Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Battle of Stoke

Five and quarter centuries ago today what is usually now accounted the last battle of the Wars of Roses was fought at East Stoke near Newark in Nottinghamshire. There is a good account of the campaign and of the battle at the online article  Battle of Stoke Field.

This, with deaths or disappearnces of leading Yorkist figures such as John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln and Francis Viscount Lovell, and the capture of their pretender "King Edward VI" - Lambert Simnel - the first major threat to King Henry VII was defeated. Michael J. Bennett's life of Lambert Simnel in the new Oxford DNB can be read here.

Simnel himself may well have fared better with King Henry VII than he would had the Yorkists won and placed the real Earl of Warwick on the throne as King Edward VI, or had the Earl of Lincoln, who had briefly been recognised as heir by King Richard III in 1484-5, emerged as King John II. For King Henry it showed him as both merciful and also as being able to ridicule this attempt to dethrone him. Simnel appears to have progressed in royal service and lived well into the sixteenth century.   

Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be the younger of the Princes in the Tower and to be the second son of  King Edward IV with the title of King Richard IV,  fared less well, as, eventually did the real, and rather pathetic figure, Edward Earl of Warwick, both of whom were executed in 1499.

Both the Simnel and Warbeck impersonations, serious as they were at the time, do raise the question as to the likely fate of the imposter if the real claimant had secured the throne - rather as in Anthony Hope's adventure stories  The Prisoner of Zenda and Rupert of Hentzau.

Francis Viscount Lovell was aYorkist leader, of whom there are biographies by Rosemary Horrox from the Oxford DNB  here  and another online one hereand who was not seen alive again after the battle. At the time it appears to have been thought that he escaped to Scotland Thought he escaped to Scotland where he received a safe conduct in 1488.

As the Wikipedia article
points out Francis Bacon relates in his History of Henry VII that according to one report Lovell lived long after in a cave or vault. More than two centuries later, in 1708, the skeleton of a man was found in a secret chamber in the family mansion at Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire and it was supposed that Lovell had hidden himself there and died of starvation. Whilst this story has romantic and possibly tragic appeal , it seems unlikely to be true. Francis Lovell had hardly spent any time at Minster Lovell, being basically one of King Richard III's northern allies, and would not have a faithful servant there who would hide him for years. Furthermore the manor had been granted to Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford, King Henry VII 's uncle, and was therefore hardly an appropriate hiding place for Francis Lord Lovell.
In 1747 much of the house suffered demolition and it is now a ruin. The English Heritage website about the site at Minster Lovell can be seen here.

Reconstruction drawing of Minster Lovell Hall as it might have appeared in the 18th-century

Reconstruction drawing of Minster Lovell Hall prior to abandonment and demolition.

Image:© English Heritage

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