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Simnel Rebellion

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Simnel Rebellion

The Simnel Rebellion was a significant rebellion against Henry VII from January to June 1487. It was one of the two impostures Henry VII faced during his reign, an attempt by the Yorkist faction to overthrow him and put their candidate on the throne. So why did they choose the 10-year-old son of a tradesman as their figurehead?

We learn about the causes of the rebellion and the key figures involved before analysing Henry VII’s response and the place of the Simnel Rebellion in the broader context of Tudor history.


The act of impersonating someone to deceive people.

Timeline of the Simnel rebellion



January 1487

Richard Symonds promotes Lambert Simnel as Edward, Earl of Warwick and the true heir to the English throne.

May 1487

The rebellion received support from English and Irish nobles and Margaret of Burgundy, who paid a force of 2,000 German mercenaries to join the rebellion’s forces.

May 1487

The Earl of Lincoln flees England and joins the rebellion in Ireland.

24 May 1487

Lambert Simnel is proclaimed King Edward VI in Ireland by the Earl of Kildare.

5 June 1487

Rebellion forces, led by the Earl of Lincoln, landed at Furness, Lancashire, in northern England and began marching south.

16 June 1487

The Battle of Stoke takes place. Simnel’s troops lost the battle, and the rebellion was defeated.

Simnel Rebellion Drawing of Lambert Simnel being carried through the streets in celebration with a crown on his head StudySmarterNewly-crowned Lambert Simnel being carried through the streets in celebration, Wikipedia

Causes of the Lambert Simnel rebellion

The Simnel rebellion was a dynastic rebellion – that is, against the Tudor dynasty. Its main reason was the desire for political power and personal revenge by the remaining members of the House of York.

The War of the Roses was fought between the House of York and the House of Lancaster for the English throne from 1455 to 1487. In 1483, Yorkist Richard III proclaimed himself King of England and ruled until the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, when Henry Tudor (Henry VII) killed him.

Henry Tudor had a distant Lancastrian heritage but founded his own house when he became King in 1485 – the House of Tudor – and married Elizabeth of York to unite the two opposing houses. Nevertheless, he faced strong Yorkist opposition throughout his reign, of which the Simnel Rebellion is a notable example.

Let us look more closely at the causes of the Simnel Rebellion below.

Simnel Rebellion: Political instability

After the Battle of Bosworth and the accession of Henry VII in 1485, many nobles were against the new regime and thought they could gain more by overthrowing Henry VII instead of serving him. After 30 years of civil war, the nobility was not sure that the new king would be able to hold the throne. This instability made it seem easier to overthrow the king and usurp power than to remain loyal to him and gain power by serving him.

Simnel Rebellion: Succession issues

Henry VII’s position on the throne was still precarious, as he had not yet fully established his dynasty and solidified his claim to the crown. At this early stage of his reign, he had no heir. Therefore, the Yorkist faction still saw the possibility of bringing a Yorkist king to power. Moreover, Henry VII was descended not from his father but from his mother, Margaret Beaufort, which weakened his claim.

Simnel Rebellion: Personal vengeance

There were also personal motivations behind the Simnel Rebellion. The War of the Roses had divided the English nobility politically and personally. When Richard III was defeated, many were furious. They saw Henry VII as a usurper and wanted revenge for the House of York. They felt it necessary to try by all means to regain the power and prestige they had lost under the new regime, both for the sake of their dignity and their desire for power. Margaret of Burgundy’s participation in the rebellion is a good example of such motivation.


Someone who takes a position of power, such as the throne, without authorisation, often by force.

Key figures of the Simnel rebellion

Who was the 10-year-old boy chosen as the supposed ‘rightful’ heir to the throne? Who else was involved in the rebellion?

Simnel Rebellion: Lambert Simnel

Lambert Simnel was a 10-year-old boy from Oxford, the son of a merchant. He was a disciple of Richard Symonds, a Yorkist priest who saw in Simnel some resemblance to the sons of King Edward IV. Originally Symonds wanted to claim Simnel was one of the sons, but eventually passed him off as Edward, Earl of Warwick, and taught him courtly manners to make this more believable.Edward, Earl of Warwick, was the son of George, Duke of Clarence, who had been the brother of Edward IV, making the Earl of Warwick, the nephew of King Edward. This claim to the throne was stronger than King Henry VII’s claim.Therefore, this was the ideal identity to make Lambert Simnel the face of a Yorkist rebellion against Henry VII. When the rebellion failed, Simnel himself was pardoned and given a job as a spit-turner in the royal kitchens. He eventually died sometime after 1534, at the age of about 57.

Simnel Rebellion: Richard Symonds

Richard Symonds was an Oxford priest and a strong Yorkist sympathiser. He was responsible for locating Lambert Simnel and presenting him as the Earl of Warwick after hearing a rumour that the real Earl of Warwick had been killed. He disappeared after the rebellion; little is known about what happened to him.

Simnel Rebellion: John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln

John de la Pole was the son of John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk and Elizabeth of York. He was a nephew of Edward IV and Richard III through his mother, which gave him a claim to the throne. At first, he accepted the rule of Henry VII, but when the rebellion began, he used his power and influence to support it. It is believed that Lincoln used the rebellion only to pave his way to the throne. He had been treated well by Richard III and was expected to be named his heir. Lincoln was killed at the Battle of Stoke on 16 June 1487.

Simnel Rebellion: Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare

The Earl of Kildare was the Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1487. Under his control, Ireland became a haven for the rebellion. He was hardly punished for his involvement in the rebellion. He was too important to the control of Ireland to be imprisoned or executed.

Simnel Rebellion: Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy

Margaret of Burgundy was the sister of Edward IV and Richard III and the aunt of the Earl of Lincoln. By her marriage in 1468, she became Duchess of Burgundy, a region in the north of what is now France. She harboured a strong dislike for Henry VII and was willing to support any opposition to his rule.

Simnel Rebellion, A flowchart showing the final generations of the House of York, StudySmarterA flowchart showing the final generations of the House of York, Elizabeth Moore - StudySmarter Originals

Why did the Simnel Rebellion fail?

The Simnel rebellion failed because of the lack of support and the efficiency of Henry VII’s response to the rebellion.

Simnel Rebellion: Lack of support

The Simnel rebellion failed partly because it lacked popular support that could have helped it overthrow Henry VII. The following table shows the type of support the rebellion had compared to Henry VII's support.

Type of Support

Simnel Rebellion

Henry VII

Noble Support


✔ (majority)

Foreign Support

✔ (limited)

Popular Support

As the table shows, the Simnel rebellion had little support from the English nobility. While there was some foreign support from the Irish and Margaret’s German troops, it was limited and even contributed to the failure of the rebellion.

On the other hand, Henry VII had the majority of the nobility on his side and, crucially, he had the popular support. The northern nobility in particular was not confident that the rebellion would succeed. Instead, they waited to see who would win before declaring their support.

When the troops of the rebellion landed in England on 5 June 1487, and began marching south, they expected the English people to rise up and join the rebellion. But the opposite was true: the rebellion received little support from the English people for two reasons: first, they were suspicious of the Irish and German troops. Second, after 30 years of civil war, people were tired of the constant changes and struggles that had affected their lives and happiness – they wanted stability and were not fond of the thought of another regime change.

Henry VII’s response to the Simnel rebellion

Henry VII’s response to the rebellion was carefully planned and highly effective. He took several measures to ensure the rebellion was not successful.

  • The rebellion was not kept secret. With the open promotion of Lambert Simnel to Earl of Warwick, his coronation in Ireland, and the nobles declaring their support for the rebellion, Henry was well aware that the rebellion was growing. He, therefore, had ample time to decide on his plan of action.

  • Henry VII reinstated the Duke of Northumberland. Although not entirely trustworthy, his reinstatement helped neutralise the Yorkist power base in the North by drawing powerful noble families, including the Howard family, to his side.

  • He displayed the real Earl of Warwick! Richard Symonds had been mistaken in thinking that the real Earl of Warwick was dead. In reality, he had been captured and held in the Tower of London. When he heard that the ‘Earl of Warwick’ was leading the rebellion, Henry VII showed the people the real Earl of Warwick, making it clear the Simnel Rebellion was based on a lie.

  • Henry VII’s forces were better prepared and better led. Not only did Henry have about 12,000 troops compared to Simnel’s 8000, but they were better equipped and led by the extremely competent Earl of Oxford, who had more experience than any of the Yorkist leaders.

  • In the early stages of the rebellion, Henry offered to pardon some of the rebels to prevent a battle. In doing so, he proved his mercy and won over more nobles.

Simnel Rebellion: The Battle of Stoke

On 16 June 1487, rebellion troops met Henry’s forces VII in a field near the village of East Stoke in Nottinghamshire, after several minor skirmishes in the days before. The battle that ensued lasted about three hours and was a decisive victory for Henry VII.

The troops of the rebellion suffered great losses. About 4,000 of their troops were killed, as were the Earl of Lincoln and the commanders of the Irish troops and the German mercenaries. Henry’s troops suffered far less compared, losing 3,000 men.

Effects of the Simnel rebellion

Those who did not die at the Battle of Stoke were very fortunate, for Henry VII treated them quite leniently, considering they had committed treason. He pardoned many of the rebels to demonstrate his mercy and to try to bring the remaining Yorkist sympathisers over to his side.Lambert Simnel himself was not punished. Henry VII even pardoned him and gave him a position in the royal kitchens, probably because he realised that Simnel was a puppet manipulated by the nobility for their own benefit.

Why was the Simnel rebellion significant?

Lambert Simnel’s rebellion was significant because its outcome helped establish Henry VII’s claim to the throne and the Tudor dynasty as a whole.

That Henry clearly demonstrated his prowess and kingship during the rebellion was critical to his value as King of England. The suppression of the rebellion was a sign that he was here to stay. Furthermore, the causes and effects of the Simnel Rebellion are linked to many areas of early Tudor society, including politics, government, economics, and social progress.

Historical analysis of the Simnel rebellion

The Simnel Rebellion can tell us much about the state of politics in the early Tudor period and the nature of Henry VII’s rule.

In particular, Henry’s treatment of the nobility reveals an earlier form of his policy toward them, namely the ‘carrot and stick’ approach. Henry tried to get the nobles to behave well by granting them land, money, or titles, but he did not hesitate to be quite ruthless if they did not comply, using Acts of Attainder to seize their property and tax them heavily.

Act of Attainder

An Act of Attainder was a piece of parliamentary legislation used frequently during the Tudor era. Essentially, it allowed the Crown to seize property and land to punish nobles who had committed a crime, usually treason. Henry VII was particularly fond of using this, as it allowed him to gain more money for the Crown.

The Simnel rebellion also shows how important the quick establishment of the Tudor dynasty was for Henry VII to secure himself on the throne. He ensured this in many other ways, such as his marriage to Elizabeth of York, but crushing a Yorkist rebellion was an important demonstration of his competence and efficiency to all who would oppose him and helped solidify his claim to the throne.

Historian's views on the Simnel Rebellion

What do historians think about the Simnel Rebellion? Below are the views of two important historians:

  • Karen Kenyon suggests Henry VII’s victory at the Battle of Stoke in 1487 reaffirmed his position on the throne but also confirmed he was the rightful king of England.

  • Michael Bennet concludes that Henry VII held a much stronger position on the throne at the end of 1487 than he did initially – the suppression of the Simnel Rebellion played a large part in this. It signalled his right to rule the rest of the country. Still, the lack of foreign support for the rebellion and the subsequent Treaty of Medina del Campo in 1489 also suggests the other monarchs respected his kingship in Europe.

Simnel Rebellion - Key takeaways

  • The Simnel Rebellion was a major rebellion against Henry VII in 1487, claiming that a young man, Lambert Simnel, was the Earl of Warwick and the rightful heir to the throne.
  • The rebellion was sparked by political instability after the War of the Roses, questions about Henry VII’s position on the throne, and personal vengeance.
  • Figures such as the Earl of Lincoln, the Earl of Kildare, and Margaret of Burgundy supported the rebellion and sent 2,000 German troops to support the rebellion.
  • The rebellion failed primarily because of the lack of English support but also because of the reaction of Henry VII, who, among other things, flaunted the real Earl of Warwick.
  • The Battle of Stoke was a decisive victory for the King and ended the rebellion, consolidating Henry VII’s position on the throne.

Frequently Asked Questions about Simnel Rebellion

The rebellion was caused by the Yorkist desire to regain power after the defeat of the Yorkist King Richard III by the Lancastrian Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

Six months, from January to June 1487.

A young boy named Lambert Simnel was proclaimed to be Edward, Earl of Warwick, and the rightful heir to the English throne by members of the English and Irish nobility in an attempt to restore a Yorkist king to the throne of England. The Rebellion ended in a battle in which the rebels lost and King Henry VII won.

It is unknown exactly how Lambert Simnel died. He was pardoned after the rebellion and lived a fairly normal life. He died sometime after 1534 at the age of about 57.

In terms of the threat it posed to Henry VII, it was not particularly serious. However, it was a significant moment in Henry VII’s establishment of his claim to the throne and the Tudor Dynasty.

Final Simnel Rebellion Quiz


When did the Simnel Rebellion take place?

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 January-June 1487

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The Battle of Stoke marked the end of which conflict?

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The Wars of the Roses

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How did the Earl of Lincoln have a claim to the throne?

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He was Richard III’s nephew

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How many mercenaries did Margaret of Burgundy send to the rebel cause?

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Where did the Rebellion’s forces land in England?

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Who did Lambert Simnel claim to be?

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Edward, Earl of Warwick

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When did the Battle of Stoke take place?

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16th June 1487

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Where was Lambert Simnel crowned Edward VI?

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Which one of the following was part of Henry’s response to the Rebellion?

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Reinstating the Duke of Northumberland

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How many troops did the rebels have in the Battle of Stoke?

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What profession did Richard Symonds hold?

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What crucial group of people did the rebellion NOT have support from?

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The English people

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What happened to Lambert Simnel after the Rebellion?

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He was pardoned

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What was strange about Henry VII’s actions towards many of the rebels?

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He offered them pardons

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When did Henry VII become King of England?

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