The bat­tle of Stoke Field crushes the York­ist claim

Henry VII de­ci­sively wins the last clash in the Wars of the Roses

BBC History Magazine - - Anniversaries -

As ev­ery­one knows, the Wars of the Roses ended in Au­gust 1485, when Henry Tu­dor won the bat­tle of Bos­worth. It is a shame, then, that ev­ery­one is wrong.

Two years af­ter Bos­worth, Henry’s po­si­tion was far from se­cure. Af­ter decades of tur­moil, few peo­ple be­lieved the fight­ing was quite over, and their sus­pi­cions were con­firmed when York­ist forces set sail from Dublin in May, led by a boy pur­port­ing to be Ed­ward, Earl of Warwick, who was then in the Tower of London. In re­al­ity, the boy was an ob­scure youth called Lam­bert Sim­nel. But the threat was real enough, since Sim­nel’s troops, many of them Ger­man and Swiss mer­ce­nar­ies, were led by the former York­ist com­man­der John de la Pole, Earl of Lin­coln.

It was not un­til June that Henry caught up with Lin­coln’s army. The date was the 16th; the place was East Stoke, near Ne­wark in Not­ting­hamshire. The armies were prob­a­bly even big­ger than at Bos­worth and the stakes were ar­guably higher too. If Henry had lost, the Tu­dor era would have been stran­gled at birth.

But Henry did not lose. Although Lin­coln’s mer­ce­nar­ies car­ried the lat­est con­ti­nen­tal firearms, the king’s archers proved de­ci­sive, their ar­rows rain­ing mer­ci­lessly down onto the York­ist ranks, with one chron­i­cler liken­ing the stricken men to hedge­hogs. By the end of the bat­tle, the York­ists had turned and fled, many of them butchered in a gully known af­ter­wards as the Bloody Gut­ter. The death toll may have been higher than 4,000. Now the civil wars re­ally were over.

A 19th-cen­tury de­pic­tion of Ger­man mer­ce­nar­ies be­ing felled at the bat­tle of Stoke Field, the last ma­jor clash of the Wars of the Roses

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