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The Stafford and Lovell Rebellion was the first challenge that Henry VII faced, an uprising that aimed to remove him from the throne of England and continue the War of the Roses. However, it ultimately failed to achieve its aims, and Henry barely considered it a threat!
What happened there exactly? Why did it happen, and how was it such a colossal failure?
The Stafford and Lovell Rebellion was a rebellion that took place in 1486, during the reign of Henry VII. It was the first rebellion Henry VII faced. It was led by Viscount Lovell, Sir Humphrey Stafford and his brother, Thomas Stafford and took place in York and Worcestershire.
The rebellion failed to attract much support and was entirely unsuccessful. After the rebellion, Viscount Lovell fled to Flanders; the Stafford brothers sought sanctuary in Abingdon Abbey but were eventually captured. The rebellion was not much of a threat to Henry VII and had little significance in his reign.
The Stafford and Lovell Rebellion was a dynastic rebellion, which makes the reasons for its occurrence clear – it was motivated against the Tudor dynasty.
The rebels wanted to reclaim the throne of England for the House of York, getting rid of Henry VII in the process. The Battle of Bosworth had ended the War of the Roses and led to Henry VII assuming the throne after slaying the Yorkist King Richard III.
This battle happened less than a year before the Stafford-Lovell Rebellion. Henry VII’s place on the throne was not very stable, so it seemed an ideal time to try and tip the scales towards the House of York.
Below is a timeline of the critical events of the Stafford and Lovell Rebellion.
Henry VII learned that Lovell and the Staffords were trying to raise troops against him in Yorkshire and Worcestershire.
23 April 1486
There was a failed attempt to seize Henry VII in York.
11 May 1486
The Stafford brothers fled to Abingdon Abbey and claimed sanctuary.
14 May 1486
The Stafford brothers were forcibly removed from the Abbey by sixty of the King’s men.
8 July 1486
Sir Humphrey Stafford was executed.
So who exactly were the namesakes of this rebellion? who are the key figures involved in the rebellion?
Viscount Lovell was one of the leaders of the rebellion and a prominent Yorkist. He had been very close with Richard III since they were young and enjoyed this friendship's benefits during Richard III’s reign.
After the Battle of Bosworth, Lovell and the Stafford brothers fled to Colchester Abbey to seek sanctuary, finally leaving to travel to Yorkshire to raise troops.
After the rebellion failed, he fled to Flanders. He was also involved in the Simnel Rebellion a year later. He seems to have disappeared after that – we don’t know what became of him!
Sir Humphrey Stafford led the Stafford and Lovell rebellion along with Viscount Lovell and his younger brother Thomas Stafford. He was devoted to the Yorkist cause, having fought at the Battle of Bosworth on the side of Richard III.
From sanctuary in Colchester Abbey, Humphrey and his brother travelled to their home county of Worcestershire to try and raise troops for the rebellion. After the rebellion failed, he sought sanctuary in Abingdon Abbey but was later captured. He was executed on 8 July 1486.
Abingdon Abbey was a Benedictine Monastery founded in the 7th century C.E. It was later a victim of the English Reformation under Henry VII’s son, Henry VIII. The holy order was dissolved, and the abbey was dismantled – anything of worth was stripped and sold off.
Thomas Stafford was the younger brother of Sir Humphrey Stafford. He travelled to Worcestershire with his brother to raise troops for the rebellion but achieved little. After the rebellion failed, Henry VII pardoned him; evidently, he did not see Stafford as a ringleader of the rebellion and decided he was not a threat.
The following table looks at the arguments on each side.
Henry VII had been king for less than a year, and his position was not stable. There was still a good chance that he could fall from power if a powerful enough rebellion occurred.
Although the Stafford-Lovell rebellion aimed to put a Yorkist king back on the throne, they had no candidate for their rebellion. They failed to attract much support without a figurehead and claimant to the throne.
Lovell and the Staffords were only minor nobles. They did not have a vast amount of wealth, power, or influence from which to form a strong rebellion.
Despite being king for less than a year, Henry VII had a very efficient network of spies. He knew the rebellion was being planned for April 1486, giving him a good month to figure out a plan of action before the climax in May 1486.
Lovell and the Staffords had no foreign backing for their rebellion, and thus little access to money, troops and wider European influence.
As you can see, the Stafford-Lovell rebellion did not present much of a threat to Henry VII. The rebellion severely lacked support from critical areas of society and did not have a strong foundation.
The Stafford-Lovell Rebellion had no significant outcomes. It achieved none of its aims, described as a ‘dismal failure’ by historian C.H. Williams.
There is no evidence that this was a particularly alarming event for Henry VII. He was more concerned about the general instability caused by the rebellion rather than any direct threat to his throne.
The later impostures of Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck are far more significant when considering the threats Henry VII faced and his establishment of the Tudor dynasty.
The act of pretending to be someone else to deceive people
Viscount Lovell, along with Sir Humphrey and Thomas Stafford, attempted to raise a force to take the throne of England from Henry VII and put a Yorkist king on the throne. They failed to attract much support. After seeking sanctuary at Abingdon Abbey in Culham, Henry VII’s men captured the leaders. Viscount Lovell fled to Flanders, Sir Humphrey Stafford was executed and Thomas Stafford was pardoned.
Henry VII had a good network of spies – he knew that Lovell and the Staffords were gathering troops a full month before they tried to seize him in York. He was thus able to make sure he was protected. He also sent a small force to Abingdon Abbey to drag Lovell and the Staffords out of their sanctuary.
The Stafford-Lovell rebellion was a dynastic rebellion fuelled by a desire to replace Henry VII as king of England with a Yorkist king.
The Stafford-Lovell rebellion was a complete failure – the rebels did not achieve any of their aims. The rebellion was poorly resourced and did not gain much support.
Henry VII had a good network of spies – he knew that Lovell and the Staffords were gathering troops a full month before they tried to seize him in York. He could thus ensure he was protected. He also sent a small force to Abingdon Abbey to drag Lovell and the Staffords out of their sanctuary.
In what year did the Stafford and Lovell Rebellion take place?
What type of rebellion was the Stafford and Lovell Rebellion?
A dynastic rebellion
Who led the Stafford and Lovell Rebellion?
Viscount Lovell, Humprey Stafford and Thomas Stafford
Where did Lovell and the Staffords flee after the Battle of Bosworth?
How was the Stafford and Lovell Rebellion a threat to Henry VII?
He had been king for less than a year, and his position on the throne was not stable.
How was the Stafford and Lovell Rebellion NOT a threat to Henry VII?
What happened at the Battle of Bosworth?
Henry VII slayed Richard III, ended the War of the Roses, and assumed the throne.
Which of the rebellion leaders was executed?
How many men removed the Stafford brothers from Abingdon Abbey?
What other rebellion was Viscount Lovell involved in?
The Simnel Rebellion
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