The battle of Stoke Field crushes the Yorkist claim
Henry VII decisively wins the last clash in the Wars of the Roses
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