 15,000 men met them at Stoke on the Trent where Battle was joined. Henry made the mistake of allowing his Army to come on piecemeal on the Yorkist troops and nearly suffered defeat when they were caught off guard. The Earl of Oxford led the Van with about 6,000 soldiers but he held out until reinforcements arrived and turned the tide in King Henry’s favour.

The result was a victory for the King and the complete rout of his opponents in which thousands perished. It is suggested that as few as 100 were killed in the royal army whereas as many as 4000 rebels died, most presumably in the rout. Amongst the killed were the Earl of Lincoln and the German mercenary commander Schwarz, together with various other persons of note. Lord Lovell may have escaped from the field but was presumed drowned attempting to cross the Trent. Of these the Irish and English were hanged, but the foreign mercenaries were simply dismissed.

The Earl of Kildare was later pardoned for his indiscretions. The youthful imposter Lambert Simnelwas captured, brought before Henry and pardoned on account of his age and the undoubted fact that his tender years rendered him incapable of understanding the import of the enterprise he was being used in. He was put to work in the Royal Kitchens and in later life became the Keeper of the King’s Falcons. Thus ended the last Battle of the Wars of the Roses.